Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"God Gave Me a Promise!"

“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…” (Hebrews 11:33)

When we receive a promise from God, we get excited about it… “I received a promise from God! God’s going to…” We hear this so often, and then several years later, the person is frustrated (and sometimes even backslidden), believing that God’s Word and their faith doesn’t work. But did God fail to perform what He had promised?

First of all, I’m not implying that just because a promise doesn’t come to pass in the time and manner that we think it should, that there has been a failure on our part or on Gods. Sometimes things can take many years. No, I’m talking about that thing which you know is gone; the opportunity that was missed, or you’ve found yourself wondering, “How did I get here?”

One of the craftiest deceptions of the devil normally occurs right after we receive a promise from God, either given to us by the Holy Spirit for our lives, or a promise in His written Word. Satan will whisper in our ear, “That’s right, God gave you a promise! He’s going to bring it to pass; someday it’s going to happen!” This sounds “religiously correct,” and the devil will deceive us into thinking that God’s going to just “do it,” and that there’s no need to fight (I Timothy 6:12-14, Jude 1:3), stand unwaveringly on God’s Word, resist the devil, walk in obedience, and diligently apply the principles of faith on a consistent basis.

Many have found themselves asking, “What happened? “Things were going so well and then all of a sudden…” It’s because you failed to fight, and contend earnestly for whatever it was that God had promised you! Jesus told us that the things of the Kingdom are obtained by those possessing a “violent” and aggressive posture of faith, laying hold of God’s Word and promises, declaring and confessing them, and refusing to let go, doubt or waiver (Matthew 11:12, James 1:6-8).

Well God understands how tough it’s been on me, and…”

God does indeed understand, and that’s why He’s warned us of the dangers of allowing the cares and burdens of this world to shipwreck our faith (Mark 4:14-20, I Timothy 1:19, Luke 21:34). Most people have the idea that God can just “do whatever He wants too,” and that He’ll make it all work out alright in the end, simply because He “loves us.” But that is a lie. God does love you, but there are laws by which the Kingdom of God operates, just as there are natural laws, and these laws are unchangeable (Psalms 119:89, Hebrews 6:18).

Many people think that if something happens in their lives, then it must have been “God’s will,” or that God “allowed it.” But nothing could be farther from the truth. If God could simply just “fix” anything that He wanted to, then He wouldn’t have had to send Jesus to the cross. He would have simply made an “executive order” and fixed the sin problem. Jesus wouldn’t have cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it is possible, let this cup pass...,” (Matthew 26:39) because there would have been an easier way. But there was no other way.

A price had to be paid for our redemption, and it had to be done lawfully (II Timothy 2:5). In the same manner, if God had to align Himself with the integrity of His own Word in sending Jesus, then we must also align ourselves with God’s Word and His commands. We must strive lawfully according to the principles of the Kingdom in order to obtain a promise and walk in victory over the works of the enemy. Where there is ignorance, the devil will take full advantage to steal, kill and destroy (Hosea 4:6, John 10:10).

When I was a young boy, I liked to play Monopoly, but I wouldn’t play unless I could be the banker. If I began to lose, I would change the rules of the game (and of course the “new rules” would always benefit me). My opponent was ignorant of my tactics, and I would always win. We have a word for this, of course, we call this “cheating!” But God doesn’t cheat. His laws are right, and they are just, and they never change (Hebrews 6:18).

The devil is the one who changes the rules in order to benefit him (Daniel 7:25). Actually, he doesn’t really “change” the rules, but rather deceives people into violating God’s already established laws, perverting them and causing them to work against us rather than for us, as God intended. The first example of this was in the Garden of Eden where Satan provoked Eve to violate God’s commandment, bringing sin and death into the human race (Genesis 3:4-5).

Living and operating according to the course of this world, and the curse associated with it is easy. All we have to do is whatever “feels good” at the moment, take the path of “least resistance,” and float effortlessly downstream. However, the end of this path of “ease” is destruction, misery and death.

When God gives a promise, the opposite is true. We must lay down the ways of this world, discipline our flesh, renew our minds to think as God thinks, walk in His ways, and take up the armor and weapons of God. It becomes a battle, and we must fight the good fight of faith (I Timothy 6:12). The moment that you receive your promise, you become a target for the devil and his demonic forces. He will attempt every tactic to see to it that your promise never comes to pass. The sad reality is that most of the time, he is successful (but he doesn’t have to be).

The working of our faith is like steering a ship. The Apostle Paul, who had much experience on the sea and had endured shipwreck on more than one occasion, used this illustration to describe the end result of a person who refuses to stand and fight, gets distracted, or grows weary and gives up (I Timothy 1:19). Failure to fight and contend for our promise can result in shipwreck.

If we understand anything about shipwrecks, we should understand that there are different kinds of shipwrecks. In other words, shipwrecks of varying degrees. Not all shipwrecks are fatal to the ship, and a ship can run aground and still be salvaged. Sometimes they may need a little work (Luke 13:8), but after this, they are seaworthy again. Shipwrecks can occur when our faith is either neglected or misapplied.

There are different things that can cause faith to be neglected. For example, unbelief or distractions of various kinds; offense, lusts of other things, or an incorrect focus on money (rather than God as our source of all good things).

Faith can be misapplied by having a wrong “focal point.” In other words, we are fixated on the “anthill” that has become a problem in our backyard, rather than speaking to mountains. We must apply our faith to what God has said, not to what seems comfortable. God knows what we are capable of, and has a plan to bring us to victory if we will obey Him. We may think that we cannot do what God has asked of us to do, but that’s not true. We usually think this way because we are relying on our own strength and resources, rather than God’s. Sometimes we allow other people to put us in a box. We listen to what they say about us and about our future rather than what God has said, or we seek their approval rather than God’s approval (Joshua 14:8). This can be disastrous, and shipwreck our lives for good if we don’t recognize it and repent.

God desires that we receive every good thing that He has for us and that every purpose and promise that He has ordered for our lives is realized and fulfilled (Jeremiah 29:11). But we must fight, and we must do it by faith. The things of the Kingdom of God are not possessed by the faint-hearted, or by cowards (Revelation 21:8). It takes a strong man or woman to fight and win the battles of this age, and to overcome, but our strength is of the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).