What is faith? How does faith work? What is our faith based on? What is saving faith? What happens when our faith is shattered? Those faith questions and others are addressed in this nine-week series simply called faith.
Pastor G takes a nine-week break from his “Just Jesus” series walk through the Gospel of Mathew.
This is a series Greg first heard Andy Stanley preach way back in 2002. It had such an impact on Greg that he has preached his version of it at every church he has served since.
Today is week four and Greg focuses us in on “promises, promises.”
We’ve been talking about Biblical faith for several weeks. We’ve talked bout the dangers of circumstantial faith. When we base our faith in God on how our circumstances o, that is a fragile faith. Indeed, the foundation of our faith, where we keep our attention focused on our faith is on the person and character of Jesus. Last week we defined Biblical faith like this. Biblical faith is the confidence that God is who He says He is and that He will always do what He’s promised to do. We talked about the relationship between hope and faith. We said hope is I want to see something happen, but I’m not sure it will happen. Faith is there is something I want to happen and I know with complete confidence it absolutely will happen.
We said the bridge between hope and faith – what turns simple hope into complete faith is when we have received a promise from God. If God has promised us something specific then we can absolutely hold God to that expectation. On the other hand, if God hasn’t specifically promised something we want, even if we really, really, really want it to happen, we can’t have faith that it will, we can simply have hope. Nothing wrong with hope. We should have hope. Jesus told us oftentimes our good, loving Heavenly Father chooses to give good gifts to His children. We said we’re glad that God didn’t give us this power, whereby if we have enough belief, (what we mistakenly call faith) then we can get God to do whatever we want Him to do. We’ve all had the experience of thinking we’re asking for something good only to find out later it was actually horribly wrong. Fortunately, God knew better and He said no.
That left us off last week asking a very important question. If God has promised to do everything He’s promised to do and if we can have confidence that God WILL DO everything He’s promised to do, then what exactly has God promised to do? What promises has God made to you and me, to humanity in general? We’re calling today’s message PROMISES, PROMISES. So to begin with today, I’d like to tell you four things God has not promised to do. These are four things that God has NOT promised to do, that oftentimes we still want Him to do. Again, as we said last week we have permission and even the invitation from God to ask Him for anything and we can 100% have hope that He will do it. But we can only have faith, for things that He’s actually promised to do. God has not promised to give us everything we ask for. Just like a good parent should, God is often going to tell us no, even if we really, really, really want something.
Here are four things God has not promised to do.
1) God has not promised to keep bad things from happening to you.
Now, I know, that comes as a shock to some of you, doesn’t it? Again, however, because He’s a good, loving heavenly father, sometimes He does protect us. Often, we don’t even know it. The only things we’re aware of are the times when God doesn’t seem to intervene the way we wish he would. We cry out “God! Where are You? Why did you let this terrible thing happen?” Right? But God never promised to keep all bad things from happening to his children.
2) God has not promised to heal every illness or injury that you encounter. Sometimes God does miraculously intervene in nature and turn illnesses or injuries around. Sometimes He does cause tumors to disappear and bones to mend or brains to heal. Sometimes people are miraculously healed by God. I’ve seen it happen. It’s happened to me. I believe 100% in miraculous healing. However, God has not promised to heal every illness or injury that you encounter. Third, this is the one I like the least.
3) God has not promised to reverse the consequences of sin or the unwise decisions that we make.
When you and I sin, or when you and I make an unwise decision and there are consequences, think of a speeding ticket for a small example, I am the first to drop to my knees and say, “Oh God, please get me out of this. Oh, God, if you bail me out of this time I’ll never do it again.” I mentioned a speeding ticket but we can all think of other, far more serious consequences we might face because of sinful or unwise decisions right? God has not promised to reverse the consequences of sin or the unwise decisions that we make.
