The verse -- the first but certainly not the last verse Hawkins committed to memory -- says, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
"I could count on one hand the number of times I could recall being in a church service," Hawkins said of his first moments of faith. "I didn't even know Matthew, Mark, Luke or John were books of the Bible.
"But that act of Scripture memory -- during the first week of my Christian experience -- still marks me to this day. Only God knows how many times across my life I've arrived at temptation's corner, and this verse, hidden in my heart and mind, came into my mouth and kept me on the right path."
Based on his own experience of more than a quarter century in the pastorate, alongside conversations with hundreds of pastors in his 15 years as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, Hawkins realized Scripture memorization had fallen by the wayside for too many Christians. With admonitions throughout the Bible to hide God's Word in our hearts, Hawkins set out to offer a simple way for Christians to get back on track with Scripture memorization.
Hawkins' latest book, "The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know," has been released by Thomas Nelson, which reported Sept. 21 that it was No. 1 on Amazon's Hot New Release List.
The title is based on Joshua 1:8, which says, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." In it, Hawkins sets forth 52 well-known verses he feels every Christian should know. With each passage comes an outline and devotional message.
All author royalties and proceeds from sales of the book, which is available through LifeWay Christian Stores and online booksellers such as Amazon, benefit GuideStone's Mission:Dignity ministry to provide much-needed financial support for more than 2,000 retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows. (For more information about Mission:Dignity, go to Mission:Dignity
"So many consistent Bible readers today seem to think it is the volume of Scripture they can devour daily that is most important," Hawkins said. "I decided to limit ourselves to one verse per week so that anyone can memorize it and meditate on it so that it is incarnated within and becomes a living part of our very being."
Scripture memory, Hawkins said, begins when Christians seek to understand the passage they are focusing on. Even after some four decades in the ministry, Hawkins still makes it a regular goal to commit God's Word to memory.
"When memorizing Scripture, I have found it helpful to write it out in my own handwriting on a small note card," Hawkins said. "I keep the card in my pocket throughout the day and week and numerous times during the day, while at my desk, at a stoplight in the car, on other occasions, I simply review it until the first phrase is memorized, then the second and so on."
The process is simple, but not easy, Hawkins said. "For me, it's helpful to quote the entire verse from memory upwards to a hundred times in order to seal it in my heart before going on to another verse."
In addition to the memorization of Scripture, Hawkins said he finds solace in meditation on Scripture.
"I wonder sometimes if the fears of Eastern mysticism have robbed some Christians of the art of meditation," Hawkins said. "Meditation, as the Bible defines it, is to 'think on these things.' That was the essence of the psalmist's plea when he said, 'Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.'
"I have found it personally helpful in meditation to repeat the verse again and again, putting the inflection on a different word each time. It is amazing how much insight comes from this simple practice."
Hawkins said a return to Scripture memory is something every Christian should embark upon, whether a believer for five minutes or five decades.
"Scripture memorization enables us to take God's Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles," Hawkins said. "It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power. It's a discipline that is well worth the effort."
Roy Hayhurst is editorial services manager for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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