“ I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Randy Travis’ song, “Precious Memories.” “Precious memories, unseen angels Sent from somewhere to my soul. How they linger ever near me And the sacred scenes unfold. CHORUS: Precious memories, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight Precious sacred scenes unfold. As I travel on life’s pathway, Know not what the years may hold. And as I ponder, hope grows fonder Precious memories flood my soul.”
Memory is a wonderful gift from God. Our brain can store an unbelievable amount of information including memories of events, places, smells, colors, people, relationships, activities, books we have read, movies we have seen, Bible stories, and verses we have memorized …The list is endless. Our cell phone occasionally puts together a grouping of pictures with a particular theme, such as a hike we took, a vacation with the family, or maybe pictures of pets, and just runs them impromptu accompanied by music. They bring back memories associated with each. I recently had a dream like that. My mind started randomly replaying memories of the past: friends at church, our church softball team, working to start a Bible camp, family hikes…memories of the past, randomly replaying in my mind. It is amazing how many memories can flash by in just a brief moment of time.
Memories can be a bane or blessing, depending on whether they elicit negative or positive feelings when they flash through our minds. Obviously some things from our past we would rather erase from our memory bank. The Apostle Paul, who—as Saul of Tarsus—used to be a persecutor of followers of “The Way” (believers in Jesus), and even gave consent to the stoning death of Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, wrote these words to the church at Philippi: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). To the church at Rome he wrote: “Wretched man that I am!” (Ro. 7:24). To his understudy, Timothy, Paul wrote: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (I Tim. 1:15). The Apostle had many memories from the past that still bothered him, but he chose to leave them in the past and press on. He had been transformed, reborn, and was developing a new set of memories now as a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus” (Ro. 1:1) who was “pressing on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14) His past was forgiven, all his sins paid for by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7).
The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had time to reflect on his lifetime of memories as he sat in the dark, damp, dirty dungeon in Rome while writing his second letter to Timothy, which would end up being his final recorded words. He knew his execution was near, but his faith was not shaken and he continued to praise God. He wrote: “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I’m sure that it is in you as well” (II Tim. 1:3-5). Paul was extremely fond of Timothy. He remembered Timothy’s tears, possibly when they parted at Ephesus where Timothy was left to minister; or, when Paul summoned Timothy to come from Ephesus to Macedonia to see him shortly before Paul was arrested and taken prisoner to Rome. Whatever the reason, their untimely parting had greatly disturbed Timothy who looked upon Paul as his spiritual father. Paul—who was confident in the genuineness of Timothy’s faith, which began in the home of a godly mother and grandmother—longed to see Timothy again.
Paul goes on to mention another “precious memory”: “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (II Tim. 1:16). Onesiphorus, (a person, not a disease!), who ministered to Paul in Ephesus, sought him out in the dungeon where Paul was confined in Rome and ministered to him (vv. 17, 18). Often as Paul concluded his letters, he sends greetings to a whole list of believers who labored with him or encouraged him in some way—precious memories that Paul took with him wherever he went and were a comfort to him when he spent time in prison for his faith.
Often at a funeral or memorial service, there is a time of sharing memories of the friend and loved one who died. These are very precious memories that will stay with us forever, even though our friend or loved one is no longer here.
No matter what memories we have of the past—good or bad—we can work at filling our mind (there’s still plenty room!) with God’s precious Word. One of the blessings of Scripture memorization is that the Holy Spirit can use those verses to convict us if we are tempted to head the wrong direction (Psa. 119:11), to counsel us when we are need wisdom to make a choice (Jas. 1:5; Pr. 3:5,6), to comfort us when we are grieving (I Thes. 4:13), to help answer the questions of a soul that is searching for truth (I Pet. 3:15) and to point them to Christ (I Cor. 15:1-4). Many of us have an amazing amount of “trivia” packed away in our memory bank and can impress others with our recall of “useless information.” How much better to begin, or continue, hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psa. 119:11), meditating on it (Josh. 1: 8; Psa. 119:15), and allowing it to direct our lives and influence others for the Kingdom. Solomon in his “Book of Wisdom” (Proverbs), emphasizes the importance of God’s Word in our life. He writes: “Bind them (Scriptures) continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you” (Pr. 6:21,22). What better memories could we have replaying in our mind than God’s Word, “precious memories” that will speak to us at just the right moment and guide us on the path that God would have us walk.