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Summary: A faith promise prioritizes our faith, it is a sign of our trust and faith in God, and it decreases our faith in money and increases our faith in God. When we make our commitments, God doesn’t want us to do so out of guilt, compulsion, or fear from our love for Him, for His people, for His church.

Anyone here remember … or have … a “Magic 8 Ball” when they were growing up? It looked like a giant, black number 8 pool ball only it was filled liquid and had a little window where the “8” would be. You could ask it the deep questions of life and it would give you the answer.

Does Cindy like me?

“Very doubtful”

Will I pass the French test on Friday?

“Ask again.”

Will I pass the French test on Friday?

“No”

Sorry I asked!

Inside the eight ball was a 20-sided cube called an “icosahedron” (eye-co-sah-hedren) … which meant that there were 20 possible answers. Then of the answers are in the affirmative. For example: “Yes, definitely” … “without a doubt” … “most likely.” There are 5 non-committal answers, such as: “Reply hazy” … “try again” … “cannot predict.” And five are negative: “Don’t count on it” … “very doubtful” … “outlook not so good” and “my reply is no.”

So, you have a 75% chance of getting a positive or vague answer to your question. If you don’t have a Magic 8 Ball, you can go to “8-ball-magic.com” to consult an electronic version of this once popular toy … and that’s all it is … a toy.

We have something … well, actually … Someone who’s so much better than a Magic 8 Ball. When you combine Jesus’ “yes” with our “amen” you can be absolutely assured that God will keep His promises.

Let me give you a little background before we get into today’s scripture lesson. There were some people in the church at Corinth who didn’t like Paul. Paul had promised the Corinthian congregation that he would visit them on his next trip. “I plan to visit you on my way to Macedonia,” he writes at the beginning of his letter, “and to come back from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea” (2nd Corinthians 1:16).

Something happened that caused Paul to have to change his travel plans. But his detractors used the incident to discredit Paul, saying that he didn’t keep his word … and if his word was no good, how could they trust anything else he had to say?

These were serious charges. So, if the beginning of Paul’s letter sounds defensive … it is! “When I planned this,” asks Paul, “did I do it lightly? Or do I make plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say ‘yes, yes,’ and ‘no, no’? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but in [Christ] it has always been ‘yes.’ Now here’s the part I really want you to listen to: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ … and so through Him the ‘amen’ is spoken by us for the glory of God” (2nd Corinthians 1:17-20).

What a statement of faith! Because God is faithful … because God keeps His promises … because Jesus is the “yes” to everyone of God’s promises … we don’t say, “I hope it’s so.” We don’t say, “Reply hazy … I’ll try again later.” We don’t say, “outlook not very good,” or “very doubtful.” When it comes to God’s promises, we say: “It is certain” … “without a doubt” … yes, definitely.” We say “Amen! Make it so!” God said it … I believe it … “Amen!” That’s it … period!

If you remember, Paul used the Macedonian church to inspire the Corinthians. Though they were “he kata bathos” … “rock bottom poor” … they gave what they could. In other words, they followed through on their commitment to provide financial aid to the Christians who were suffering poverty and persecution in Jerusalem. Their giving was a sign of their faith … that though they were “rock bottom” poor, God would somehow continue to provide for them … just as He had provided bread and meat and water for His wandering children in the desert … just as He provided oil and flour for the widow who fed the Prophet Elijah her and her son’s last meal … just as Jesus provided food for 5,000 men and their families in a solitary place near the Sea of Galilee.

Some of the Corinthians had accused Paul of breaking his promise to them. Paul now turns around and challenges them to keep their promise and literally put their money where their mouth was. A year earlier the good folks in the Corinth church had made a financial commitment to the Jerusalem church. Boy … it’s easy to make a promise or a commitment when the fulfillment of that commitment is a year away, isn’t it? But now the year is up and Paul is on his way … “so I thought it was necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance,“ writes Paul in Chapter 9, so they can finish “the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly singe” (2nd Corinthians 95). He then reminds them that whosoever “sows sparingly will also reap sparingly … and whosoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give … not reluctantly or under compulsion … for God loves a cheerful giver” (2nd Corinthians 9:6-7).

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