Lesson 3 -- fourth quarter 2007
September 16, 2007
© Copyright 2007
Genesis 15:18 records God's promise of land to Abram's descendants. Did God just decide "out of the blue" to make this promise to Abram or was there something about Abram that prompted God to promise him something? I think Genesis 12:1-4 contains part of the answer -- God told Abram to do something, and Abram obeyed. In the first few verses of Genesis 15 we can find another part of the answer -- Abram believed in the Lord (6) and with great care acted on the basis of that belief (9-11). God's promises to Abram were conditional and based on His relationship with Abram. God knew Abram and his faithfulness, and on that condition made His promises to him.
God's Word also contains promises to His people today. God's people can lay claim to those promises. However, popular teaching today would have us believe that these promises are our inalienable rights, to be claimed whether or not we meet certain conditions. Let's look at some well-known, oft-claimed promises to see if we can take them at apparent face value.
"All things work together for good" (Romans 8:28). In times of anguish, stress and trouble, this promise has kept many Christians confident and on an even keel. I have often trusted it in dark times. However, I really cannot claim this promise if my love for God does not translate into living "according to His purpose" for me.
"I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). Such a promise way beyond our ability to fully comprehend and appreciate! Do we deserve it? Are we worthy? Of course not! But if we live a separate, non-conformed life (6:14-17), God gladly receives us and takes us as His children. If we "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" and perfect "holiness in the fear of God" (7:1), we can confidently live in the assurance of our divine heritage.
"In due season we shall reap" (Galatians 6:9). Quick! What condition does God attach to this confidence-boosting promise? Don't get tired of doing well with all perseverance.
"The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). How distraught humans can get! We all crave that peace which defies reason and circumstance. Such peace comes only to those who let God "do the worrying." Such people can fill their prayers with thanksgiving in everything (4:6).
"All these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). This promise has been overloaded with excess baggage. The so-called prosperity gospel of our time gives undue emphasis to all while at the same time ignoring the context. Do you know the context? What does these refer to? Verse 32 uses the word need, so that drastically narrows the field. And verse 31 really makes matters strait -- food, drink, clothing. Period. The condition to receiving "all these things" is the ardent, undistracted pursuit of God's kingdom and righteousness.
"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). "Ah," perhaps you think, "Surely he isn't going to spoil this one yet!" I hope not. This piece of verse five goes right along with verse 6: "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." We commonly claim these blessed promises while overlooking the condition sandwiched between -- "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have."
Plenty of things abound upon which we could base our faith -- feelings, circumstances, tangible evidence, facts, people, God, ourselves, doctrine, practice, church, religion, government. For faith to stand firmly, it needs a firm foundation. God is that foundation. By extension, we can say that God's Word is also that foundation.
Abraham chose God as the foundation of his faith. He believed despite what seemed logically and emotionally sound. Because he believed the One who had spoken, he could also believe "according to that which was spoken" (Romans 4:18). Everything else that would rise up against that which was spoken had no place in Abraham's life and belief system.
May we have that kind of faith! And may that determine the course and substance of our lives. For that to happen, we must familiarize ourselves with "that which was spoken." How else shall we know and exercise faith?
I ask myself and I ask you: Do I believe what the Bible says enough to adjust my life to fit it? The answer you give that question is also the answer to this next question: Do I believe what God says enough to adjust my life to fit it?
Think about what God says. Here are several verses to prod our thinking (and our living!).
"For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:8,9). When it seems like the good you do just isn't worth it, when it seems as though peace and purity are no longer appreciated by most, don't give up. Keep sowing righteousness! Hang in there; you will reap. Have faith in what God has said . . . just like Abraham did.
"And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Now, I ask you, what kind of life application can you make from this that God has proclaimed?
We humans are far too prone to allow reason to get in the way of faith. We look at our own _________, and our faith dissipates like a vapor. We need to take another lesson from Abraham, who considered God's promise, not his own body. Oh, I'm sure he was aware of just how old and past his prime he really was. But he didn't give that primary consideration, if he gave it any consideration at all. Why should have he? He had God for his focus. Everything else that would challenge God wasn't even worth considering. So he didn't.
Too bad he eventually figured out he needed to help God fulfill His promise. Talk about mucking things up! Let that be a lesson to us as well. God's delays aren't because of forgetfulness or impotence on His part. Our attitude should be, "If God can wait, why should I hurry?"
So in addition to not considering your own negatives and inabilities, also keep in mind to not consider your own timing and resources. Rather, consider God, "being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform" (Romans 4:21). No matter what, remember God "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17).
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