ASKED: How should I decide what to memorize?

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If you want to begin memorizing Scripture, how should you decide where to start?

A student asked this question yesterday in Spiritual Life Dynamics. After some class discussion, here were my three basic recommendations.

1. Scripture you love.

Hunger is the best spice. If you want to start memorizing, it may be wise to start with a Scripture passage you love but have never committed to memory. You may have found great joy in a particular passage for many years; you may have found a certain passage deeply encouraging during a recent trial; or you may have simply experienced a unique resonance with a passage whenever it’s crossed your path. Regardless of how your fondness for a passage developed, starting with Scripture you love will help fuel your motivation for memorization (and you’ll probably have a solid head start due to familiarity).

2. Scripture you know.

Every Christian knows some sections of Scripture better than he knows others. Starting with Scripture that’s more familiar can speed up the process slightly, providing some early encouragement. For example, sometimes I start memorizing a passage of Scripture but don’t finish. Then at a later time, when I renew my commitment to memorization, I restart with something else. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can be helpful instead to pick up where I left off, with the passage I was memorizing previously. This approach, while it has its challenges, helps expose and challenge my addiction to starting things without finishing them. Even if I haven’t started memorizing something previously, starting with Scripture that’s familiar may help me grasp the flow and embed the words more easily.

3. Scripture you need.

What are you going through right now? What’s happening in your life? What truths do you find yourself consistently battling to believe? If you can identify a Scripture passage that meets a spiritual need in your life, or perhaps a passage or book you’ll be teaching soon, it might be the perfect seasonal candidate for memorization. Knowing that the passage you’re memorizing is immediately relevant to your current circumstances may help drive home its truths.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). All Scripture is God-breathed, so all Scripture is profitable, so all Scripture is worthy of memorization. Yet it’s still helpful to think wisely about where we begin. You might start with Scripture you love, Scripture you know, or Scripture you need.


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