God keeps His promises. Not just small promises, not just some of them, or some of the time. God Keeps His Promises! Every single one. Every single time.
In this world of failed promises, assumed promises, “campaign” promises, and broken promises, it is almost impossible to believe. Surely there must be some promise that God has not fulfilled– some promise that he has taken back or “modified” somehow…
Isn’t there? There are people who claim to have examples– proof that God cannot be trusted. They list tragedies that God allowed to happen, or dreams that did not come to fruition. They list times they could not feel God’s presence, or understand His ways; times He seemed silent or harsh. Didn’t God promise His unfailing presence? Didn’t He promise peace and love and joy?
Good questions–just what DID God promise? To whom did He promise it? When? Were there some promises that were conditional, and, if so, what are the conditions?
- God’s presence–Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ESV) There are numerous other passages where God says to Israel, or to one of Israel’s leaders, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The writer of Hebrews echoes this in chapter 13 of his letter as he seeks to encourage early Christians. This is a solid promise, and one that we can trust. But we won’t always “feel” God’s presence. That’s one of the reasons for the promise– to give us an anchor for our faith when our feelings are confused. God will be with us even (and often especially) when we feel alone, frightened, overwhelmed by our circumstances. What makes the thought of Hell so frightening is that it falls outside of this promise– at the “end of the age”, there will be a time and place where God’s presence cannot be felt– God will not be there, nor will the essence of God be available. No love, no peace, no light, no life, no joy, no hope. Even those who utterly reject God in this life still have access to hopes and dreams, love and goodness, because God is still present in His creation.
- God’s promises to Israel–God made hundreds of specific promises to the nation of Israel. Some were made for specific circumstances and times. Some were made to be eternal and never broken, canceled, revoked, or transferred. Many promises (including those given through prophecies) were given to specific nations, including Israel/Judah/Judea as it existed at that time. Others were given to a restored Israel– one that has not yet been completely restored. Other promises were made to those who are the spiritual heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob– regardless of their genetic heritage. It is very easy to co-opt a promise that isn’t really ours to claim in the context of when or how it was given.
- “Circumstantial” or “Personal” promises– God fulfilled certain promises to individuals throughout the Bible. These are recorded to remind us of God’s faithfulness and His power to bring about miracles. They are not meant to act as personal promises to us because We want the blessings that God gave to someone else in other circumstances.
- “Difficult” promises– Not all God’s promises are ones we want to remember! God has promised that we will suffer. He promises that people will hate us, abandon us, or persecute us on account of our faith. Death and judgement are stark realities– God has promised that we will face both– and that we can face both without fear! Jesus himself foretold of natural disasters, war, poverty, disease, injustice, hunger and other difficult circumstances that will continue until His return.
- “Victorious” promises– God has promised future restoration and renewal– eternal life, a new Heaven, and a new earth. But He hasn’t promised easy victory. He promises Justification, not “just a vacation” by Faith. When we face struggles, it is not God breaking His promises. And it is not always because we aren’t praying enough or don’t have enough faith. Sometimes, God sends us into the thick of the battle for reasons we don’t understand. He doesn’t give us the victory we think we deserve or the victory we dream of. But we can trust that the victory already belongs to Him.
Prayer is more than just a wish or a vague hope– it is trusting my life, my future, my fears, and my heart to the one who can be counted on to listen and to respond. Always!