Pastor Craig Carter
A couple of years ago, my wife Lee and I went out for an anniversary dinner. When I made the reservation I mentioned that we would be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary … in the hopes we’d get a free dessert!
So when the waiter came to our table, he offered his congratulations (but no dessert). After the waiter left, a guy sitting in the next booth said, “Hey, I couldn’t help but hear that you’ve been married 36 years. Wow, that’s great. My wife and I have been married just a couple of years. So, we’d like to know, what’s your secret to success? How’d you stay married for so long?”
I immediately replied, “We just never got a divorce!”
The couple laughed, but then Lee explained, “Seriously, divorce has never been an option for us. We made some promises to each other a long time ago, and we’ve decided to keep them.”
I have a friend who likes to say the three keys to a successful marriage are: “Communication, communication, communication.”
But I’d argue that the keys are “Promises, promises, promises.”
Thirty-eight years ago, Lee and I stood at the altar of a church and made some promises. I’m thankful that she has kept her promises to love me and be faithful to me … for better or worse (she’s seen me at my worst), for richer or poorer (mainly poorer), in sickness and in health (although as I mentioned in a recent sermon, she never seems to realize how sick I am).
Those promises have formed the foundation of our marriage and have seen us through good times and bad times, ups and downs, highs and lows. Quite honestly, we couldn’t have made it this far without those promises. And I would suggest they are essential for any marriage to succeed and flourish.
In recent weeks, we’ve been looking at what is Essential in our relationship with the Lord. So far, we’ve seen that God and His perspective, presence, power, and freedom are truly necessary in life.
To that list I’d like to add, God’s Promises. You and I cannot live without them nor should we want to. Just as promises sustain a marriage, God’s promises keep us going and on track.
Over the years, I have come to depend on the promises Lee has made and kept. But I also rely on the trustworthiness of God and the promises He has given in His Word.
In the words of the hymnwriter, “I’m standing on the promises of God.”
And there is no doubt the Lord is the ultimate Promise Keeper. God’s promises are absolutely essential if we are going to survive and thrive in this world.
Listen to what the Apostle Peter says about them in his second New Testament letter:
And because of his glory and excellence, [God] has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1:4 NLT)
If you and I are going to become who God intends us to be – like Him and not like the world – we have to know God’s promises and live according to them.
Famed Bible teacher Herbert Lockyer notes that there are 7,487 promises from God to humankind in Scripture (All the Promises of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer).
While it’s probably not out of the realm of possibilities for me to preach on all 7,487 promises, I’m going to resist the temptation to cover them all.
Instead, I’d like to highlight a couple from each testament that I have found essential. I’m going to describe both what I find meaningful about them and how God has fulfilled those promises.
I want to invite you to consider what promises you’ve found truly necessary to keep you going in life. If you would, take a moment today to share with me by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s start with some of God’s promises from the Old Testament. One that I’ve relied on recently during the COVID-19 pandemic is found in Psalm 91 and describes God’s protection in a variety of situations, including against deadly diseases:
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them … and give them my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 NLT)
Every one of us can testify that God has kept this promise because we’re still here. I can tell you assuredly, I’ve faced my share of trouble, most of my own doing, but by God’s grace I’ve lived to tell about it.
But, we have to ask ourselves, does God always keep that promise? Aren’t there some times when God doesn’t come through and folks aren’t rescued and saved?
Let’s look at God’s promise from the perspective of our current COVID situation. When the crisis emerged in March, I shared that we have nothing to fear because God is with us. And because He is with us we can think of it in terms of a worst-case scenario:
“I can get the Coronavirus, even though the chances are small.” – God will protect.
“If I get it, I have a high likelihood of recovering.” – God will rescue.
“But even if I don’t survive it, the result is a one-way ticket to heaven.” – God will save.
So one way or the other, God is going to rescue me, protect me and grant me salvation. It’s an essential promise if we’re going to live without fear in this dangerous world. Our part is to claim that promise by trusting in His name and calling on the Lord.
One of the most valuable promises Lee ever made to me was to love me forever. Sometimes I don’t feel too loved or lovable, so it’s nice to have her promised love to rely on.
Listen to this promise that God makes to us:
Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)
I quite honestly don’t know how anyone can live without experiencing God’s love … and they don’t. They don’t really live that is; they simply exist.
God’s love makes all the difference in the world. It brings meaning, purpose and confidence.
But how can we be sure that God loves us? Besides the promise in His Word, we can be sure of His love because He demonstrates it. First and foremost, God has demonstrated His great love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus (see Romans 5:8). So as we look to the Cross, we see tangible evidence of God’s love.
