‘He always does exactly what He says.’ 2 Corinthians 1:19 TLB
Ever had a friend break a promise? The cheque doesn’t come, the repairman doesn’t show up, your date doesn’t call? Count on it, people will let you down. But God won’t: ‘He always does exactly what He says. He…fulfils all…[His] promises.’ (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 TLB) Knowing that enables you to keep walking by faith while you wait for them to be fulfilled. James MacDonald says: ‘It’s this not-knowing that crushes us. We doubt…worry…despair…falter and fail… If we knew how this was going to play out we’d be ok. We…can take a bad day…month…year…or decade…as long as we know how it will end. A health crisis…a question about your marriage…uncertainty over a child…we all have areas…where we need to hold on to what God has said… He knows what He promised, He can’t lie, and He can’t forget. He’ll deliver on time. Who else can make promises like that? Now I wish I could tell you it always figures out perfectly in our lifetimes, but I’d be lying… You cannot make sense of [His] promises…with this life only. You must factor in the reality of eternity… Eternity brings it all together…eternal life…and the assurance of Heaven are what make His promises so precious.’
Victor Frankl, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, said, ‘A weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes, whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.’ A Sunday school class was memorising Psalm 23 and little Tommy couldn’t get beyond the first verse. On the big day he stepped up to the microphone, grinned at the audience and announced, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd – and that’s all I know!’ And it’s all you need to know for now.
‘Let Christ’s word…live in you.’ Colossians 3:16 GWT
Making the right decisions and choosing the right actions are the crux of living successfully. If you are the source of your own wisdom, or you’re looking to others, your odds are not good. Paul writes, ‘Let Christ’s word with all its wisdom and richness live in you.’ If you do, you’ll have the winning strategy for your life.
But you must: (1) Read it. You don’t have to understand it all; it’s not an intellectual exercise. Reading it prayerfully brings power and wisdom because ‘…the Word that God speaks is alive and active… [penetrating] to the place where soul and spirit meet.’ (Hebrews 4:12 PHPS) (2) Meditate on it. That means ‘chew on’ it. Let your spiritual digestive juices process God’s Word until its nutrients become part of you: strengthening, energising and directing you. (3) Believe it. ‘My Word…always produces… It will accomplish all I want it to.’ (Isaiah 55:11 NLT) There’s only one thing that can short-circuit God’s Word – unbelief. ‘The message…did them no good, because they only heard and did not believe as well.’ (Hebrews 4:2 PHPS). ‘Hearing’ opens the door; ‘believing’ walks through it and activates the promise. (4) Receive it. No matter how strongly you believe in God’s promises and His intention to give them to you, they’re not yours until you receive them by faith. ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ (Mark 11:24 NIV) So believe your answer is on the way, and keep your faith strong until it arrives.
‘…if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.’ 1 John 5:14 NIV
While you are waiting for God’s Word to be fulfilled in your life, do these three things:
(1) Verbalise it. The most effective way to pray is to speak God’s Word. The patriarchs, prophets and psalmists regularly reminded God of His promises in prayer, confident He would keep them. The surest indicator of God’s will is His Word. ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us…we know that we have what we asked of Him.’ (1 John 5:14-15 NIV) God always responds to His Word, always!
(2) Obey it. God’s plan for us is not just to speak His Word, vital as this is, but that we obey it (James 1:22). The hymn-writer said: ‘When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way; while we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.’ Obedience – faith in action – aligns us with God and He responds by fulfilling His promise to us.
(3) Share it. Parents and grandparents, ‘Take to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up.’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 GWT) You needn’t be a qualified teacher, just a sincere teller. Sharing God’s Word will produce fruit in the lives of your family, friends, relatives, business associates and neighbours, and also increase your own grasp and understanding of it.
‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…’ John 1:14 NKJV
Throughout the Old Testament God routinely spoke to people. In these 39 books He gave them instructions and promises with conditions. Some people understood what He was saying, others didn’t. Some tried to live by it with varying degrees of success, while others rejected it and decided to do their own thing. Then God did something truly incredible: ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14 NRS) Jesus was a living Bible! John tells us, ‘…The Word was God’ (John 1:1 NKJV), so the more you get into the Word and get it into you, the more of God you’re depositing within you. You say, ‘But sometimes I don’t get much out of reading the Bible.’ A word to the wise: when you start studying the Bible, don’t do it to find some new truth nobody else has ever seen. Do it with the attitude, ‘Lord, what are You saying to me?’ The problem most of us have isn’t interpreting the difficult passages; it’s obeying the ones we already understand! The Word of God provides you with two things: (1) Protection. The Psalmist said, ‘Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.’ (Psalm 119:92–93 NKJV). (2) Direction. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’ (Psalm 119:105 NKJV) Do you need direction? Do you need protection? Get into God’s Word.
