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What Does the Bible Promise?

By Dr. Bill Bright
Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

CBN.com Let me take you back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. He had a unique relationship with God, one that was deep and personal. Because of Abraham's faith, God planned to use him to bless the entire world. This blessing would be given through Abraham's descendants, which would include the Son of David, Jesus Christ. This is what God said to Abraham: "Then the Lord brought Abram outside beneath the night sky and told him, 'Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that -- too many to count!' And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith" (Genesis 15:5-6).

But the promise to Abraham came with testing. First, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had no children. How could Abraham have thousands of descendants if he had no children? But God provided a miracle. When Abraham and Sarah were very old -- well beyond childbearing years -- Sarah gave birth to a son.

Then one day God asked something of Abraham that was unthinkable -- to sacrifice that son, Isaac, on an altar as an act of worship to Him. But what of the promise? How would the blessings come to the nations if Isaac was dead?

It's not hard to imagine what Abraham must have felt as he and Isaac made the trek to the place God designated. The drama came to a head on Mount Moriah as Abraham laid his son on the altar and stretched out a knife to slay him. But no matter how badly things looked at the moment, Abraham was confident that God would not betray His promise.

Suddenly, a voice from heaven said, "Abraham, Abraham!"

Abraham said, "Here I am."

The voice was God's, and He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Genesis 22:11-12, NASB). Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in the thicket.

In the ram, we can see not only Isaac's salvation but also one of the clearest pictures in the Old Testament of Christ -- our substitute at the Cross. John the Baptist declared of Jesus, "Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). While the picture of Christ as the Lamb of God is keenly portrayed in the ram that Abraham saw in the thicket, we also see the picture of our heavenly Father's willingness to sacrifice His only Son in the person of Abraham. Through God's promise and Abraham's obedient faith, we can better grasp the New Testament concept of how our heavenly Father loves the world so much that He willingly sacrificed His only Son (see John 3:16).

God promised to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham's descendants. This blessing foreshadows the universal blessing of the gospel of Christ. Paul writes, "And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you" (Galatians 3:29).

GOD'S PROMISES PROVE HIS LOVE

The promises in God's Word are the proof of His love for us. They mean so much to me that in 1979 I wrote a book of daily devotions called Promises: A Daily Guide to Supernatural Living, which includes 365 of the promises in God's Word.

I have tested God's promises throughout my lifetime and have found them to be sure. As relatively new Christians in 1951, Vonette and I surrendered our lives totally and completely to the Lord Jesus to do with as He wished. We didn't do it for any personal honor, glory, praise, or material benefit; we did it because we loved Him and we wanted to obey His command as recorded in Mark 8:34: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (NIV).

After we had made this commitment, we discovered that God promises abundant benefits and blessings to all who will truly follow Him. As the years passed, I looked back to consider the promise that God will reward us for whatever we give up for His sake. Have I received more money than I gave up? Have I received more in other ways than we sacrificed that Sunday afternoon in 1951?

As I meditate on what Mark 8:34 means, I become excited over what God has done, and is still doing, in my life and Vonette's. For example, it is conceivable that had I continued in business, which was very profitable, I could have made millions of dollars to give to the cause of Christ. Suppose I had given a million in a lifetime -- or a million a year. It would not compare with the many millions of dollars that have been released to Christ and His kingdom through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Through this experience, I learned that God's promises are immeasurable.

A 'CHECK' IN GOD'S BANK

We can think of God's promises as promissory notes written to us. A promissory note is a written assurance, like a contract, to pay on demand or at a certain time a fixed amount of money to a specific person or group. In other words, God has written us a "check" that we can bring to His spiritual "bank" to cash.

God's promises fall into two categories -- unconditional and conditional. An unconditional promise is one that God offers and guarantees without any "ifs" included. An example of an unconditional promise would be the one God made to Noah after the Great Flood that destroyed almost all of mankind.

After Noah came out of the ark, "God said, "I solemnly promise never to send another flood to kill all living creatures and destroy the earth…I am giving you a sign as evidence of My eternal covenant with you and all living creatures…It is the sign of My permanent promise to you and to all the earth" (Genesis 9:11-13). That sign was the rainbow.

Noah didn't have to do anything to receive the promise, and he didn't have to maintain any standards to continue the promise. God gave the promise with no strings attached.

God gives other promises that are conditional, that require the recipients to do something to obtain the blessing. Here is a promise from Matthew 6:33: "He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern." The promise is that we will receive an abundance of blessings from God, but the benefit will not be fulfilled until we put Him first in our lives. That is the condition that makes the promise possible.

