Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Promises of God
Almost 29 years ago Bud and I made promises to one another on our wedding day. And thankfully by God's grace, we have kept those promises. But....
Promises are made to be broken....at least that's way it seems in our culture. A parent bribes a child, "We will go to the zoo on Friday." But they never go. A mechanic guarantees, "I will have your car done by 2 o'clock today." But two days later you are still waiting! A promise seems to mean nothing. Maybe this is why it is hard for us to trust in the promises of God. Would you say that you believe and act upon God's promises? Or do you doubt His Word?
Most of us would say we do believe God's promises, but do we really trust what He says in His Word and what He promises to us?
Hebrews chapter 11 lists many who did believe in the promises of God. Among that list are the names of women who trusted. Sarah is one, the wife of Abraham, who had the choice to believe God or look at the impossible circumstances around her.
Hebrews 11:11, "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised."
What exactly was God's promise to Abraham and Sarah? Genesis 12:1-3 records that God told Abram and Sarai (their names at this point in the story) to leave their kinsmen and country to go to a place where God would lead them. He promised to make of them a great nation, to bless them, to use them to bless all other nations of the earth, and to protect them as they went. Later in Genesis 15:2-6, God says their descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky. Actually these promises were spoken by God directly to Abraham but they certainly included Sarah as God said that she would bear a child as the means to God beginning to fulfill His promises.
Genesis 18 tells the account of the three men who visited Abraham and Sarah and told them of God's promise that Sarah would truly bear a son. Sarah's first reaction was to laugh - this was totally impossible because she was past the time of her life when she could have a child.
Aren't we like her in spirit? Maybe we don't actually laugh out loud, but deep, deep down in our heart we keep focused on all of the circumstances that we think prevent God from working and doing all that He has promised and is able to do.
* A doctor tells a woman that it is impossible for her to carry a pregnancy full term.
* Or a child is so far way from walking in harmony with his family and it seems like he will never come back no matter how hard you pray.
* Or a husband is unsaved or seems to be cold toward spiritual things....and things are getting worse and worse.
* Or you have been badly hurt by someone and healing is far, far away.
We face those "impossible circumstances" here in this twentieth century; maybe not the same exact details as Sarah faced, but certainly to the same magnitude of overwhelming odds against us.
Genesis 21:1-2 says, "And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him."
Romans 4:21 comes to mind, "and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."
God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son, and He gave it. Now was there any reason to doubt that He would fulfill the rest of His promises to Abraham that He had given earlier? Our verse about Sarah in Hebrews 11 says that Sarah received strength to conceive. That strength was not actual physical strength, but the Greek word here means "a special, miraculous abundance of power." The conception of this child was not the norm; Isaac was conceived by the miraculous, mighty working of an all-powerful God Who was doing just what He said He would do.
Couldn't God have caused Sarah to conceive Isaac at an earlier time in her life when it was naturally possible for her to bear children? Sure! But by waiting until it was impossible, humanly speaking, He was able to show Himself "faithful who had promised" as Hebrews 11 tells.
God does what He says!
Do you believe that? Do you believe that He deals with us out of a heart of love? Or do you succumb to Satan's lies that God has forgotten you or turns a deaf ear to your prayers? What better choice do we have than to cling to God, His loving character, and His Word?
What are some of God's promises to Christians today as revealed in the Bible? The study of the promises of God is a wonderful lesson in His goodness. His Word is truth. You can be sure that whatever God promises us, Satan will quietly whisper and sometimes shout the exact opposite to us in our heart. He will twist the truth and amplify the "impossible circumstances" to get us to doubt what God has said.
1. Once we are saved, we are forever God's children. One promise that God give to Christians today is found in John 10:27-29 which says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Once you have been saved by sincerely accepting Christ's sacrificial death on the cross as payment for the penalty of your sins, you are forever saved. You belong to Him just as the sheep belong to the shepherd. And because of who God is - the eternal, all-powerful Father - we can know that we will always be saved. We now have eternal life, spiritual life and will live forever with Him.
Has Satan been whispering his lies to you that you are such a failure as a Christian or as a wife or mother, that surely you are no longer saved? If he can get you to believe that, you will not grow in your walk with God and you will wallow around in your sin for a long time, even years. There is no sin that can cause you to be "plucked out of his hand." This is not an excuse to sin or to stay in our sin as is discussed in Romans 6:1-2. We need to confess our sin and trust in His promise to forgive (I John 1:9).
Please remember that your salvation was not earned by you, neither can it be maintained by you. The focus of these verses in John 10 teaches us that when we recognize how great and powerful God the Father is then we understand that no one is able to go against His great work of salvation in our lives.
Are you willing to build the assurance of your salvation upon His character and His promise?
2. God will forgive a repentant heart.
Another promise given to Christians is in I John 1:9 which was briefly mentioned above.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Do you believe this verse? Do you believe it fully or are there some of your secret sins that you won't even admit to God, let alone believe that He can and will forgive them if you confess them?
Sometimes we carry around with us the sins of years past because we don't really believe that God is able to forgive them and cleanse us. Sometimes we do lay them at His feet, admitting our failure, but then at a later time Satan gets us to pick them back up again and we continue to lug around the guilt again.
God did not intend for us to live that way. He saved to the uttermost, cleansed away all of the guilt of our sins, and gave us the power to live for Him.
If there is a sin in your heart to which you are holding and hiding, may I encourage you to confess it to God by admitting that what you did was wrong and then trust Him to be faithful to forgive and cleanse you as He has promised.
And if that sin was against another person, make it right by asking forgiveness of him, thus allowing God to make you totally free of the guilt. He has already paid for that sin through His death on the cross. He already knows about it because He is all-knowing; there is nowhere that we can hide from him (Psalm 139, "O Lord, thou has searched me, and known me...").
3. God is ever-present with us.
And what of the promise that God is ever-present with us? Matthew 28:20 tells us that He is with us always. "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." Do you believe that? Or does Satan ever get you to doubt that? Especially in the middle of trouble, we quietly begin to wonder if God has lost us in the billions of people living on the earth today or think that maybe He has forgotten about us for a day, a month, or even for years.
Where is your confidence and courage?
According to Joshua 1:8, if you are feeling that way, it's probably because you have not been meditating in the Word of God and doing what it 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."
When we don't fill our minds and hearts with God's truth, we wander around in doubts and fears.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous, but He also told him how to do it - by reading God's Word and thinking about it day and night and then by doing what it says to do.
Do you doubt His presence?
It is not because He has moved but because you have turned away. For whatever circumstances you face as a woman, as a wife and mother, God is there with you as He promised. What a comfort? And what hope for the future! I can face all of life with Him beside me, helping me, guiding us.
If we do not believe God promises, Satan leads us to doubt, despair, discouragement, depression and even defiance against God. Perhaps others have broken their promises to you, but God never will. Some of the women in Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith chapter, never saw the promise fulfilled in their lifetime, but in heaven all promises will be kept and realized.
I have anchored my soul in Your unchanging presence, Your all-knowing wisdom and Your deep abiding love. Because of these, I can trust Your promises.
(Just a few weeks before Bud died, I wrote this article but never got to proofread it and publish it here. I believe God was preparing my heart as I wrote this for the events He knew were coming. I do believe God's promises. I believe He is a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows - Psalm 68. I believe He hears my prayers. And I will trust His promises. I will speak truth to my heart by God's grace.)