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The Promises of God


Abraham's promise

by Dennis Pollock

You will never master the art of receiving from the giving hand of God without a familiarity with and understanding of the promises God has made in His word. In Hebrews we read, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe." We don't normally associate the concept of skill with the Scriptures. Skill is for athletes and musicians and artists and surgeons, but can we really be skillful with the Bible? The answer is yes; we not only can be but we must be if we want to appropriate God's best for our lives, and live in the fullness of His perfect will. In truth skill in handling Genesis through Malachi and Matthew through Revelation is of far more value than the ability to throw a fastball one hundred miles per hour, or sing so well that thousands pack auditoriums just to hear us. The benefits, both temporal and eternal that fall sweetly on the lives of those with the faith and skill to lay hold of the promises of God, are priceless and are well worth the time and effort required to gain the necessary proficiency in the word of God. The great evangelist of the 1800's, Charles Finney, once wrote, "See how the Bible is universally neglected. The world ignores its threats and the church its promises." We need to give heed to the promises of God!

In Peter's second epistle he writes:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature… (2 Peter 1:3,4)

Whatever God Says, He Promises

It is through the promises of God that we partake of His nature and receive His blessings. We find these promises in the Bible. They do not necessarily begin with the words "I promise" but because they are statements made by One who cannot lie, they are as good and better than any promises ever made to us. When I was a kid my friends and I would sometimes say "I promise" when we wanted to be emphatic that what we were saying was the absolute truth. What we were saying, in effect, was, "I may lie about other things, but in this case I really am telling the truth. I promise!" But in God's case there is no need for Him to say "I promise." He is called the God of truth and never says anything that isn't completely true. Anything He tells us He will do is His promise. It will be done!

As we open our Bibles, the promises of God, these declarations of what our Heavenly Father will do for us through Jesus Christ, will not always leap out at us. It may be a simple sentence or two that we could easily pass over and think little about it. But slow down, don't go so fast! There just may be gold in them there hills! Suppose you receive a check in the mail from late Aunt Mandy's estate. You have been left an inheritance and in the envelope is a check for fifty million dollars. The check doesn't look like much, in fact it looks little different from the check you make out to your garbage service every month for $29.95. It is the same size, just a dull gray check in a rectangular shape. But that check is more than a slip of paper. You are holding in your hand a brand new car, a beautiful new fully furnished house, new large screen televisions for every room of that house, and the latest greatest computer that money can buy. All of these are found in that little rectangular dull gray slip of paper. Don't lose that check whatever you do! Take it immediately to the bank and deposit it, and it will do you good for many years to come.

The promises of God contain within them the potential for blessings, both spiritual and natural, that will do us good all our lives, and indeed into the next life. They are God's checks to the human race, signed by Jesus in His own blood, provided for all of God's children, and waiting to be cashed in at the bank of heaven through faith. To ignore the promises our God has made in His Word is as foolish as the man who takes his late aunt's inheritance check and sticks it in a drawer, never to think of it again.

Psalm 1

An example of one of these promises can be found in Psalm 1. David writes that the man who refuses to go in the paths of sinners, but instead delights in and meditates in the law of God day and night will be "like a tree planted by the waters." Such a person will be fruitful and "whatever he does shall prosper." The question that must be answered is just how literally can we take this. Is this merely poetic language, which sounds pretty but is not meant to be taken too literally or seriously? Or is this a guarantee from the Creator of all things? If we fulfill the conditions, do we have a right to expect the promised consequences? The answers you give to these questions depends upon your view of the Bible. If the words and concepts of the Scriptures really do come from the mouth of God, the One who is the fountain of truth, we would have every right to expect these promises and declarations to be fulfilled precisely as they read. We would expect in the case of Psalm 1 that any man or woman who really does delight in God's word and ways, and meditates in His word continually is going to have a fruitful and successful life. God has promised that this would be the case and God does not lie, nor does He exaggerate!

