When I was a kid at Sunday School, they used a system of giving points each Sunday for attendance, memory verse and participation. Each Sunday a roll call was taken in our small classes of 6 to 10. Boys and girls were separated with boys having a male teacher and girls a female teacher. The point system was used for various “awards” at the end of the year. There was a first, second and third award depending on the points achieved. More than one could earn first award, second award, etc.
In those days we never had a yearend nativity play. Rather, a terraced set of seating was erected on the hall’s stage with the smallest children sitting at the lowest side, going up to the oldest on the highest end. The teachers sat amongst their class. On this Sunday evening, classes would recite verses they had learnt throughout the year in the shape of a theme. Teachers would also recite Scripture verses. I remember one of our teachers very well. He was a sergeant in the military during the Second World War. He was a man’s man … you could see the muscles in his cheeks flex. All the boys adored him. What was quite spectacular was that he recited 1 Corinthians 13 complete.
To my knowledge as a boy of 11 or 12, this was incredible. I had recited a verse at a time, as did everyone in the Sunday School … but a complete chapter (even though a shorter one) was unheard of! The benefit of Scripture Memory Verses is untold. Like so many others, my most loved verse was John 3:16. When I became a Christian in my late 20’s, this is the first Scripture I remembered. I could still recite it. It is extremely sad that many Sunday Schools (and churches) do not encourage their members to commit Scripture to memory. There is a word of warning though … it is one thing to learn a Scripture verse off by heart and another thing to learn it and know what it saying. A verse learnt needs to be a verse understood because this is where “the Word in your heart” becomes “the Word in your soul”.
One of the worst experiences for any Christian in China during the Mao Tse-Tung reign was being imprisoned. A Christian doctor who would not confess that “Chairman Mao” was bigger that Jesus Christ was stripped naked, beaten and humiliated and then hung for his faith. That was the persecution Christians went through. A prisoner named Wang Ming-Tao was asked if there were temptations in prison. He replied by telling a story of a Polish man who was incarcerated for financial reasons, who received a box of food every month. One day he was sent to a labour camp. There was lots of food and Wang Ming-Tao was tempted to eat some as it would never be missed … but if an official saw him it would be known that he is a thief and that would let the Lord Jesus down. He was asked how he avoided that temptations and the many others he was confronted with. He replied: “Memorize as much of the Bible as quickly as you can.” That was the teaching of my Sunday School classes … “the Word in your heart” becomes “the Word in your soul”. Then when the temptations come, you can recite Scripture … and the Word of God comes to your rescue!
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
How does this Scripture work in practice though? You need to add:
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
“For the Word of God to living and active … and sharper than any double-edged sword, to penetrate to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of your heart …” because you will give an account of your doing to God. The Word of God needs to be in your memory! You don’t always have your Bible with you and even if you did, when temptation comes you don’t have time to search for a Scripture to claim or meditate upon … but when Scriptures are committed to your memory, it is easier to recall them and pray through them in the moment of temptation. It is then that God shows His faithfulness providing a way for you to successfully navigate through that moment of weakness into His strength and protection!
Wang Ming-Tao also said Scripture committed to memory in prison helped with prayer. No Scriptures were allowed in the prison, but for those imprisoned for their faith in Jesus who had memorized passages of the Bible, they could pray Biblical prayers and sing Scripture in their hearts or whilst lying on their bed at night time. He says that committing Scripture to memory was his saving grace in that filthy, stinking, rat invested prison.
You and I might not ever the locked up in a maximum security prison for our faith in Jesus Christ, but the principles Wang Ming-Tao reminds us of still apply. Once much of the Bible is memorized, it could assist us to have victory over temptation and sin far easier! Think through this verse prayerfully and apply its teaching:
Ps 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Did you see the main purpose of Scripture memory in this verse? “That I might not sin against You!”
Dear God, thank You for giving us Your Word to be a Lamp to our path exposing error so that we might chose the highway of holiness. Help us, Lord, to memorize Your Word, helping us to side step temptations and sin. Amen.