March 3, 2015

Showdown in the Desert

Never mind training him. Here's how to slay the dragon.

What in the Word: Matthew 4:1-11

Hang-Onto-It Verse: Matthew 4:4 (NCV)"It is written in the Scriptures, 'A person does not live by eating only bread, but by everything God says.'"

The Back Story:
At this point in Jesus' life on earth, He has been born, presented at the temple, and baptized. Now, right before beginning His public ministry, He spends 40 days in the desert, fasting and being tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:2 tells us He was hungry. Imagine how hungry you would be if you hadn't eaten for 40 days. Do not let the fact that Jesus was (and is!) 100% God even as He was, at this point, also 100% human make you think He felt hunger less than you or I would have under similar circumstances. You can be sure He felt every bit of it. In this weakened condition, He is confronted by the devil. The devil is referred to by several names or descriptions in the Bible. Check out Revelation 20:2. What is the devil called in this verse?

The Main Event:
Read Matthew 4:1-11. What "weapon" does Jesus use every time to fire back at the devil's taunts and attempted traps? What does the devil end up doing in response to Jesus' answers?

The Take-Away:
If Scripture is the weapon of choice for Jesus--THE Word! THE Christ!--Himself when He's fighting the enemy, you'd better believe it should be our weapon of choice, too. But we can't fire a weapon that isn't loaded. It's like pulling the trigger on a gun with no bullets. Look up Ephesians 6:17. What piece of armor is God's Word compared to? 

Scripture is our offensive tool against the enemy; other parts of our spiritual armor are defensive. In other words, when the enemy fires an arrow at us, we can put on our helmet of salvation or put up our shield of faith to defend ourselves and deflect his arrow. On the other hand, Scripture we have hidden in our hearts is a sword we can use to do damage, to inflict a wound, to take a stab at the enemy, to slay the dragon! But we have to know it to use it! This means memorizing Bible verses. And in the words of one of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore, "Yes you can do it." Yes. You. Can.

The Truth in Action (or "Great. What do I do now?"):
I'd memorized some Bible verses during Vacation Bible School as a child and had tried to learn a few as an adult, but I could never make them stick. I wanted to get pieces of God's Word so embedded in my brain and heart that I could recall them easily years after first memorizing them. One day about a year ago, I believe God dropped a method for long-term Scripture memory into my brain, and it's been working ever since. Because I need all the mnemonics I can get, I've come up with an appropriate acrostic for this method: SWORD. Here's what to do if you want to give it a try:

S = Select a Scripture and a "Scripture spot." Pick a Bible verse (or a chunk of verses) you think you'll want to have in your arsenal for years to come. In other words, you might want to skip the "regulations about mildew" section of Leviticus in favor of something more along the lines of Philippians 4:6-8. What Scripture do you want to be able to fire off in a few days...and in a few months...and in a few years? Now pick a "Scripture spot," someplace you spend time in most days, preferably where you're doing one thing but have your mind free to think about something else. My spot is, weirdly enough, a seldom-used newspaper box near my mailbox. I do a walking loop back and forth in front of my house every morning for exercise, so I pass by this newspaper box several times each day. Your spot could be your bathroom mirror or a desk in your bedroom. My older daughter's "spot" is her daily planner.
W = Write it out. Hand-write or type out the Scripture you picked. I write mine on note cards that I then stick in a plastic zip-top storage bag for protection since I store them outside in the mailbox. Writing or typing out the verse or verses you're trying to memorize will jump-start the process and give you a reference to check while you're working on it.
O = Organize it into bite-sized pieces. Now start memorizing one chunk of your chosen Scripture(s) at a time. I pick pretty small chunks because that's all my brain can handle. For instance, when I memorized the Philippians passage mentioned above, I started with just "do not be anxious about anything." Keep repeating that chunk at different times during the course of a day or a couple days until you don't have to work very hard to recall it.
R = Really learn one chunk before you add on another. You're building a long-term memory here, so don't add on a new section of your target Scripture until the one you've been working on is firmly planted in your mind. Then, when you add on a new phrase, be sure to keep repeating what you've already learned. Again, to use the Philippians example, once I got good at "do not be anxious about anything," I tacked on "but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Your goal is to get these verses etched on your brain for permanent recall. This is not like science class where you're just trying to remember the life cycle of a rock long enough to ace the test. You want to know this stuff FOREVER. 
D = Do it all again. Keep repeating the verse you're working on, plus those you've already loaded into your Scripture arsenal. Write them out. Whisper them when you're lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Replay them in your mind while you're brushing your teeth. Keep a running list of them in a journal. Work them into your prayers. (Praying the Word of God = power prayer.) Say them out loud when you're feeling attacked, defeated, tempted, discouraged, weak, or uncertain. If you're not used to doing this, it might feel strange. But the devil can't read your mind, so he is only intimidated by what he can see and hear. And when he hears you saying Bible verses out loud, he feels your sword plunge in deep. And guess what? You've just slayed the dragon. 

"Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope 
for you, and your hope will not be cut off." (Proverbs 24:14 NIV)


  1. Great words of wisdom! Unfortunately the sword is the part of armor that Christians most commonly forget about. That is the one that takes discipline, time, and planning, something many people don't want to put into their Christian walk. When I was a teacher I used to stress how important it was to actually implement what we are learning. Use it in discussion, teach it to your parents, look for it in real life. Well, the same goes for scripture. I have 'memorized' so much scripture in my life but when I don't use it I forget it over the years.To add to your list I would say that you need to 'use' that verse as much as possible during the day so it really does stick. I have learned so many good scriptures that I thought I would for sure need later but I never 'used' it for anything. Start using those verses!

    1. Excellent idea, Amanda! Use it or lose it, right?! I try to incorporate memorized Scriptures into my prayers and to use them as my go-to sources when I need encouraging words to offer to friends or others in need. Of course, as a worrier personality, the first part of the Philippians 4:6-8 chunk I memorized awhile ago needs to be always on my mind and lips: "Do not be anxious about anything..." Anything. That's ANYTHING. :)

  2. Oooh, I loved what you said about the offensive/defensive tools difference! And you're SO right about making this memorization permanent - it makes it much easier to have these comforts running through my head during long-distance plane flights - they're the first things to pop into my head when I pop out of my seat from a scary air pocket!

    1. Aw, thank you, my friend. And what a GREAT practical use for Scripture memory. How much better to have truth from the Word running through your head than some wild thought that will only upset you? It's interesting reading this long-ago post now, because I am deep into a study on the armor of God--with its offensive and defensive pieces :) Thanks so much for taking time to pop over here to my poor neglected second blog baby!


I'd love to hear from you. What do you think? What's on your mind? Did you learn anything from this study that you didn't know to begin with? Did it make any sense? Tell me...I really want to know.