Promises Made, Promises Kept
Most believers have a favorite promise in Scripture that they have memorized and cling to during hard times--often even more than one. Personally. I have always been partial to Isaiah 40, in which we read, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (v. 10). I remind myself, on a regular basis, of this biblical promise as well: “…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
The promises that God gives us are almost too numerous to count. He promises to provide our needs (Philippians 4:19), forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), produce fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), grant eternal life in Christ (John 11:25-26), and to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). Some Christians look at such promises and say that we must claim them in order for them to be true for us. We must believe them with all our heart and they will come to pass. As though we can click our heels three times, squeeze our eyes shut, and recite a verse over and over and the next thing we know, God’s promises are delivered into our hands.
God’s promises are not true because we believe in them. They don’t come to pass because our faith is great. God’s promises will come to pass simply because God said them.
The Power of God’s Word
When God speaks, things happen. At the beginning of the world, God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). He merely spoke and light entered the world. When Jesus was on the boat with the disciples and a ferocious storm rose up, Mark tells us, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (4:39). There was chaos and then there was calm—an immediate response to the powerful word of God. We cannot speak and make anything happen. If we want light, we have to turn on a switch or a flashlight. If there’s a storm outside, we have to take shelter and wait for it to pass. Only God can speak and cause the creation to respond at just the sound of his voice.
His word also does all that he wills it to. Whatever he says is going to happen; it will take place and nothing and no one can stop it. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). We can make plans and say what we hope will happen tomorrow but only God can ensure that his plans come to fruition. In fact, our own plans are governed by and submissive to God’s plans, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
God’s written word is just as powerful as his spoken word. It is truth which sanctifies (John 17:17). It gets down deep in our heart and reveals our thoughts and motives, “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” (Hebrews 4:12). Faith comes through hearing the word of God preached, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). God’s word is our very life, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 32:47). “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:25).
The Word Made Flesh
For centuries, God’s people heard Him speak through His chosen mediators: prophets, priests, and kings. But then one day, God the Son left the throne room of heaven, stepped into human flesh and became the Word incarnate. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:1, 4). Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, is God’s message to us in the flesh. Who Jesus was and what he came to do is the very truth of God. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The writer to the Hebrews tells us, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
It is in Jesus, the Word, in which all of God’s promises are met, carried out, and fulfilled. The meta-promise of all God’s promises—“I will be their God and they will be my people”—was met in Christ when he came to earth, lived a perfect life, and bore the punishment for our sins. In fact, his death is a marker for us, a sign post and reminder of God’s faithfulness to keep his promises. As Paul asked in Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
For those who are in Christ, who are united to him by faith, God’s promises are ours. “For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). All God’s promises are yes in Christ—from the temporal promises of meeting our daily needs to the eternal promises of glory in heaven and every promise in between.
The truth is, God is not anxiously waiting for us to claim his promises or try with all our might to believe they are true. They will come to pass because God said them. There is no need to name them and say they are ours for they already are—in and through the Word made flesh. So learn them, memorize them, and post them around the house, marveling at the grace of our God whose powerful word always comes to pass.
Christina Fox is a graduate of Covenant College and received her Master’s in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She serves on the national women’s ministry team of the PCA and is the editor of enCourage. Christina is a conference and retreat speaker and writes for a number of Christian ministries including TGC and Ligonier. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ChristinaFoxAuthor.