‘The word…which can…give you an inheritance.’ Acts 20:32 NIV
Linda Knox was in her eighties when she died of malnutrition in her Chicago apartment. Apparently she’d lost her sight, and her mind had failed. Among her belongings they found the equivalent of $186,000 in uncashed cheques, $206,000 in works of art, $440,000 in jewels, and $56,000 in antiques. In all, she had an estate worth over $900,000 — yet she died alone in poverty. And what’s worse, she’d drawn up a will leaving these things to friends and family members. But she never filed it with the courts and it was never executed, so her beneficiaries were unaware of their inheritance. There’s a lesson here for you. When Christ died and went back to Heaven, He left a will. And you are named in it! You say, ‘Where can I find a copy?’ In His Word! You’re an ‘[heir] of God and a [co–heir] with Christ.’ (Romans 8:17 NKJV) Once that truth gets down into your soul, your attitude toward reading the Bible will be revolutionised. Instead of spending mindless hours watching TV or surfing the internet, you’ll start meditating ‘day and night’ in the Scriptures. As a result, you’ll start to ‘prosper in all that you do’ (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2–3). Now you can understand why David said, ‘I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love… The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.’ (Psalm 119:47; 72 NKJV) Peter wrote: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life…He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.’ (2 Peter 1:3–4 NIV) What more could you ask for?
‘…His sheep follow him because they know his voice.’ John 10:4 NIV
Here are seven occasions when knowing God’s voice is all-important:
(1) Hearing from God before you entertain the ideas of others. Why? Because their ideas are not His commands. Don’t make commitments and end up bound by promises you can’t keep. You must love others, but be led only by God’s Spirit. (2) Hearing from God before you listen to the complaints of others. Why? Because you are not responsible for their happiness. Your need to ‘fix’ others in order to feel good about yourself is called ‘co-dependency’. Give them to God! (3) Hearing from God before you consider the needs of others. Why? Because their needs are driving them; only the plan of God should be leading you. (4) Hearing from God before you respond to the requests of others. Why? Because you must discern what’s behind their requests. Check the soil before you sow your seed.
(5) Hearing from God before you share your dream with others. Why? Because it’s not enough to have a dream, you must have a team. You need people to help you, cheer you on and lift you to a higher level. The right people motivate you to grow stronger, think better, work harder and risk more. They compel you to continue! (6) Hearing from God before you seek the approval of others. Why? Because people with an agenda will flatter and manipulate you. Hearing God’s voice will keep you from falling into their trap. (7) Hearing from God before you make significant changes. Why? Because it’s not your job to decide what God wants you to do, but to discover it and do it.
‘…no…Scripture is…of one’s own interpretation.’ 2 Peter 1:20 NAS
Here are two more principles for discerning which promises in Scripture are for you: (1) Try to understand the context. No Scripture stands in isolation, but should be read in conjunction with every other Scripture on the same topic. If you isolate ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13 NKJV), believing ‘all things’ includes leaping from a twelfth-storey window, don’t blame God’s Word for your unexpected demise! You should also have read the context which says, ‘…I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all [these] things through Christ who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:12-13 NKJV) This Scripture doesn’t mean you can do anything you want, but that God will enable you to get through anything you encounter while doing His will. (2) Test Scripture by Scripture, not by your own desires. ‘No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.’ Some Bible promises are universal in application, and some are personal. The personal ones apply to the intended hearer; the universal ones apply to all believers. Know which is which. If you think the Scripture, ‘…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31 NKJV), guarantees your entire family’s salvation, you might be disappointed and think that God failed. No, that was a personal promise made and fulfilled to the Philippian jailer. A universal word for you and your family is, ‘…In fact, God…wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.’ (2 Peter 3:9 CEV) He wants your entire family to be saved!