Memorizing the Bible: A Simple Scriptural Challenge

In 2002, I attended a Christian Conference while I was in college. The speaker of that event strongly emphasized the need for scripture memory. The students like myself in that room did not want another chore on our busy college plates. Plus, no one likes more legalism. Anticipating these responses, the speaker had a very fair challenge to the room of about 1,000 students. First, he asked every student to stand up. Next, he asked students to remain standing if only they could quote as many scriptures from memory as their age. In other words, if the average college student was 21 years old, they should have 21 verses memorized. After giving his second requirement only about ten students out of 1,000 remained standing. In full transparency, I was one of the 990 students who sat down. Doing so, I knew there was no reason why I should be sitting because committing one Bible verse to memory each year is not difficult.

So, let’s be honest for a minute. Why do we struggle to memorize a minimum of one scripture verse a year? This suggestion is not a harsh approach; rather, one scripture verse a year is more gracious than legalistic. Factoring in that we could count John 11:35, which says, “Jesus wept,” it’s an attainable goal. So, why do we struggle to memorize scripture? We may not know how, but an answer we should wrestle with is that we are lazy.

Lazy is a harsh term, but notice I included myself in this critique. I too could memorize more scripture than I do. Plus, if we focus on doing just one verse a year, then lazy is probably an accurate definition, even if it is a strong term. Furthermore, lazy is the opposite of self-control, which is the final Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Still, since we should want to practice good spiritual discipline related to scripture memory, it would help to have a few practical suggestions too.

1. Pick Verses That Mean Something to You – Christians have a diversity of thoughts and theological viewpoints. As a result, we should choose scriptures that impact our spiritual development in Christ. Doing so will also create an interest and a better desire to memorize the verses we love best. Remember, the more we can do something from want, the more successful we will become.

2. Set Realistic Goals – One verse a year is overly realistic, so you may want to do more than just one. Whatever goal you set, make sure you can do it. It’s easier to build momentum when we succeed than setting a goal too high that results in failure.

3. Be Encouraged: Scripture Memory is a Skill That Can Be Learned – If you are a Christian who has trouble memorizing the Bible, don’t worry. It is a skill that can be learned. Few start off with a natural ability to perform most skills with ease. Rather, most learn a skill after some practice. Scripture memory takes the same discipline. As a result, you may not have the ability now, but you will if you take the time to develop the habit.

4. Determine Your Preferred Translation – Gone are the days where we only choose the King James Version. Now the options are overwhelming, and it impacts scripture memory. Some translations are easier to memorize than others. It all depends on our speech patterns and the cadence of used in each translation. So, explore various versions, decide on a favorite, and it will help the memorization process.

The more scripture we can memorize the better. Scripture memory helps us love Jesus more by making His thoughts our thoughts. It re-trains our mind from old patterns of thinking into the new patterns in Christ. For example, as my mind reflects on a memorized verse the Holy Spirit shows me new applications. By knowing the text and even the grammar used, the Spirit has shown me things I otherwise would have missed. The benefits of scripture memory outweigh the negatives.

Scripture memory is an incredible discipline. It will be worth the effort no matter what passages you choose to memorize. The Holy Spirit will use them, and you will grow in your spiritual vitality. Most of all, these phrases you commit to memory will create a far greater love for Christ than ever before. Let’s be encouraged as we embrace this challenge in a feasible way for each of us.

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