By John White, Pastor of the Hinterland Baptist Church, Gold Coast, Australia
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall] neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (II Peter 1:4-9)
Someone has said, "Promises are made to be broken." In our day of selfishness and promiscuity it seems all too obvious that many promises are mere meaningless words; not worth the paper they may be written upon. The increase in divorce is clearly a reflection of the attitude of infidelity permeating culture. Marriage vows are evidently entered into with fingers crossed behind ones back. The attitude is that if anything goes wrong or if I "fall out of love" or "fall into love" (or lust) with someone else, I'll just abandon ship and do my own thing. It doesn't matter what damage may be done to the other parties involved, especially the innocent children of such a union. After all, I have "my rights."
The increase in bankruptcies and bad debts reflect the same selfish attitudes. There was a time when a man's word was his bond. A handshake was good enough to seal the most complicated contract. If he said he would pay, he would, or he would spend the rest of his life trying. A promise was a promise and was not to be broken. But, sadly, such is not the case today.
But even in the best of times, promises were made and then broken. Those with the best of intentions sometimes failed to deliver. After all, we know what road is supposed to be paved with good intentions. Promises were made that could not be kept or there just never seemed to be enough time to make good on a sincere promise. After all, fickleness and faithfulness are a part of man's sinful condition.
I'm sure most parents and children can identify with this. I'm afraid I can. We are prone to promise more than we can deliver. Circumstances sometimes change and difficulties arise. Time has a way of waiting for no man. Our children grow up and we turn around and they are gone. Then it is too late to do some of those things we promised ourselves and those we loved so much we would do together.
I grew up in a country place surrounded by beautiful streams and lakes filled with fish. My dad, who worked very hard to support a large family of ten, was always planning to take my younger brother and me fishing. We did a lot of fishing on our own. But that was never quite the same. A fishing trip with your father was something very special.
One of my most pleasant childhood memories involves a promise finally kept and a great fishing trip my father was able to make with us. When I became a father I came to understand how difficult it is sometimes to keep a sincere, but similar promise.
But isn't it great that our heavenly Father has no difficulty keeping all His promises to His children? Great is His faithfulness! He never leaves us in the lurch. He has all the time, energy and ability to bring to pass His promises. There is no shadow or turning with Him. All that we need His hand has provided. All we will need in the future will come to pass according to His precious promises. We are fully persuaded with Paul that what he has promised He is able to perform.
Which of all the precious promises in the Word of God is the most precious to you? They are so many and so tremendous. His promises relating to the great doctrines of grace are overwhelming. Salvation, redemption, justification, security, separation, sanctification and eventually glorification are just a few that thrill our souls. A great number relate to His power and presence in our lives on earth as well. He has told us He will never leave nor forsake us. Can any child of His successfully accuse Him of doing so? Of course, we as faithless creatures may leave or forsake Him, but He, just as the prodigal's father, is always lovingly, longingly; looking down the path of our backsliding, seeking our repentance and return.
But let us examine in more detail some particular precious promises God has made to the believer. We have the PRECIOUS PROMISE OF HIS PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE. We have the PRECIOUS PROMISE OF HIS POWER POTENTIAL IN OUR WORLD. We have the PRECIOUS PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE AND PARTICIPATION IN OUR LIVES. We have the PRECIOUS PROMISE OF HIS PROVIDENTIAL PROVISION OF ALL OUR NEEDS.
We have the precious promise of His plan and purpose for His people. His purpose in grace is to redeem unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. A people He loves in eternity and who can love and glorify Him forever.
