Lately, I have become more aware than ever of my need for the transforming power of Scripture, which when stored in my heart and mind keeps me from my sinful ways and helps me to resist the tempter in our ever-increasing spiritual warfare. Apparently that is what the psalmist also experienced, since he wrote, I have stored up Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).
I have read and memorized Scripture most of my life. Growing up, there were Scripture-memory contests. As a young wife, I would prop verse cards in the kitchen window and work on learning them. We taught our children to memorize and had contests with other families. It was not, however, consistent. Weeks would go by when we faithfully learned the verses, and then something would interrupt the pattern and the ball would be dropped. I wish I had been more intentional and consistent in hiding God’s Word in my heart. Imagine, if I had memorized just one verse per week beginning at age six, I would now have memorized almost 22,000 verses! That is a lot of ammunition for doing spiritual battle. Just imagine the impact that could have had on my life, not to mention through me into the lives of my family and those I hoped my life would influence, both in ministry and the marketplace!
I was raised as an MK, as was my husband; together, we then served cross-culturally. We have now lived in four countries and four states, and we have moved often. Not surprisingly, I have discovered that spiritual warfare has no geographical boundaries. No matter where we live or what our life’s work is, we need Scripture to fortify us. We all know Ephesians 6:10-17, which reads Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Do we really grasp how needful we are of the protection and enabling it promises?
As a young wife and mother in my twenties, and indeed for the rest of my time in cross-cultural ministry, I was busy 24/7 with parenting and ministry. I soon realized what you too might have discovered, that it is all too easy to make the mistake of putting the many demands of family and ministry ahead of personal spiritual development. Now, as an “older woman” with the perspective of many years, I know that heart transformation through the renewing of the mind is more important than any service we render. That is because our changed lives are far more fruitful when they are daily recalibrated to God’s truth. When God’s truth is hidden in our hearts, it is more easily accessible in whatever situation we find ourselves.
I often wished verses would come to mind when I needed them—Scripture helpful in finding wisdom for situations my colleagues and I faced. I remember talking to an expatriate friend on the way to the open-air market. Cautiously at first, she began to share her discouragement over whether her work was at all worthwhile. Then there was the time a co-worker and I were talking about our mutual struggle in dying to self by accepting the inconveniences we faced. There were also meetings where difficult decisions were hammered out, where serious wisdom and common sense were needed. In addition to so many examples like this, there were those times spent with the local people—our friends who had little or no knowledge of a Father who could answer their souls’ search for meaning and life’s challenges. What Scriptures could guide me in offering them hope?
So often those conversations took place when I did not have a Bible handy, or when it would not have been as personable or spontaneous to stop and look up a passage. Those were times I just wished verses would come to mind to guide my thinking—and then there were those times I needed to quickly find a verse and its context but could not remember the reference. Those scenarios would have seldom taken place if I had memorized more verses and their references. All those amazing truths would have been readily available for God’s Spirit to bring to my mind, quickly influencing my thoughts, attitudes, and communication.
I am no stranger to the difficulties of making Scripture memory an important priority. Any effort I made to memorize seemed too complicated and time consuming when there were other seemingly urgent demands on my time and energy. I can still remember the tedious task of copying down verses on little blank cards for our family to memorize, or having to recopy the preprinted cards that had become soiled from kitchen splatters or were crumpled in pockets and purses. I remember often wishing that I could hear someone read the verses to me as I diapered babies, washed dishes, or made beds. I would have loved hearing Scripture as I fell asleep, when I was too tired to read those truths I so badly needed for reordering my emotions and sometimes troubled thoughts at the end of the day. I also remember reding verses that I wanted to memorize, only to lose the scrap of paper on which I had jotted down the reference.
So, I can keep up with the best of you in making excuses as to why it is less than convenient and at times seemingly impossible. Nevertheless, all my excuses do not negate the fact that God Himself not only says it is possible but also clearly indicates in Scripture that it is imperative that we hide His Word in our hearts if we are to thrive and help those around us to do the same.
Do I regret that I did not do more memorization of God’s Word? You bet I do! Thankfully, it is never too late. To help make up for lost time, there are now wonderful and easily accessible electronic methods to assist us all. These new resources are even more developed than those good systems offered by the Navigators that got many of us started.
