By David Price
But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (II Corinthians 1:18-20)
“Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let His praises ring, Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.” *
I love that old hymn. I remember as a child when I was barely tall enough to see over the pew, singing those words with the hymnal teetering precariously on the pew back in front of me. I did not know what the words meant, but they sounded nice and my mom sang them so convincingly.
As I grew, I began to memorize Scripture and saw the promises of God in writing. I was told that those words were a heavenly check written against a bank whose account would never read NSF. One of my favorites at the time, as monsters would emerge from under my bed at two in the morning, was, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
I grew older still, and ran into those who espoused a “name it and claim it” philosophy — that all we had to do if we wanted health, wealth, and prosperity was to find the appropriate promise, claim it as our own, pray it to God, and then wait expectantly for our Celestial Concierge to deliver the goods. Sounded great to a single adult who found little comfort in Paul’s words about the benefits of singleness, and who found more in common with his “turn or burn” clauses. But then reality set in as Valentine’s Day after Valentine’s Day came and went and, despite my claims and the names I offered to God as possibilities, I found myself still single, still longing, still “standing on the promises,” though with increasingly less conviction.
It wasn’t just in my single status, but in areas of finance, job security, or direction. Where was this God? Where was this comfort I so easily accessed when monsters tortured my sleep? Where were these promises? I mean, if I could truly claim “My God shall supply all your need….” and “…all these things shall be added unto you,” then why did my life feel like it spent more time on the debit side of the ledger?
Then I ran across the story of Moses. Remember him? One day while tending sheep God confronted him from a burning bush, and told him to throw down what was in his hand: his rod. God took charge and said, “That rod is mine; through it you will lead the people to freedom.” Oh, the miracles that God performed through His rod and His man Moses! The people of Israel were eventually freed and then ran into a hot and dry desert. They thirsted. God told Moses to strike the rock and water would pour forth. He did. It did. The people were satisfied. Later the people thirsted again. This time, though, God said, “Speak to the rock.” Moses couldn’t understand. Hadn’t God promised deliverance via the rod? Hadn’t the rod split the sea, turned the heart of Pharaoh, even produced water? So, relying on his understanding and previous experience, Moses struck this rock as he had the first time. God’s judgement fell on Moses for his disobedience.
At that moment a light clicked in my head. I was guilty of the same things. I was trusting in the promises of God, not in God himself. It was not the rod that had accomplished so much, it was the God of the rod. That staff was simply a tool. I soon came to understand that I am not to trust in my job to provide my needs, but God. I am not to depend on a woman or a friend to assuage the self-doubt and loneliness that can creep in unaware, but God. My car is not my conveyance from point A to point B, God is. The fact that He chooses to use any of them, or none of them, is His call. My response is to be the same as it was in the beginning, back when God asked “What’s that in your hand? Throw it down.” When I lay claim to the promises and put my trust in them, I am in effect creating an idol out of a gift. I am supplanting His sovereignty with a temporal tool.
So where does all this leave us? How does Moses and my moments of unfulfillment tie in with the verse in II Corinthians?
Go back through all the “promises” that you may have claimed, maybe even one of those I’ve mentioned. “All these things…..” doesn’t even begin until we first “seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” And what about the Scripture, “All things work together for good”? That one is based on the next line, “to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” They don’t always seem to work out for my good, or for my purpose, but for His. How can we understand this? By reading the verses immediately prior which tell us that we are to live a life controlled by the Spirit, no longer living according to the desires of the old nature, and by accepting the fact of Romans 8:26, that the Holy Spirit is praying for us in words and with passion that we cannot fathom. The promise is great, but the premise is even better.
Each promise we see from God is based on a premise; if we forget that, we are likely to wander, placing trust in the creation rather than in the Creator.
I love the passage in II Corinthians because it assures me of the ultimate premise. All of God’s promises are “Yes and Amen” in Jesus. What I discover is that when I seek to find context for all that God has promised me in the true and living person of Christ, my wants, needs, and desires change to reflect His character. As I allow that to happen I find my answers, and I find fulfillment in wells that will never run dry.
My challenge for you is this: What are you holding in your hand? What are you clinging to, depending on, wishing for, using for your protection and guidance? What is your staff? Are you willing to lay it down until God tells you to pick it up? Are you willing to follow Him in obedience even when it does not make sense, even when it runs counter to the gifts He has given? Today God may have delivered you through some “rod;” what if He chooses another method tomorrow? Is it still His “rod”? Will you trust in your own ability, your self-confidence, your network of friends, or your job? All of these are tools that you have been given. Is your trust in the tool, or are you seeking to find in Him every answer, every Yes, and every Amen?
Are you standing on the promises, or resting in the premises of those promises?
* Words and Music of Standing on the Promises by R. Kelso Carter (1849-1928)