How to Hide God's Word in Your Heart
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How to Hide God’s Word in Your Heart

I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word” (Psalm 119:15-16 NASB).

By John David Hicks

The psalmist internalized God’s Word by meditation, delight, and memorization. “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10-11). He desires not just to know about God, but to know God personally, His ways, His character and to experience God’s guidance daily.

In his book Spiritual Formation, Dallas Willard wrote, “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization.”

Jesus overcame temptation and the devil by Scripture. And so can you! “It is written,” Jesus said. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). To live by faith you must know the Word of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV).

The Bible is the only book that gives you understanding of God and His will. God proclaims the power of His Word: “So will My Word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NASB). Life-changing faith is always in agreement with the Word of God (1 John 5:14-15).

To be successful at memorizing Scripture, you must be convinced that it is important, because it takes discipline. It’s difficult at first, but becomes easier after a while. I learned that about physical exercise. You must first make it a priority. To start, you must get up off your chair and start doing your exercises. Even if you only give it a few minutes a day, you have to get started. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The less you do, the harder it gets. When your daily lifestyle changes, it is possible to reach your goal.

The same principle applies to memorizing Scripture. To get started you must make it a priority and work on it daily. No other single exercise pays more spiritual dividends! It strengthens your faith, your witness, your prayers, and your knowledge of God and His Word.

I set aside a time in the morning to be alone with God and seek his face. In my devotions I have a time for Bible reading and prayer for my prayer partners, family, and the needs of the world. I have added five to seven minutes to take time to memorize Scripture. I have found that memorization takes less time than you might think.

The psalmist says that the most important step in memorization is meditating on God’s Word throughout the day and night. When I start with a verse, I discuss the verse with God in prayer. As you allow the Holy Spirit to use the Scripture to change your life, the Scripture becomes “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Meditation incorporates the Word into your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you read the verse several times aloud with an open mind; God will give you insight as you read the verses before and after the passage. Then ask the Lord for the truth expressed, the promises given, and the action that needs to be taken. When you believe what the verse says and understand the promise of the reward, it is easier to remember. Memory is dependent upon the impression made in the mind. With consistent review you will establish it.

Even if you do not have time to set aside, use the opportunities that are available. Don’t underestimate the power of a few minutes here and a few there when you have a moment in the day. Write out the verses and put them on a 3x5 card, or in Microsoft Word use the template for business cards. Take them wherever you go.

If you will take about two minutes to go over Scripture when you first get up in the morning, and then another two minutes at breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, dinner, and before bed, you will learn Scripture quickly and easily. The psalmist writes, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97 NASB). As you recite the verses frequently, they will get into your heart. As you put meditation and memorization together, God will richly bless you: “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (v. 99).

It is important to learn verses thoroughly before moving on to new ones. At the end of the week, do not worry if you need to keep working on your verses. It takes practice and routine to learn verses quickly. A passage of Scripture needs to be reviewed at least 100 times before you can say you know it well. Each week as you select a passage to memorize, pray over it. It is best to start with two verses per week. After you know your own pace, you can add more.

We all would like to find a memorization technique or trick that would make it simple and easy and do away with discipline and hard work, but there are no short cuts.

Here are some memory aids:

1. Be alert and interested in the verses you are studying.

2. Remember the verse’s address: the book, chapter, and verse number.

3. Start with a phrase at a time. Add another phrase until you can repeat it all.

4. Know the biblical background and context of each verse you memorize.

5. Speak the verse out loud as often as you can, emphasizing the words.

6. Write out the verse on a small card and date it when memorized so you can review every few months.

7. Go over your card at least 10 times a day, reading it out loud. By the end of the week, you should have it memorized!

8. Find someone to check you on the verse. Better yet, memorize together!

9. If you find a verse that you have forgotten, put it back in the review deck for two or three weeks to learn it again.

10. Do not consider a scripture memorized until you have reviewed it at least 100 times. If you do not review, you will forget and then become frustrated with the process. So have a review packet.

You will find it more difficult to memorize when you are anxious, depressed, or angry. It’s hard to concentrate. Paul told the Philippians, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

My friend Mark Wilson, who is an English teacher, gave me some insight about memorization. He writes about four ways to keep Scripture alive in our hearts and to aid in our understanding of what we read and memorize: Keeping God’s Word Fresh, Reading for the Grand Themes, Deep Meditation, and the Creative Work of God’s Word.

Keeping God’s Word Fresh

When seeking to hide God’s Word in our hearts, we cannot stop at memorization—we must also use our imagination. To some extent we all do this when we read; our imagination recreates the things that the words describe. But with familiar Bible stories, our imagination becomes dulled. This is especially true of the Bible stories we were taught as children. Imagining or re-imagining the story can reveal new insights into the story or passage. For instance, imaginatively placing ourselves at the foot of the cross and looking up at our Savior may help us truly grasp the wonder of His sacrifice for us. When we imagine the fear and shame David saw in the eyes of his brothers when Goliath mocked Israel, we begin to feel the righteous anger that David felt at hearing the God of Israel blasphemed. Through careful and holy use of our imagination, God’s Spirit can make old stories new. As you memorize you can imagine what the writer may have been feeling or thinking as he wrote the verse.

