In the last 4 posts, I’ve been making the case that the God of the Bible does not go around killing His children, inflicting them with diseases, or causing disasters.
In the second article of this series, I listed 4 factors not generally understood about the Bible which causes many to misunderstand the issue. This post we’ll tackle the third item on that list: the promises of God.
In my last post, we mentioned God is indeed sovereign, but He has limited His sovereignty in this earth by His own will. That limit is His Word, the Bible. In that post, we discussed the first way He had limited His own sovereignty: delegating His authority to mankind, how we lost that authority by Adam bowing his knee to Satan, how Jesus won back that authority by His death and resurrection, and how He has re-delegated that authority back to His followers.
Now we will address the second way in which He has limited His own sovereignty and that is by His promises, all of which are also contained within His Word.
We will be covering this issue from the foundational fact the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and the absolute Truth, the document which addresses and controls virtually every aspect of the life, faith, and practice of Christ-followers. If you don’t agree with that premise, we’re not going to dig into a defense of that here. You’ll need to explore the issue elsewhere because I’m not addressing unsaved folk who are questioning the claims of Christ upon them, but Christians who have been misled by centuries of misguided religious dogma.
The Virtue of Integrity
God’s Word is incredibly important to Him. He has declared in multiple passages in both the Old and New Testaments that His Word is inseparable from Himself. In fact, chapter 1 the Gospel of John describes Jesus Christ as His Word in human form.
I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.Psalm 138:2 (emphasis mine)
We as human beings tend to place a high regard upon people who keep their word to us and fulfill their promises. We look up to and honor those who keep their word despite opposition or adverse circumstances. We call such folks “people of integrity.”
We also look down on those who don’t fulfill our trust in their words, who, for various reasons ranging from fear of consequences to mere convenience to simple laziness, simply decide their promises are not going to be kept. We intrinsically despise those who cheat on their wives, abscond with funds entrusted to their care, betray their countries, desert in the face of the enemy, and are abusers of the innocent — to wit, those who cannot be trusted.
So we have an ingrained racial belief/assumption that other humans should keep their word. I believe this comes from the verse in Genesis 2 where God said, “Let Us make man in Our image…” According to this verse, God created mankind with the intrinsic characteristics of His own being.
Since Newton’s 3rd Law of Thermodynamics (the Law of Entropy) proves nothing can spawn or develop into something greater than itself, we can safely conclude that we didn’t come up with this racial value for integrity on our own spin, but in fact it was imparted by our Creator. Indeed, the Living God values integrity so highly He ensured all of us humans possess a similar value for it, though in some societies that innate sense has been suppressed through sin or false religious dogma (e.g., Islam).
So why should we respect and honor any god who cannot be trusted to keep his own word? And why should the One True Living God be exempt from that standard?
The Impartiality of God
The Bible also repeatedly states God is no respecter of persons, meaning He is completely impartial, therefore His Word is true and dependable for every man, woman, and child on the planet.
The one thing we can always take to the bank is the Word of God. We are what it says we are, we can have what it says we can have, we can do what it says we can do, and we are going where it says we are going! It is not subject to God making exceptions whenever He theoretically takes a notion to do something different for some reason only known to Himself.
Yes, No & Wait
There’s a very pious-sounding saying running around the organized church for a few years now which goes something like this: “God answers our prayers with yes, no, or wait.” While there is some truth to the saying, many Christians take it way outside of its scriptural limits. Here’s why I say this.
God in the OT and Jesus in the NT repeatedly promise affirmative answers to our prayers. Just a few examples:
Yet you do not have because you do not ask.James 4:2b
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
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7
If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.John 14:14
So that’s the “yes” portion and there is no problem so far.
Often there is a timing issue involved where God has already answered our prayers in the affirmative, but has some circumstances to arrange, or some character development He needs to complete in us before we see the manifestation of that answer. Sometimes, as exemplified by the prophet Daniel, there is opposition to our answers being delivered to us, demonic powers who oppose the angels tasked with delivering our answer to us. Sometimes, it’s all of them.
That covers the “wait.”
The problem is many people turn their “wait” into a “no,” abdicating their answer by giving up, then blaming it on God by stating He said “no” when the only problem was their adopting an “add-water-and-stir” mentality towards the process. We as a postmodern society have a very short attention span and little or no patience for anything not as quick and easy as a microwave oven or a drive-thru window. Unfortunately, that attitude has permeated the Church, as well, and such an attitude serves us badly.
There are only two times when the Bible says we’ll get a “no” answer to our prayers.
The Epistle of James specifies the first one: when we ask selfishly for the fulfillment of our own flesh.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.James 4:3
The second has to do with the passage in I John 5:14-15 I’ve already quoted above where it says that when we pray according to God’s will He hears and answers us. By corollary, if we pray over a matter against the will of God, He neither hears nor answers.
Many people take that verse in James as a blanket rule proscribing every prayer which would deal with God meeting our own needs and with great — but false! — piety proclaim that, “It’s selfish to pray for ourselves, we should be praying for others.”
Others use that verse as an excuse to give up on their prayers for healing, financial assistance, or other personal issues despite the fact there are numerous promises in the Word where God specifically proclaims His willingness to meet those types of needs in our lives.
We’ll delve into this further in my next post.
Thanks for reading!