Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The God of Promise

The first week of Advent is a good time to contemplate the promises of God, not only because Advent represents a period of "looking forward to," but because the whole story of Jesus--past, present, and future--is permeated with the concept of promise. We remember the fulfilled promises of His birth and Resurrection; we look forward to the end of time with His promised coming in glory; we rely daily on His promises to be with us always and strengthen us through every trial. No wonder that Paul wrote, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ" (2 Cor. 1:20a, NIV, emphasis added).

Sadly, many of us twist the Scriptures to convince ourselves God has promised to give us everything we want--and on our own schedules. Many former Bible-believers have stopped speaking to God because He failed to deliver what they were counting on. "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:14) does not mean we can pray, "Lord, please let me win a million dollars in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes; In Jesus's name, Amen" and then go out and charge $500,000 on our credit cards since we'll soon have the money to pay it off. The Biblical--and sometimes contemporary--records of miraculous healings do not mean that every Christian is guaranteed to live, strong and vigorous, for a century or more. And the idea that "if God doesn't give you what you ask for, the only explanation is that you're doing something to hold Him back" has absolutely no Scriptural basis. A surprising number of Christians, far too wise to grant every craving their small children express, seem to consider their own judgment of "what's best for me" to be infallible.

Not that the devout of the first century did any better. The Jews of Jesus's time fully believed God's promise to send a Savior Who would free His people from oppression and set up a new Kingdom of peace and security. What they did wrong was to assume that freedom and security could mean nothing other than immediate relief from all earthly hardships. Nor was it only the enemies of Christ who made that mistake. Even at the very end of Jesus's earthly ministry, with the Resurrection an accomplished fact, some of His closest followers were still thinking in terms of "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6b). Like them, we become mentally fixated on our desires of the moment. We also forget how many times we have gotten what we wanted most--only to realize that we would have been better off without it.

Thank God that in the end, none of His promises will disappoint us.

We promise things lightly and forget them quickly,
The sacred word of honor grown rare.
We need a few lessons in keeping a promise;
Our word should be more than a breath of air.

The Lord is our great Example;
He has never broken His word.
He has made many promises to us--
Have you heard?

He promised to come as our Savior;
He promised of guilt we'd be rid;
He promised to die and to rise again--
And He did!

He promised to be with us always;
He promised to give strength to us;
He promised to lead us in paths of life--
And He does!

He promised to take us to Heaven;
He promised God's plan to fulfill;
He promised to come back to earth someday--
And He will!

No comments: