Monday, August 22, 2016

Q & A Re: God's Promises

            Question: What is the best promise in the Bible?

            Answer: Jesus’ promise of eternal life to everyone who believes. He provided eternal life (salvation) when He paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross and rising again. When we simply believe that is true, it means we have trusted in Jesus, and nothing else, to take care of our eternal destiny.

            Question: What then is the best promise for believers? As we live the Christian life with its various sorrows and joys, what is the most encouraging promise to keep in mind?

            Answer: Let me start by disallowing some promises many Christians misunderstand.

            I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). This is not a paramount promise, because that verse in context refers to learning contentment. While it does apply to living the way God wants, it does not mean Christ strengthens me to run a marathon or pass up dessert.

            God won’t give us more than we can bear but will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). That verse does not apply to trials, but to temptations. Yes, these two words have the same Greek root, but the context determines which is meant. We always have a way of escape from temptations—just say no—but not so with trials. In fact Paul said he had trials beyond his ability to endure, so that he even despaired of life (2 Corinthians 1:8-9. He gives the reason as well—God was teaching Him dependence instead of self-reliance. God does at times give us more than we can bear so we will rely on Him more.

            God knows the plans He has for you—plans to prosper not harm you and to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Yes, this is a great promise, but not for you! Have you heard the maxim that all the Bible was written FOR us, but not all was written TO us? Jeremiah 29 promised a prosperous future to the exiled Israelites after their 70 years of captivity was completed (vs. 10). We cannot claim verse 11 for ourselves, unless we also claim verses 10 through 14---that God will take all of us from various nations and carry us back to Israel after 70 years.

            Question: So what is the best promise for Christians today?

            Answer: The same promise He has given to His people from Genesis on—“I will be with you.” First made to Ishmael (yes, Ishmael—Abram’s son by his second wife Hagar) in Gen. 21:20, and then said about each of the patriarchs. The cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, as well as the Tabernacle were visible reminders that God was with His people. The psalms are filled with statements about God’s presence. Best of all, God Himself took on flesh and dwelled (tabernacled) on earth (John 1:14). Immanuel: “God WITH us.”

            Thus, right before Jesus was raptured to heaven, He gave the best promise possible: Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

            Hebrews 13:5-6 expresses it best: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

            Resurrection Treasures by Dr. William McCarrell tells about "David Livingston, weary from 16 years of African service, including 27 attacks of African fever, with one arm hanging helpless because of the bite of a lion, when honored with a degree by the University of Glasgow, said, 'Shall I tell you what supported me through all these years among a people whose language I could not understand and whose attitude toward me was uncertain and often hostile? It was, Lo, A am with you always, even unto the end of the age.'"

            If Jesus never leaves me, what can any kind of adversity do to me? If Jesus never forsakes me, He will be sufficient for all my needs. He is with me always—in this life and the next. That’s a promise I can live with, and die with.


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