Doing Battle with the Word
In yesterday’s sermon from Micah 7 I asked the question, “Are you using the gospel daily?” Micah put the message of God’s grace to practical use in his life, using the Word to do battle against the enemy (Micah 7:8–9) and from the Word exulting in who God is—the One who delights in steadfast love, who pardons our sin, who casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18–20).
We need to use the gospel, and more broadly speaking, the Word of God, in the same way.
In Ephesians 6, in his discussion of the “armor of God,” Paul describes the word of God as “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). It is the weapon with which we do battle. But to do battle with this sword, we must be diligent to learn how to rightly handle it (see 2 Timothy 2:15). How do we do that? We need to know it, and in particular, we need to know key verses and key passages that can help us do battle with the enemy—the world, the flesh, and Satan—and to fight against the weapons employed by our enemy—sin and shame.
What I’m calling for both in this blog post and yesterday’s sermon is that we live in accordance with Psalm 119:9–11:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
We guard our way according to God’s word. We seek God by not wandering from his word. We fight sin by storing up his word in our heart.
We’re talking about Scripture memorization and Scripture meditation, but those can feel very daunting. Many of us haven’t memorized anything since we had to memorize lines from Shakespeare in a high school literature class.
How do we get started memorizing Scripture? Let me give you four easy steps:
1. SET A GOAL
Start with setting a goal. In any area of life, good goals are what you could call “an attainable reach.” They should stretch you—you should have to reach for them—but they should also be attainable—they shouldn’t be totally impossible. They should be an attainable reach, and they should also be personal. You’re not setting goals that would be great goals for someone else; you’re setting goals for you. What would stretch you, but also be something that you could achieve?
For most of us, a great starting place would be to memorize one verse (or one short passage) per week. Some of us could probably start off with more than that, perhaps two or three per week. There may be a few who would be ready to have a goal of one per day. Whatever it is for you, start with a goal.
2. PICK FOUR TOPICS
Next, pick four topics. I say four topics simply to line up with (typically) four weeks per month. Assigning each topic to a week of the month, you’re cycling through four key areas that you need to cover in any given month. But again, make this personal. It could be that you have a need to go deep in battle in one particular area, and you need to focus on one corresponding attribute of God. For you, then, perhaps you only start with two topics. But generally speaking, four is a good starting point.
What do I mean by topics? Think of general themes or headings that you can use to categorize the verses that you’re learning. For example, consider these topics:
- The Promises of God
- The Gospel
- Jesus Christ
- The Word of God
- The Fatherhood of God
- The Church
- Trust and Faith
- The Love of God
- Eternity / Heaven
- Christian Living
If there is an area of particular sin(s) that you need to address, you may choose to add that area as a specific topic. The best way to fight sin is with Scripture (Psalm 119:11), so you may choose to add topics on areas like Anger, or Patience, or Lust, or Truthfulness, or Gossip, etc., depending on your particular sin battles.
Pick four topics according to your particular needs at this season in your life, and assign each topic a week of the month.
3. FIND SOME KEY VERSES
This is where we may think we’d typically begin, but I believe that doing the leg work before this step actually helps you succeed in doing this step. Once you have the topics in place, find verses that go with that topic.
I would recommend that you do this simply week by week. If you come across a verse that would be helpful for you during your own reading or maybe from a Life Group study or maybe from a sermon on Sunday, by all means jot it down to memorize it later. But generally speaking, take a little bit of time on Sunday afternoon, look ahead to the new topic for the coming week, and find a verse that you need to memorize for that particular area.
At the bottom of this page, there are some starter verses listed that may help you begin. Otherwise, use resources like BibleGateway.com to search by keyword or topic.
4. KEEP IT WITH YOU
The most helpful thing you can do practically to help you memorize anything is to write it down. Write the verse down, slowly read it out loud, looking at each word as you read, thinking about how each word connects logically to what’s around it, and after reading it through around ten times like that you’ll generally be at a good starting place. But don’t let that be your stopping place.
Keep the verse with you all week long. I find it most helpful to write it on a 3×5 index card and keep it folded up in my pocket. You may choose to write it on a note app on your smartphone or even use one of the Scripture memorization apps available for most devices. For me, personally, using a smart phone usually leads more to distraction, but do what works best for you. The main thing is to keep it with you, easily accessible, so that you can review it regularly.
Return to it regularly throughout the week. Make it a part of your daily time with God. Glance at it while you’re walking down the hall in your office. Read it when you’re transitioning between tasks. All along the way, keep thinking particularly about how the truth of that verse applies to your life.
Do this, all week. And then when Sunday comes, start over.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN PRACTICE
So practically speaking, how does this all look?
Let’s say that the topics I’ve picked out are: (Week 1) The Gospel; (Week 2) Patience; (Week 3) Prayer; and (Week 4) Christian Living.
At the start of week 1, I decide to memorize Colossians 2:13–14. I write it down on an index card and read it over slowly, several times. I keep that card with me all week and look at it as often as I can, and keep thinking about that passage throughout each day.
During a Bible study in week 1, someone mentions 1 Peter 1:15, a verse on holiness. I know that this verse would fit in for my topic for week 4, so I type out a quick reminder on my phone to ping me in a few weeks.
Week 2 comes and I know that I’m particularly doing battle with impatience, so I’m working on cultivating patience in my life. I know that the Bible often speaks of being “slow to anger,” so I go to BibleGateway.com, and type that phrase in the search bar. There, I find Proverbs 14:29 – “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” I write it down, and start thinking through the folly that is exhibited when someone loses his temper, and I pray as I review the verse: “Lord, make me a man of great understanding. Help me to be slow to anger.”
For week 3 (Prayer), let’s say that I know I’m going to have a pretty busy week, so I need something short. I choose Matthew 7:7, a short verse and one that most of us are already pretty familiar with (“Ask, and it will be given to you…”). I then write it down, and follow the same things mentioned above in week 1. I may go back occasionally also and review the verses from week 1 and week 2, but my focus for this week is Matthew 7:7.
At the start of week 4 (Christian Living), I know that I want to be focused on pursuing holiness. This doesn’t come naturally and is mocked by our culture, so it needs particular attention. Back in week 1, I heard someone mention 1 Peter 1:15 – “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” –– again, a short and easy verse to memorize, but also one that is packs a powerful punch right where I need it. Thankfully, I had set a reminder on my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. I write this verse down and get started.
I finish out week four, having learned four verses. But I haven’t just learned them, I’ve prayed through them, I’ve been thinking deeply on them, I’ve applied them to my life.
Week one comes, and I start all over, finding new verses for each topic.
SCRIPTURE MEMORY STARTER VERSES
For battling particular areas of sin, see the document from Pastor Rhett, “Scripture Passages for Child Training.” This document may be intended for parents instructing their children, but these truths are ones that all of us could use in our own daily battles.
Other verses by topic:
Promises of God
- Philippians 1:6; Matthew 5:6; Psalm 84:11
- Ephesians 2:8–9; 1 John 2:1–2; Colossians 1:13–14
- Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 2:8–9; John 10:27-30
The Word of God
- Matthew 7:24–25; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; Matthew 4:4
- Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 103:12; 1 John 1:9
- 1 Peter 1:8–9; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Psalm 46:1
- Matthew 7:7; Luke 10:2; Jeremiah 33:3
- Philippians 2:3; James 4:6; Proverbs 29:23
The Love of God
- Psalm 86:15; Psalm 90:14; Romans 5:8
- 2 Timothy 2:22; Colossians 3:1–2; Psalm 73:25–26
- Galatians 2:20; Romans 12:1–2; Matthew 3:8
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.