Paul and Penny stand before the pastor, after anticipating this day
for months. They promise they’ll be faithful and true in sickness, or
in health, riches or rags, until death separates them. But five years
later, Paul comes home and says, ‘I’m out of here, Penny. You no
longer meet my needs. You no longer captivate my heart.’ And he walks
away from the promises he made, leaving his wife and family behind.
The Bible you hold in your hands is packed full of promises — more
than 4,000 in number. Many of you have promise boxes sitting on your
kitchen table or promise books stuffed in your back pocket. But today,
there are those in our midst who would say, ‘My heart is broken
because I don’t think the Lord has kept His promise to me. I claimed
the promise. I prayed it in. I wrote it on a 3x5 card and stuck it on
my mirror. But nothing happened.’
Maybe, like Penny, you’re in that
place today. If so, Hebrews chapter 6 is a highly important text for you to
consider. If you’re not, certainly you’re living near or linked to
those who wonder why things don’t work like Scripture promises.
verse 12, we are exhorted to follow those who went before us and
obtained the promise by faith. The author of Hebrews uses one man
specifically as an illustration — Abraham, the father of faith. After
Abraham patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
What promise? You know the story . . . Abraham was 75 years old
when, in Genesis 12, he was told to leave his home and father to go to
a new land, where God would give him offspring as the stars overhead.
This must have blown Abraham’s mind, for he and his wife Sarah had no
children at that time. Off he goes on his journey, this father of
faith, and sure enough, God gave him a son from whom an entire nation
was born. But it didn’t happen immediately. In fact, it took 25 years.
And in this there is a hugely important spiritual principle which
needs to be part of your life: There is very often a gap of time
between the promise and the performance of the promise. In Abraham’s
case, the gap of time was 25 years. We read that after Abraham
patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
I love the New Testament
because it is so wonderfully gracious in that it never once mentions
the sins or failings of the Old Testament saints. And that’s the way
God looks at me and you under the New Covenant. ‘Your sins and
iniquities will I remember no more,’ He says, (Hebrews 8:12). If you
only read the New Testament account of Abraham, you wouldn’t know the
rest of the story.
For while it is true that Abraham patiently endured
and obtained the promise, it is also true that when he was in his
mid-80’s, Sarah said, ‘I know God promised you we would produce a
nation. But let’s be reasonable. Ten years have come and gone since we
heard from Him — and nothing’s happened. I’m long past the age of
child-bearing, so have relations with my handmaid, and the child
produced will count as ours.’ Abraham agreed to Sarah’s suggestion,
and a baby named Ishmael was the result. Ishmael was not the promised
child — but rather an attempt by Abraham and Sarah to try to help God
fulfill His promise.
And as is always the case whenever we try to help
God out, Ishmael only made matters worse, for Ishmael became the
father of the Arab nation. The promised son, Isaac, would come through
Sarah 13 years after Ishmael was born.
‘This raises an interesting
question,’ you say. ‘What kind of father would give a promise to his
kids and then wait 25 years to fulfill it? Why does God make us wait?’
Following are three reasons why God our Father tells us to patiently
To Produce Endurance
Jeremiah was getting a bit weary of the ministry to which God
called him. ‘When are You going to come through, Lord?’ he wondered.
And God answered him by saying, 'If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then
how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace,
wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in
the swelling of Jordan.' Jeremiah 12:5
In other words, ‘You may think it’s tough now, Jeremiah, but I know
what’s ahead. There are some real difficulties coming your way, some
tremendous challenges heading in your direction.’
Jesus made it clear
that it rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).
Everyone goes through storms, folks. I don’t care how spiritual you
might be, you’re going to go through storms. Because of the fallen
condition of the world in which we live, death and disease, poverty,
tragedy, and heartache abound.
Consequently, God says, ‘Due to the
repercussions of the fall of this planet, due to the repercussions of
the depravity of the race, storms are coming.’ ‘Change the weather,’
we say. ‘No,’ says God, ‘I’m going to change you — through the trials
you’re going through right now, through the promises you’re claiming
but have not yet seen come to fruition.’
