Memorized Bible verses are powerful in many ways, including encouraging and fortifying us in battle. But we can also use them to bless others. When we speak God’s Word into another person’s heart, he or she can hear the Father and be encouraged and blessed.
One time a friend and I (Mark) were praying for a woman who told us she had been a Christian for about ten years but now was really struggling. As we began to pray my prayer partner thought of John 4 and the story of the woman at the well so he said “I think the Lord is going to do that for you. He is going to replenish your soul.” Well, I had that text memorized so I said to her, “Remember, remember who it is that’s giving you this gift. And the gift He gives you will become a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” She began to cry but since we were praying for others in a group setting we did not get to follow up with her until the next morning.
She came up to me all excited and said, “Mark, I have to talk to you! Mark, I have to talk to you!” So I asked her what happened. “You won’t believe what happened last night,” she said. “Ten years ago I was so lost. Then someone told me to read the Gospel of John so I just did it because I didn’t know what else to do. And as I was reading I came to Chapter 4. Suddenly I was that woman at the well, by myself with God, and on the basis of that story I became a Christian. And now you guys say that same passage to me at this lowest point in my life.”
Another time I was preaching at a Sunday morning church service after we had just held a weekend men’s retreat there. I was sharing about these texts and explaining how to experience them as love when I looked out and saw one of the guys on the retreat with his wife sitting next to him. So I walked down the aisle, approached his wife and said, “I just want to say this text to you,” which was Luke 15:20. I got down on my knees and reached out and took her hand and began: “When you get up and come to me, your Father, while you are still a long way off, I see you. I run to you, throw my arms around you and kiss you.”
All of a sudden the man’s wife started sobbing—out of control sobbing. So I just sat there with her, holding her hand, and affirming her with those words. Finally I got up and started walking back to the pulpit. I guess it was the Holy Spirit or something because I spun around and just looked at her. Then I said, “I don’t know what your relationship with your earthly father has been, but you need to know that what you just experienced was from your heavenly Father and you can trust that and you can let your heart bank on that.” Then I went back and kept on preaching.
After the service the couple approached me. She was crying and he was beaming, and they looked at me and said, “Mark, we have to tell you what happened.” Then he said, “Mark, that was the verse I chose over the weekend. I was trying to help my wife understand it but she wasn’t hearing it like I was.” As it turned out, she had been abandoned by her earthly father when she was three and just a month earlier they found him. She had gone to see him, but when she got there the father said, “I don’t know you. I want nothing to do with you. I don’t have a daughter.” And he closed the door.
Just imagine the impact God’s words had on her! I said, “This is your heavenly Father’s heart: ‘When you get up and come to me and I see you, I am filled with compassion for you. I run to you and throw my arms around you and kiss you.’” You see, the amazing thing is that it’s in those moments that people really do discover how much God knows them personally, knows not just the hair on their head, but that he knows them intimately, every last detail . . . and it fills their hearts.
It is because of countless stories like these that we believe in the following counsel from Dallas Willard in his book Hearing God: “You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God? It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, as if they were taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually. It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes. Remember that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). We read to open ourselves to the Spirit.”