“I promise, I guarantee, I will.”
These are phrases that resonate with certainty. It has not yet happened, but we have a word and a promise that it will. Would we forget a promise made to us? Would we trust it, and wait for it? Perhaps it depends on the person giving us that promise and how much we trust them.
Reading the story of Joshua recently, I was struck by just how important a promise from God is. Society may watered down the importance of promise, but God’s promises do not change. They are unbreakable covenant words, and when God speaks, it is done.
When Israel sends spies out into the Promised Land, they report that the land is indeed good. However, only two out of the twelve spies are willing to believe that God can give the land into their hands as He had promised. Though the other men tell Israel that the people of the land cannot be conquered, Joshua and Caleb encourage them with these words:
“If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with mild and honey, only do not revel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us, their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” [Numbers 14:7-9]
However, instead of trusting God, the congregation actually prepares to stone Joshua and Caleb. They are only stopped from doing this because the glory of God appears at the tent of meeting. Even though Israel has a promise from God, they think it is so impossible from what they see through human eyes, that they are prepared to kill the couple of people who believe that they should instead put their hope in God.
We look at the stories of Israel disdaining the promises of God in the Bible and sometimes judge their attitude – how could they keep turning away from God when He had lead them in such powerful and miraculous ways? Yet, when we look at our own lives, we can see the same pattern. How many times has God spoken a word or promise to us that we have forgotten, or thought to be impossible? How many times has God asked us to step out in faith, and we have hesitated?
One thing that strikes me, is the gravity of God’s promises. While we have a choice in whether or not we walk in the promises of God, we must also be aware of the consequences of our decision. The Israelites, in dismissing God’s ability to help them possess the Promised Land, ended up wandering in the desert for forty years until all the men of that generation had passed away. Only Joshua and Caleb remained to see God’s promise finally fulfilled, with Joshua leading this new generation of Israelites in the conquest of the land.
. . .
What happens when we do not take hold
of the promises God has given us?
What keeps us from taking hold of these promises?
. . .
Here are some barriers that can cause us to reject the promises of God:
Fear | Like the Israelites, we can see situations, people and potential consequences as too big and scary to walk out in faith and live as God has called us to live. Yet, God has called us more than conquerors in Him and in His love [Romans 8:37]. He is always fighting for us, and will always help us to overcome.
Unbelief | We think we are unworthy, unprepared and do not think God can use us in that way. However, we need to remember that God’s promises do not depend upon our ability, but upon God Himself and He is faithful to complete all that He has promised.
Pride | Sometimes we think we know better than God. In the desert, supernaturally provided with daily manna for food from God, Israel complained and asked for meat. Instead of thankfulness, they came to God with selfish complaint and while meat was provided to them, it came at a great cost as many died. God always knows best, and we can make the choice to submit to His ways and come to Him with thanksgiving and humility.
Nonchalance | Comfort can be deceiving. We start to think it might not matter if we are spiritually lazy, that perhaps we don’t need God right now. Don’t wait to be a place of sinking desperation. The truth is we all need God every day and without Him, life loses its purpose. So let us actively live in faith each day.
When we reject the promises of God, we not only miss out on the blessings of God, but also open ourselves up to the consequences of the world’s deceit. God’s promises are rooted in His love for us, His good purposes for our lives, and His faithful provision. In contrast, the world offers things that might temporarily seem more comfortable or convenient, but ultimately lead to discontent, fear and death.
When we say no to God, we inevitably are yielding to sin’s deceit. While people might see the consequences of this as punishment from a jaded jealous God , this is far from the truth. God has simply given us free will, having already told us that the “wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 6:23] So then, it is our choice whether or not we will choose to live in this freedom.
Furthermore, there is grace in God allowing us to experience the consequences of our decisions. We learn character, and we learn to trust Him. After their forty years of wandering in the desert, Israel saw a season of great conquest and they experienced what it was like to trust in Lord to win their victories. We too may go through seasons of wandering, learning and growing in character before being ready to fully submit ourselves to God’s purposes. He does not give up on us, and His promises to us remain. God is patient, His arm always stretched out towards us.
Will we take hold of the promises He offers?