The Transformative Power of Memorizing Scripture

How often do we read the Word, set it aside, and go about our day without thinking how what we just read applies to life? It’s easy to run the words through our minds, but so much harder to have them sink into our hearts. We can read the Bible and walk away unchanged.

The Apostle James understood this when he wrote: 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-2)

This passage follows instructions to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” and to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19b, 21). Scripture memory is a way of receiving the “implanted word.” 

When we memorize the Word, it’s available to inform our thoughts, hearts, and actions. The memorized Word, says Brian Eaton, “plays a crucial role in guarding us against sin and motivating us to obey God’s will. We want our minds to be saturated with the Bible so that we can see all of life through the lens of Scripture and make good and wise decisions to please and honor Jesus.” 

The Holy Spirit wields the memorized Word powerfully in our sanctification. Eaton, an advocate for Bible memory, writes about his response after an emergency surgery for a ruptured colon: 

I remember three days post-surgery, I was alone in my room and was taking a turn for the worse. I felt as horrible as I have ever felt. I had a nasty tube in my nose; I felt like I was going to explode, and I was feeling sorry for myself. I was sinking into despair. I was being tempted to sin by thinking God was not being good to me and He was not big enough or kind enough to help me through this situation. I need a verse to help me, I thought. The Spirit prompted me in that moment with James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 

I began praying, “Lord make me joyful; I’m falling into despair here. This tube is disgusting. I feel terrible, please make me joyful.” I felt no differently. I recited the verses from James out loud and again prayed, “Make me joyful.” Again, no joy. 

As I meditated on the verse, the Spirit prompted a question. Does this verse say, “Ask the Lord to make me joyful?” No, it’s telling me to count it all joy. Up until that moment I wasn’t even counting it some joy. I wanted to be joyful, but I was going about it the wrong way. I was expecting God to just “snap His fingers” for my joy. God had different means. 

I began counting it all joy by thanking the Lord for this trial, “Lord, thank You for the disgusting, but extremely helpful tube running down my nose into my stomach.” I reflected on how I might feel had I not had that tube. I continued, “Lord thank You for this hospital; Lord thank You for the surgeon; Lord thank You for all the events that led me to urgent care just minutes before it closed; and Lord, thank You that I passed out from pain in the emergency room, not in the car, sparing my wife from thinking I had died enroute.” 

The Lord is faithful to His promises. In my counting it all joy, He began a work in my heart—a measure of steadfastness was being added to my life. I remember feeling joy in that moment. A few minutes later I remember thinking, Brian, don’t waste this surgery and don’t waste how you’re feeling. In a matter of a few minutes I had gone from despair to joy. 

Although my Bible was there, this was no time to page through the Word looking for help. I was way too sick at that moment. But because James 1:2-3 was firmly ingrained in my memory, the Spirit brought it to mind to help me fight the fight of faith. And because I knew it well, I was able to meditate on it, to help me act in a way that pleased God, and to fight against my own wisdom of commanding “make me joyful.” 

Acting on the truth of God’s Word transformed a very sick man, banished his despair, informed his mind with truth, and caused him to worship God. By “being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,” (James 1:25), he was blessed in his doing. 

In order to “do” the Word, we have to know the Word. As we memorize it, we can practice it in our daily lives, pleasing the Lord by walking in His ways, and honoring Him by worshiping Him. 

(This post was adapted from Truth78’s new book, Hidden in My Heart: Memorizing Scripture to Fight the Fight of Faith.)


New resources now available to lead Scripture study in the church and home

The Fighter Verses™ Study, Set 2, a 52-week devotional, is designed to deepen your engagement with Set 2 of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program. It is great for families, small groups, classes, and individuals, with a coloring book available for younger children. LEARN MORE