Many Christians look on the Spiritual Discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern-day martyrdom. Ask them to memorize Bible verses and they react with about as much eagerness as a request for volunteers to face Nero’s lions. How come? Perhaps because many associate all memorization with the memory efforts required of them in school. It was work, and most of it was uninteresting and of limited value. Frequently heard, also, is the excuse of having a bad memory. But what if I offered you one thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize in the next seven days? Do you think your attitude toward Scripture memory and your ability to memorize would improve? Any financial reward would be minimal when compared to the accumulating value of the treasure of God’s Word deposited within your mind.
Memorization Supplies Spiritual Power
When Scripture is stored in the mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to your attention when you need it most. That’s why the author of Psalm 119 wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (verse 11). It’s one thing, for instance, to be watching or thinking about something when you know you shouldn’t, but there’s added power against the temptation when a specific verse can be brought to your mind, like Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things.”
When the Holy Spirit brings a definite verse to mind like that, it’s an illustration of what Ephesians 6:17 can mean when it refers to “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to your awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment, can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle.
There is no better illustration than Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in the lonely Judean wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). Each time the Enemy thrust a temptation at Jesus, He parried it with the sword of the Spirit. It was the Spirit-prompted recollection of specific texts of Scripture that helped Jesus experience victory. One of the ways we can experience more spiritual victories is to do as Jesus did—memorize Scripture so that it’s available for the Holy Spirit to take and ignite within us when it’s needed.
Memorization Strengthens Your Faith
Want your faith strengthened? What Christian doesn’t? One thing you can do to strengthen it is to discipline yourself to memorize Scripture. Let’s walk through Proverbs 22:17–19, which says, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have taught you today, even you” (NASB). To “apply your mind” to the “words of the wise” spoken of here and to “keep them within you” certainly pertains to Scripture memory. Notice the reason given here for keeping the wise words of Scripture within you and “ready on your lips.” It’s “so that your trust may be in the Lord.” Memorizing Scripture strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it again.
Our church has sought to build a new worship center. We felt that we would most honor God if we built the building without going into debt. There were times when my faith in the Lord’s provision would begin to sink. More often than not, what renewed my faith was the reminder of God’s promise in 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor me I will honor.” Scripture memory is like reinforcing steel to a sagging faith.
Memorization and Witnessing and Counseling
On the Day of Pentecost (the Jewish holiday being celebrated when the Holy Spirit first came to dwell within Christians), the Apostle Peter was suddenly inspired by God to stand and preach to the crowd about Jesus. Much of what he said consisted of quotations from the Old Testament (see Acts 2:14–40). Although there’s a qualitative difference between Peter’s uniquely inspired sermon and our Spirit-led conversations, his experience illustrates how Scripture memory can prepare us for unexpected witnessing or counseling opportunities that come our way.
Recently, while I was presenting the message about Christ to a man, he said something that brought to mind a verse I had memorized. I quoted that verse and it was the turning point in a conversation that resulted in him professing faith in Christ. The same kind of thing happens frequently in counseling conversations. But until the verses are hidden in the heart, they aren’t available to use with the mouth.
A Means of God’s Guidance
The psalmist wrote, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:24). Just as the Holy Spirit retrieves scriptural truth from our memory banks for use in counseling others, so also will He bring it to our own minds in providing timely guidance for ourselves.
Many times when I have been trying to decide whether to say what I think in a given situation, the Lord brings Ephesians 4:29 to my mind: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I’m sure that sometimes I misunderstand the voice of the Holy Spirit, but His guidance could hardly be more clear than when He brings to mind a verse like that! But it’s the result of disciplined Scripture memory.
Memorization Stimulates Meditation
One of the most underrated benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When you have memorized a verse of Scripture, you can meditate on it anywhere at anytime during the day or night. If you love God’s Word enough to memorize it, you can become like the writer of Psalm 119:97, who exclaimed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Whether you’re driving the car, riding the train, waiting at the airport, standing in line, rocking a baby, or eating a meal, you can benefit from the Spiritual Discipline of meditation if you have made the deposits of memorization.
The Word of God is the “sword of the Spirit,” but the Holy Spirit cannot give you a weapon you have not stored in the armory of your mind. Imagine yourself in the midst of a decision and needing guidance, or struggling with a difficult temptation and needing victory. The Holy Spirit rushes to your mental arsenal, flings open the door, but all He finds is a John 3:16, a Genesis 1:1, and a Great Commission. Those are great swords, but they’re not made for every battle. How do we go about filling our personal spiritual arsenal with a supply of swords for the Holy Spirit to use?
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 29–31.
I have prepared a 13 week study of Donald Whitney’s classic book. It is available as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. Through this service, you get access to thousands of Bible lessons for one low monthly cost. This Study Guide is also available on Amazon.