Goals: Ambitious & Attainable

2015 2016 inscription written in the wet yellow beach sand being
When it comes to goal setting, it’s hard to find the balance between stretching yourself to accomplish noble things, and keeping them realistic and reachable. I love setting goals, and working toward them. Last year, I was a little too ambitious on my goal setting and felt a measure of disappointment at year’s end.

There’s a saying out there “It’s better to aim for the stars and hit only the moon, than to aim at nothing and hit it every time.” While that may be true, it’s probably best to set fewer attainable goals, so that you can achieve what you really aspire to. This year, my shorter list will keep me motivated and encouraged.

Don’t think I’m suggesting that anyone quit memorizing Scripture—no, never—it’s food for the soul. It keeps our thoughts on the Lord and our hearts communing with him. It’s our weapon against the world’s agenda, and our refuge when life swallows us up.

If, like me, last year’s aggressive goals left you discouraged, let me recommend a change for this year:

• Don’t tackle a long book if you’re a novice at Scripture memory. Romans is a fantastic book to memorize but it requires great perseverance over a long haul.

• Increase your confidence, and your motivation, by tackling shorter passages and then work your way up.

• Take lots of time to meditate on the passage while you’re learning it. What is it saying about God, and you, and your life right now?

• If New Testament letters have been difficult for you, consider short psalms, short stories, and short passages that can be linked together.

Psalms, stories, and passages under 10 verses:
• Psalm 1, 4, 8, 23, 100, 121
• John 14:1-7, “In my Father’s house…”
• Matthew 7:24-27, Building on the rock
• Mark 12:41-44, The widow’s offering
• Mark 14:3-9, Jesus anointed with perfume

Psalms, stories, and passages, 10-20 verses:
• Psalm 19, 27, 84, 91
• Luke 4:1-13, The temptation of Jesus
• Luke 7:1-10, The Centurion’s Faith
• Luke 10:25-37, The Parable of the Good Samaritan
• Luke 14:15-24, Parable of the Banquet
• John 1:1-18, The Word

Psalms, stories, and passages, 21-31 verses:
• Psalm 103, 139, 145
• Proverbs 4
• Isaiah 40:1-39, Comfort for God’s people
• Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, The suffering Servant
• Daniel 3 – Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego
• John 3:1-21, Jesus and Nicodemus
• Deuteronomy 6 – Love the Lord

Example of short passages that link together:
• Luke 15:1-7, The lost sheep
• Luke 15:8-10, The lost coin
• Luke 15:11-32, The lost son
Do these in order, and when you finish you’ll have an entire chapter.

Another example:
• Matthew 6:1-4, Giving to the needy
• Matthew 6:5-15, Prayer
• Matthew 6:16-18, Fasting
• Matthew 6:19-24, Store up treasure in heaven
• Matthew 6:25-34, Do not worry
The entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) can be broken down into smaller units.

If you’ve never memorized any of God’s Word before, get in on the adventure. Make the great exchange—your thoughts for God’s. You’ll be amazed at the transformation in your heart and mind. God will meet with you as you recite his words.

For the mega-memorizers out there, keep pressing on, don’t let up. Enjoy the sweet fellowship of knowing God and walking with Him. Let his words go deep, and his light shine through you.

I’d love to hear more suggestions for great short psalms, short stories and short passages.

29 comments to Goals: Ambitious & Attainable

  • Lynette Nobles

    I struggled to memorize all of Haggai, even though it is much shorter than Titus. I am sure it is because of the dissimilar repetition. However, I worked until I couldn’t tolerate it anymore and then started on Luke 1. I will continue to review Titus, Psalm 1 and Haggai as all 3 bless me so much! Amen -God meets me every time I delve into His Word!

    • Hi Lynette, I agree that Haggai was more challenging than just the number of verses. I haven’t decided yet what’s on the docket for this year. I’m reviewing Esther this morning. It seems a little rusty so I make take a week to get it reconfirmed.

  • Susan M.

    Thank you for your encouragement! I am just a baby memorizer, having only memorized a couple chapters. (First started after reading your book!) I need to review those, and in a week or so I will be starting Matthew 6 with the Do Not Depart FB group. Since I do not have a real-life support group, that FB group has helped me so very much!

  • Lise

    Thanks for your encouragement. I think we all put “pressure” on ourselves to have a number of verses finished when the actual goal should be to savor God’s word while we meditate on it and commit it to heart. I love your encouragement to “Make the great exchange—your thoughts for God’s.” Whether it is 10 verses or 1000 verses, it is that exchange that works in my heart to increase my faith and love and knowledge of my Savior and Creator.