The Bible contains one specific kind of promise called a covenant. God's covenants are binding contracts He establishes between Himself and a person or group of people. God's covenants include promises, which He will never break.

The promise that God gave to Abraham is a covenant. So was the promise given to Noah. The most vital covenant to us is the New Covenant. As Jesus passed the cup of wine to His disciples at the Last Supper, He promised, "Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many" (Matthew 26:27-28). This is the most precious promise in the Bible: We can have forgiveness of sin through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. From it flows all the other promises that God has given to Christians.

Just think of all the things God has promised you in the Scriptures. He has chosen not to leave you ignorant of how you can obtain the blessings of eternal life. He shines His light into your heart so that you might know how to experience a fruitful and abundant life of service in His kingdom.

THE BEAUTY OF GOD'S PROMISES

The Scottish pastor and writer Thomas Cuthrie could not find enough metaphors to describe the inexhaustible blessings a Christian enjoys by following the teachings of the Bible. He said, "The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth. It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, and a balm for every wound. Rob us of our Bible and our sky has lost its sun."1

Cuthrie expressed what I feel about the Bible and the promises it contains. Who can imagine all the wonders that God has in store for us? And these assurances are plainly written for us to understand.

If you have read a contract recently, you know how complicated people make legal transactions. A house mortgage has so many pages that it forms a good-size book. The language the mortgage contains is almost indecipherable unless you have some training in how to read it.

On the other hand, God's promises are simple and clear. They are warm and personal. If they have conditions, the conditions are doable. If they have consequences, the results are well defined. Let me give you a few examples:

Simple and clear: "You can get anything -- anything you ask for in prayer -- if you believe" (Matthew 21:22, TLB).

Warm and personal: "Those who fear the Lord are secure; He will be a place of refuge for their children" (Proverbs 14:26).

Doable: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Clear consequences: "Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!" (Galatians 6:7).

The promises of God are sure. Just as a promissory note is backed up by the person who issued it, God's promises are backed up by His character and riches. How sure are His promises? God tells us that He will not change His mind about what He has said (see Numbers 23:19). The New Testament explains how firm God's Word is:

When people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given us both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to His promise with confidence (Hebrews 6:16-18).

Do these verses give you as much faith in God's Word as they do me? We could not depend on anyone greater than God -- and He will fulfill all He says. We can count on God to live up to what He promises!

God also will never give up on what He says. "Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love Him and obey His commands" (Deuteronomy 7:9). In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:23 assures us, "Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep His promise."

We have all had the miserable experience of having a friend betray us by going back on his promise. That kind of failure can cause a friendship to break or to suffer serious disruption. But that will never happen with God. He will never betray any of His promises.

GOD'S PROMISES IN HARD TIMES

We must never underestimate the power of God's promises. Since 1994, Campus Crusade for Christ International has sponsored a Fasting and Prayer Conference each year. During Fasting and Prayer '99, a prayer request for a woman who was about to appear in bankruptcy court was brought to the attention of several attendees. She was a single mom with four children, one of whom was diabetic, and the woman was about to lose her home. While she was in court, caring people gathered to pray that God would move the judge's heart to show mercy. They relied on the promise that God will work out things for our good according to His will (see Romans 8:28). We later learned that the judge, against all precedent, not only allowed the woman to keep her home but also gave her five years to repay her debt. Truly God moves when His people pray!

Whenever hard times come, we can go to God's Word for help -- no matter how badly things look. Years ago the wife of André Kole, the talented illusionist who has been on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for more than thirty years, had an incurable brain tumor, and for two years Aljeana endured incredible suffering. She gradually lost the use of her arms and legs and could not move her head or body. She became totally blind. Day after day she could do nothing but lie helplessly in bed. Andre and Aljeana were my dear friends and colleagues, and my heart was broken for them.

While Aljeana was still able to do some speaking, she always shared a poem that ended with these lines: "We should not long for heaven, if earth held only joy." One day as I visited her in the hospital, I observed her usual radiant smile. "Why are you smiling?" I asked.

"Oh, God is so good to me. I am rejoicing in His presence."

Aljeana was a woman who followed Jesus with her whole heart, mind, soul, and strength until the day she saw him face-to-face. She knew His promises to be real, and she held tightly to the truth of her eternal inheritance until the end. Peace, joy, and blessing are promised us in our daily walk with Christ, and at the same time we can anticipate a glorious home in heaven, which Christ's death purchased for those who love Him.

