Abe Stratton, Pastor of Youth and Young Adults, recently finished memorizing the entire book of Romans. He has put together some of his thoughts on memorizing God’s word and wanted to share them with the body. He says, “My prayer is that the Word of Christ would dwell richly in the hearts and minds of His people so that individual believers will be sanctified, the church will be built up, and ultimately our God will be glorified!” These notes are also available as a PDF file.
A well-organized plan is not mandatory
Your “plan” can change as you go. My plan changed as I realized how I needed to memorize a growing portion of Scripture, how I needed to review, etc.
When I began Romans …
- I decided to spend time memorizing 4 days a week (TuesdayFriday).
- I spent about 10-15 minutes a day working on a new verse and going over the previous verses I had memorized. (This is about the average commute time to work.)
- I memorized out loud, as this was helpful for me to internalize the words and message. Not only was I seeing and reading the words, but I was also hearing them.
When I got further along …
- I changed plans a bit because the amount of time it took to review the verses previously memorized was increasing.
- The best method seemed to be to review the previous chapter to the one I was memorizing.
When I passed the half-way point of Romans (chapter 8) …
- I began reviewing three chapters a day in addition to memorizing one new verse.
- This review was rotational. I would review chapters 1-3 while memorizing 10:12; the next day I would review chapters 4-6 while memorizing 10:13; the next day I would review chapters 7-9 while memorizing 10:14.
- When reviewing three chapters a day and memorizing a new verse, the time commitment was probably 20-30 minutes a day.
Note: This sounds like a lot of time—and it is, in one sense. We are busy people. But what could be more important than thinking on and treasuring the eternal Word of the living God which will remain forever? We tend to spend a lot of our time on transitory things that are much less important.
When I finished Romans …
- I reviewed two to four chapters a day to keep the book fresh in my mind and to maintain the connections between chapters.
Your routine can be flexible as you progress.
- Some days I wouldn’t memorize a new verse if I didn’t have a good hold on the verse from the day before.
- Sometimes I just reviewed the chapters that I had memorized to that point.
You see connections in lengthy passages of Scripture when you are in them for long amounts of time.
- Only after I had finished the book of Romans and had been reviewing it for some time did I see the bookends in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 regarding “the obedience of faith.”
- Paul says at the beginning of the book that he was chosen by God to be an apostle so that he would bring others to faith, but at the end of the book in 16:26 Paul states that God has unveiled in His Word His marvelous plan to bring people to faith.
- I had never noticed these bookends before and may never have if I had not spent a long time in this letter.
Scripture comes naturally and unbidden to your mind in everyday life.
- I have found that in counseling a person, in reading a book, or in fighting my own temptations, some passage from Romans will rise to my thoughts. This is a wonderful blessing and a work of grace!
Memorize for the long-haul.
- Set a goal (e.g., memorizing a book of the Bible), then stick with it.
- Don’t be in a hurry. You don’t even have to set a deadline. The purpose is to meditate on the very words of God and incorporate them into life, not finish by a certain date.
- Don’t hold onto your plan too tightly. It can be easy to cherish your plan of memorization instead of cherishing God’s Word. Let the Word be most important to you, not your plan.
- It took me three years to memorize Romans, and I remember thinking at the outset, “I’m going to stick with this no matter how long it takes.” But frankly, I don’t know if I would have started if I’d known it would take three years. Sometimes plunging into something without scoping it out to the nth degree can save a lot of anxiety (or despair) at the size of the goal.
Persevere through hard days
Work at it even when your mind is distracted and your body is tired.
- Some days I felt as if my memorization time wasn’t doing any good. It seemed as if I was working through the same set of words over and over, yet they weren’t finding a place in my head (or in my heart). However…
I believe there is value…
- To washing ourselves with the Word even when we don’t think it’s doing much good. The Word of God is alive and powerful, and the Holy Spirit wields His sword in ways we cannot always see or sense.
- To “sweating” in memorization. Let’s be honest: it’s hard work. As with physical exercise, there are days when you don’t want to or don’t feel like doing it. However, the effort, the strain, the labor is part of our imperfect human experience, and our God rewards His children who persevere in obedience to Him. So, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Memorize for your own spiritual growth.
- What do you need? What are you struggling with? Where is your view of God deficient?
- I chose to begin memorizing Romans after I joined the staff at Heritage Bible Church.
- I realized that I had a deficient view of how grace and the law interact and work together.
- I thought that Romans was one of the best places in Scripture to think through this issue.
- Memorize through the Word. I am not completely against memorizing verses on a topic (e.g., purity or the tongue).
- However, memorizing through a longer portion of Scripture (chapter or book) makes you understand God’s thinking surrounding particular verses that we often pull out of context.
Memorize different sections of Scripture.
- I am now working on Ecclesiastes, and I find it helpful to go back and forth between the OT and NT. Additionally, I don’t think it is wise to memorize only passages of Scripture that “I like.” It is necessary to memorize Scripture which stretches me and expands my view of God.
Find a quiet, undisturbed location.
- It will help you stay focused.
- You can speak as loudly as you want, and you don’t have to be afraid of what people will think.
- Your mind will begin to get into a routine; it recognizes when you’re going to the same place for the same purpose.
- When I worked on my memorization outside of my normal location, it was a little more challenging to focus.
Share your experiences with others.
You could be the catalyst the Spirit uses to push others to cherish and memorize the Word.
- Writing this out and talking to others about my experiences in memorizing Romans are not easy.
- At times I feel like it’s bragging to share these thoughts.
- But if I can serve other brothers and sisters and encourage them to meditate on the life-giving Word, then I cannot keep my mouth shut!
Memorizing the Word is undervalued and under-practiced today.
In my interaction with many believers, I believe that the Word is not a priority to them. This is evidenced in personal decisions or conclusions which are contrary to the Scripture but which we easily justify. If our minds are to be made new, if our bodies are to be holy and ready to meet our Savior, if we are to be a people zealous for good works, if the Gospel is going to be precious to us, if our Savior is going to be more attractive than anything else, then His Word must be dwelling richly in our minds. And I know of no better way for it to dwell richly in your mind than for you to memorize it!