    • Lise, you are so right. It’s not the number of verses. Staying connected to God throughout the day is what its all about. New verses give us new thoughts and old verses remind us of truths we need. Both keep us grounded in God’s agenda instead of our own. Thanks for sharing.

  • Beverly Schlomann

    Thank you for this encouragement and reminder.
    Last year I had committed a few psalms to memory, but this year I want to focus on the Psalms. They have been such a help in my prayer life, and what an amazing “insight” into the ways and wonders of our God!

    • Hi Beverly, Thanks for sharing. I too love the psalms. Last year I memorized Psalm 145 which is a praise psalm. I love saying the words over and over. Especially on difficult days it makes my heart run back to the Lord and praise him. He is everything the psalm says.

  • Jane MB Scott

    Thanx for the encouragement. I struggle with review and have never got into a good system….however, I have started on Romans for this year and bought a study on Romans to read along with my memorizing. I’m hoping that by stating my intention on here, I will keep on pressing on with it when the going gets tough.

    • Hi Jane, I applaud you for taking on Romans. I also want to add a bit of advice. Although I’ve not memorized Romans (yet), I have two friends working on it right now. I’m pretty sure their advice would be to take it slow. Don’t try to memorize the whole thing in one year. There is so much good stuff in Romans, so take time to absorb it, meditate on it, and enjoy it as you go. It may take 2 to 3 years but oh what a treasure you will have. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Some of us, myself included, have yet to decide what to take on this year.

    • Ruth


      I just finished Romans, which is by far the longest project I’ve ever done. I did it in sections, because I didn’t know if I could really do the whole thing. I still need to relearn/review several more chapters because I don’t have it all down, but I thought you might be interested in what I did to break it down. I started with chapter 8, then did chapters 5-7, then did chapters 12-15, then chapters 9-11 (that all took me about a year), then took a break for about a year and did other passages, then went back and did chapters 1-4, and then chapter 16. This made it feel more like the shorter books I had done before, and each time I started a new section it felt like a new project, so I didn’t feel like it was one project that went on forever. My goal is this year before I start a new project to keep reviewing all these sections until I can do the whole thing. I’m excited about it! And I’m enjoying reading Chuck Swindoll’s Insights on Romans as well as Timothy Keller’s two new books on Romans.

      • Hi Ruth, That is helpful to see how it can be done in chunks, and not necessarily in order. Review is critical, so it makes sense to take your time and let it sink in. Thanks for sharing.

      • Ruth

        Actually, I think the part I said took about a year was more like a year and a half. 🙂

  • Kitty Simpson

    Thank you for the list. I am going to pick from this list and get after it ! 🙂 Happy New Year 🙂

    • Hi Kitty, So great to hear from you. Happy New Year to you. One more opportunity to know and love God more. He is worth everything.

  • Ruth

    Some other good shorter passages:

    Deuteronomy 8 (20 verses)
    Judges 2 (23 verses–an overview/summary of the whole book)
    Proverbs 31:10-31 (22 verses)
    Isaiah 55 (13 verses)
    Romans 12 (21 verses)
    1 Corinthians 13 (13 verses)
    Ephesians 6:10-20 (11 verses)

  • Shan

    Janet, Happy New Year! I have just finished my first year of serious Bible memory, and it has transformed my life! My goal was to memorize the 52 key passages in The MacArthur Daily Bible. For Romans 8, I first memorized 28-30. Then as the year went on, I went further and now I’m up to v. 34. My goal is to finish to the end of the chapter (v. 39). Memorizing passages has shown me that God’s promises to us need to be understood and claimed in context. As for the 52 key passages, I only got as far as Week 44, so I will continue even as I review. I have also memorized Ps. 63 and am working on Ps. 16 this week. Haggai was tough so this OT book needs serious review. But a New Year brings the joy of looking back and seeing, by His grace and mercy, how far I’ve come. I pray that He will use this discipline in my life to bring him honor and glory, to transform my mind and heart, and to bless others. So much to memorize and study, and so little time 🙂

    • Shan, I’m so proud of you, and thrilled to hear of the transformation from memorizing God’s Word. That’s why I memorize —I need transformation every day. I too love a new year, a new beginning to start fresh and forget the lapses of the past. Let’s all keep moving forward, loving God, enjoying getting to know him more, and spreading his life-changing Word to all we come in contact with.

