“Promises, promises.” All of us, at some time, actually many times, make promises we don’t keep. Sometimes we promise something we are not able to do. Sometimes we deliberately fail to follow through because other things have come up. Truth be known, it is not easy to keep promises all the time and so consequently, all of us have broken promises. But does God keep His promises? Let’s explore this question together, beginning with…
WHAT IS A PROMISE?
A promise is “a declaration, written or verbal, made by one person to another, which binds the person who makes it to do, or to forbear to do, a specified act” (finedictionary.com). The act may include giving benefits to another, which in turn brings a certain expectation to the other person.
In the scripture, especially the old testament, there is no particular term for the act of promising. It merely refers to something said or spoken, all of which refer to the future.
An examination of promises shows us at least two kinds of promises from God: Logos and Rhema.
- PROMISES IN THE BIBLE – THE “LOGOS” OF GOD
There are spoken and there are certain promises that apply to many people, in general, not just an individual. They are promises that all believers can claim. Promises that believers can stand upon and become foundational in our Christian lives.
There are two types of “Logos” promises: Unconditional and Conditional.
These are the promises that God gives us that are simply His declaration to us. For example, God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV). Jesus said, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NKJV).
These promises, strange as it may seem, do not depend upon our faith for them to happen. They are simply the declarations of God that we need to accept and receive. God’s promises are truly remarkable.
In his 2nd epistle, Peter reminds us, in chapter 1, that in Christ Jesus we have received “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4, NKJV). In other words, promises to make us more like Christ.
Peter makes it clear that these promises are available to all (in his sermon of the day of Pentecost). “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39, NKJV).
By contrast, there are promises that come with specific conditions that require our active participation if they are to be fulfilled. For example, in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV), God declares to Israel, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
In other words, if people will do this, then God promises to do certain things. Likewise, in the New Testament, the Word says if you confess your sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9, NKJV). If we fulfill the conditions, then our faithful God will complete His part of the promise.
- A PERSONAL PROMISE GIVEN TO US BY THE HOLY SPIRIT – A “RHEMA” OF GOD
This is when a person or group believes they have received a personal individual promise from the Lord. It is not a general promise for everyone. It is a particular promise for an individual or group of people, given by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible has many such cases. For example, Abraham who, in Genesis 12 (NKJV), was told,
“I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Now, in this case, it required Abraham to do something. To leave his country and his family and go to a land that God would show him. Nonetheless, it was a promise of blessings offered by God, a declaration of a promise of what God intended to do. (Check out Paul’s thoughts on Abraham in Romans 4).
Often these personal promises can come in the form of a prophecy of hearing a word from the Lord. In these cases, God takes the initiative to make the promise come about (as compared to us seeking provisions in prayer).
A MODERN-DAY EXAMPLE
Let me share a personal example from my own life as shared by Ralph Mahoney in his book: “Is a New Wave of Revival Coming?”
“I went to Australia in 1971 for ministry with Judson Cornwall. At that first 1971 leaders conference, in the city of Sydney, a number of the men the Lord intended to use in the decade ahead were present…
At the end of the first meeting, Judson Cornwall and I were asked to go in and pray for a particular brother. As we laid hands upon him, the Spirit of the Lord came, and we began to prophesy over this man the great things that God was going to do through him in the nation of Australia” (Mahoney, 1983).
That was a prophecy that my wife and I took as a promise from God, which was gloriously fulfilled in the decade of the 1970s. Even though at the time it was given, I was an unknown associate pastor of a Methodist church and not yet baptized in the Spirit. Across the years since then, I have received words that I took to be promises from God, but to this point, not all of them have been fulfilled in the way I anticipated. Other people have similar experiences. So the question arises, “Does God keep His promises?”
DOES GOD KEEP HIS PROMISES?
Bible teacher Dr. David Jeremiah writes concerning this question, “Is anything harder in life than keeping promises? Making promises is easy; keeping them is another matter. Sadly, everyone has broken a promise-or at least not kept a promise as well as they would have intended. And our experience of breaking promises makes us wonder about God and His promises: If we don’t always keep ours, does He?
The first 12 verses of Hebrews 11 list ordinary people who received promises from God but never experienced their fulfillment before they died: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, and others” (Today’s Turning Point October 30, 2020).
Hebrews 11:13 (NKJV) spells it out clearly, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…” Some people have taught that people do not receive the promise today because of a lack of faith. But here in Hebrews, it clearly states, “These all died in faith.” So you can have faith but still not receive the promise. The question is: “Why is that so?”
WHY IS THAT SO?
As Dr. Jeremmiah goes on to say, “But they didn’t doubt God. They were “assured” by the promises and “embraced” the promises and died believing the promises as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” We are like them. We have been given “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4), some of which may not be fulfilled in our lifetime” (Today’s Turning Point October 30, 2020).
The writer of Hebrew goes on to speak of those who died without seeing the promises fulfilled. “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 13:39&40, NKJV).
In other words, God had other plans in store by delaying the fulfillment of His promises, which we may not understand right now. So we have to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV).
WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT ABOUT ME?
God has fulfilled many promises in our lives and ministry, but like many others, I have not seen all God’s promises fulfilled. However, I hold on to the conviction that God is good, and I can trust Him. My late son-in-law, David Plaisted, regularly stated,
“We thank God for all good things and we trust Him with the rest.”
I have chosen to lay aside the question of “why?” and embrace the promises of God. I will live and, if need be, die believing in God’s promises because I would rather die in faith than live in unbelief.
If you are struggling with questions about “Does God keep His promises?” be assured that He does. It may not be in the way we would like it to be, or at the time we would like it to be fulfilled.
“Be assured by God’s promises. Embrace God’s promises. Live and, if need be, die, believing God’s promises. God is true, so are His promises”.
Mahoney, R. (1983). Is a new wave of revival coming? Burbank, CA: World Mission Assistance Plan.