But you know, sometimes, because God is so gracious and so merciful, sometimes He does intervene and reduces our consequences. But He hasn’t promised to do it and that’s clear because He doesn’t always do it. There have been situations in my life where God has bailed me or someone I’m praying for out. But there have also been many situations where God has just let me or my children face the consequences of our choices full bore. Part of the reason is to teach and to discipline us. What we think is bad God can use for good. We talked about that in week one. I have still paid the piper many times in my life for dumb decisions I made, even though I prayed, begged, pleaded, bargained, promised God with absolute faith that He exists and could solve the problem for me if He decided to do so. He sometimes said no. And then the last thing God has not promised is this.
4) God has not promised to make every believer wealthy. Still, God clearly does bless some people with a lot of wealth.
Sometimes, we ask God for financial help or a financial blessing and He says yes and miraculously provides it to us. Sometimes He says no. I’ve experienced both of those things myself on occasion, However, there is no promise in the Bible where God has promised to make every believer wealthy. Even though there are some really wealthy preachers and authors who got really wealthy from your money that you gave because they promised you giving your money to them would make you wealthy too, there is no promise where God said that’s how His economy works.
Some of you have been preached to or read or have been taught that God does promise these four things. No bad things will happen to you, every illness or injury will be healed, God will reverse all negative consequences of your sin or unwise choices and God will make you wealthy as long as you just have enough faith. That’s simply not true. None of that is in the Bible. None of that has been promised to all believers by God. Let me give you sort of a test by which you can test promises when you hear somebody say, “God promises this” or “God promises that.” Every promise that someone tells you belongs to you, or everything that you run across in the scripture yourself and think “Is this a promise for me,” lay that promise beside the experience of the early church. Lay that promise beside the experience of the disciples. Lay that promise beside the human experience of Jesus Christ. Why? Because the Gospels and the Book of Acts give us an account of what happened to all of these men and women who clearly had profound faith. What happened to these people who clearly loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and who were completely sold out to His cause?
I mean, if ever there is an example of God’s faithfulness and God’s promises, it should be to those people above all others. Along with their Master, Jesus, they are the founders of our faith. Who deserves wonderful promises from God more than them? As you look through the Gospels and the Book of Acts it’s very interesting. You quickly find out that not only did Jesus NOT promise to keep bad things from happening to His disciples, guess what? He promised bad things WOULD happen to them! In fact, that’s a promise He has made to ALL of us, that we WILL HAVE TROUBLE in this world, that bad things WILL sometimes happen to us. That’s a promise from Jesus Himself! Yet I’ve never met a believer that wants to claim that promise. I’m just believing God for a double portion of trials, tribulation and persecution and pain in my life Lord. I’m claiming that verse. I’m holding You to the promise. I count it as done in my life.
Jesus promised in the age of His initial followers and the age in which you and I live, there would be difficult times for us. As you read the Book of Acts, there are clearly occasional times that God did choose to miraculously intervene. He went into that prison and he yanked Peter out of prison. He saved Paul from a shipwreck. Yet, He also let all the disciples eventually be martyred. And so you say, Lord, what’s going on? What’s going on is this. This is not yet the age of intervention and deliverance where God wipes away all pain, suffering, grief, and death. That time is not now. In this world we often have troubles. Again, we are invited to ask ANYTHING we want from Him and sometimes He might choose to miraculously intervene, but we can only EXPECT with faith, everything He has promised to us. There are times that Jesus healed masses of people.
Stood there all day long and healed everybody they brought to Him. But then there are also times when Jesus just chose one out from the crowd. One time, Jesus goes to a pool and there are all of these sick people just laying all around. Jesus steps through all the sick people to single out one and heal one fellow and then He leaves. Why? Because God has not promised in that generation, or this generation, to heal every single sick and every injured person. When you think about somebody saying God is promised health and wealth to all believers, you have to look at the apostles, you have to look at the early church, and lay those supposed promises beside of their experience. Several disciples spent years in prison, including John, who didn’t die when they boiled him in oil. The rest of the disciples were martyred. Beheaded, crucified, skinned alive, run through with a sword, fed to lions, imprisoned. That is a good way to measure whether or not the health and wealth and prosperity promise is a genuine, authentic promise of God isn’t it?
