"I know of no other single practice in the Christian life that's more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. That's right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding than this. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified." ( Swindoll, Chuck. "Memorizing Scripture." Web blog post. Insight For Today. The Bible Teaching Ministry of Charles Swindoll, September 26, 2015 Web. 16 Dec. 2016.)
This quote from Chuck Swindoll summarizes why many Bible teachers encourage their students to memorize scripture. You can probably attest to the fruit in your own life from memorizing scripture. The times I have benefited the most from this spiritual discipline is when the lies of the world have bombarded my thinking. Suddenly, the Word of God comes to my aid and I am reminded that I don't face this battle alone. Christ in the wilderness is a perfect example of when the enemy uses conniving lies only to be shot down by the truth of God's Word. If Christ used this spiritual discipline to defeat the enemy, we would be wise to do the same and compassionate to help equip our students. (Matthew 4:1-11)
However, there are no spiritual disciplines that are easy, including memorizing scripture. Most students are crammers, at least that has been my experience as a student and a teacher. Cramming scripture probably has some benefits, but we all know the faster it enters the mind the faster it will fall out. I started noticing my students cramming their Bible verses just before a quiz. Every week for years the students would be quizzed on a maximum of 1-3 verses. The next week there would be a new set of 1-3 verses.
My dream was to have the students graduate from our school with a wealth of scripture in their minds. If they had a crisis, needed conviction, or a reminder of who they are in Christ I wanted that Scripture to be there for them. That's when I realized 1-3 verses was not going to achieve that dream. These young minds could memorize much more than what was on their quizzes.
Therefore, at the beginning of the next school year I assigned 1 John as their memorization goal. First, I assigned 1 John 1:1-3; the next week 1 John 1:1-5; the following week 1 John 1:1-7, etc. This was the pattern until we finished a chapter, and we started over with chapter 2.
I also began noticing that this was slightly easy, and not challenging enough. So, if they did not recite their verses orally, the highest grade they could receive was a 95% on their quiz. Those who recited the verses orally (I allowed 5 mistakes) would receive 100% on the quiz. If they were uncomfortable doing this in front of the class, I gave them the option of another time when people were not watching.
You might be wondering about the student's reaction. Well, it was mixed, and I knew it would be going in. For years, many of them had learned to cram their memory verses minutes before their tests. Now, they had to find time to study their verses (this idea made me very happy). I also scheduled time in class to practice the new verses they were not familiar with, which helped a lot of students.
As the year went on, there would be times these verses would be part of other lessons, I could see the students beam with pride as they realized they knew a large portion of the verses referenced. Another benefit was that our discussions were deeper as we could easily recall passages of scripture that referred to our topic.
The benefits in Chuck Swindoll's quote were quickly seen in my students. It wasn't easy, and one student even said I was cruel. But, how many times have we whined about eating our vegetables, and exercise, only to discover those habits and choices have resulted in a stronger life in the future.
P.S. Check back for a future blog that discusses memorization techniques.