This is not so much a defence of the Memory Verse because it’s particularly under attack by people who want to be rid of it, but rather a defence for my own peace of mind as I flip-flop between thinking MVs are the best thing since sliced bread and on the other hand loathing the very archaic and patronising notion of rote learning verses of the Bible…
This really is a reflection that was prompted by the excellent papers by Michael Jensen and Graham Stanton at the 2012 Youthworks Youth Ministry conference (Thetacon) which delved into the subject of the incarnation and how the humanity of Jesus connects with our trials and temptations.
One of the points that came through strongly in both papers and really grabbed my attention is that in the face of temptation and trials, Jesus used only the same resources for faithfulness that I too have access to. This startled me because I think I’m often inclined to believe that Jesus could only resist temptation because of the divinity that he has and that I don’t… I think I’m inclined to emphasise his divinity at the sake of diminishing his humanity, and in doing so I lose the impact of realising that Jesus was made in every way like me and was tempted in every way I am and yet in his humanity did not sin (cf. Hebrews 2:10-11; 4:15). Jesus overcomes not by being superhuman, but by being truly human.
So what resources does Jesus use to resist temptation and persevere through trial? He has the resources of godly friends, Scripture, prayer, the indwelling of the Spirit, the momentum of maturing character and the visible divine help of angels. Chiefly of these though is the way Jesus relies heavily on his knowledge of God’s Word.
When Satan tempts and tests Jesus in the desert, inviting doubt and misquoting God’s Word, Jesus does not overcome Satan and bind him by means of his strength or power or his heroism or his unbowed moral courage. He defeats him by clinging to the Word of God – to the command and covenant, the precept and promise.
This is why I’m challenged to defend the Memory Verse. Memorising and recalling God’s Word accurately in our time of temptation and trial is the chief means by which we resist and persevere. At the youth ministry I’m involved with we do use the Memory Verse activities on this site, but two of them in particular we use regularly each term (‘Application Pictures‘ and ‘Memory Verse Skits‘) because we want to remind ourselves that we are not remembering God’s Word as an end in itself but in order to recall it in our time of need. We want to think ahead to the situations that we will find it useful to remember these verses and so cling to God and his faithful character.
I’m renewing my commitment to the Memory Verse times we use at our youth ministry as the chief way of equipping our young people to resist and persevere through temptations and trials as the Lord Jesus did.