Promises

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Everywhere I look there are ads. They pop up on my computer, fill my email inbox, gobble up space in my favorite magazine, fill my mailbox, interrupt the program I am watching on TV, and clutter the landscape along the roads I drive. And it isn’t just my eyes they try to capture. They bombard my ears on every radio station and most music streaming and audio podcasts as well.

Each ad tries to sell me something or persuade me to try or accept something or someone. Each offers a promise for something they believe I will want or that they try to entice me to want.

What is a promise anyway? The dictionary offers definitions for the word when it is used as a noun as well as when it is used as a verb. As a noun it means: “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.” When the word is used as a verb, it means “assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange.”

Most of us come face-to-face with promises when we are very young children and our faith in the promise is sure, but we quickly discover that the word promise doesn’t mean a lot to many who promise us something. It tempts us to make promises we are not wholly committed to keeping as well.

Depending on what we experience from childhood onward into adulthood, we are often skeptical about any promise offered us. Trust broken early on childhood promises makes trust harder to give another time.

We would like to believe a promise, but it becomes increasingly difficult. Some of the promises nudge us to try trusting in the product or person one more time, but even with prayers and fingers crossed we sometimes are once again disappointed. Then we can chide ourselves for believing the promise.

Once upon a time “a man’s word was his bond” or so we have heard. Commitments were kept and often sealed with various symbols or even a handshake in more recent times. This principle’s origin goes back to the 1500’s when merchant traders made agreements before written pledges were established.

We might wish this principle were still valued today, but we would need to then abide by it as well. It can often be easier to exact a promise than to make one we are wholly committed to. If you need proof of that, a recent check on divorce statistics or headlines about broken contracts by big companies and enterprises will provide it.

Unfortunately, our experiences with promises has an impact on promises made regarding our religious faith. When someone I can see and even do a background check on is not trustworthy to keep a promise, how can I trust an unseen God to believe the promises He makes?

But you see we can actually do a lot of background checking on God as well. The Bible offers multiple centuries of history in the stories we read that are often confirmed by historians like Josephus that support the view that God is a promise keeper. If we do not read the whole of the texts and gain the context and study the meaning, we might risk arguing but that would be to our detriment since the evidence is on his side.

God sealed his pledges in covenants over and over again in various ways and means. Some are still able to be seen today with our own eyes such as when a radiant rainbow arches over the sky to remind us God has promised to never destroy the world again by means of a flood.

The greatest of God’s pledges was the blood covenant of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so those who believe will never die and live forever in eternity with Him. Our challenge is to risk believing in the promise by faith and to study God’s history to know the truth of his character.

As I was driving to church recently, the words of an old hymn came to mind. I recall it being sung often in the little country church where I grew up. Some of you might know it well also. Its title is “Standing on the Promises.” As with so many of those hymns heard and sung often while I was growing up, the words can come to mind even though I may not have sung the song in many years.

The words of the verses and refrain of this one are these:

Standing on the promises of Christ my King, 
Through eternal ages let His praises ring, 
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, 
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain:
Standing, standing, 
Standing on the promises of God my Savior; 
Standing, standing, 
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail, 
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, 
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see 
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; 
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free, 
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, 
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord, 
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, 
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall, 
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call 
Resting in my Saviour as my all in all, 
Standing on the promises of God.

I am often curious about the one who penned the words of a hymn and if you look at this one by composer Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928), you will discover the words reflect his personal experience. His history is one of an outstanding student and athlete who committed his life to Christ at the age of 15. Later he would become an instructor and then an ordained Methodist minister, but he didn’t stop there and ultimately became a medical doctor.

At the age of 30, Carter was diagnosed with a critical heart condition and faced imminent death. His response was to kneel and pray, asking God to heal him, but also promising God that no matter how He chose to answer that prayer he would forever consecrate his life and service to the Lord.

God chose to answer that prayer with healing and gave Carter a healthy heart that allowed him to go on living for another 49 years. In an article by Lynda Schultz in Thrive about this she writes as follows:

“In the end, Carter came to the conclusion that healing was God’s choice to make and that God also chose the instruments through which that healing, if granted, would come. His hymn was a personal testimony to his faith,”

Lynda Schultz in Thrive

What is the personal testimony of our faith today?

What promises are we standing on?

Photo by Rob Blair

14 thoughts on “Promises

  1. I loved what you said about getting to know God’s character. It’s hard to trust when you don’t know someone and it’s hard to take God at His Word when we don’t really know Him.

  2. That is definitely one of my favorite hymns. I never knew the author’s story, though. That makes it even better, huh? I love your reminder that God is the Promise Keeper. What a beautiful name.

  3. I love that song! Now it will be on repeat in my brain…which is totally okay! Something I need to do more of – claim those promises and stand firm on them!!

    1. Yes, He is and how much more we are challenged to keep that in focus as the world around us roils and twists.💕

  4. It’s crazy how many ads are targeted to us in SO many different ways every day, each making a promise of some sort, most of which can’t be delivered. How wonderful that we have a God who can and does deliver on his promises. No false advertising with God! 🙂 Thanks for this, Pam.

  5. Awww…I’m so glad I visited you today from Anita’s link-up! I love that old hymn too and I didn’t know the story behind it! Thank you for sharing that and the thoughts on promises. He is the only one we can truly trust! I’m so thankful He is not like man. He is worthy of our trust despite our worldly experiences with promises.

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