PROMISES FOR DAILY LIVING

Many of the promises, particularly in the New Testament and in Psalms and Proverbs, help us to live godly lives. One of the promises that I have claimed many times over the years is that God will help us resist temptation.

As a new Christian, I was faced with a temptation that was threatening to destroy my Christian walk and witness. In the process I memorized 1 Corinthians 10:13: "But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it." God dramatically fulfilled that promise for me then as He has on similar occasions through the years.

I have learned that whenever a temptation comes, I can claim this promise. No matter what the nature of it, God faithfully deals with the temptation. I simply remember 1 Corinthians 10:13 and say to the Lord Jesus, "I can't handle this temptation. I surrender to You!" Then I thank Him for taking care of it -- for carrying the load for me. He has always been faithful to His promise!

You will be able to find many other promises that will help you become more like Christ. The secret is in studying and reading the Bible daily. As we dig deeper into the treasure of God's Word, we will find more promises. In fact, the word promise (and its variations) is used hundreds of times in the Bible. And many other passages assure us of God's promises without directly using that word.

Of course, claiming God's promises means that we make sure that promise was meant for us. God has given many promises to His people, the nation of Israel. We must not claim these promises for our lives in inappropriate ways. Instead, look at the verses around the passage with the promise to see to whom the verses were written. Also, check with other portions of Scripture to make sure that your interpretation of the passage is correct.

PRAYING THROUGH SCRIPTURE

One way many people incorporate God's promises into their lives is by praying through Scripture. Jane McClain, in an article in Pray! magazine, writes, "In the Book of Isaiah God promises that His Word 'will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire' (55:11). I find that whenever I pray Scripture -- whether I'm praying it word for word or using it as a springboard for prayer -- I experience the truth of this miraculous promise. I am enriched in the process of returning God's Word to him to be fulfilled." 2

We can use God's promises to receive His blessing; it's like cashing in a spiritual promissory note. We can also use God's promises to praise Him for all He is doing for us. Scriptures can guide our prayers to help us fulfill God's requirements for our lives. The Discover the Treasure material at the end of this chapter will show you how to begin praying through Scripture.

DISCOVER THE TREASURE

Our prayers should include four elements. To help you remember these elements, remember the word ACTS.

  • Adoration: Praise God for who He is.
  • Confession: Admit your sin to God.
  • Thanksgiving: Thank God for His character and blessings.
  • Supplication: Tell God your concerns and requests.

You can incorporate all of these in your plan for praying through Scripture. Select a passage that is meaningful to you or goes along with the topic in your devotions for the day.

Follow these steps:
1. Read the passage.
2. Write your answer to these questions: What promise or command is in this verse? What lesson do I need to learn?
3. Write down what you want to say to God as a result of what you discovered. Make sure that you have something for each prayer action (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). Your response can be either Scripture that you say back to God or expressions of your own heart.
4. Pray what you've written.

Example: If you selected Romans 8:26-30, you might answer the questions this way:

What promise is in these verses? The Holy Spirit will help me pray.
What command must I obey? I must love God.
What lesson do I need to learn? God causes everything in my life to work out for my good.

Your prayer: God, You are so wonderful. You are so personally involved in my life that You see my prayers and help me pray when my heart is heavy. I am sorry that I haven't taken more time to talk to You in the past twenty-four hours. I thank You that You are patient with me and will still work in my life for my good even though I fail You at times. Please help me to bring all my problems and joys to You. In Jesus' name, amen.

The following list provides some suggestions for passages you can use to begin.

  • Psalm 91:9-13
  • Psalm 141:1-4
  • Proverbs 2:1-5
  • Matthew 6:25-27
  • Galatians 5:16-18
  • Philippians 4:8-9

ENDNOTES

1. Thomas Cuthrie, quoted in John MacArthur Jr., Ephesians (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 368.
2. Jane McClain, "His Word Will Not Return Empty," Pray! no. 13 (July/August 1999): 26.

______________________________________________________________________________________Excerpted Excerpted from Discover the Book God Wrote by Bill Bright. Copyright © 2004 Bright Media Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

This book was one of the final works completed by Dr. Bright before his death July 2003. Dr. Bright was the founder and president of Campus Crusade for Christ, author of the well-known evangelism tool The Four Spiritual Laws, and commissioner of the JESUS film, a feature-length documentary on the life of Christ. He is succeeded by his wife, Vonette.

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