This is a guest post by author Dr. Frank Chase Jr, Th.D
The ability to “remember” is a powerful function of the mind. To remember is not necessarily the act of total recall but an act of retaining thought. To understand the power of remembrance, we must grasp the meaning and all its implications as it pertains to life. The word remember means “to think about, meditate on, keep in mind, to be guided by, to act in accordance with, as in ‘remember the covenant’ or in appeals to God, ‘remember your great mercy’.”
There are many examples of remembering in the New and Old Testaments. In Deuteronomy 5:15, God tells his people to remember their slavery and what He did to Pharaoh’s army in Deuteronomy 7:18, and to remind the next generation that God would do the same for them if they honored those memories. The act of remembrance is an act of faith that brings us into the presence of God.
Identifying with God’s saving acts as He delivered Israel is not the only form of remembrance. According to Numbers 15:20, we should accept our obligations as God’s covenant people to live as holy people as an act of remembrance. “Thus, ‘remember’ is a significant word in the Old Testament vocabulary of faith. To remember God and his acts is to affirm our trust in him. To call on God to remember us is to appeal to him to act as a deliverer. And to remember God’s commands is to obey them.”
The New Testament also uses remembering in prayer and in teaching as a means of bringing back to remembrance. The words written by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:3 to his friend Timothy and son in the Gospel is an example of teaching to bring back to remembrance. When Paul prayed for Timothy, he retained him in his thoughts and constantly remembered him. The following discourse sheds insight on the power of remembrance.
It’s important to remember life’s successes have their nemesis. They come in the form of discouragement, delay, disappointments, despair, doubt, double-mindedness and discord. When we find ourselves in mortal combat on the front lines of life, the first thing we ought to do is never forget what God has done, the victories we’ve won, and the triumphant battles we’ve fought.
In Timothy’s time, Christians lived under Emperor Nero’s persecution for a while. With that reality, Paul instructed Timothy to draw on the powerful gift of remembrance to assist him in overcoming the ordeal and not give up in the heat of the combat zone. He admonished him not to be ashamed of his youth, and to remember his godly heritage, or the calling on his life.
Remembering serves an important and powerful role in our lives when used in prayer or when life gets tough. It is a gift God gives every human being to defeat the challenges of life. To encourage Timothy, Paul uses the word three times, which means remembrance has significance. “All things that are associated with the number three are specially complete.” Paul addressed three areas, past, present and future, to remind Timothy of his completeness in God. In verse three, Paul addressed the past by telling his young apprentice that he always remembered him in prayer day and night. In verse four, Paul addressed his present by stating that he remembers Timothy’s sincere faith and that Timothy should also remember his faith. In verse six, Paul, addressed his future by telling him to retain in thought the gift God bestowed upon him that also dwelt in his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. The text is not explicit, but Paul’s words imply that Timothy needed a reminder of his completeness. Rightly so, because Paul wrote the letter to Timothy sitting in a dirty prison while remembering and praying for him. Timothy needed to remember God’s faithfulness in the face of Nero’s persecution and never give up.
The power of purposeful remembrance is special. For example, in the Greek, the word “remembrance” is the same root word for “grave, tomb, sepulchre, statue, monument or memorial.” Keep this in mind. Remembrance is also a reference to how Paul prayed for Timothy. Now, what does remembering Timothy in prayer have to do with grave, tomb, sepulcher?Three of the words,grave, tomb, sepulcher,represent burial. There is one common word that links all three words together. That word is “dirt.” These words “tell us that before we begin to pray it is necessary for us [to remember] to dig through the current confusion of our lives and in our minds. Like dirt upon a grave, the clutter of life has a way of covering up things that used to be fresh in our minds.” Paul, who had to deal with the circumstances of living in a filthy prison cell when he wrote his letter to Timothy dug past his present situation and focused on remembering Timothy day and night in prayer and reminded his young apprentice to unearth bad memories and embrace the good memories he’d forgotten about his family upbringing.
When the clutter of life or intense persecution seems overwhelming, we can’t afford to allow ourselves to become buried under the dirt of it all. We have to throw off the dirt that covers up our ability to remember the freshness of God’s marvelous works (Psalms 105:5). While we’re on the battlefield of life, let’s get down to business and declare to the enemy that he will not bury us alive in past troubles, trials, or mistakes. We must deal with past, present or future challenges by remembering prayer that digs us out of thegrave, tomb, and sepulcherof life’s unpleasant experiences. When life feels like you’re living in combat zone, it is the God factor of remembering good things that will pull you through difficult life situations. But is also easy to use your memory faculties to remember all the bad things in life and that can drown out progress. Make it your business to remember to forget the things that made you sad, and never forget to remember the things that made your happy.
The key God factor here is prayer and remembrance. Another example of prayer and remembrance can be seen in Acts: 10:4 which reads, And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
The story goes that Cornelius was a praying man who was praying about a meeting with Peter. The angel of the Lord came to Cornelius and said to him that his prayers and his alms giving to the poor have come before God as a memorial. Cornelius’s prayers were an act of keeping alive the memory of someone or something before God until He responds. All of his prayers and his gifts to the poor served to remind God as memorials on God’s throne. It was like Cornelius stacked the throne room of God with memorials, statues and monuments his alms giving and prayers for Peter who would not have met him because his was a gentile. But those prayers moved God so much so that He took notice and dispatched an angel to respond to Cornelius.
Paul’s prayers for Timothy has the same effect in that his prayers kept the memory of Timothy in the face of God like statues, monuments and memorials so everywhere he turned his head in the throne room, all God would see is Timothy and constantly be on his mind. Prayer and remembrance are two God factors that impact our lives today. Not only does God have to be reminded to remember, He also places the power of remembrance in our lives for our encouragement.
After all, many scriptures encourage us to remember under many different circumstances in life. Yahweh tells us to remember Him in our youth in Ecc. 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;…”.
When we are facing troubling and desperate situations, we are to grab hold of remembrance like Jonah did in Jonah 2:7, When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
In the area of remembrance, it would be good to do word study on all the aspects of what God remembers and does not remember. That includes things He does and does not want us to remember as we go through life. But most of all, the great Apostle Paul spoke of things that should be forgotten and never remembered when he said in Philippians 3:13-14 that, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
We have the power to remember or to forget dealing with any situation. That grants us a powerful position in how allow life’s impacts affect our destiny. When you are in the clutches of discouragement, hardships, doubt, despair and difficulties, the power of remembrance is the path to victory in overcoming any situation. Remembering past victories and successes in the combat zone of life can take you to the finish line. But often it appears that whatever we face is bigger than what it appears. Whatever you face in life, don’t forget and always remember that it’s not bigger than you think.