“Scripture memorization has largely fallen by the wayside in our day…” Jerry Bridges
Some things should go by the wayside—things like 70s platform shoes and jumpsuits for men; Victorian jewelry, pictures, and art made from human hair; and my particular childhood aversion, creamed tuna and peas on toast. (I suspect I’m not alone on that last one.)
Though some fading trends are a welcome relief, the waning of Scripture memory is a tragic loss. Memorizing Bible verses encourages our faith, helps us fight sinful desires, deepens our understanding of God and His Word, informs our prayers, and fuels our witness to unbelievers. The Holy Spirit works through the divinely inspired Word. Without it, we are ill-equipped for spiritual battle.
“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,” (Philippians 2:25).
Here Paul describes Epaphroditus as a fellow soldier? Why did Paul call him that?
Elsewhere Paul says they were “engaged in the same conflict” (Philippians 1:30), fighting not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), and ‘keeping alert with all perseverance” (6:18). They put on “the whole armor of God” in order that they might “be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (6:11). They were true soldiers, “work[ing] out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Their battles were spiritual.
Those who believe in and receive Jesus as Savior are, along with Epaphroditus, brothers and sisters in the family of God. We are fellow workers in God’s kingdom, spreading His glory and the message of salvation from generation to generation to the ends of the earth. We are also fellow soldiers, fighting the fight of faith, as we also work out our “own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Paul wrote to the new Christians in Colossae about the need for perseverance. Like them, Christians today must engage in the ongoing battle of “continuing in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). Every Christian must speak truth to his soul, fighting not only the temptations of the flesh, but also battling for faith. The assaults of the enemy come in the form of lies that threaten to diminish the joy of our salvation and love for the gospel, undermine our belief in the promises of God, numb our hunger for God, distract us from single-minded devotion to Christ, and dull our appetites for spiritual things. The Bible helps us defeat those lies.
God’s Word is a sword that is alive with His power. We cripple our faith when we do not have it solidly fixed in our minds to cling to when we need it most. When we memorize the Word, it’s available to inform our thoughts, hearts, and actions.
The resolve to memorize Scripture is a work of God. You may be motivated to start memorizing Bible verses in your own strength, but only God can provide the will and deep conviction necessary to sustain a life-long habit of Bible memory. It is a discipline; one that provides great spiritual benefit. But as with other spiritual disciplines, you will encounter spiritual opposition. The enemy of our souls hates well-armed saints. Rest assured that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” the evil one who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Seek the Lord and his favor as you begin to memorize; and as you continue memorizing, seek the Lord.
Don’t be discouraged if, at first, it is difficult to memorize and retain verses. The ability to memorize improves with practice. The more we exercise our brains, the easier memorization becomes. In order to remember newly memorized verses, it is necessary to repeat them often. The key to retaining verses over time is, as John Piper says, “Review, review, review. …Average folks like me have to work real hard to memorize the first time, and then recurrently review to keep it.” At first it is time consuming, but eventually, a verse becomes cemented in your mind and you will be able to review it very quickly. Take courage and in the words of John Piper, “Pray for strength as you begin [memorizing Scripture], and let the Bible talk to you powerfully, and commit to do it. It [is] just infinitely worth it.”
A devotional for families, small groups, and individuals
Binder containing five sets of Fighter Verses (52 passages each in ESV)
76 Bible verses for toddlers and pre-readers