In the summer of 1986, I was on my first overseas missions trip, a ten-week experience in Kenya. That summer changed my life in many ways, especially giving me a first taste of cross-cultural gospel work. But the most lasting change came while I was waiting for a bus to Nairobi. I asked the friend who dropped me off at the bus station, “What time does the bus come?” He answered in typical Kenyan fashion, “In the afternoon!”
As a Western Christian, I was used to scientifically accurate bus schedules, down to the minute. An answer that would’ve made sense to me was “12:17 p.m.” When my friend left, it was a little before noon. I waited for over three hours.
In that time, I had nothing but my Bible. God put an idea in my heart to memorize Scripture, and I started with the book of Ephesians. It initiated a lifetime journey in extended memorization of Scripture that has lasted until this very day. Little did I know that memorizing whole books of the Bible would fuel my new passion for world evangelization more than anything I else I could do.
In this brief article, I want to make a case that hiding God’s Word in your heart will give you limitless fuel for spreading the glory of God among all nations. Whether you’re called to sell everything and go overseas or “hold the ropes” for those who do, the living and active Word of God will continue to drive you to maximum fruitfulness.
Memorize Scripture like Jesus and Paul
In the upper room on that first resurrection Sunday, the risen Christ gave his stunned disciples many convincing proofs that he was alive from the dead. He also gave them their marching orders for the rest of their lives.
These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44–48)
This is Luke’s version of the Great Commission, the commandment incumbent on all Christ’s disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations in his name. And Christ bases everything on the Word of God—at that time, the Old Testament.
“Let’s memorize Scripture and see the Lord fuel our commitment to missions.”
He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” because the plan had been laid out clearly in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Just as happened earlier that day with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, they all must’ve been able to testify breathlessly: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 34:32).
Christ continues to do this same work in the hearts of his disciples today by the power of the Spirit. He reveals the fullness of God’s Word to us, God’s timeless plan to win people from every tribe, nation, people, and language to salvation in the kingdom of Christ. As we store up God’s Word within us, the Spirit causes us to move toward massive, faith-filled sacrifices in order to take the gospel to those who’ve never heard of Christ.
Memorize Scripture to Receive the Spirit’s Power
The gospel only spreads to the ends of the earth by the Spirit (Acts 1:8). But it’s vital for us to realize that the Spirit wields his power in our lives by God’s Word. He convicts us of sin, especially worldliness, which causes us to be shamefully asleep in the day of harvest (Prov. 10:5).
He convinces us of God’s sovereign power to convert anyone at any time, since even Saul of Tarsus was converted in an instant (Acts 9:1–18) and became a timeless example to encourage both the evangelists and the evangelized (1 Tim. 1:15–17). He transforms us daily by the renewing of the mind that only the inerrant Word of God can achieve (Rom. 12:2).
Now all of these effects can be worked by simply reading the Word daily and sitting under its faithful preaching. But memorization can be a force multiplier for our own sanctification, including growing in commitment toward missions. Memorization is a form of deep meditation on the text, and it drives Scripture deeper into our hearts.
The power of God’s Word hidden in our hearts by memorization is limitless, causing us to make radical changes and significant sacrifices to enter the fields that are white for harvest (John 4:35).
“Hiding God’s Word in your heart will give you limitless fuel for spreading the glory of God among all nations.”
The psalmist asked, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9, 11). The memorization of God’s Word enables us to fight the world, the flesh, and the devil so that we can maintain a passionate zeal for the glory of God spreading to the ends of the earth.
Memorization feeds our faith, since faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17), and faith is the eyesight of the soul by which we can see invisible spiritual realities (2 Cor. 4:18). By faith, we can see the future of the damned in hell (Rev. 20:14–15) and the future of the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 7:9). Memorization constantly renews the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph. 1:18) to see the future glory of Christ on his judgment throne (Matt. 25:31–32).
All of these themes and others are essential to a passionate and urgent zeal for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. By memorization, the Holy Spirit has continual access to your conscious thoughts to shape them more and more for his purposes. And the Spirit’s central purpose is to fulfill the Father’s statement to the Son: “Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2:8).
Memorize Scripture for the Persecuted Church
The apostle Paul was often in prison for his bold proclamation of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 2:9, he wrote that he was chained like a criminal. But he went on to say powerfully, “But the Word of God is not chained.” We have reached the point in redemptive history in which many unreached peoples are living in closed countries where evangelism and missions are illegal. Memorization will protect the words of Scripture from capture and destruction.
While imprisoned in Burma, Adoniram Judson had somehow smuggled in the precious Burmese Bible he had been translating and kept it hidden in a filthy, hard pillow. It was vulnerable at every moment to discovery and destruction. Somehow God kept it hidden, and it survived the ordeal.
But God’s Word stored up in your heart can’t be destroyed and will be a fountain of encouragement during the greatest trial of your life. By this means, you can continue to make disciples while in prison and teach them the Word accurately and completely, even while having nothing in your hands.
Let’s memorize Scripture and see the Lord fuel our commitment to missions.
Andrew M. Davis is pastor of First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina, and a visiting professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
All Scripture citations are from the English Standard Version.
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