I have an early memory of being aware that God was a real presence, not a cartoonish old man on a glitzy throne in heaven. I was in my elementary school’s third grade classroom, and I was eight years old. A mighty storm raged. The sky was dark as if evening had already descended. A sideways rain pounded at the rippled glass. As any classroom teacher can attest, every child was focused on the weather outside, math or spelling lessons forgotten.
My dad worked for the telephone company, and sometimes his job required him to climb telephone poles to make repairs. When bad weather hit, I usually worried about my dad up on a pole. (I am certain he would never do something that risky, but when you are eight and your dad is a superhero, you just never know.) As I watched that wild storm whip the trees and rattle the glass, I felt calm and unusually relaxed. I felt, for the first time in my life, that God was with me—real, present, and almost close enough to touch. I remembered the story of Jesus calming the storm around his boat while his frightened comrades huddled, fretting about their fate. My parents read that story at home. My Sunday School teachers taught that lesson in class. Our VBS staff reenacted it. This truth about Jesus had been placed in my memory and stored in my heart. The moment arrived when I could tap into that storage and pull out assurance.
Through the next 30+ years, I have often felt thankful for the little snippets of Scripture and broad Biblical truths that are living in my memory. Some of them are a little dusty; I’m ashamed that I often cannot pull out the exact verse and chapter, and I would never win a Bible Bee. But I only need to blow the dust bunnies away, and my knowledge of the Lord comes flooding back.
Why Learn the Bible?
Comfort is not the only reason to know and remember Scripture. Psalm 119:11 tells us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Knowing God’s word, including his commandments and standards, helps us to be aware of ways we may sin by doing something God forbids or neglecting something he requires. I find this analogy helpful: When you visit a new swimming pool for the first time, you cannot know if you are going to dive into the wrong area or bring in a forbidden beverage unless you know the rules. Storing away God’s word helps you avoid sinning against him.
We also read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “[all] Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” This passage highlights several related reasons to know the holy Scripture. When we encounter God’s word, we are both being taught ourselves and being prepared to teach others. His word is a primary means he uses to prepare us for good works. We cannot anticipate the next mission he will present, but he can and he does! The Scripture is the main way God’s children hear his voice, so if we want to partner with him, we must listen and remember.
Additionally, the written word of God is a tool for growing faith. Romans 10:17 reminds us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” When our faith is brand new or has been weakened by time, experience, or weariness, we can come to the Scripture where Christ’s words live and actively move (see Hebrews 4:12). This is our fuel, our nourishment, the fertilizer that grows our faith and our relationship with the one who is the source of all good things.
How to Learn Scripture
I benefited greatly from teachers in my early life who knew the value of the Bible. I had parents, relatives, Sunday school teachers, and pastors who committed their time and energy to planting God’s word in my heart and praying for it to take root. However, my education in the Scriptures didn’t end there, and a person’s relationship with the Bible doesn’t depend on beginning in childhood.
First, dig into the Bible knowing that your pursuit will be imperfect. As a young Christian, I took a few approaches. Sometimes, I simply opened a Bible and read. I took a passage and tried to read with an open heart, eager to hear from God. Other times, I made use of a study Bible. Short, clear annotations allowed me to gather historical context or nuances of the language that led to deeper insights. I also took a book-by-book approach, seeking to understand the larger story of the entire Bible. I knew that I would make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand. I accepted that I would miss details or stumble on challenging language, but I also knew that God promised to provide understanding through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, learn in community. Look for opportunities to join a Bible study or class. More informally, reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ and ask to gather around the word of God over coffee or by means of technology while social distancing is still wise.
Finally, remember that memorization happens in small pieces, and memory is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. A single verse may challenge you now, but a whole chapter is possible with time and practice.
A Perfect Resource
Whether you face extraordinary struggles or the average setbacks of a regular day, know with full confidence that God has already provided a soothing word for your pain or a pointed direction for your next steps. He has prepared a perfect resource as we learn, grow, and prepare to teach others. Compared to his might and majesty, we are all children in a storm, invited to call upon the Lord for safety, calm, and assurance. Tuck his truths into your heart so that you may remember his love when the wind rises.