God also fulfill His love promise to us through others. I am thankful for the words and actions of my fellow believers that constantly remind me that I am loved by my Creator.
Let me address a related promise. While teaching junior high, Lee would ask, “I know you love me, but do you like me?” If you’ve ever been around a bunch of seventh graders you can probably identify with her sentiment as they don’t often express their fondness for adults in authority over them.
We all want to be loved but it’s nice to know we’re liked, too.
God kind of has to love me, doesn’t He? After all, God is love. But does God like me?
Listen to this promise: The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised… (Deuteronomy 26:18 NLT)
In other words, God likes me. He said it Himself that I’m “his own special treasure.”
I’m standing on that promise and sticking to it, no matter what anyone else says.
Let’s turn now to the New Testament and look at a couple of promises I’ve relied on lately:
If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. (James 1:5a GWT)
Starting on October 10, 2018, I’ve counted on that promise on an almost hourly basis. Since Hurricane Michael there has been a constant barrage of decisions to make, so I spend most of my waking hours wondering what I should do. Rather than trusting my own knowledge, I’ve found God’s wisdom to be far superior.
The primary way in which the Lord keeps that promise is through wise people. I’ve found I become a whole lot smarter when I’m in a room of smart people. I’m thankful that God has surrounded me with a great staff and godly church leaders. Through them, I discover what to do and how to do it.
Last week, when news came that staff member was COVID positive, I didn’t know what to do so I asked God and He brought wise counsel in the forms of health care professionals and fellow pastors facing similar situations.
Remember, God gave us His promises so we might share in His divine nature (i.e. become like Him). Before we can do the right thing, we have to know the right thing to do. That process starts by standing on this promise and asking God for His wisdom.
I want to leave you with a promise that I probably depend on more than any other. I don’t know about you, but I can face just about anything as long as I’m not alone.
That is, I find great consolation and strength in having someone beside me. That’s why I’m so thankful to have a promise-keeping wife who has vowed to be with me “until death us do part.”
Listen to this great and precious promise from our Lord…
For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b GNT)
While we may choose to leave God or abandon Him and His ways, He will never forsake us. The Lord has kept this promise by giving us His Holy Spirit who lives with us and lives in us as a comforter, helper, and companion.
One of the ways we experience God’s presence is through the presence of God’s people. Like most of you, sometimes I feel like I’m all alone, especially during times of trouble. At those times, I wonder if God is real or question why He’s nowhere to be found.
Those feelings may be intensified through the isolation of social distancing. It’s why I’ve come to love the Zoom meeting app so much over the past few months.
It’s kept me connected with the staff on an almost daily basis. Also, every Tuesday morning I meet with my prayer group and then I meet with four other pastors – guys I’ve known for 30+ years but due to geography and other factors we rarely got together in person, even before COVID-19.
By 9 am every Tuesday I realize I’m not alone and I sense God is with me.
There’s a way for you to experience that, too. Every Monday – Thursday at 8 am we have a congregational prayer time. I require staff members to join at least once a week. Maybe that same standard could go for our entire congregation? I’m convinced you’ll feel connected to other believers and God after joining us a few times!
Being close to God’s people is why I look forward to resuming in-person ministries very soon. I’ll wear a mask and stay at a distance to be able to be near brothers and sisters in Christ. In such a way, God’s promise never to leave me is fulfilled as I sense His nearness in the presence of other believers.
I hope you can see from these few examples why God’s promises are so essential. They sustain us and keep us going for the long haul in the Christian life.
And the best news of all – there’s 7,483 more to go! But I think I’ll stop now and give you a turn to share. Which of God’s promises bring you comfort, strength, and hope? Share them with me anytime by email to email@example.com.
Let me close with this: We know that the Bible contains an abundance of promises from God. But we’ve had other people make us promises and then break them. So how can we be sure that God truly is a Promise Keeper?
As it is for those of us who are married, we have to trust the other person. But the Lord also provides proof of His trustworthiness. The Apostle Paul claims that Jesus is the evidence that God always keeps His promises. Everything God ever said to people in Old Testament times was fulfilled through Christ.
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. (2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NLT)
How do I know God rescues me, loves me, gives me wisdom, and is present with me?
God has promised it and demonstrated it through His Son Jesus Christ. He gave us further proof by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
So God has kept His promises and in response, we are to take Him at His word and “stand firm for Christ.”
Do you believe that all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”? Then let our “Amen” ascend to God for his glory!
God’s promises in Christ are “yes!” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”
Receive God’s promises, believe in God’s promises, and stand firm on God’s promises! It is essential that we do so.