God's promises are one of the great and unalterable truths in life is that God keeps His promises. This should build incredible faith in us, knowing that God is God, His promises never fail and that He loves us and wants the best for us. The Bible is full of God’s promises, right?
2 Corinthians 1:20
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
Yet so many Christians lack faith and are disillusioned, living powerless lives, being tossed around by every wind of teaching and every new fad that breezes through Christendom. Why? How can we be so faithless?
Part of the reason is experience… We don't understand God’s promises and we view God as a celestial Santa Clause whose role is to bring us joy, comfort, peace and success. Many of us have experienced times we trusted God and His promises, and things didn't work out as we planned. So many have shared with me that they tried trusting God, and it didn't work out. This is not my experience, but it might be yours.
The root cause of disillusionment with God is simply this… we don't really know Him. We don't know who God is and what God's Promises are!
So today I want to look at God’s promises. What are they, are they for you, which ones are for you and how to see them manifest in your life.
A PROMISE IS A PROMISE!
Scripture lists some 8,000 promises, so what are God's Promises, and which ones apply to you? Are all God’s promises for all of us? No, many are, some are not. Some are conditional.
If God’s promises are yes and amen, man's are nothing like that. People break promises all the time. I have, and you have, so don't look “holier than thou” at me.
As humans, we easily break simple promises we make, to God and to each other. Often it's not even our fault. I remember one time promising Fiona I would be home from Sri Lanka on Tuesday morning. I awoke Monday to find the Tamil Tigers had bombed the airport and shut it down for a day. Not my fault, but the promise was broken.
Small promises are easily broken… I promise I'll be at the meeting. I promise I'll be there for you. I promise I'll change. I promise I'll be on time this time. I promise this weekend we'll go camping.
We even break big promises. I once promised to love, honour and cherish Fiona, till death us do part. I haven't always cherished her, I haven't always treated her with honour.
But God, well He never breaks His promise. God's Promises stand forever!
So why are so many disillusioned or feeling let down by God? If He makes promises and He keeps them what's the problem?
Part of the reason is that we don't understand His promises, we claim ones we like that are not for us, we grow tired of waiting for the ones that are and we misappropriate them. And the other part of the equation is that we don't really know God..
WHAT GOES WRONG WHEN WE TRY AND STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD?
God does not lie, He doesn't change His mind and He doesn't break His promises.
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Logically, if the problem is not with God, and not with His promises, the problem must lie with us! So where do we go wrong when we try and appropriate God's promises? Bear in mind, I'm not trying to ruin your faith in the promises of God! Listen to the whole message before you crucify me…
1. WE CONFUSE PRINCIPLES WITH PROMISES
One of the most oft-quoted Bible passages about child rearing is Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” How do we reconcile that verse with the many godly parents whose kids are not walking with God.
In many families, in fact, kids are reared the same way, and one embrace God's will for their life while the other rejects God all together!
Do such cases disprove the proverb? Of course not. Proverbs are principles, not promises. This means they mostly are true, sometimes are not. Once you have brought your child to a point of decision making, their personality, their obedience and their decision making comes into play. It's a principle, a good principle, but it's not a promise.
2. WE THINK ANSWERED PRAYER IN THE BIBLE IS A PROMISE
Some Christians read prayers in the Bible, see them answered and say, Great, this must be for me.—
God's Promises to Abraham,
“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
It was a promise, but to Abraham, not you. Do you really want 12 sons? Another example is the prayer of Jabez…
1 Chronicles 4:10
Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
This was God's promise to Jabez, and you cannot simply steal it and say it applies to you! Could it be for you? Maybe, but its original intent was for Jabez, not you.
In fact, this is so common in churches that we've constructed an entire theology around it. Many people claim all the promises given to the Jews as being for the church, and we heard pastor Dahlia speak on that last week. It's called displacement theology, and I believe it is wrong and out of touch with God's intent for those promises.
3. WE CONFUSE COLLECTIVE PROMISES WITH INDIVIDUAL ONES
Some promises intended for us are collective, not individual, for us as a people, not exclusively me!
2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This is to us, if MY people. It's a promise for us and our people, not us personally.
4. WE FAIL TO SEE CONDITIONS FOR GOD'S PROMISES
Many of God’s promises are unconditional—meaning there are no conditions required for Him to do what He promises. An example is…
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
But many other promises are conditional and dependent on the choice or actions we make.
Most conditional promises take an “If . . . then . . .” form. “Promises that contain an ‘If’ require some form of obedience before we can expect them to come to pass in our lives,” says Jen Wilkin. “They are conditional. If we want to claim them, we had better be ready to act in obedience to what they require.”
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You want to be pure, you want to be forgiven, you want to be set free from the power of sin? Then you need to confess your sin to the Lord and actively seek His forgiveness. He does not automatically forgive every sin you make. There's a condition. Here is another…
Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
If you want to become prosperous, honour God with your wealth. If you choose to be stingy and not bless the Lord and others with the little you have, the promise does not stand for you.