Today, with modern technology to help us, almost every one of the detriments has been removed. How wonderful is that? Excellent electronic helps have been developed, such as the free Fighter Verse app from Desiring God that I love to use. This app offers so many wonderful features. You can hear the verse read to you as you work or fall asleep at night; you can follow the verse lists and schedules offered or choose your own. It is portable, using smartphones and other devices. It offers many memorization methods that are built in electronically and even provides songs to help children (and all of us!) memorize. There are commentaries on each verse that can be quickly accessed to help you understand what you are memorizing. Of course, like everything else today, you can electronically share the process with others, which can be mutually motivating. There is more; you check it out and be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
We make huge sacrifices, and vast amounts of God’s resources are spent in allowing us to serve as Global Women. Would it not be wonderful to maximize our effectiveness by hiding the Word in our hearts so that it permeates all of our service? The resulting changes in our lives would be so encouraging that we would have an undeniable winsomeness as we related to those we left home to reach. It would tend to make others want what we have. Making truth a more integral part of our lives though memorization would result in greater impact on us, and that would result in our enthusiastically sharing it with others so that their lives would also be impacted.
Today you “20-, 30-, and 40-somethings” serving cross-culturally have two huge advantages—the availability of user-friendly technology and a comfort level in using it which makes Scripture memory so easy.
Now, you “over-50-somethings,” do not let your eyes glaze over when you see the word “technology.” If I, as a “non-techie” person, learned so easily, you can as well. If you do struggle, do not give up. Ask your grown children or younger colleagues to help you. If they ask you what you would like for your birthday, tell them that what you most need is their technical help. That would be a gift of their time and save their money, and it would give you something better than money could buy. A side benefit is that it might influence them to also memorize Scripture!
I always knew Scripture memory was important, but I did not fully grasp all the ramifications until I searched “verse memorization” at Desiring God and discovered many sermons, articles, and Q & A in which John Piper carefully nuances its value in our lives—and through us to others!
Piper’s church developed the Fighter Verse program for both adults and children (starting at age two); they then together undertook memorizing those verses as a church body. They make the Fighter Verse apps for smartphones and tablets available to all, and they also provide paper memory packs.
At age 67, John Piper memorized all the verses that his church memorized, as well as additional verses and passages that he chose for himself alone. Many of us make the assumption that Scripture memorization is easier for others than it is for us. Not so! Piper confesses that his mind is like a sieve, which is how many of us feel. He points out, however, that our seeming inability to memorize easily is just an excuse. Piper knew that if he offered his parishioners each $1000 to memorize a passage, even those who claim an inability to memorize would nevertheless do so!
We can do it, and when we do, our memorizing sends a message to others that God’s Word is important. When our children see us cheerfully reciting the verses we have learned, they will be more prone to learn their verses. They will see the value of Scripture if they see us loving and memorizing God’s Word.
This also sends a message to those living in our host countries. My anthropologist brother in-law recently told me that his Muslim friends in Indonesia where he lives often memorize their holy writings. If those who live in our host countries see that we can recite our holy writings, they will understand that those Words are of great value to us.
Our Scripture memorization can even influence those who think they are too old to memorize and help them to have an influence on those who are too young to care. How about grandparents and grandchildren memorizing together across the cyber-miles, reciting the verses together on Skype? What a great way for grandparents to connect with the grandkids they miss so much because they are living in countries far away! The process would be mutually motivating and edifying while bonding grandparent with grandchild no matter how many miles separate them.
Even grandparents who are losing their sight from age-related problems can get the help they need, since the Fighter Verse app and others like it will read the verses audibly for them—even their own selected verse sets. My 91-year-old veteran Global-Woman mother-in-law continues to memorize Scripture even into old age, despite severe macular degeneration. In addition, Siri technology allows for giving and receiving audible commands.) What a wonderful legacy to leave one’s grandchildren—a deep love of Scripture, deep enough to continue memorizing it into old age!
So…if you asked me today to choose just one thing that I wish I had done differently when I was serving cross-culturally, I would say without hesitation that I wish I had memorized more Scripture. That is what I am doing now! If you decide to join me, I would love to know. Let’s make sure the Sword of the Spirit is “in our hands” (memorized) where it is readily available for use, instead of sheathed in leather at our sides (available only in leather-bound print).
Question to consider: What tips do you have for Scripture memory?