Most believers in Jesus never learn how to memorize Scripture. There is just so much of it that they never start.
Confucius is credited with saying:
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
Maybe you are wondering, “What does this have to do with how to memorize Scripture?” I am glad you asked! Bear with me. I think you will understand where I am taking you.
Without having the context of the passage you are working on, attempting to memorize Scripture will be tedious and unproductive. For the last year I have been working with a group of women involved in a nine-month transitional living program at a home called Grace House. Most of these women come from very rough backgrounds. I have been teaching them the storyline of the Bible from Genesis through Acts using Walk Thru the Bible’s system. It has been an incredible amount of fun to watch these women embrace the training with abandon. We completed the New Testament training last week. Watch the video below to see what they have learned.
The big picture of the Bible is revealed by assembling the major people, places, and events of the entire Bible in their proper chronological order. Now my Grace House friends have some initial context for the discipline of memorizing portions of Scripture. They have a foundation for their work.
This week we started raising the walls of the house we are building together. I taught them the first of the twelve stories in our own Stories of God collection, the story of Creation. Over the next six months they will learn each one of these stories. More importantly, they will be expected to develop the skills for teaching these stories to the people God places in their lives. This will provide even more context for the exercise of memorizing Bible verses.
I came to faith in Jesus in December, 1971. Campus Crusade was ministry I was exposed to in my first year at the University of Texas at El Paso. Early on, I started hearing people talk about the benefits of memorizing Scripture. But, it was years later that met anyone who could show me how to do this on my own. I muscled through memorizing a few key passages, but it was hard work and I never enjoyed it. While I had heard about the great benefits of Scripture memory, I gave up on it and over time forgot most of what I had worked so hard to learn.
In 1976 I moved to San Antonio, Texas and began attending Wayside Chapel. Really good things have happened in my life because of the years God has allowed me to be a part of the Wayside family. I saw for myself a number of men and women who had successfully memorized big chunks of Scripture. One of these was Steve Troxel, my pastor. I was amazed at Steve’s ability to quote verse after verse of Scripture when he was asked a question.
During my early years at Wayside, I played in a musical group with Steve and Connie (Steve’s wife). The group’s name was New Image. It was there that I met Dave and Beth Player. Dave was one of Steve’s Scripture memory partners. Together, they have memorized John’s Gospel and a number of other books. A few years ago, Dave and Beth joined an Israel tour that I had organized. At various locations I would ask Dave to quote passages from John’s Gospel and the Book of Acts. Everywhere he spoke, people from other groups stopped and watched as Dave quoted entire chapters of the Bible. Several people from the other groups asked if they could join us!
I have observed something important in the lives of men like Steve and Dave. Their minds have been renewed and their lives have been transformed. One evidence of this is their personal humility. What a blessing it has been to have been around men like this for almost forty years. I will always remember their example of how Scripture memory transforms lives and ministers to others.
Let me be honest. I have not memorized entire books of the Bible. However, I have memorized important chapters and sections. This is what I have discovered. Once I started doing what I saw other disciplers around me doing, I began to understand why they did it. I have led worship, taught Sunday School and other classes, led small groups, discipled men, and served my local congregation in various capacities. In the midst of conversations and presentations I frequently get the sense that God begins to speak through me. He brings to my mind the things He wants to say. They are generated from what I’ve memorized. What an incredible experience it is to know that the very words of God are coming out of me, ministering to the people He wants to talk to. Jesus promised His first followers that this would happen and I have experienced it! If we are going to be Jesus’ disciples, then Scripture memory is essential. It is something we must do. If you think the task is just too big, consider the following question.
Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.