God’s Promises

April 22nd, 2018


               What is a promise?  Webster says it is “a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act”.  When someone makes a promise to us, we expect them to keep it.  And yet how often have we been disappointed when someone made a promise to us that they never kept?  Of course, the same is true in reverse.  How many times have we personally made a promise to someone, and for one reason or another, whether valid or not, we have failed to live up to it?  We might have had the best of intentions, and truly believed we would honor the promise that we made, but whether due to a change in circumstances, or a change of heart, we neglected to do so.   As human beings we don’t know what the future might hold, what unforeseen events might transpire, and whether or not we will be able to keep every promise that we make.

          God, on the other hand, does know the future down to the very last detail.  When He makes a promise, He knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that He has the power to fulfill it.

          In our first Scripture reading (Romans 4:13-25), God knew Abraham’s faith was strong enough to believe in the promise made to him, that he would become the father of many nations, even though both he and his wife, Sarah, were well advanced in age.  And Sarah did indeed conceive Isaac, and through him and the generations to follow, God’s promise was fulfilled.  Even when the Israelites whom God rescued from the slavery of Egypt had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience, God remembered and continued to honor his promise to Abraham, as we heard in our second Scripture reading (Psalm 105:37-45), by providing everything that was needed for their sustenance.

          And so it will be in regards to the second coming of Christ as well.   As we heard in our third Scripture reading (2 Peter 3:3-9), there will be those in our day who don’t believe Jesus will come again.  The early Christians at first thought that his return would happen within their lifetime, and some became disillusioned when He didn’t.  Then again, there are some people today who believe the end time prophecies actually were fulfilled in the first century AD. And then there are some who believe the prophecies are merely figurative, and have only spiritual relevance for those who read them.  But everything will happen according to the promises made to us in the Scriptures, at the appointed time.  Of this I have no doubt, because God has never broken a promise, and He never will.

          Then there are people who will tell you that God heals everyone who prays for healing, or worse, who come to them for healing; or those who pray for financial help, or relief from any other sort of trial they are facing.  But does God promise to physically heal everyone, or grant prosperity to everyone?  Some people quote isolated verses and claim that He does.  But in 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul asked God to remove a thorn in his flesh.  In fact, he begged God three times to take it away.  I don’t think anyone would argue that the apostle Paul did not have the faith that God could remove it.  And yet God’s answer each time was the same, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  So if you have prayed for something and God said ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, do not take that as God breaking a promise.  For He has heard you, and will answer in the way that He knows is best.  Remember, He can see the entire picture, where we can only see a tiny piece of the puzzle.  He knows the future, He knows what is best for us, and He knows how to use the trials in our lives to help us grow as Christians and to be better equipped to serve Him here.  We maybe don’t like some of the trials we face, but Paul himself said, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5)

          And isn’t that the best promise of all?  God’s promise of salvation to all those who love Him and put their faith in Jesus Christ?  Yes, we have that confident hope that will not lead to disappointment.  We know that God dearly loves us, and we know that He gives the Holy Spirit to those who come to him with repentant hearts seeking salvation through Christ alone.  Ephesians 1:14 tells us that “The Spirit is God's guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised.”  We need never worry or doubt that God will fulfill His promise to us of eternal salvation, of a home in heaven prepared especially for each Christian.  Jesus said in John 14:2, “There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” 

          When we doubt God’s Word, when we doubt the promises He has made, aren’t we calling Him a liar?  Titus 1:2 tells us that God promised us eternal life before the beginning of time, and that He not only does not lie, He cannot lie!  And because God is holy and cannot lie, we can fully trust every promise that He makes will come about in its proper time.   The prophet Balaam said in Numbers 23:19 that “God is not a man, so he does not lie.  He is not human, so he does not change his mind.  Has he ever spoken and failed to act?  Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” and over 3000 years later, none of His promises have failed, and none of them ever will.  Maybe not always when and how we would like them to be fulfilled, but they will all be fulfilled down to the last letter.  There is a Christian phrase I am sure you are all familiar with that goes like this, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  I personally like the version that takes that one step further, “God said it, that settles it - whether I believe it or not”.  Because not only will God fulfill his promises to believers, he will fulfill his promises to unbelievers, although they are not the same promises; but rather they are the promises of eternal separation from God, of tormenting fire that casts no light, and of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30, Revelation 21:8).  And I sincerely hope that none of you are among the unbelievers who will discover the fulfillment of those.  Amen.

          Children's Message:

                 Whenever God makes a promise, 

                 You can trust it will come true,

                 He will never let you down,

                 And will never lie to you.

                 So put your faith in Jesus,

                 Who promises heaven above,

                 To all who put their faith in Him,

                 And serve Him out of love.