5. WE TWIST PROMISES TO SUIT OURSELVES
God’s promises mean only what God intended them to mean. When we subvert the meaning of a promise, when we try and twist it into what we want it to be, or overlook bits we are not prepared to do, it ceases to be a promise at all.
Even when we rightly recognise a promise as intended for us, we often impose our own understanding of exactly how it will be fulfilled. I want it, I want it now and I want it my way. Or we are tempted to impose our own timeline on its fulfilment. Here's an example…
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
We all believe this, we all know God has a plan and purpose for us. But we conveniently forget the next few verses…
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
We want the blessing, but we twist it so we don't have to give out on the conditions, to pray, to seek Him with all your heart. If we don't seek Him we will likely miss the wonderful plan.
So Does this mean God’s promises are not for us? Absolutely not! Thousands of God’s promises are meant for us, but that doesn't give us carte Blanche to claim whatever we want on our terms for ourselves!
I CLAIMED IT… BUT GOD LET ME DOWN
Many times this is where we go wrong. We read something, or hear something in a sermon, and we claim it for ourselves. Was that promise for us? We don't want to be obedient, we just want to see the good things coming our way. We love to claim the blessing, ignore the conditions, ignore the intent of the promise, twist it to our own ends, then get mad at God when He doesn't do our bidding.
Many of us have been through this. We try and try, we manifest all the faith we have, we believe, but to no avail. What we wanted, what we asked for, fails to materialise.
My experience is that God is faithful, He never lets me down... but He does have alternative ways of doing things! The longer I live, the less I order God around and the more I trust that He has it all in hand, that He will take care of me. I can share my needs, even my wants, but I can leave it with Him instead of sitting in judgement as to how well he does in answering my requests. The closer I get to Him, the less I have to claim promises, because I'm sure in my heart of the promises He is giving to me.
So how can we figure out which promises are for us, which are collective, which are for the Bible characters themselves and which are general promises?
We need God's presence to show us… we need the Holy Spirit!
CLAIMING VERSES QUICKENING
Now before you get completely depressed and give up on God’s wonderful promises, I want you to understand that I'm not trying to discourage you but I'm trying to help you set up for life changing success in seeing God’s promises manifesting in your life!
Naming and claiming God’s promises is not only immature, but it's downright dangerous! When we think God’s greatest agenda is to give us what we want, we are not honouring God as God! So many people I have talked to have given up on God because they named and claimed a promises that did not come to pass, then got mad at God when it didn't.
That shallow, twisted theology fails to acknowledge the most important factor in standing on the promises of God… His Holy Spirit within you!
When you pick out a promise that you like, ignore any conditions and just start praying that, you can be assured of failure, disappointment and heartache at some point. Why? Because you're invested in a result, you're committed not to the Lord, but to seeing a particular blessing in your life. You're not invested in the Lord. You're dictating terms and demands to the Creator of the universe, not trusting the One who saved your soul. You are seeking His hand, but not His face.
Seek His face, folks, and you get His hand as well, in all aspects of life. So how do we do this?
1. PRAY AND HONESTLY SEEK HIS FACE, NOT HIS HAND
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
The word “name” means character, plus reputation. The more you know who He is, the more you will trust in Him.
You wonder why we don’t have faith; the answer is, faith is confidence in the character of God and if we don’t know what kind of God God is, we can’t have faith.
We can read books on faith, learn about great men of faith, watch movies about faith. But we forget that faith is confidence in God’s character. And because we are not aware of what kind of God God is, or what God is like, we cannot have real faith.
And so we struggle and wait and hope against hope. We try and step out and believe God, we desperately claim the promises we want. But faith doesn’t come, because we do not know the character of God. “those who know your name put their trust in you.” It’s automatic—it comes naturally when we know what kind of God God is.
2. READ HIS WORD
God reveals Himself through His Word. If you don't read the Bible you won't really know God. Seeking His face means reading the Bible. If you want to grow in Christ, if you want to see the promises of God come true in your life, you simply must read the Bible every day.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Reading the Word of God every day not only puts your spirit in touch with His, it not only allows you to see more of His character, but it is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions in your heart.
It's the missing link we talked about before, it's the way His Spirit speaks to you, guides you, teaches you, grows you and quickens promises to you. If you read the prayer of Jabez and say, “Oh, I like that, that ones for me,” it's different to when you are reading the Bible every day and suddenly that verse jumps out at you and God says, “This is my promise for you.”
But you will never experience this until you read His Word daily. That's why I am so committed to the Bible reading plan.
3. LET THE HOLY SPIRIT REVEAL GOD'S PROMISES
Galavanting randomly around bits of the Bible finding promises you want to apply to yourself for your own benefit is not way to grow in the things of God!
You need the Holy Spirit to reveal God's Promises to you, and then you can stand on those forever! His awesome promises will draw you nearer to Him, and cause you to trust Him more, but only if you let Him quicken the right promises to your spirit.
