I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Palm 119:11 (ESV)
This weekend we set aside two days to focus our attention on persecuted believers around the world. Our theme, “Remembering Those Who Suffer” was a call to believers to remember that while we continue to live in relative ease and safety with regard to our faith, there are those around the world who do not. They are harassed, jailed, beaten, mutilated, and killed because they choose to remain faithful to the One who died for them. I was particularly struck as we watched a video of a young woman named Sarah who was brutally beaten and tortured for 3 1/2 years because she loves Jesus and would not sign a “confession” to crimes against the state.
We saw other graphic images of young men and women who had their legs and/or arms hacked off, their children mutilated and murdered as they watched – horrible stuff that would be imprudent for us to ignore; not only because these are my brothers and sisters by the blood of Jesus but also because it is becoming more and more clear that such things may be headed our way. The culture in which we live grows increasingly hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ and those who espouse it. We are seeing the true church being hemmed in on every side, pushed more and more from the mainstream, marginalized and perhaps soon, criminalized.
Our service on Sunday morning was designed to give our folks a bit of a feel for what others live through every day. When our folks came in to the worship service their Bibles were “confiscated”. I took special note of the reaction of folks as they came in and many reacted in an off handed kind of way, thinking perhaps, “Not to worry, just another one of Pastor’s kooky ideas.” Others though were genuinely impacted by the idea that someone would take their Bible away from them, that they would not be allowed to carry it, refer to it, or simply hold it during the preaching service. One lady remarked on her Facebook post later, “It iced my soul.”
Our speaker who was a representative of Voice of the Martyrs spoke to us of how in many countries it is simply illegal to possess a copy of the scriptures, and many persons are imprisoned for having a copy of the Holy Bible in their possession. He talked of one man who was imprisoned for 14 1/2 years, much of the time in solitary confinement. As he spoke of this, I thought how many times I have urged, pleaded, and begged our congregation to memorize as much of the Word of God as they can. I also though back to all of the excuses I have heard as to why memorizing the scriptures is too difficult or not convenient, and my favorite – “Why should I memorize Bible verses when I have my own Bible in my hand and on the internet?”
This has been on my heart all of yesterday and today. Friend you need to commit as much of the Word of God to memory as it is possible for you to do. If our culture continues to drift the way it is, it could come upon you quicker than you can imagine that you would no longer be able to possess a written copy of the Bible. Only what you have “hidden in your heart” will remain. This passage from Psalm 119:11 refers directly to David’s embracing of the Word of God in order to remain pure and faithful. “I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” That is the context in which it is written and I am usually extremely cautions about using a Bible verse “out of context.” However, if you will allow me the grace, I want to suggest that there are many today who might say, “I have stored up your Word in my heart, that it might not be taken away from me.” There may also be a day in which many will say, “I WISH I had hidden your Word in my heart, for now they have taken my Bible away and I have nothing to cling to.”
There are a number of good Bible Memory programs (I believe the Navigators have one at www.navigators.org and there is another at www.thewholetruth.org) that you can utilize to help you commit the Word of God to memory if you feel you need additional discipline, but the important thing to hear from me today is this: You may not always be able to run to the living room and dust off your rarely used copy of the Scriptures to find a word of hope. You may in fact find yourself searching through the vault of your heart where you have stored up a supply of the Living Word of God. It is my hope that I can stir you to make ample deposits in advance of that day.