This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.
In the previous chapter, Don Whitney made the point that the most important of the spiritual disciplines is Bible intake. In this chapter (chapter 3), he places great emphasis upon different methods of Bible intake.
Memorizing God’s Word—Benefits and Methods
Many times we hear excuses on why people can’t memorize the Bible. Often people claim that they have a bad memory and can’t memorize the Bible. Don Whitney asks, “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” (39)?
We as Christians require strength for the journey of life, and Scripture memory provides spiritual power and enables us to use the Sword of the Spirit as the weapon to withstand temptation, a means of increased faith, tools for evangelism and counseling, and a means of guidance in life. Just as Psalm 119:24 states, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” The more we memorize the more we will meditate upon the Word of God. Psalm 119:97 reads, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
Don Whitney provides several different methods and suggestions for Scripture memory. He encourages everyone to have a plan, to practice writing out the verses, draw pictures to use as visual reminders, to memorize word-for-word (including the reference), and to find a method of accountability. All of this will enable a person to memorize Scripture on a more frequent basis.
Meditating on God’s Word—Benefits and Methods
Don Whitney writes, “One sad feature of our contemporary culture is that meditation has become identified more with non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity” (46). He does a good job in this section of explaining that true Scripture meditation is not yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or some New Age practice.
Don Whitney makes the point that Christian meditation is never an emptying of your mind; but rather, it’s a filling of your mind with God and His truth. According to Whitney, meditation is defined as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purpose of understanding, application, and prayer (46).
In this section, Whitney connects different key places in the Scriptures where meditation is related to success and the promises of God. He then provides 17 different methods of meditation to enable the reader to consider different approaches to Scripture meditation.
Applying God’s Word—Benefits and Methods
Often the Bible is difficult to understand. We see in the Scriptures that Peter described some of Paul’s writings as “hard to understand.” According to Don Whitney, “Despite our occasional struggles to understand parts of Scripture, however, understanding the Bible isn’t our chief problem. Much more often our difficulty lies in knowing how to apply the clearly understood parts of God’s Word to everyday living” (69).
Before a person can apply the Bible to their own setting, they first have to grasp the true meaning of the text. Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to apply the Scriptures personally. However, as we read the Bible, we must do the hard work of understanding the meaning in attempt to apply the text to us personally. Whitney suggests that we should ask good questions to the text, and he provides a good list to consider.
One great benefit from such work in application leads to a response to God through His Word. In other words, after we read, memorize, meditate, and apply the Bible – we should have some response to God in this process. We can’t possible remain in neutral. All of this work builds to the end goal of sanctification – the movement of increased holiness whereby we become more conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29).
If you’re like me, I often fail to slow down enough to do proper meditation. I can read and think on the go, but I often struggle with slowing down. For me, life is busy and fast. As you read through this chapter, look at your own life and evaluate your weaknesses. If we expect to grow stronger in Christ this summer, we must admit failure and commit ourselves to change for the sake of Christ.
J.I. Packer, “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible” (quoted by Don Whitney on page 77).
Catch up in this series:
Questions to Consider:
- How can I carve out time to memorize the Bible?
- What plan do I have to memorize verses from God’s Word?
- If the Psalmist put emphasis upon Bible memory and Bible meditation, why does the modern church often neglect these practices?
- What can a person learn from Psalm 119?
- Understanding the meaning and applying the meaning to us personally is essential to sanctification?
Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 4 and look at the subject of prayer. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.
Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.