Reading for the Grand Themes

One of the limits of memorization is that we tend to focus on small passages, verses, or promises but not the parables and narratives that are major portions of both the New and Old Testaments. These stories reveal God’s ways and the core values of the kingdom. To hide the large themes of God’s Word in our hearts, we must sometimes do a quick and uninterrupted read through many chapters. When we sit and read through a whole gospel, for example, we allow the whole symphony of God’s Word to sweep over and to catch us up in the pure goodness of Jesus. We get a feeling for the ways of Jesus.

I once read through the gospel of Mark in one sitting and discovered how excited the author was about Jesus. I had grown up loving Jesus, but after reading Mark I discovered how much I flat-out liked Jesus. As we memorize a verse, it is important to keep the context of the larger passage in our minds.

Deep Meditation

It is also important to develop the discipline of meditating upon a verse. We should certainly ask the usual questions about the background and context of the verse. Sometimes study notes and commentaries help with this. But this is only the beginning. We should take a verse and consciously present it to God and ask Him to make it spirit and life to us.

Next we should quietly listen, expecting God to show us where and how these verses should be applied to our life. We can ask, or invite God’s Spirit to ask, “How would I be changed if the truths of these verses were fully manifest in my life?”

We should then pray for those changes the Holy Spirit is suggesting. It is important to expect God’s Word to open us up and conform us to the likeness of Jesus, the Living Word.

The Creative Work of God’s Word

God’s Word, like His Holy Spirit, can work a variety of ways in our lives depending on our need and God’s purposes. Sometimes we feel weak and God’s Word comes like the bread of life that sustains and strengthens us. Sometimes we are wandering and God’s Word gives direction. Sometimes a verse we have memorized seems to have no clear purpose until we are in the heat of battle and we must wield the verse as a sword of the Spirit against our soul’s enemy. Other times God’s Word is a solid rock to which we cling in the midst of the quicksand of despair.

The key is not to demand God’s Word always be the same thing or meet the same need. We must allow the Holy Spirit to bring God’s Word to us in the way we need it. We must open ourselves to the creative power of God’s Word by which all things were made and all things are sustained.

The only offensive weapon God has given His children is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “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” (Hebrews 4:12). Again, let me remind you, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He triumphed over Satan by reciting Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (Matthew 4:1-11). Through the centuries the saints have used the Word of God to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.

God honors His Word:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

“He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave” (Psalm 107:20).

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

In conclusion, many Christians wish they knew more Scripture but aren’t willing to make the commitment. To be a disciple of Christ you must “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). “Train” means to exercise and discipline yourself to reach the goal, as Olympic athletes who go “into strict training” so they won’t “be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). “Strict training” is to “exercise self-control.”

You are saved by the grace of God. “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).

If you want to grow more in God’s grace and to go deeper spiritually, then you must hide God’s Word in your heart. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB).

All Christians should know: the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13); Psalm 23; the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-20); the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-20), and John 3:16. Here are some scriptures on Faith, Favor, Health and Healing, Provision, Protection, and Righteousness that you might want to start memorizing (verses are from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated):

FAITH

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NASB).

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).

“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24; also 2 Corinthians 5:7).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Other scriptures: 1 Kings 8:56; Mark 11:23; Romans 4:17, 19-21; Hebrews 11:32-34.

FAVOR

“For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:5-6).

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

“The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:25-26; also Job 10:12; Psalm 8:4-6; Genesis 39:3-4; Psalm 103:4-5; Jeremiah 33:3; Romans 5:15; Romans 6:14; Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 8:9).

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23).

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Other scriptures: 1 Timothy 1:14; Hebrews 4:16; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Peter 1:2-3; Ephesians 1:3, 7-8; Ephesians 2:4-7.

HEALTH AND HEALING

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8).

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19-20).

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2).

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3).

“With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:16).

“So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days” (Exodus 23:25-26).

“I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).

Other scriptures: Acts 10:38; John 10:10; Romans 8:2; Jeremiah 17:14; Deuteronomy 7:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Matthew 4:23; Psalm 91:9-10; Proverbs 4:20-22; Matthew 8:2-3, 16-17; Matthew 12:15; Luke 9:11; Luke 10:19; Jeremiah 33:6; Proverbs 18:21; Jeremiah 30:17; Psalm 105:37.

PROVISION

“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 28:8).

“Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NIV).

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Other scriptures: Deuteronomy 28:3-6, 12-13; Deuteronomy 7:14; Proverbs 10:22; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10-11; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 6:31-32; Psalm 34:10; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 107:9; Hebrews 4:16.

PROTECTION

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Other scriptures: Psalm 91:1-4, 5-8, 14-16; Psalm 32:7; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 4:8; Psalm 18:30; Psalm 5:11; Psalm 41:2; Psalm 57:1; Ezekiel 34:27; 2 Timothy 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14.

RIGHTEOUSNESS

“For if by the one man’s offence death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Other scriptures: Romans 4:3, 5-6, 13; Romans 5:21; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 34:19; Proverbs 10:6-7, 24, 28, 30; Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 13:21-22, 25.

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