If someone had told me twenty
years ago the things that would come down in my life, I would have
said, ‘I can’t deal with that. I won’t be a part of that. No way.’ But
my Father has been so good, so faithful to prepare me all along the
way through difficulties and challenges. Yes, there were promises —
but yet there were gaps between the promise and performance which
tested my faith — not because God was cruel to me, but because He
cared about me. ‘I’m training you for what I see is coming down the
path,’ He said. ‘It’s all part of the plan, son.’
To Perfect Blessing
‘I’m going to do exceeding abundantly above all you could ask or
even think,’ the Lord says (Ephesians 3:20) — ‘but it’s going to take
Due to his allergies, when Peter John was a baby, he required a
special formula. On one of the very rare occasions I was up at night
with him, he started crying as I impatiently heated his bottle. I can
remember saying, ‘Calm down, buddy. It’s coming. You won’t want it
cold.’ But you know what? He continued to howl because he couldn’t
understand what I was saying.
And the Lord whispered in my ear that
night, ‘Jon, that’s you. I’m cooking something up; I’m getting
something ready. But you’re crying, ‘Where is it?’ because you don’t
understand the language of faith.’
And that’s all of us. ‘Wah, wah,’
we cry. ‘It’s been 25 days or 2 years or 15 years. Where’s the
promise?’ And all along the Father is saying, ‘ I’m getting it ready.
I’m going to do something better than you could even imagine. But it’s
going to take some time.’ Zacharias and Elizabeth were well beyond the
years of bearing children. No doubt they had stopped asking for
children decades ago. But God heard and knew He wanted not only to
give them a baby, but He wanted to give them the greatest prophet who
had ever lived, one who would prepare the hearts of Israel for the
coming of His Son (Luke 1:16).
The same is true for you and me today.
God says, ‘I want to do things beyond anything you could dream or
imagine. So hang on, folks, the bottle’s getting warm.’
discovered that the longer God takes to fulfill a promise in my life,
oftentimes the better it will be. ‘I want a man who loves God
passionately,’ she says. ‘Doesn’t God say to delight in Him and He’ll
give us the desire of our hearts? Well, I’m praying for a man who
loves God . . . who’s 6’4”, dark hair, big smile, good business head,
who loves to talk about the Lord, who cares about people, a good
athlete with a great sense of humor, who’s sensitive and considerate,
who has eyes only for me. That’s what I want.’ So the Lord begins
shaping and developing her to make her the woman who would be
attractive to such a man.
But what do we say? ‘I’ve waited two
months,’ as we head off to the bar to scope out the situation.
And we wonder why we end up with Tex. After Abraham patiently endured,
he obtained the promise. We know the inside story. He wasn’t patiently
enduring perfectly. But he learned his lesson, and the promise
eventually came his way.
To Prepare Us
The language of eternity is faith. When the Lord has us ruling and
reigning at His side, under His command, doing His bidding — whatever
that means in the ages to come — He’s going to need men and women like
you who are not second-guessing, not doubting, not faltering.
taught about the faithful in this life who will be rulers over five
and ten cities in the Kingdom (Luke 19). In other words, Jesus is
saying there is a destiny far beyond what any of us know or can
imagine awaiting us in the next zillion years to come. And the
language which must be fluently spoken by us if we are going to be
ambassadors for Him in the realms and regions beyond is the language
She was the best teacher I ever had. We walked in to our
Sophomore Spanish class and Senorita Thomas greeted us that first day
saying, ‘Listen, carefully. These are the last words of English you’re
going to hear this entire year in this class.’ And that was it. From
then on, everything she spoke was Spanish. It was miserable initially.
But it forced us to think in a way we never would have had we been
able to fall back on English.
And that’s what the Father’s doing.
‘Kids,’ He says, ‘the only way you’ll be prepared for what’s coming is
if I force you to learn the language of faith now because that’s the
language you’ll be speaking for the next billion years to come.’
were God, you know what I’d do? Once a year, I’d go to every church
and appear with a great display of power and fire and smoke. That
would probably get everyone by for a year or so. But God knows such a
thing would actually undo what He’s desiring to do — for the growth of
faith would be retarded. We would depend on what we could see
physically or hear audibly — and consequently, we would not be fluent
in the language of eternity.
All the promises will come about in due
season. In the meantime, precious people, realize God’s heating the
bottle. Understand that He’s forcing you to develop a whole new way of
thinking and living. And remember Scripture says it was after he
patiently endured that Abraham obtained the promise.