In the working out of His eternal plan and purpose on earth, He has promised those who truly believe that they will receive and possess the gift of God, eternal life. "...but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Ro. 6:23b) He has not only promised that the believer can possess this, but has urged him to live his life in full knowledge of his possession. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life " (I John 5:13a) He purposes that every believer be of Paul's persuasion. "...I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (I John 5:13b)
He has promised that those who truly believe will receive remission of sin and continuing forgiveness in Christ. When we repent of our sin and receive His gift of everlasting life, we can know we are forever saved from eternal death, the spiritual penalty of sin. " As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12) He also promises that we can have daily forgiveness of our transgressions as we walk with Him in the way. Through this process He has promised a continuing close fellowship and fruitful relationship can and should be maintained. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)
His plan and purpose also includes the precious promise of eternal son-ship and joint-heir-ship with His Son Jesus Christ. " Beloved, now are we the sons of God," (I John 3:2) This means that all this is His is ours in eternity. We are truly children the great God and King! " we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; (Ro. 8:16b - 17a) What an exceedingly great and precious promise! His precious promise and purpose tells us there will be no more condemnation for us because we are justified by faith and have received the imputed gift of His eternal righteousness. (See Ro. 5:1, 8:1, II Cor. 5:21)
He also promises that the true believer won't be left in the dark about His position in Christ, but that the Word and the Spirit will led him to an intellectual and spiritual knowledge of the eternality of his relationship with the great God of this universe. That this knowledge will be based primarily upon fact and faith, not feelings. (See 1 Cor. 15:1-4, I Pet. 1:5, Phil. 1:6, Eph. 4:30) The person who is born again of God's Spirit will know he is a new creature in Christ Jesus. He further promises the inner witness of His indwelling Spirit will confirm this relationship in the believer's heart. (See II Cor. 5:17, Rom. 8:16, I John 4:13)
As a further confirmation of this salvation based upon the eternal purpose and plan of God for the true believer, He promises that the believer will have a real hunger for the Word of God. "...As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (I Pet. 2:2) He will also have the indwelling Spirit who will create in him a real desire for holy living. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." (I John 2:3) He promises that the true believer will have a genuine, discernible and expressed love for the brothers and a love and affinity for the congregation and house of the Lord. (See John 13:34-35, I John 3:12, Psalm 122:1, Matt. 18:20, Heb. 10:25)
The culmination of His purpose and plan for true believers will be consummated when He comes again and takes them home to live with Him forever. He has promised that we will have a continuing longing to see Jesus and to go to dwell in that city whose builder and maker is God. He has promised us the blessed or happy hope as a stay and encouragement in our life below. (John 14:1-3, Phil. 1:21-23)
We have His precious promise of His powerful potential to work in and through us to accomplish His purpose on earth; winning the lost, baptizing them and teaching them all things. (Matt. 28:18-20) This promise is especially made to His churches and those who will follow his plan and pattern of New Testament church propagation in all ages.
As we accept and act upon this promise, He has promised we will be equipped with His powerful tools and His power in wielding them. Just as He supplied David with all that was needed to fell the giant by His power, He will powerfully supply us all our needs in Christ Jesus to live in this world, do His will and fight the good fight of the faith. He supplies the whole armour of God, the sword of the spirit and the powerful gospel, wielded, confirmed and affirmed by the power of His spirit . In my devotional study on Hebrews Four, "God's Ultimate Weapon," I said in part:
"When Paul speaks of the Word of God being the Sword of the Spirit, I understand he is deliberately using a word that specifically refers to the short sword used by what is reputed to be one of the most efficient human fighting machines of the ages, the Roman soldier. When this effective weapon was attached to the arm of that formidable warrior, terrible destruction was the order of the day. When the centuries of Roman soldiers formed their phalanx, pity those who had to oppose them. They were usually cut to ribbons.
The Word of God is that effective, and more. It is designed to cut to ribbons the stoniest and hardest of hearts. It will smash the best offense, defeat the cruelest enemy and win the battle against the most overwhelming odds.
This wonderful weapon is two-edged. It cuts both ways. It will not only bring salvation to a sinful soul by cutting and slashing and bringing deep conviction to man's desperately wicked heart, but will also cut him off from the wages of sin and eternal hell forever. If the love of God and His gospel is refused, this same awesome weapon can cut a man off from God forever as well. It is also designed to judge the heart of the child of God. It can and will penetrate to the very depths of that heart to judge its intent, thoughts and motives. As in the case of David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New, it can cut,us with deep conviction and bring us to the point of crying out to God in true repentance; seeking His forgiveness and restoration to a place of right relationship.
The Roman soldier was expertly trained and highly skilled in using his deadly weapon. We have the ultimate weapon of spiritual warfare. All we need to do is become familiar with it and its use. We need to learn to arm ourselves before we go out to battle by hiding its words in our heart. We need to study to show ourselves approved unto God, that we might not be ashamed and unprepared in the day of battle. For truly the battle is the Lord's and we must enter the fray with the ultimate weapon He has given us."
We also have the precious promise of His personal presence and participation in our lives. When He was preparing His people for the playing out of the eternal drama of the gospel right before their eyes, He promised He would send us a comforter, a teacher and a guide. One who would personally walk alongside us in our life; if we would walk with Him in His way. One who would be with us to bear every burden of service, lift every load of care, climb every mountain of difficulty, fjord every stream of challenge, breach every wall of opposition and win every battle for us. This promised personal paraklete would be our constant companion and guide; illuminating the Word, convicting us of sin and righteousness and judgment, leading us to holy living and to walk in the paths of His righteousness for His Namesake. He would come to indwell us and shine the spotlight of His guidance through the Word along the way and will of God for our lives. (See John 14:17-18, 16:7-12, I Cor. 6:19-20)
I heard a story once of a mother who was ill and could not go to church and when her young son came home, she asked him the subject of the pastor's sermon. He said, "The preacher said God is going to send us another bed quilt." The surprised mother then asked him if he remembered the verse of scripture he used. The lad said the preacher said, "He shall give you another comforter." This is a simple story but perhaps it suggests some truths about the Holy Spirit. When we stood naked and shivering before God in our own filthy rags of righteousness. He clothed and comforted us with His eternal righteousness. He gives us spiritual rest and warmth in our life. He can protect us from the cold apathy and indifference of this world. He helps us to find comfort and pleasure in the things of God, rather than the things of the world. The Comforter provides the refreshing spiritual rest we regularly need and renews our sense of safety and security.
