Summary: In a world of broken promises, God can be counted on.
Standing on the Promises of God
Rev. Brian Bill
In 1994, a 67-year-old carpenter named Russell Herman died in Marion, Illinois. In his last will and testament he bequeathed the following:
• $2.4 billion to the town of Cave-In-Rock
• $2.4 billion to the city of East St. Louis
• $1.5 billion for projects in southeastern Illinois
And in a final act of unprecedented generosity, he left $6 trillion to the Federal Reserve to pay off the national debt (it would take a lot more today because the debt is now over $14 trillion). There was only one problem: at the time of his death, the only thing Mr. Herman actually owned was a 1983 Olds Toronado.
Russell Herman may not have left behind anything of monetary value, but he did leave us all with a good reminder: you can’t give away what you don’t possess.
The bottom line is that he did not have the resources to make any of this a reality. Not so with God. He has all the means to make good on all His promises. Our big idea today is this: In a world of broken promises, God can be counted on.
We’re beginning a brand new series today called, “A Summer of Promise.” I’m really looking forward to us learning together these next 10 weeks.
Let’s begin with a definition. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a promise is: “A declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified…that gives the person to whom it is made a right to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act.” Most frequently in the Old Testament the word promise refers to “speaking,” “speech,” or “to say.” Here’s the deal: When God says something that settles it.
I’ve come to really appreciate the insights of James MacDonald. I like how his take on promises as found in his book, “Always True.” Here’s what he says: “A promise is the assurance that God gives to His people so they can walk by faith while they wait for Him to work.”
George Parsons from Middletown Bible Church weighs in on the difference between a command and a promise: “A command from God is something we should do; a promise from God is something God will do. A command must be obeyed; a promise must be believed. When God gives a command He says, “YOU WILL”; when God gives a promise He says, “I WILL.”
Adoniram Judson, the great missionary to Burma, once said: “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” D.L. Moody has added: “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” And here’s a statement worth pondering: “God never over-promises and He never under-delivers.”
Pointers about Promises
It’s important to pause at this point and establish some guardrails on the pathway to God’s promises. Here then are some pointers about promises.
1. Put the promises in their context to get their full meaning. One of the most popular promises is found in Hebrews 13:5: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This is so comforting, isn’t it? But we seldom quote the first part of the verse: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said…” Because of the promise of God’s presence we can live free from the love of money and become more content with what we have. Now that’s a promise we all need.
2. Be careful about claiming someone else’s promise. Let’s take a look at a very popular passage in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Let’s go back to verses 1-3 where we see that this is actually a sentence from a letter sent to Jewish exiles living in Babylon. In verses 4-9, the people are told to “Build houses and settle down…increase in number…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” They’re also warned about not listening to false prophets.
Then in verse 10, we hear the promise: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” This promise was given to those in captivity. They were going to be there for 70 years, and then God would fulfill His plans for them.
This promise is actually even more powerful when we realize the people it was first directed to and the problems they were facing. With that as a brief background, let’s look at Jeremiah 29:11 again: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Six truths jump out at me: