On January 6, Pastor Abe Stratton delivered the book of Hebrews from memory, in a sermon titled, “Looking to Jesus.” In Part 1, Abe discussed observations and benefits from memorizing a large portion of Scripture. In this second and final guest-post, Abe shares with us some encouragements and exhortations related to Scripture memory.
In this post I’d like to encourage and exhort you to step out in faith, to memorize a section of Scripture that is larger than you think you can handle. Why? Because the rewards are great and eternal!
1. Memorize for the long-haul.
Set a goal (e.g. memorizing a book of the Bible), and then stick with it. You don’t have to be in a hurry; you don’t even have to set a deadline. The purpose is to meditate on the very words of God and incorporate them into life, not finish by a certain date. This mindset also guards you against holding onto your plan too tightly. It can be easy to cherish your plan of memorization instead of cherishing God’s Word. Let the Word be what is most important to you.
It took me 2.5 years to memorize Hebrews, and I remember thinking at the outset, “I’m going to stick with this no matter how long it takes.” But frankly, I didn’t anticipate how long it would take. Sometimes plunging into something without scoping it out to the nth degree can save a lot of anxiety or despair at the size of the goal.
2. Persevere through hard days.
Work at it even when your mind is distracted and your body is tired. There were days when I felt as if my memorization time was not doing any good. It seemed as though I was working through the same set of words over and over, yet they weren’t finding a place in my head (or in my heart). However, I believe there is value to washing ourselves with the Word even when we don’t think it’s doing much good. The Word of God is alive and powerful, and the Holy Spirit wields His sword in ways we cannot always see or sense. There is also value to “sweating” in memorization. Let’s be honest: it’s hard work. As with physical exercise, there are days when you don’t want to or don’t feel like doing it. However, the effort, the strain, the labor is part of our imperfect human experience, and our God rewards His children who persevere in obedience to Him. So, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)
3. Memorize strategically.
There are two Memorize for yourself. Where is your view of God deficient? What are you struggling with? What do you need? I chose to begin memorizing Hebrews because I saw that I had a deficient view of how the Old Testament and the New Testament are connected. From what I knew of Hebrews, it seemed to be the best book to ingest in order to better understand the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments.
With that in mind, here’s a caution: memorize through the Word. I am not completely against memorizing individual verses on a topic (e.g. individual verses on purity or the tongue). However, memorizing through a longer portion of Scripture makes you understand God’s thinking surrounding specific verses that we often pull out of their context. Also, memorizing long portions of Scripture changes you. God may actually use seemingly unrelated texts of Scripture to change you in that area of struggle (e.g. purity or the tongue). Simply filling your mind with the written Word and reveling in the Living Word (Christ) turn you from the idols which capture your attention.
In addition to memorizing for yourself, memorize different genres of Scripture. I think it is helpful to go back and forth between the Old Testament and New Testament. My pattern in memorization is to alternate between an Old Testament book and a New Testament book. This, I think, gives me a better overall exposure to the entirety of God’s Word. I don’t think it is wise to memorize only passages of Scripture that “I like.” It is necessary to memorize Scripture which stretches me and expands my view of God.
4. Find a quiet, undisturbed location.
This will help you stay focused. You can speak as loudly as you want, and you don’t have to be afraid of what people will think. Your mind will begin to get into a routine; it recognizes when you’re going to the same place for the same purpose. I realized this when I worked on my memorization outside of my normal location; it was more challenging to focus.
5. Share your experiences with others.
You could be the catalyst which the Spirit will use to push others to cherish and memorize the Word. Frankly, writing this blog post and talking to others about my experiences in memorizing Hebrews haven’t always been easy. At times I felt like it was bragging to share these thoughts; however, if I can serve other brothers and sisters and encourage them to meditate on the life-giving Word, then I cannot keep my mouth shut.
6. Memorizing the Word is an undervalued, under-practiced, and untapped treasure.
In my interaction with many believers I believe that the Word is not a priority to them. This is evidenced in personal decisions or conclusions which are contrary to the Scripture but which we easily justify. If our minds are to be made new, if our bodies are to be holy and ready to meet our Savior, if we are to be a people zealous for good works, if the Gospel is going to be precious to us, if our Savior is going to be more attractive than anything else, then His Word must be dwelling richly in our minds. And I know of no better way for it to dwell richly in your mind than for you to memorize it!