The promise of His presence is especially personal and meaningful when we are facing personal difficulties, trials and adversities. The knowledge that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and will never leave nor forsake us is too wonderful to fully comprehend. We must just accept it by faith and see it evidenced and experientially worked out in our lives. We are assured of His presence and participation in all the personal perplexities and problems of life. "Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. " (Psalm 34:19) "When thou passest through the waters, I [will be] with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isa. 43:2)
The promise of His providential provision is precious to every child of God. Just as surely as He personally and providentially provided manna and quail for the daily bread of the wanderers in the wilderness. He will supply all we need to live, breathe and serve him in the wilderness of our world.
John Newton once wrote, "I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of a year to a great bundle of fagots, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow and so on. This we might manage, if we would only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick over again today and adding tomorrow's burden to our load before we are required to bear it."
Someone else has said, "Burdens, too, can often be stepping stones to higher ground." A biologist tells how he watched an ant carrying a piece of straw, which seemed a big burden for it. The ant came to a crack in the earth, which was too wide to cross. It stood for a time as though pondering the situation, then it put the straw across the crack and walked over upon it! What a lesson for us! The burden can become a bridge for spiritual progress if we endeavor by God's help to live the overcoming life!
Think of a faithful father poised with the knife of sacrifice at his son's throat, and glancing up to see a substitute caught by its horns in a thorn bush. A coincidence? Think of a champion and mighty man of God, hopelessly surrounded and out numbered by the enemy. He searches the ground desperately for a weapon and his hand falls upon the weathered bone of a donkey that in God's time had wandered and died in that place.
An accident? Think of the provision of another donkey that bore real Royalty. Consider five smooth stones laid down in time and worn by the waters of a brook. A young and courageous hero of God hurriedly scoops up a handful of stones and finds just the stone he needs to feel the giant enemy of God and His people. Think of the day a Roman soldier went out and felled a tree that would become a rugged, cruel cross. Are any of these accidents? No! We can trust the promise of God's providential provision in our day and time as well.
I ran across this story many years ago in the writings or M. R. De Haan. "Two poor boys, who had never been in the country and knew nothing of the sweetness of its air, were sent into the most "country" of all places. There was plenty of food. They found there was meat for breakfast. They were surprised . . . they then went out to play. At lunch there was another hot meal with meat. It was even more astonishing to have meat again at dinner. Such food and meat three times a time was something had never even dreamed of. When they went to bed that night, the little one said to his brother, 'Jim, if they set that table again in the middle of the night,, don't forget to call me.' The Lord always meets the needs of His people in a most ample and satisfying manner. Exceeding even what they ask and seek. But many Christians are anemic and undernourished because they are content to chew upon the husks of worldly pleasures rather than feed upon the bounties of God's well-prepared table?
He has not promised to supply all our wants, but all our needs. We sometimes get the two concepts confused. Parents normally know what is best for their children and are able to discriminate between those things they desperately want and the things that the really need. They are aware that some wanted things will be hurtful rather than helpful. Our heavenly Father is much more able to make such judgments.
Many of us may have mused about what it would be like to be a millionaire. Some may even wonder why God has not blessed them with the stewardship and responsibility of such material prosperity. I'm afraid it might make a fool of most of us and could even destroy our testimony and usefulness in His service. The road of life is littered with the wreckage of those who have fallen prey to the greed involved in acquisition and materialism. It is rather better to trust in the providential provision of God and heed the command of our Saviour to seek first His Kingdom and eternal treasures.
Yes, our God has given us so many great and precious promises and shown us that He is faithful and His promises never fail. "there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant." (I Kings 8:56b) Perhaps of all His precious promises, those that speak of brighter days and a heavenly future are the most thrilling to the soul of those who are going through tough times. He tells us that all things do work together for the ultimate good of those who love Him. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Many may be the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver him out of them all. He may pass through the waters and rivers of trials and tribulations, but no matter how swift and terrible the flood, he will not be overwhelmed in the midst of it. He may walk through the fire of trouble and testing, but he will not be touched or singed by the flame. He may suffer the pain and constant irritation of a thorn in his flesh, but God's grace will be sufficient in every situation; even the valley and shadow of death.
Perhaps the most precious promises of all relate to our ultimate deliverance not only from the penalty and power of sin, but from its very presence as well. There will come a day when we will enter that City whose builder and maker is God. We will go to that dwelling place for a prepared people. Then He shall wipe away all tears from our eyes and there will be no more crying, sorrow, pain or death. His ultimate precious promise of His eternal presence with His people will have come to pass!