By Femi Aribisala.
God’s promise brings us to God. God’s promise keeps us with God. And being with God provides the fullness of joy.
What happens when the promises of men are not fulfilled? We are disappointed. We might even become bitter. What about the promises of God? They never disappoint. Even when they are not fulfilled, we are not bothered because we know that God’s promises transcend time. His word is from everlasting to everlasting. Therefore, God’s promises move us from time to eternity. If they are not fulfilled in this lifetime, it is only because they are slated for fulfilment in the life to come.
Men of faith
Indeed, the non-fulfilment of God’s promise in this lifetime is a cause for great joy because it can only mean we shall inherit eternal life. To receive the promise of God is to move from death to life. Even when it is fulfilled, we can rest assured that its fulfilment cannot be limited to this lifetime because God’s word never passes away.
Jesus says: “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56). When did Abraham see the day of Jesus? He saw it after he had left this world. Thus, Hebrews extols those who walked with God in times past: “These men of faith I have mentioned died without ever receiving all that God had promised them; but they saw it all awaiting them on ahead and were glad, for they agreed that this earth was not their real home but that they were just strangers visiting down here.” (Hebrews 11:13).
These men of faith were not disappointed because they discovered that the very making of the promise by God was more than enough, without the need of its fulfilment. In many respects, God’s making of a promise is even more substantial than what he promises. This is because God’s promise brings us to God. God’s promise keeps us with God. And being with God provides the fullness of joy.
It is the promise of God that lays the foundation for our continuing relationship with God. Indeed, the promise is the confirmation that there is a relationship. A gift provides no guarantee of a continuing relationship. Once a gift is received, we no longer need the giver. But when we receive a promise, we are required to live on the promise. Jesus says we live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4). Therefore, if God promises us something, the promise becomes our life, even without its fulfilment. This is because God’s word is truth and his word is life.
The real McCoy
Let me illustrate this further. When we want something and approach God for it in our prayer-closet, he sometimes turns the tables on us. Instead of granting our wish, he makes us a promise; and the one thing about the promises of God is that they are always mind-blowing.
Abraham only wanted a child. But God promised him uncountable children. He told him to look at the stars and see if he could count them: “So shall your children be.” David was only concerned that he should not be overthrown as King of Israel. But God promised to preserve his throne forever. In the meantime, both Abraham and David would have to wait and watch, for the promise is for an appointed time.
But here is the rub: while we are waiting for the actualisation of God’s promise, we again receive far more than we bargained for. This is because while we are waiting, we discover the God of the promise. He becomes our exceeding and great reward. With the result that, by the fulfilment of the promise, we are no longer that excited about it. The promise then becomes essentially the bait that hooks us on to “the real McCoy;” which God himself.
Spirit of promise
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob that temporal gifts never bring fulfilment: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14). This living water that quenches all thirst is none other than the Holy Spirit of promise.
Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. When they did, they did not come into houses, lands, positions or wealth. Instead, they received the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, they were not disappointed. So how come the Holy Spirit is not enough for us today? How come we still feel incomplete with him? How come we insist we are only complete with a job, a husband, a child or a car?
If the promise of the Holy Spirit was sufficient to motivate others, surely the reception of the Holy Spirit should be enough for us today. Jesus says: “If even sinful persons like yourselves give children what they need, don’t you realize that your heavenly Father will do at least as much, and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him?” (Luke 11:13). With the Holy Spirit comes our tutelage in the righteousness of God. With him comes a life of true whole-hearted worship. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is our down-payment for eternal life.
When Hannah refused to eat because she did not have a child, her husband, Elkanah, asked her: “Isn’t having me better than having ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). Is having the Holy Spirit not better than having ten houses? Is having the Holy Spirit not better than ten husbands? Is having the Holy Spirit not better than being Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria?
Prince of peace
The psalmist says: “I will hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his saints.” (Psalm 85:8). When God makes us a promise, the first thing we receive is peace. We know immediately that heaven and earth may pass away; nevertheless, the promise will be fulfilled in our life.
Imagine this. You are watching a thriller and they have captured the central character. He is being tortured and you are anxious for him. Will he survive? Will he die? So you ask the movie producer. He tells you not to worry; the man escapes in the end. Now you can settle down to watch the film. You can now watch it without hypertension because you not only know the Genesis of the film; you now know the end by Revelation.
In all the travails and problems of this world, it is comforting that God does not leave his sons in ignorance. He tells us the end from the beginning: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Therefore, magnify God’s promises. Live on them. Reach out for them. It is actually best that your grasp should exceed your reach. Otherwise you might be insufficiently spiritually motivated.
“For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’” (Isaiah 30:15).