Jesus believed in the authority of the Scriptures. He declared, "The Scripture cannot be broken" and in another place says, "until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Today people are fond of saying that the Bible was written by men, implying that it must surely be full of errors and we would be foolish to take it literally. It may be fine for a little inspiration once in a while when you get depressed, but don't get too preoccupied with it, and by all means don't become one of those crazy fundamentalists who believe every word of it is true! In holding such a position, these folks are pitting themselves against the Lord Jesus Himself, who held clearly to the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Who shall we believe – the local agnostic who can barely hold his life together or Jesus Christ who walked on water, raised dead people, healed lepers, and commanded storms to cease?

His Word – His Bond

Promises require God to act in a certain way, when certain conditions are met. Many people have problems with this. God can act any way He likes, they say; He is God. That is most certainly true – He can do anything until He declares what He will do. Here is the father of a four year old boy considering what to do on Saturday afternoon. There are many choices before him. His friends have asked him to play 18 holes of golf with them. His wife has hinted that she wouldn't mind going to a matinee and seeing that new romantic comedy that everyone is talking about. And there's that computer store that has just opened. And then he remembers. On Wednesday he promised his son that he would take him to the park and teach him to ride a bicycle. Suddenly all his options vanish. Because that dad is a man of his word, he has gone from an infinite number of options to exactly one option. On Saturday afternoon he can only be one place in this world – at the park with his son teaching him to ride a bike – just as he promised. His word has become his bond.

Would God ever "bind" Himself through His word? Would He ever put Himself in a position where He had to act in a certain way if we fulfill certain conditions? The answer is an unqualified YES! He has in fact done it thousands of times in the Scriptures. Salvation itself is the ultimate example. We are told that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead we shall be saved. We are told that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved, and that as many as receive Jesus will be given the right to become children of God. For someone to fully trust Christ and yet remain unsaved would be an impossibility. It could never happen!

Divine Guarantees

Once we gain admittance into God's family through faith in Christ, there are all kinds of promises for us to embrace and receive. We are told that those who seek first the kingdom of God will have all their physical needs added unto them. We are promised that those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing. Jesus promises us that what we ask for in His name we will receive, that if we abide in Him and He in us we will bear much fruit, that if we confess Him before men He will confess us before the Father. John tells us that if we confess our sins God will be faithful and just to forgive us our sins. There is no need to wonder if God has really forgiven a sin that has been confessed to Him on the basis of the cross of Jesus. He couldn't not forgive it. Paul tells us God is rich unto all who call upon Him, in Hebrews we read God rewards those who diligently seek Him, in First Samuel we learn that those who honor God, He will honor, in Proverbs we discover that when we commit our works to the Lord all our plans will be established, and well, the list could go on and on…

Of course the truth is that God is not bound at all. In reality He has given us these promises to encourage us to trust Him to do what He gladly wants to do for us anyway. So why don't God's blessings fall upon one and all regardless of whether we claim these promises or not? The promises of God must be activated. Imagine a young man who has just gotten his first apartment, and now faces the daunting task of cooking for himself. Remembering Mama's wonderful pancakes, he goes to the store, buys a pancake mix that says "complete" and triumphantly returns home, his mouth watering. Wasting no time, he pours the mix directly onto the heated pan and waits. To his dismay the dry mix quickly turns into a blacked bunch of ashes before his eyes. Outraged he races back to the grocery store and confronts the manager. Holding the blackened mix in his hand he protests: This product is a fraud! It says "complete" but when I poured the mix into the pan, it didn’t turn out at all like Mama's pancakes. I got nothing but this black mess." The store manager smiles and shows him a little phrase just below the word "complete": "Just add water."

The promises of God, as powerful and amazing as they are, require something more. Speaking of the Israelites' initial failure to enter the promised land, we read in Hebrews, "the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." The promise that the land of Canaan would be theirs did them absolutely no good, because they failed to mix their faith with God's promise. So it is today. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, but that promise will accomplish nothing in your life until you mix your faith with it.

God's promises, left to themselves are dry and impotent. They have not been activated. But when we mix in our faith, small and weak as it may be, amazing things begin to happen. Deliverance, life, victory, provision, comfort, righteousness, peace, and joy come pouring down from the Father above. "For all the promises of God are yes in Christ. And… through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God."

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