Eat an Elephant?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It’s no more complicated than eating a cheeseburger—it just takes longer.

In the same way, memorizing a book of the Bible is no more complicated than memorizing one verse—it just takes longer.

Many are intimidated by the thought of memorizing an entire book of the Bible. They assume it will be tremendously difficult and time-consuming.

Let me tell you about a man who was in my church in Mississippi. One day he came up to me and announced “I want you to know that I’m going to memorize the book of Philippians this year. I’ve counted 104 verses, and there’s 52 weeks in the year, so that’s two verses a week. I think I can do it.”

His confidence came from breaking it down. Though not my method, his was a simple, doable plan. Now let’s just suppose that he accomplished his goal. At the end of the year he would have an entire book memorized – Philippians.

The next year he’d be motivated to take on another book of similar size:
• 1 Peter = 105 verses
• 1 John = 105 verses
• James = 108 verses
• Colossians = 95 verses
• 2 Timothy = 83 verses
• 1 Thessalonians = 89 verses

If he did this for ten years, at the same pace of two verses a week, he could have ten books memorized in ten years. Wow! A little comparison here: I’ve done 15 books in 20 years, so you see I’m not working as hard as you might think.

Two reasons why memorizing books and passages is easier than scattered verses:
• You don’t have to memorize the references. The #1 reason people don’t like to memorize Scripture – they have trouble with the references. Me too!
• Reviewing is easier and quicker. It only takes 2-3 minutes to review an entire chapter. Review like you would a poem or a song, and do this review while you do other things: getting ready in the morning, exercising, walking the dog, driving to work, waiting for water to boil. Capture pockets of time throughout your day.

I recommend starting with a Psalm before attempting a book. Psalms are beautiful and enjoyable. After you’ve done 3 or 4 psalms, you’ll have confidence that a 3-4 chapter book is doable. Then after a few years you’ll have eaten an entire elephant, one bite at a time.

Does this remove some of the intimidation?

4 comments to Eat an Elephant?

  • Ginger

    This has always been my approach. I reasoned that by doing just one verse at a time I would have one more than I had before. A chapter or a book seems so overwhelming but I can do just one more verse.

  • Chérie

    I agree with Janet. You really can do this. Psalm 103 was the first Psalm I memorized. I have gone on to memorize several others, but Psalm 103 is one that I recite to myself a lot. It does have 22 verses, BUT, the verses are extremely short, ex: “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,” … That’s all of verse 3.

    Psalm 27 has 14 verses and is a great example of how a Psalm can actually sound like a “song” when you have memorized it and are reciting it. You will want to “sing” it over and over. Its beautiful. 🙂

  • Josh

    Yes, this makes a lot of sense. There are books called “x verses every Christian should know,” where x is some number: 50, 100, 150, 200, or even 500. Clearly, these are meant to be done one verse at a time.

    But I have had problems with isolated verses. For one thing, I would always memorize the ones of my own choosing, and this resulted in a lopsided memory plan. I chose the verses about my topics of choice (separation from the world, defending doctrine, and fighting temptation), but not many about other topics. After reading your book, I finally understood that memorizing books would be better for me because that way, I memorize the verses I need, not just the ones I want. Memorizing books is a great way to make sure we get everything God has to say and not just what we want to hear.

    The thing is, people who memorize hundreds of isolated verses would not think of memorizing whole books. But memorizing the book of Philippians (which I also plan to do, since I love it) is no harder than memorizing 104 isolated verses–in fact, the flow from one verse to the next makes it easier.

    Your book has been such a huge inspiration. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Josh, I totally agree with everything you said. And thanks for joining the conversation. Welcome to the community. Let us know your progress on Philippians so we can help and encourage you. That’s why we’re here.