We’re looking into the promises of God. Thus far, we’ve discovered that the promises are not placed in our Bible for us to simply go pick out what we want to be true and claim something God doesn’t intend for us. They are placed there so the Holy Spirit can direct us to our answer when we cry out to God for help.
When we have a need we seek a word from the Lord. God, here is my situation. Do you have something for me in Your Word that matches what I’m going through? We’re not looking for a promise, but the promise – that promise that is our answer from Him.
Last week we learned that the key to unlocking the promises is confidence in the One who gave the promise.
John wrote: 1Jn 5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
We have permission to ask God for anything. We can even ask Him for what we want or want to happen. But there is no guarantee He will respond as we hope. But when we ask according to His will, we have confidence to rely on what we have asked.
Whatever we ask passes through the filter of His will. If something isn’t right for us, or best for us, or isn’t within His will, He rejects it. It if is within His will, He grants it.
According to His will means, when what we ask lines up with what He wants for us, we can be assured He will provide it. Why doesn’t He just give us what we ask for? Because we don’t know what’s best. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know how what’s going on fits within His plans.
In a church years ago, a lady suffering with cancer called and asked for the Elders to come to her house and pray over her. We claimed James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up…
We anointed her with oil and prayed fervently. After a couple of minutes, I knew it wasn’t the Lord’s intention to heal her. The promise was true, but it wasn’t for her. And she died not long afterwards.
So, how do we know whether we are praying for our own desires or God’s desire? We make sure we are seeking the Lord first. We ask Him for His will to be done. We ask Him for the promise that fits our situation.
Heb 10:35-36 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Isaiah was the prophet of God to prepare Israel for the Assyrian captivity and Judah for the Babylonian captivity. At one point he wrote: Isa 43:1-2 But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
In the early days of the Babylonian captivity, Nebuchadnezzar had captured Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They had become successful in his administration which made some of Neb’s other men so jealous they created a plot to get rid of them. After setting up a giant statue of Neb, they made it a law that everyone would have to bow down to it. Knowing the three wouldn’t bow, the trap was set.
Shad, Mesh and Abed discussed the problem, and prayed, and prepared themselves for the inevitable confrontation.
In my imagination, while they were seeking God, one of them found this verse from Isaiah. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
They wondered if it was a promise for them. It fit their circumstances. It was almost a direct quote to what they were to face. The only problem: how on earth was that possible?
Shadrach: “How can a person go through a fire and not be scorched or the flames not burn them?”
Abed-nego: “There’s no record of anyone doing that in Scripture.”
Meshach, “Well, there’s always the first time. Remember God asked Abraham: is anything too difficult for the Lord? If nothing is too difficult, then that means to God, everything is possible. So, getting someone through a fiery ordeal is doable for Him.”
Abed-nego: “We don’t know if Isaiah’s talking about spiritual or physical fire.”
Meshach: “Does that matter?”
Shadrach: “But these are promises to the nation, not to individuals. You’re making a general promise into a specific promise.”
Meshach: “Look at the other two promises: pass through the water and God will be with you, and pass through the rivers and they will not overflow you. Both of those had already happened before Isaiah had even written this down. Moses led the nation through the waters of the Red Sea and God was with them. Joshua led them through the Jordan River and it didn’t swallow them up.”
Shadrach: “Yeah, but that was the nation going through.”
Meshach: “And you can’t imagine Avie looking at the water pulling back and hearing the command to walk through the sea and wondering if he would make it through. To him the promise was personal.”
Abed-nego: “So we’re believing this promise for us?” And they all nodded.
About that time the sound of the music came in through the window. Each looked at other and agreed. “We will not bow to a man and give him the worship that only our God deserves?” Daniel 3:8 begins.
Dan 3:8-29 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: "O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way."
All they had was a promise. All they faced was certain annihilation. The odds were in favor of them disintegrating into three piles of ashes. They had no experience seeing God do what they were trusting Him to do. All they knew was, He had done the other things He promised.
So, knowing God would either take them out because of the fire—their spirits unscorched, or carry them through the fire—their bodies unscorched, either way, God would be faithful that day. They would not bow to a man. They would stand to make God’s name glorious.
How do we know a promise is for us?
We find it after asking God for help. Finding starts with seeking God for an answer. We do not seek an answer, bypassing the God of the answer. So, ask and go to the Bible.
When we find our promise, it will seem as though it is a personal message to us. It fits our circumstances. We can affirm: this matches what I’m going through. Then, if we sense the assurance of God, we stand on it, confident that the God in whom nothing is impossible can do what the promise says.
But what if we don’t have that confidence? Or, what if God doesn’t come through as our promise says? We seek Him again for clarity.
It could be we found a promise we wanted to be true, then asked God to make it so, instead of going to Him first and asking Him to lead us to His promise.
Maybe the promise we found was specific to how God met the need of someone in Scripture and was not for general application. We need discernment to know the difference. We need to ask God for wisdom.
James 1:5-8 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Single-minded praying is praying with the intention of knowing and doing God’s will.
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…to please yourself.
The whole process of needing and seeking a promise is not to magnify our ability to make something happen because we believe, or to get what we want simply because we want it, but to confidently trust in God’s faithfulness to do what He said He would do.
Our confidence isn’t in the promise but in the God who gave the promise. Never think the promise is the key. When we do, we’ll look for promises to do what we want done instead of asking God to show us the promise for what He wants done.
Spurgeon said: “God never gives his children a promise which he does not intend them to use. There are some promises in the Bible which I have never yet used, but I am well assured that there will come times of trial and trouble when I shall find that that poor neglected promise, which I thought was never meant for me, will be the only one on which I can stand.”
A Peanuts cartoon had Lucy and Linus looking out the window at a heavy rainfall. “Boy,” said Lucy, “look at that rain. What if it floods the whole world?” “It will never do that,” Linus replied confidently. “In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.” “You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” Lucy said. Linus replied, “Sound theology has a way of doing that!”
It is not just believing, but believing the right things that makes a difference in how we face the challenges of our life.
The first thing we believe is our God is an Almighty God in whom nothing is impossible. The second thing we believe is our God has given us magnificent promises to help us deal with whatever we face in life. The third thing we believe is God expects us to trust Him.
So, here’s what we do. We cry out to God, confessing our burden, our circumstances or our concerns, and then trust Him to direct us in His Word to find our promise. And because of our confidence in Him, we stand on that promise while we wait for Him to come through.
- There is always a starting point for confidence.
- We don’t wait until the game begins to hope the pep talk charges us with assurance of victory.
- Before we ever face a challenge, we must have a foundational belief that God is able.
- Faith makes no sense if that faith isn’t in a God who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond whatever we ask or think.
- Confidence comes when we are assured we have God’s promise on which to stand.