I think we all know what it is like to put our expectations into a promise, only to be disappointed when the promise never realizes. Perhaps you have had a friend, colleague, or even family member, that promised you something. You even started planning around the promise, only to be disheartened when the it disappeared into thin air, never to be carried out. Promises are only as strong as the person who gives them. Unfortunately many promises remain nothing more than promises. We live in a world where they are easily made, but at times just as easily forgotten.
What makes things more difficult and challenging is when the seemingly unfulfilled promises come from God’s word. It is one thing to be disappointed with an unfulfilled promise of a friend, but it is quite something else when we feel God’s promises go unfulfilled in our lives. Join me on a short journey as we tackle the question “What do we do when it seems like God’s promises aren’t fulfilling in our lives?”
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.” (Hebrews 11:8-9)
Abraham was the first to receive the promise from God of a land that his descendants would posses. He clung to this promise and his entire life revolved around it. Abraham had left his family and homeland to pursue it. But that is what he ended up doing – pursuing a promise that never realized in his lifetime. He went to the grave, handing the promise to his son, Isaac. And so Isaac picks up the promise and his whole life is lived in a tent, watching and waiting to see the fulfillment. Years go by without fulfillment, and Isaac passes the promise to his son, Jacob. And on we go for centuries.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
It took many years before eventually the Hebrew nation, as descendants of Abraham, entered the promised land of Canaan to dwell there permanently. God had not forgotten His promise. He fulfilled it in His perfect time.
The problem we often face is that God’s perfect time does not always equate with what we believe to be the perfect time. We easily forget that we serve a God who is not bound to time and space like we are. It is imperative that we realize and remind ourselves that each of us is merely one person, part of one generation, living at one time in God’s great grand story. Sometimes what God promises to one of His children, He fulfills in another. Certain promises given to Abraham were fulfilled in Isaac, and again certain promises given to Isaac were fulfilled in Jacob, and so forth. Other promises took many generations before the fulfillment was realized.
King David wanted to build a temple for God, but God said that his son would do it and not him. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise would have to wait, though God commended David that this matter was in his heart (1 Kings 8:18). Despite the circumstances, God wants each promise to live in our heart. By faith we see what the human eye cannot see. We see the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is seeing with the eyes of God. Faith believes in God’s perfect timing!
When Adam and Eve left the paradise of God, the first Messianic promise was given to them. It was given in the words spoken to the serpent, the great deceiver.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Can you imagine how our first parents must have clung to this promise? When their first child was born, they put all their hopes into him. After all he must be the one, they thought. Cain, their first born, became famous, not for fulfilling the promise, but for murdering his younger brother. What a climactic disappointment of a seemingly unfulfilled promise! It took 4000 years until Jesus, the fulfillment of the promise, appeared. So what did all of God’s children do in all those years? They clung to the promise and passed it on from generation to generation. They cherished the promise in their hearts. Here it lived and breathed hope in the One that was to come!
What do we do when God’s promises seem unfulfilled? We must trust that what God has started He will also fulfill. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He initiated the great plan of salvation and takes full responsibility for the outcome of it. Never forget that the one who gives the promise carries the responsibility for carrying it out. God made the promise and He will bring it to pass. Not only will the promise have a perfect fulfillment, but also a perfect timing. In the meantime we are called to cling to the sum and substance of all promises because ultimately all of God’s promises end up in one place.
“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Jesus is the fulfiller and fulfillment of all God’s promises because He is their sum and their substance. So again, what do we do when it seems like God’s promises aren’t fulfilled in our lives? We put our faith in the sum and substance of all of God’s promises, which is Jesus. Hold on to Jesus! If you are going through a rough season in your life and you wonder when God is going to break through, never forget that Jesus wants to live in your heart and bring you through the storm. He has not promised a smooth sailing, but He has promised a safe landing.
In Mark chapter 4 Jesus said to the disciples that they were to cross over the lake to the other side. As they made their way across the waters, a great storm approached, and soon enough they were battling for their lives. Jesus told them they were going to go to the other side, though it seemed against all odds. This is often true of God’s promises in our lives. The disciples seemed to forget who was sleeping in the boat, while they battled the storm. At last they desperately woke up Jesus, crying for help. Jesus commanded: “Peace be still”, and the wind ceased. Let’s not forget who is on board with us through the storms of life. We need childlike trust in His promises.
Jesus told us clearly the way into His kingdom.
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
There is something about young children. Innocence, trust, and an utter dependence often mark their lives. 5 months ago I became father for the first time in my life. My son is utterly dependent on my wife and I for all necessities. He does not go around worrying about the future, but simply trusts that we are there for him. Too often we wrestle ourselves out of the arms of God, our heavenly Father. Let’s trust Him more, even His timing. Yes, that is the hard part, but there is something beautiful about being in the perfect plan of God. Rest assured that our heavenly Father has things under control. Let’s trust in the sum and substance of all His promises – Jesus! He will bring us through.