How good of a memory do you have? I’d venture to guess it’s a lot better than you think. For instance, you know your name, address and phone number, the names and birthdates of close family members and special friends, and probably several passwords. You know the directions to all of your favorite places, and can recite the days, times and channels of the TV shows you wouldn’t think of missing.
How about the lyrics to your favorite songs? Or lines from your favorite movies? If you’re a sports fanatic, you can probably recite lots of information about your favorite teams and recall details of memorable games and individual player performances.
Maybe you can recite at least portions of historic documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Gettysburg Address.
We could suggest many other categories, but the point is simple: We have pretty good memories, as long as the things we’re remembering seem important enough to us. Which brings us to the topic I’d like to focus on: Scripture memory.
Scripture memory? I can almost hear some reading this responding, “Oh, I could never memorize Bible verses.” But in reality, you can – if it’s important enough to you. There’s no secret or magic to it. It’s just, as David wrote of the Scriptures available to him at the time, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9,11).
There was a time when I, too, would have insisted I couldn’t memorize passages from the Bible. But then I realized that I already had. Dating back to my elementary school days (back then we called it “grammar school”), I had learned a few of the Psalms, since we read them at the beginning of every school day, including psalms 1, 23 and 100. To this day, I can recite them – and it’s partly because of hearing them over and over before we started our classes.
Those days, of course, are sadly gone. In the supposed “wisdom” of the U.S. Supreme Court back in the 1960s, they determined the so-called “separation of church and state” – greatly misinterpreted, in my opinion – should prohibit prayer and Bible reading in public schools. It’s still done in many private schools today, but not in most public schools.
But I digress. At a marriage conference soon after I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the subject of Scripture memorization came up. It wasn’t a stern lecture or even a strongly persuasive presentation. The speakers that day simply pointed out that hiding God’s Word in our hearts is indeed a good idea, whether we’re striving to build a happy marriage, be effective parents, do well at our jobs, or just become good neighbors.
To help us, the husband-and-wife duo proposed our first memory verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which says, “Pray without ceasing.” That’s it – three words. I thought, “I can handle that,” and it became the first of many verses and passages I’ve etched into memory over the years.
If you think memorizing three words, along with their “address,” is too difficult, what about the verse immediately preceding it: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Actually, one Bible translation reverses the word count. In it the same verses say, “Be joyful always; pray continually.” The next verse is a bit more complicated, but very doable: “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
The point is, why is it important – or meaningful – to stash such verses into our memory banks? I doubt if God will ask us one day, “And exactly how many verses did you memorize, My child?” But as David stated, it’s the way to “keep our way pure,” to learn how to consistently follow and live for the Lord everywhere and anywhere we go.
There’s much more I could say about my experiences with Scripture memory, but a key principle I learned is that the best way for securing them in our minds is to put them into use. For two years I participated in a small group discipleship study developed by The Navigators, and part of the commitment was memorizing specific verses and being able to recite them aloud. This might have seemed daunting to some, but being a goal-oriented person, I gladly accepted the challenge.
One week, however, the memory verse was lengthy. Even by breaking it down into sections, I was having trouble remembering it in its entirety. It was even printed on a small card so I could review it in my car – when I was stopped, of course. So one day I asked my assistant if I could review it with him, giving him the card to check my recitation. Saying the passage aloud, and sharing it with another person, was what I needed to cement it into my mind.
The verse was 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to ma;. and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
That’s a mouthful, no question, but its message is also very important. How are we to respond when tempted, when sin tries to lure us in? This reminds us that we’re not unique in the temptations we face, and don’t have to submit to them if we turn to God and His power. And it’s helpful to have in our spiritual “filing cabinet” for easy access in times of need.
So do you memorize passages from the Bible? If you do, great. If not, you can – if you want to. If you’re not sure where to start, choose a simple one. How about John 10:35, “Jesus wept”? Easy enough for you? Or if you read a verse that seems to speak directly to you, or hear one during a sermon or radio message, try working on that one. Because it’s important to you. Who knows? The practice might be life-changing!
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.