|‘Paul,’ said the Lord, ‘I’m giving you this promise: I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.’ So too, the Lord has given over three thousand promises to you and me in His Word. He has already given them — the only thing that remains to be done is for us to believe them. Consequently, we have a choice to make: to bail out in the night, or, like Paul, to continue in the city.
You see, contrary to Paul’s typical pattern of making short stops in the cities to which he ministered, Paul stayed in Corinth a year and a half. Why? I suggest he was established because of the Lord’s promise. So too, we don’t need to be on an emotional roller-coaster — rejoicing one moment and fearful the next. Like Paul, we can say, ‘The Lord gave a promise to me. Therefore I will continue on steadfastly.’
Turn to Isaiah 7 and contrast Paul with another man who also received a promise from the Lord ...
Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of the ten northern tribes of Israel, formed an alliance and planned an attack against Judah, the two southern tribes. The Lord told Isaiah to speak to Ahaz, king of Judah, who was fearful and upset about the upcoming battle. ‘Your response to the promise of God will have no effect on the outcome of the battle,’ Isaiah told Ahaz, ‘for God has already determined that Israel and Syria will be unsuccessful. However, your response to God’s promise will have great effect upon you, for if you don’t believe God, you won’t be established. You’ll be unstable. You’ll be emotional. You’ll cave in.
So too with us. The Lord says to you and me ...
‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also,’ (John 14:2-3).
‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose,’ (Romans 8:28).
Like Paul, we can be established and strengthened in such promises, or, like Ahaz, we can fret and fear needlessly. Whether we choose to claim them or ignore them, God will keep His Word. He will prepare a place for us as believers, return for us, and work all things together for good regardless of whether we believe Him or not. But if we don’t take Him at His Word, we will live a life of instability, inconsistency, and anxiety — totally needlessly.
‘But what if I’m misunderstanding the promises?’ you ask. ‘What if I’m misreading the Bible? What if I’m misinterpreting the context? So often I come across a promise and I believe it’s for me — but what if it's not?’
Consider Isaiah’s words to Ahaz: ‘Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,’ (Isaiah 7:14). The word ‘you’ in this verse being plural, the sign was not only for Ahaz but for everyone. ‘Ahaz,’ the Lord declared, ‘a sign will be given to you — and not to you only, but to all people. A virgin shall conceive, and a Son shall be born Whose name will be Immanuel — God with us.’
God still says to the Ahaz in you and me, ‘I am Immanuel. I am the ultimate source of stability.’ You see, I might question if I’m understanding the Scriptures properly. I might wonder if what I’m reading is applicable to me personally. I might doubt whether I interpret the theology correctly. But the Lord says to me, ‘Know this: Even if you’re not sure if the promises apply to you, I, Immanuel, am with you.’
On a trip to Los Angeles recently, Mary Elizabeth rode in the front seat between Tammy and I. Fascinated by a map of California, she kept busy trying to figure out where we were and where we were going. At five years of age, Mary can barely read. So, even if she was confused about where we were in relationship to her map, or if we were going the right way according to her interpretation of the the map — guess what. It didn’t matter at all because she wasn’t driving. I, her father, was in the driver’s seat. She could have been reading the map backwards and upside down and it would have had no affect whatsoever on my ability to get her to Los Angeles.
So too, even if we’re not reading the map of God’s Word correctly — even if sometimes we feel like we’re holding it upside down and backwards — the fact remains that Immanuel is with us, and He’s in the driver’s seat.
The only thing that could have gone wrong on our trip to L.A. would have been if Mary suddenly lurched out of her seat and grabbed the wheel, saying, ‘Let me steer. Let me steer.’ You see, gang, anytime we grab the wheel of our lives and say, ‘Let me steer; I gotta figure this out; I have to make this happen,’ our lives begin to careen and swerve — and we end up wondering why we crash unnecessarily.
Read the Word, saints. Saturate yourselves in Scripture and look for His promises as you rest in His presence.