Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Hearing and reading the Bible, by themselves, usually aren’t sufficient for remembering what we’ve received.
In this chapter are three more important Disciplines for the intake of God’s Word that, when rightly practiced, promote the increased knowledge of God and closer conformity to Christ.
MEMORIZING GOD’S WORD
Many Christians consider the Spiritual Discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern-day martyrdom. Ask them to memorize Bible verses and they react with about as much eagerness as a request for volunteers to face Nero’s lions.
Frequently heard is the excuse of having a bad memory. But what if I offered you one thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize in the next seven days? Do you think your attitude toward Scripture memory and your ability to memorize would improve?
There is no better illustration of this than Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in the lonely Judean wilderness. Each time the Enemy thrust a temptation at Jesus, He parried it with the Sword of the Spirit. It was the Spirit-prompted recollection of specific texts of Scripture that helped Jesus experience victory. One of the ways we can experience more spiritual victories is to do as Jesus did — memorize Scripture so that it’s available within us for the Holy Spirit to bring to our remembrance when it’s needed.
Scripture memory is like reinforcing steel to a sagging faith.
When you have memorized a verse of Scripture, you can meditate on it anywhere at any time during the day or night.
If you know your birthday, phone number, and address, and can remember the names of your friends and family, then you have a functioning memory and can memorize Scripture. The question becomes whether you are willing to discipline yourself to do it.
Remember that memorizing verses is not an end in itself. The goal is not to see how many verses we can memorize; the goal is godliness. The goal is to memorize the Word of God so that it can transform our minds and our lives.
MEDITATING ON GOD'S WORD
Remember that meditation is both commanded by God and modeled by the godly in Scripture.
While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and His truth.
Meditation is not folding your arms, leaning back in your chair, and staring at the ceiling. That’s daydreaming, not meditation.
Meditation is deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.
True success is promised to those who meditate on God’s Word, who think deeply on Scripture, not just at one time each day, but at moments throughout the day and night. They meditate so much that Scripture saturates their conversation. The fruit of their meditation is action.
You encounter a torrential amount of God’s truth (not to mention the river of all the other information that rushes through your eyes and ears) each week. But without absorbing some of the water of the Word of God you encounter, you will be little better for the contact. Hearing and reading the Bible is the exposure to Scripture — that’s needful, but it’s only the starting place. After the exposure to Scripture we need to absorb it.
Without the addition of meditation, “the simple reading of the Word of God” can become information that “only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe.”
We can, however, restore an order to our thinking and recapture some of the ability to concentrate — especially on spiritual truth — through biblical meditation. But it will require discipline.
The general rule, then, in your personal, daily intake of Scripture is to both read and meditate. Read at length — such as a chapter or more — then go back over what you’ve read and select something specific from that as the focus of your meditation. Read big; meditate small.
APPLYING GOD'S WORD
Because God wills for you to be a doer of His Word, you may be confident that He wants you to find an application whenever you come to the Scriptures. Therefore, open the Book expectantly. Anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God.
For the better we understand the Bible, the better equipped we will be to apply it... Our problem continues to be more of a lack of action than comprehension.
If we read, hear, or study God’s Word without meditating on it, we shouldn’t be surprised that applying Scripture to concrete situations is so difficult.
There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page, take you by the shoulders, and urge you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.