2 Peter 1:4
by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
There is a huge difference between finding a promise and claiming it, and having the Lord quicken it to your Spirit. We mentioned the prayer of Jabez before. Books have been written on it, people have thought, gosh that's a great promise, I'll take that one. I remember reading the book and thinking, “That's nice, I'd like that.” Bless me, enlarge my border, keep your hand on me and keep me from harm and pain. Who doesn't want that? Notice it's all ME, ME, ME? I read the book and nothing happened!
I'm telling you, while God wants to protect, bless and lead your life, I can also guarantee you'll find some pain, some tough times and some times when God seems distant. God’s not there to give you a nice, comfortable life.
At a later stage I read the passage in 1 Chronicles, when I was changing situations in my life, and the words jumped off the page, spoke to me heart and gave me confidence and joy going forward.
In the same way, I had always read and believed God’s promises to prosper me and not harm me. Then we lost everything in our mid 40s and had to start again. It was painful, it was way longer than I would have imagined. We could not overcome our debt, we could not even revisit our loans. We were trapped.
Then New Year 2 years ago, before we became pastors here, the Lord spoke to me of His promises to prosper us again. Clearly. Quickened it to my Spirit. I told Fiona that our finances were about to break through and turn around. She struggled to believe it after 6 years of agony. Within one month we received a cheque, out of the blue, for over $50,000 dollars, and this turned our finances around.
I didn't just make it up. I did not just claim a general promise. The Lord, the Holy Spirit, quickened it to my heart. When He does that, you can stand on the promises with confidence!
4. TRUST HIM NO MATTER THE RESULT
We've spoken about this, and it's not easy to do. Do you trust God so emphatically that your faith will be unwavering even if the results are not what you want?
Sometimes we trust God for things, and things get worse. Sometimes we have desperate needs, and they remain unmet no matter how much we pray.
Can you say…
Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face.
Want a healing? Will you still trust God's Promises even if you don't seem to be healed? Want financial provision? Will you still trust God's Promises even if more bills come and your bank account empties even further? Want to grow your ministry? Will you still trust God's Promises even if someone else gets the nod over you?
Can you truly trust the Lord no matter what? He's not out to hurt you, He's not trying to frustrate or anger you, but if He has a higher way, if He cares more about developing character instead of comfort in you, can you still trust Him? If it takes way longer than you envisage, can you still trust Him? Will you?
You cannot have this level of absolute trust in someone you don't really know.
You see, trust in God is not just getting what you want in life. Corrine Ten Boom was in Ravensbruk concentration camp, where her sister was murdered. Still she could say, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
But how can you if you don't even know God? Back to the previous point.
5. LEARN TO WAIT IN FAITH
Gods timing is not yours, or mine. Abraham came off a huge victory yet was still down because He had no heir. THEN God gave Him the promise…
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
But it took over 20 years of waiting for God's Promises to be manifested. Yet Abraham waited, for the most part, in faith for the fulfilment of the promise. How long can you wait?
6. SHARE THE LOAD… COME TO CHURCH
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Church needs to be a place where we stir each other up to love and good works. Church must be where we are built up, and where we can learn to trust our Father together, where we can encourage one another and where we can share the loads and burdens of life with our spiritual families.
Church is not a religious duty, it's not a corporation, its not an organisation, it's an organism, it's a family!
By sharing your joys, your struggles, your dilemmas and your blessings with other believers, your faith is built up. You're not standing alone. Remember months ago we looked at the armour of God, and found that the shield of faith is less effective if you use it alone. And that a single soldier can be picked off by the devil. It is most effective when joined and interlocked with other shields, with other believers. That's where the strength lies, and that's where God’s promises stand strong!
7. SERVE, DON’T SNATCH
Our society is probably the most self centred generation in history. We have an inbuilt lust for things we haven't got, the new car, the new house, the new computer. “What's in it for me,” is the slogan of the age.
This spirit runs contrary to the Spirit of God. He is generous. He gives, He blesses, He gave His one and only Son, for your sin and mine, to open the way back to Him.
If you want to see God’s promises come true in your life, take your eyes off yourself, your needs, your pain, your desires and your agenda and fix your eyes on Jesus. Serve, don't snatch at things, fill you mind with the Word of God, fill your heart with the Holy Spirit and fill your life with blessing others. Concentrate on the important things, the things that last forever… God, His Word, serving Him, serving others.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
GOD’S PROMISES ARE HERE FOR YOU
It's been said that people with good intentions make promises, but people of good character keep them. God has the best character of all. He never breaks a promise He gives you, He never lets down those who love Him, serve Him and get to know Him.
God’s promises are yes and amen
Today I want to pray for…
People who believe God has given them a promise that has not happened yet, and you're tired of waiting.
People who are discouraged, feel let down by God and perhaps realise that they have been holding God to promises He never even made to them.