We all know the colloquialism (and profound truth), “If you don’t use it you will lose it”. It is true about knowledge, about languages, about a skill, and even about passions. When I was in the eighth grade, my English class was required to memorize Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled”. It was intended to inspire us to think outside of the box and do something unique with our lives as we started into High School and making major life decisions. I have always had a knack for rote memorization and could put things to memory quickly, but I had a tendency of learning for the test and not retaining much of the material because of that so-called ability. So in the eighth grade I memorized and quickly thereafter forgot “The Road Less Traveled”. A few years later in High School, my English teacher again required the memorization of this poem. I vividly remember being impressed by some people who could still quote the prose from memory, and then some of us had to begin anew. But after the second memorization and the shocking reality of my poor study habits – and consequential adjustments, I set it to memory fully. Now, fifteen years later, I can still quote “The Road Less Traveled”.
Our Spiritual walk, disciplines, and maturity are developed and maintained in a variety of ways, and sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by claiming the trendy mantra, “It is a relationship not a religion”. Now, let me be perfectly clear, I believe with all of my heart that God created us in His image to know, love and worship Him, and we have the beautiful relationship of child and bride to Him. When we are saved we abide in Him: meaning we remain in Him. We talk to Him. We have a relationship with Him. But God is also our Lord and our King. He has authority over us, He will judge us at eternity’s gate, and He desires and deserves to be worshipped. He does not worship us.
So what do I mean that we do ourselves a disservice? By making our religion so informal to the point that we call it merely a relationship, we open ourselves up to the potential of forgetting and losing those things that we once knew and cherished. If we do not use it, we will lose it.
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
– Ps 119.9-16
The book of Psalms is a collection of songs that are wrought with emotion. David had a relationship with the Lord. But he also understood God’s position and desired to discipline his life to know God and to honor him. Yes, he failed – terribly at times – but songs such as Ps 119 teach us wonderful habits to emulate in our relationship with God, in our discipline of mind, and in our worship of Him. David says that he had sought God with all of his heart. All of his affections and desires were focused on God, and the result was a desire to keep God’s commandments. When you turn your affections towards God, does that make you want to obey? It should! For by obeying Him you please Him and the relationship is enhanced – because our role is as child, subject, servant, and worshiper.
He continues to say that he had hidden God’s word in his heart in order that he might not sin. God is so glorious and beautiful to him that David memorized God’s instructions and commands. He meditated on the law because he loved God so much that he did not want to break even one commandment (even though we all know he did). But then he asks God to teach him His statutes, to keep him from sinning, and he will tell everyone. He will take delight and pleasure in God’s statutes and commandments and he will not forget the word.
So what does this all mean? How does this apply to me? God has created us for relationship. He loves us and desires for us to draw near to Him with confidence and openness. He also created us to serve and worship Him as God and king. He wants us to know Him. And He gave us an entire book so that we could know Him. So we must take that book and learn it. Love it. Meditate on it and commit it to memory. And then sing it back to God. Praise His attributes, commandments and desires back to Him. Make much of what He has to say about Himself and us and our relationship in that book. This is how we know God, this is how we build relationship with Him. And if you do not remain in it, you will forget it it. If you only memorize it for academia’s sake, you will forget it – or be able to recite it from memory but without passion.
Hide it in your heart, and refresh it by praising it back to God. The more you refresh it by praising Him, meditating on Him, making much of Him, the more deeply it will be established in your heart.