January 26, 2007
I Slacked Off, but I Am Determined to Press On
Four benefits of persevering in Scripture memory
Our Scripture memory strategy has now been in place for a year and a half and we should praise the Lord for the tremendous progress that has been made by so many people in our church, some of whom had never memorized a single Bible verse before. But I can tell momentum is slowing down. There are two reasons for my conclusion:
Ø First, I have fallen way behind myself. I moved through the first book, PEACE, a little slower than others, but did finish it. But my progress in book two, PRAYER, has been virtually non-existent. I think I’ve been on the third assignment for two months!
Ø Second, I noticed at the last memory reward time that the size of the group getting rewards was considerably smaller than in times past. What was the personally very convicting was the notable absence of men. Now, I know the saying, “Women and children first,” but that applied to the saving of lives on the Titanic, not to spiritual leadership. So, I am openly admitting that I have slacked off, but I am resolved to move forward again. Will you make the same commitment? Proverbs 24:16 says, For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. When we fall, or feel we have failed, we are tempted to quit altogether. But we must not. Scripture memory is for every believer all of the time. Men and women let us rise again!
To help all of us regain our focus, let me remind you of four incredible benefits of persevering in Scripture memory.
· Scripture memory feeds biblical meditation.
This is the chief purpose of memorizing Scripture. Scripture memory is not to be done merely for a reward or to gain knowledge for knowledge sake, but God’s Word makes it very clear that He richly blesses those who meditate on His Word, which results in spiritual stability and fruitfulness.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:1-3).
In addition to gaining spiritual strength and bursting forth in fruitfulness, Scripture meditation leads to God’s type of success.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:8).
One very simple way to make sure that God’s Word is readily available to meditate on day and night is to memorize it, which in turn guides our thoughts which then determine our words and lead to obedience to the Word, which ultimately results in success in God’s eyes. The Psalmist prayed, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). One sure way to ensure that our words and thoughts are pleasing to God is by regularly stuffing our minds with truth through Scripture memory.
· Scripture memory flushes the mind of sinful thought patterns by replacing them with truth.
Scripture memory is often God’s means of hitting sin’s bull’s-eye. I know of no more effective means of attacking a particular sin in our life than by digging out of the Word of God specific truths that can function as arrows to be directed at the heart problem behind our sinful habit. As we repent of sin (put off) and replace it with righteousness (put on), we must at the same time renew our minds with truth that will change our hearts. This is how Paul instructed the believers in the city of Rome:
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
Notice how the believer’s life is transformed by replacing worldly thought patterns with godly thought patterns. As we fill our minds with the fresh, clear water of the Word it forces out the dirty, brown water of the world, which results in the fulfillment of the will of God. If we want to find and fulfill God’s will for our lives, memorizing Scripture will surely be taking a huge step in that direction.
· Scripture memory forces our emotions to fall in line with God’s revealed truth.
Psalm 42 is a wonderful song of testimony to God as the Helper for those in despair. Throughout the psalm we notice this man’s low emotional state, with descriptive words like, “My tears have been my food” (v. 3) and “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (vv. 5, 11). He tells us that he poured out his soul as he remembered a previous time when he was closer to the Lord (v. 4) and, as his critics became more vocal, he cried out to God, “Why hast Thou forgotten me?” (v. 9). It is obvious this man was struggling with spiritual depression.
But how did he deal with it? The answer is he worked through the depression by talking to himself about what God is like. He reminded himself that God is “the living God” and “the help of His presence” who commands His “lovingkindness in the daytime” (vv. 2, 5, 8). Twice he forced himself to tell himself to “Hope in God,” being confident “I shall again praise Him” (vv. 5, 11). In other words, he combated his unreliable feelings with what he knew to be true of God. In other words, his feelings were made to fall in line with God’s revealed truth.
· Scripture memory fortifies the will to choose God’s promised way of escape from temptation.
One of the very first verses that I memorized as a brand new believer is 1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptationhas overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptationwill provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. This verse helped me so much in those infantile years of my faith, and still helps me today. Temptation to sin can come at any time, especially when we least expect it. Therefore, we must be ready.
The psalmist testified, Thy word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against Thee (Psalm 119:11). Apparently he knew that the more Scripture that he treasured within his heart (no doubt at least partly by memory), the less he would sin. In other words, he believed that valuing God’s Word enough to store it up in his heart would protect him from evil. The Apostle Paul believed the same when he gave us instruction concerning the armor of God, specifically the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
Probably the best illustration of how Scripture memory strengthens the will to resist temptation is how Jesus responded to the devil’s attacks in Matthew 4:1-11. Three times our Lord quoted Scripture to the devil word-for-word and His use of Bible verses was specific and pointed directly at the temptation (vv. 4, 7, 10). For instance, when the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread, Jesus quoted a verse about the sufficiency of God’s bread, the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down to the ground, He recited a verse about not putting God’s promise of protection to the test. And when the devil tempted Jesus to gain all things through false worship, Jesus quoted verses about true worship that surrenders to God alone.
So, it is obvious that memorizing Scripture is God’s will for every one of us and is a significant part of the armor He has provided for us to win the spiritual war. Could that be one reason persevering in Scripture memory is so hard? I will be the first to admit that my loss of momentum is the result of my own laziness, but I have also recently come to understand that though the devil always hates me, his opposition gets more intense the more I meditate on God’s Word. Therefore, will you persevere with me? I cannot do it without you. I need your help.