One of the responsibilities that I’ve historically neglected the most in my Christian walk is taking the time to memorize the Scripture. If this is a regimen that you struggle with, I would say that you’re in good company. This was always the hardest thing for me to do for several reasons… or should I say excuses? I’ve told many of them to myself:
- I’m just not good at memorizing things.
- I don’t have time to put into memorizing a lot, my day is busy.
- I’ve tried flashcards, and I always end up forgetting them.
- I’ve tried memorizing before, and I’ve already forgotten it… what good does it do me?
- Does the Bible actually tell me to memorize Scripture anyway?
I shared in my first post about God convicting me a couple years ago about the attitude that I had toward His Word. Part of the conviction I felt was because of my lack of Bible memorization.
I grew up in a church that had (and still has) an AWANA program. ‘AWANA’ stands for “Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed”. This is from II Timothy 2:15, which says,
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”II Timothy 2:15 ESV
In AWANA, we did a lot of Scripture memorization. Unfortunately, as a child, I was far more interested in memorizing the Word of God for the prizes I could get, or the recognition that I received. So, like a whirlwind, I would work through my AWANA book during verse time and memorize the verses for just enough time to be able to recite them to the leaders. Once one verse was checked off, I was on to the next, and that little nugget of God’s wisdom I had spouted off was gone from my head as quickly as it had come in.
When I went to Bible college, I spent quite a bit of time memorizing verses for my classes. I really did learn some good things that way, but I can’t say that the joy in doing it was there all the time. I found memorization cumbersome and time consuming. It wasn’t until within the last two years that I really found the joy that is available to us in memorizing God’s holy Word. I had to get motivated first though, and God helped with that as I was reading the Bible and understood why it’s important.
The Scripture that God used to convict me about memorization isn’t probably one that you would think really says we should memorize. In fact, you could almost assume it’s saying the opposite:
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”Luke 12:11-12 ESV
When I read this Scripture, I thought, “Wow… How amazing is it that the Holy Spirit who dwells in me will give me the words to say at the specific time I need to say them?” Now, that is really cool! As Christians, we enjoy the privilege of God living inside us through the Holy Ghost, and if we listen, He leads us in the things we should do, and teaches us the things we should say. Could God miraculously provide the Scripture for us to recite at the right moment even if we’ve never memorized it? Of course! God is the God of miracles! He still does them today! That being said, why should I expect God to provide His Word for me this way at the right time, if I haven’t dedicated any time to meditating on it? I was convicted by this passage. I want to be used by God greatly for His honor and glory! I need to have habits that prepare me to be used by Him.
Another verse that indicates how important it is to memorize God’s Word is Psalm 119:9-11:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
This passage teaches that memorizing God’s Word and following it is how we avoid sin. When we look at what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4, we see that He lived out this passage for us! Satan tempted Jesus in a very similar way to how he tempted Eve in the garden of Eden. “Has God not said…?” he asked. Jesus refuted Satan with Scripture! He quoted the Word of God (His own Word) and applied it to the temptation that was placed before Him. Should we not do the same in our own lives?
You may be saying, “Ok, Matt…. you got me. I should be memorizing the Bible, but how do I do it?” Well…. I’m glad you asked. I have always struggled with true Scripture memorization. By that, I mean memorizing Scripture in a way that I can actually recall it when I need it. In college, I used flashcards to memorize with reasonable effectiveness. After college, however, I found that between going to work, dropping off kids at school, going to the store, going to school again myself, and many other activities I had going on, those flashcards got lost or forgotten more often that they got used. So, I had to think about something that I carry with me everywhere and hardly ever forget.
Enter the smartphone. This little wonder of the 21st century has aided in hours upon hours of wasted time for all mankind. Between Youtube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and the many games and other apps out there, people literally spend hundreds of thousands of hours looking at these miniature pocket computers. Can this thing really help me memorize verses? Yes it can! I found an app that really revolutionized the way I memorize Scripture. I’m not saying it can’t be done by more conventional methods, it just really worked well for me. The app is called Bible Memory (formerly Scripture Typer). They also have a website at biblememory.com, where you can practice your memory verses in a desktop environment that links your progress to the app. The app is free for the basic version, which allows you to input 50 memory verses into you Bible translation of choice. If you want to do more, you can upgrade to the premium version for $10. This allows an unlimited number of verses and more Bible translations. I know that sounds steep, but I’ve spent $10 on a lot less worthwhile things. After trying out the basic version and loving it, I was happy to give $10 to such a worthwhile cause. You can begin working on your verses little by little and watch the magic begin.
The app brings you through three steps in memorization. In beginning step, it shows you the entire passage you’re memorizing along with the reference. You type the first letter of each word of the verse and quietly say the words to yourself as you read them on the screen. This helps aid in memorizing because you’re not only saying the words, but you’re moving whatever fingertip you type with to the appropriate letter, using multiple parts of your brain at once. I liken it to learning a jingle to memorize something in school (can I hear your ABC’s anyone?). Doing more than one action at a time (i.e. singing and seeing letters, or reciting and typing) helps the brain memorize more quickly.
The next step is exactly the same, except every other word is blank. When you miss a word, the phone vibrates or makes a sound and the word pops up highlighted in red. This lets you know you missed it and the blank space will still be highlighted in red the next time you try the verse. Once you are able to make it through the verse a few times with at least 90% accuracy, you’re ready for the next step.
The final step shows you a blank screen with a reference at the top. You simply type the first letter of each word of the verse as you recite it. If you miss a word, it will highlight that space to remind you to think about it when you come up to it next time. Soon, you’ll be reciting verses word for word like a Bible scholar!
I wanted to share this app with you because it has worked incredibly well for me. In one year, I memorized over 100 verses. The best part is, I hours on it every day! Just a little bit of time (maybe 15 minutes a day) made it possible.
Scripture memorization, without question, is an important part of the Christian walk. Memorizing the Bible is part of loving God’s Word! We’re commanded to do it, and I am here to testify that it makes such an incredible difference in your life. I find many times that I come up to a choice in my life, or a situation that I’m not sure about, and God gives me the Scripture I need in just the right moment, just like He promised in Luke 12.
Do yourself a favor and spend some time memorizing God’s Word today. God will bless you by it. It’s a guarantee! I’ll close with another little piece of Scripture that I’ve always found encouraging:
Seek the LORD while he many be found;Isaiah 55:6-11 ESV
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Let it be, LORD, as You have promised! Amen.