Having spoken God’s Word from memory every Sunday over the past decade, the number one response I get is, “You’ve inspired me to memorize.” In like manner, I hope I can inspire you to make Bible memorization a spiritual New Year’s resolution.
We are in a war, a spiritual war against a powerful enemy, and the Word of God hidden in our heart is our weapon of choice, just as it always has been for God’s people. In the first century AD, you would see a Roman soldier on the corners of major streets in every major Roman stronghold. Using the uniform of an officer of the law in the first century, Paul describes the attire needed for our spiritual life (Ephesians 6:10–18). Everything we wear in our daily battle against evil is defensive: breastplate (of righteousness), shield (of faith), helmet (of salvation), belt (of truth), etc. The only weapon we have to employ is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The Greek word used here for “word” is rhema and means “a thing spoken.”
This is also the weapon the Lord Jesus employed in his battle against the same enemy. Just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and called up memorized Scripture to fight, so should we.
This is also the weapon the Lord Jesus employed in his battle against the same enemy. Just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and called up memorized Scripture to fight, so should we (Matthew 4:1–11). Numerous other verses peppered throughout Scripture emphasize the importance of memorizing God’s Word for our spiritual well-being. Psalm 119:11 stands out the most: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” We know that verse, we even sing that verse, but generally speaking, too many in the body of Christ are hearers of that word and not doers.
And keep in mind that God’s Word may not always be available to you. With persecution increasing, we’ve already seen Bible apps removed in China this year.1 And the potential for perverting the Word of God on digital platforms and even printed forms is only going to increase. We’ve already seen new versions that have an agenda that does not include conveying God’s words to us; rather, they are more about conveying the anti-Scriptural ideologies of the day. And it’s not exactly a secret that enemies of God have tried to destroy the written Word throughout history. The primary way to unfailingly preserve the Word for ourselves is by having it in our head and heart, though the Lord has promised to preserve his words forever (Psalm 12:7).
There is no better time than the new year to start making Bible memory a priority. After all, everyone is already thinking about things to put off (like weight) and things to put on (like saving money) in the upcoming year (see Ephesians 4:22–24 for even better ideas). But first, we must ask: “How do you memorize?” We live in a copy, paste, Facebook, Tweet, file-and-forget world where we don’t have to memorize much of anything. Therefore, many of us find it a challenge to memorize Scripture.
I earned two master’s degrees in Jerusalem, Israel, and while there, I learned from the best how to go about memorizing Scripture. Simply put, there are three methods to go about memorizing Scripture: reading, hearing, and writing. When reading, it is critical that you read the verses you want to memorize aloud. Your mind, eyes, mouth, and ears working together in unison will give you a greater chance at retaining what you are trying to memorize. Also, don’t forget to look at the page when memorizing. The power of format is an underestimated help when it comes to memory work. Many of us can “see” where Genesis 1:1 or John 3:16 is on the page of our old Bible because we have looked at it so many times.
The next method is memorizing by hearing. In the most literal sense, we don’t hear God’s voice throughout the week. When we read his Word, we read it with our lips sealed; when we are in the car, we usually aren’t listening to a passage or book to memorize; and when we go to church, we hear a passage expounded upon, not Genesis 1–11 or the entire book of Revelation spoken from memory in the power of the Holy Spirit. To hear long passages of Scripture spoken is a tremendous way to go about memorizing, especially for little children. Hearing large “chunks” of biblical text is helpful to understanding the context and the voice of the author. And this, in turn, can help you memorize larger passages.
Finally, the third best way is to memorize by writing out the verse. This is the method that has helped me memorize 20 complete books of the Bible. Simply write out the verse you want to memorize with pen and paper and say it when you write it. That way, your mind, eyes, mouth, ears, and hands are working together in unison—you can’t use any more members than that!
Of course, there are other tools, like apps, etc., that can help you memorize, but these ancient methods have been tried and tested over the millennia.
Of course, there are other tools, like apps, etc., that can help you memorize, but these ancient methods have been tried and tested over the millennia. Like other disciplines, memorizing Scripture is not quick and easy. It takes me an average of working an hour a day every day for a month to memorize maybe one chapter. But it is possible for you to start by memorizing just one verse per week this year. If you held to that discipline, you could have an entire book memorized a year from now!
Meditating on the Word of God hidden in the heart will help you set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2), become strong like a tree planted by the banks of the river (Psalm 1:3), and have a heart well-stocked with the words of the Creator of heaven and earth (Joshua 1:8). How amazing is that?! As parents, we have no greater joy than when our children walk in truth (3 John 1:4). How much more pleased would God be if his children recommitted themselves to hiding his Word in their hearts so they wouldn’t sin against him (Psalm 119:11)!
I hope I have inspired you! You can do all things (even memorize Scripture) through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).