  • Kristina

    Thank you for this encouragement! I memorized Titus 1 & 2, and re-memorized Psalms 1 & 23 last year. I “fell off the wagon” while memorizing Titus 3…which I found more difficult than the first 2 chapters. I am renewing my commitment to memorizing this year, and starting by reviewing what I’ve already memorized. I would like to review and re-memorize the chapters I memorized as a kid! That will be my first goal. After that…I will memorize Titus 3 and from there…I’m not sure.

    Thank you for this encouragement. I needed it!!

    What memorization Facebook group are you a part of, Janet?

    • Hi Kristina, It’s so important to review what you’ve learned. Also, re-memorizing goes quicker than the first time so don’t be discouraged. I like your plan to solidify the chapters you learned early, even the ones you learned as a child – great suggestion! My scripture memory group is local, not on Facebook but the one I know about is called DO NOT DEPART. Let me know if you can’t find it and I think I can help.

  • Jane MB Scott

    Hi Janet, thankyou for your advice on Romans – it’s certainly rich feeding so I will try to absorb and not feel pushed to get so many verses down each week or whatever. Bless you:)

  • Juliana

    I just memorized Luke 2:1-20 (Roman census through Jesus’ birth and shepherds’ visit) during the Christmas season. I’d like to extend this to include more of the Christmas story later this year, and I see that the section headings in my NIV (1984) Bible would work well for that:

    Luke 1:1-4 – Introduction
    Luke 1:5-25 – The birth of John the Baptist foretold
    Luke 1:26-38 – The birth of Jesus foretold
    Luke 1:39-45 – Mary visits Elizabeth
    Luke 1:46-56 – Mary’s song
    Luke 1:57-66 – The birth of John the Baptist
    Luke 1:67-80 – Zechariah’s song
    Luke 2:1-20 – The birth of Jesus [now on my review list]
    Luke 2:21-40 – Jesus presented at the Temple
    Luke 2:41-52 – The boy Jesus at the Temple

    I see also that I will probably need to start working on this by Easter (March 27) if I want to have it word-perfect by Christmas while continuing with regular review of passages I’ve already memorized. Since I am now getting into Ephesians again after leaving off at the end of chapter 4, it seems reasonable for me to aim at completing Ephesians by Easter, then starting in Luke 1.

    Thank you, Janet, for helping me set my 2016 Scripture memory and review goals!

    • Hi Juliana, that is so helpful. Years ago I memorized Luke 1- Luke 2:40. I share it every year at Christmas. I love this story so much. It adds joy to the season. I hope many will take this on, because it will benefit you for the rest of your life, and others as well. thank you Juliana for breaking it down for us.

  • Kristina

    Thank you, Janet! I wish I could start a local memorization group! Would you have any advice on how to approach people and how to start it? I know people are already so busy, but I would love the encouragement and accountability a local group of people would bring!!

    • Hi Kristina, In my book, HIS WORD IN MY HEART, I have a chapter on how to have a small group, and what to do for the first 8 weeks. email me and give me a mailing address. janet@janetpope.org and I will send you a copy of my book, which has lots of helpful tips on small groups. Also there are some blog posts in the archives on small groups that I can email to you.

  • Kristina

    You are so very kind!! Thank you so much!! I will email you!

  • Mark Zinke

    Janet, I haven’t written in a bit. I’m still at it; memorizing the Bible. Your words and ideas are good training tips, like the lead at an AA meeting; some words from a person who’s been/who is where I’m trying to go. All the comments are so encouraging. Each one relating an experience – shining a light on another hopeful part of a good path.

    I don’t set goals so much, but I like to finish things so when I choose/start a book I don’t stop till I’m done. I remind myself that I’m always talking to God as I say Bible. I know this and God confirms it further as I go.

    I did finish Romans in December, and I stay pretty consistent on passage review. I love saying Romans and do so pretty much once a day, sometimes also spending a while on a chapter or part that is opening my eyes that day. I am reading The Divine Conspiracy and have decided to memorize the Sermon on The Mount.

    Peace, Mark Z

    • Hi Mark, what a great accomplishment to finish Romans. I know it has been life altering for you. Those are the meat of doctrine and a huge exhortation to live what you learn. To review every day is monumental, and perhaps some days, impossible, but consistency will feed your heart and mind, and keep you walking in the truth. Press on brother. You have encouraged all of us to keep going.