“It’s hard for the flesh to think God thoughts. It’s hard to concentrate on spiritual concepts. The brain doesn’t like to think, especially if it’s on spiritual matters. We like to sit down in a nice, soft chair in a cool breeze and float to heaven on a flowery bed of ease. I’m that way and I know that in life, there are a lot of things that come easy, but getting the Word of God on your heart through memorization isn’t one of them. It’s spiritual. Anything spiritual is work, and my flesh and blood doesn’t like work. But it can be done, and we can do it!”
We have the great privilege to hear from a master disciplemaker today, Shaunda McQueeney, on the joy of scripture memory! She sat down with us to answer some of our most pressing questions about why memorizing Bible verses is important and how to best do it.
Why it is important to know and memorize Scripture?
I believe 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” For me, it is important to know God’s word because He is the one speaking these words to me personally, and to us, collectively. He promises to use His Word to guide us through life in a way that honors Him and helps us bring our best contribution to the people around us. However, if we don’t memorize His Word, we are often left feeling like we sort of know what it says, but we aren’t really sure. Taking the time to commit His Word to memory causes its truths to sink deeply into the fabric of who we are. His thoughts become available to us anytime, anywhere. My favorite verse on this is Hebrews 4:12, “The Word of God is living and active … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Lord is quick to bring His Word to my mind spontaneously to encourage, convict, and embolden me to make godly decisions and have a godly perspective as I move through my day.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to Scripture memory?
Self-discipline! It’s easy to memorize one verse … to still know that verse a year later is the challenge! My best advice is to find an organizational system that works for you and find a friend who will memorize scripture with you.
How does that challenge make you (or another discipler) feel?
Because I struggle with being disciplined in this area, I noticed I wasn’t challenging others to memorize scripture either. I didn’t feel I could encourage someone else to do something I wasn’t doing well. This is how the enemy gets us to give up on the disciplines! I have realized that we can’t “start over” too many times. The Lord doesn’t look at our lagging attempts as failure, and we shouldn’t either. Philippians 1:6 says we can be confident that He will carry on to completion the good work that He began in us, so I just humbly keep pressing on, picking up wherever I left off if I’ve taken a long break. In humility I have learned to be honest about where I am and to rely on His faithfulness to give me a deep hunger and thirst for His Word. With this mindset I have found that it’s possible to move beyond thinking about scripture memory as a rote discipline and to instead find real joy in memorizing and meditating on His Word.
What changed after you decided to personally memorize Scripture?
Scripture memory made God’s Word very relevant to me. If I commit to an application from a Bible Study, I can easily forget about it once I close my journal. But if I memorize and meditate on a verse, it becomes a part of who I am and how I think. For example, I recently memorized Prov 17:9, ”He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” That very week I found myself in a situation where I wanted to be offended and gossip to others about the offense. But this verse came instantly to mind and by God’s grace His word enabled me to be forgiving and kind instead of following my natural and sinful inclinations.
What changed when you began leading others in this discipline?
The best part about teaching someone else to memorize scripture is that this holds you accountable to memorize scripture yourself. Win win!
What specific results can you share (either personally or with those you have discipled)?
Ultimately, my goal for myself and for those I disciple is that we would all grow toward maturity in Christ. I am challenged by Hebrews 5:12-14, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Memorizing scripture as a rote discipline will not grow us in our faith. But memorizing scripture in order that we learn to embrace, apply, and meditate on its truths is an important piece of training ourselves to be mature in our faith. We move beyond elementary understanding as we’re challenged to constantly use His word to view ourselves and the world around us. Specifically,
My mind and heart are transformed by the imprinting of God’s word. Rom 12:2
My attitude and actions are checked quickly by knowing God’s word. Phil 2:5
My heart is in constant fellowship with His Spirit through His Word. John 15:5
My perspective in counseling and encouraging others comes from God’s wisdom instead of my own. Prov 2:1-5
My identity in Christ defines me and drives my actions. Eph 2:8-10
My confidence in Him is not shaken in a confusing world. Ps 73:25-26
The list of specific benefits to memorizing His word could be endless!
What would you say to somebody on the fence about taking this step in their personal spiritual life? With those they’re discipling?
Dawson Trotman said there is no other spiritual discipline that gives you the most bang for your buck, and I really believe this is true. Recently a dear friend who started memorizing scripture with me said, “Memorizing scripture is a game changer!” When we memorize scripture we are constantly meditating on God’s word and it becomes embedded in how we think and in who we are. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth … so is my Word that comes from my mouth. It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God is constantly accomplishing His purposes in my life through His perfect Word. We live in challenging and often confusing times, and it is having His word in the forefront of my mind that keeps me anchored in what is true and right and good.
What are simple/easy ways to lead others in memorizing Scripture? (or maybe what are some steps to take to begin doing this in a discipling relationship?)
First, do a Bible Study together on how Jesus knew and applied scripture during His ministry on earth. It is encouraging to know He also memorized scripture! Next, find an organizational system that works for you and for the person you are discipling. They don’t have to be the same! The Navigators have a Topical Memory System program that is excellent, but there are many other good ideas available on the internet. Take the time to research and be creative so that your system fits who God created you to be. Also, set realistic goals. The key is to review the verses until they are committed to long term memory, so trying to learn too many in the beginning will cause you to eventually be overwhelmed and give up. Finally, set a goal that you will go over some of your verses every time you meet. Pray through your verses and share how they are changing your life and helping you grow to maturity. This will protect you both from viewing scripture memory as a dry and boring discipline. This will also help you both be accountable and inspire you to continue memorizing new verses!