Discipleship and Scripture Memory

Kirk Thomsen has been a discipler of men throughout his adult life. After 34 years in human resources with Eaton Corporation, he is retired and still building into men. Kirk summarizes the significant role that Scripture memory has played in his life and ministry—

In coming to faith in Christ in my 20’s, I was discipled for a period of three years by the gentleman who led me to Christ.  He traveled six hours round trip every two weeks to meet with my brother and I during that time.  His faithful obedience demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 28:19 – “Go and make disciples…”

Those initial three years were focused on the “basics” and learning the spiritual disciplines.  Disciplines that would enable to me to grow from taking baby steps as a Christian to being able to eventually run on two legs as a mature believer.  One of those disciplines was “scripture memory”.  God’s word was on fire for me in the early days of my new life.  It seemed like I couldn’t get enough time in the Bible. To help get me started memorizing, I was given the five verses of the “Lessons on Assurance” as well as the Topical Memory System.  It was a real delight to be able to know God’s word by having it with me wherever I went.  These verses were directed to help me grow in being established in my faith, how to have a relationship with God and how to walk in obedience.

Why Memorize Scripture?

It wasn’t until much later in my growth as a Christian that I became aware that memorizing Scripture was not commonly practiced.Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  Yes, memory work is just that, “work!”  The rewards, however, are exponential.

So, why memorize Scripture?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Help with temptation – Matthew 4:1-10 –When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, how did He answer? He quoted Scripture in response to each of the three temptations.  He didn’t have the scrolls with Him.  The parallel for us is obvious. When temptations arise, God’s memorized word will guide us to take the right path and keep us from sin.
  2. Renewing our minds – Hebrews 4:12 – there is power in the word of God. His word is truth and it permeates my being, renewing my mind with the things of God, not earthly things.  His word enables me to know God, His ways and how I am to live out my faith.  My thoughts and my actions are purified in the light of Scripture and His word brings healing to my soul.  As the sword of the Spirit, His word is the light of truth as I share the gospel with those who are perishing.
  3. A workman approved – II Timothy 2:15 – Paul charged Timothy to be a workman who could correctly handle the word of God. Through experience, I know that I cannot fulfill this charge without scripture memory.  Paul states later in the same letter that “all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness.”   To train as a disciple and to train other disciples requires that we know and apply God’s word.

Training Disciples of Christ

Developing the discipline of scripture memory in the life of a disciple enables their growth in a very tangible way.  They can see progress!  At the same time they grow in assurance in their faith, doctrine, and practice.  God’s word is living and active and through the power of His Spirit, transforms the life of the believer in Christlikeness.

A few suggestions to help guide you as you spend time with them on Scripture memory:

  1. Be a Pacesetter – I Corinthians 9:27 –when my children were young, I sought to get them excited about scripture memory. It wasn’t working!  What I learned was that Dad was only checking on my children’s progress and was not reviewing his verses with them.  Once Dad made that change and set the example; they were on board and started making progress.
  2. Be an Encourager –Acts 11:23-24 – memory work is not the easiest task in the world and positive reinforcement is needed. Look for the small victories and celebrate along the way with them.  Share ideas on methods that have been helpful for you as well as others and continue to review those methods when you meet.  One of the greatest challenges in this area is setting aside the time from the busy schedules of life.  Opportunities are actually abundant throughout each day, whether at lunch time, work breaks, traveling, exercising, personal hygiene time, etc.  A friend of mine uses a cell phone reminder each day.  The list is endless….but the point is to encourage them in how to place a priority on what is most important amidst the busyness of daily life.
  3. Persevere– James 1:4 – Winston Churchill stated that we should “never, never, never give up.” He knew something about fighting battles against overwhelming odds.  Excuses will arise as to why it’s not possible.  Such spiritual warfare is being waged continually and we are called to never give up.  That requires perseverance; do not be deterred.  Some people will progress fast and some slow, but never give up.  Challenge them, too much is at stake…..their growth and maturity in Christ.

Enjoy the journey of developing this wonderful discipline in the life of the person you are discipling.  Disciplines become passions.  Jeremiah stated that God’s word was his joy and his heart’s delight, Jeremiah 15:16.  May that joy, delight and love for God’s word ever increase in their life.

(Lessons on Assurance and the Topical Memory System can be found online at NavPress or through various book distributors)