Now, this sounds like a pretty depressing sermon, so far doesn’t it? I mean, we’re going to leave here like, well, I just we can’t expect anything from God, you know? But that’s not true. God HAS made some very specific promises to us. We’re going to look at just one of them today. But first, this is the key to really allowing this whole series to sink in at the level it needs to if it is going to impact our lives. The key for Biblical faith to become a reality in our lives, and for us to experience God’s promises, is when you and I finally open up our hands and say, (we talked about this last week) “OK, God, not my will, but Your will be done.” When you can really do that, no matter what, that’s when you will fully begin to experience the promises of God that He has made for your life.
As long as you are in this tug of war with God, “God, this is what I want, I’m naming it! I’m claiming it! Why won’t You give it to me?” As long as you’re in that tug of war with God, it is impossible to experience the full promises of God. Your life is supposed to be “not my will, but Thy will be done.” That’s really key to everything else I’m going to say today. So, with all of that said, let’s talk about What has God promised us? Because He has actually promised us quite a lot! Let’s start with the very same verse we began with at the beginning of this series. Hebrews 4:14 Again, C.I.E. Context Is Everything. What is the original context in which this was written? Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers who were struggling with whether or not they should maintain their Christian faith. They felt let down by what they had expected from God, so they were beginning to depart from the faith. In response, the writer of Hebrews clarified that the foundation of their faith was Jesus, not their circumstances, as we’ve already talked about. He also, as we are about to see, explains what they CAN expect from their Heavenly Father in this N.T. age. He writes …
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ~ Hebrews 4:14 (NIV)
We don’t have a high priest in the Christian church today, but for them that was a major statement. The high priest was the one person that interceded between them and God. The High Priest was the one person who could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, who could enter the presence of God once a year and make atonement for them with God. That was a major big deal. The author of Hebrews is saying Jesus is the Son of God and He is that permanent High Priest now.
He is the ultimate High Priest of High Priests who makes atonement for His followers with God. Plus, our High Priest Jesus is not like other human High Priests. Look at how He is different. Verse 15.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15
Jesus, your High Priest, the person who has made some promises to you, the person whose responsibility it is to fulfill those promises to you, the person who decides what to give you and what not give you, when to intercede and when to not intercede, when to say yes to your prayers and when to say no, is not someone who doesn’t know what you’re going through in this life.
This is so key. Our Savior and High Priest lived a 100% human life on this earth for 30 something years. He grew up in a very difficult period of history. He experienced everything you experience. He knows pain. He knows sorrow. He knows anxiety. He knows what it’s like to spend a night alone, dreading the events of the coming day. He knows what it is like to grieve over the death of a friend. He knows what it’s like to watch your very best friends walk away from you in the time of your greatest need. He knows what it feels like to watch His own brothers turn their backs on Him and persecute Him. He knows what it feels like to live with incredible stress. He literally lived with the weight and the fate of the entire world on His shoulders every day of His life. He did all of that in His human flesh as he lived on this earth. That is so important to remember because at times when we pray and we get in this tug of war with God and we say “God, why don’t you and God why won’t you?” There’s a sense in which we think “You don’t know what I’m going through God. You don’t know how I feel God.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. We are praying to a Savior and High Priest who genuinely understands us, He fully experienced human life. He didn’t cheat. He didn’t use His power to sidestep tragedy or to sidestep pain. He lived 30 years on this earth to earn the right to say to you and me, “I really do understand. I really do know how you feel.” He was tempted in every way by Satan and yet still never chose to sin, not even once. He overcame. Jesus Christ is not some faraway deist version of God who’s distanced Himself from what’s happening in our lives, out of touch with what it means to live a human life. No! Our Savior, our High Priest, Jesus, lived on this earth, faced what we faced, and then ascended back to heaven to sit back down at His rightful place at the right hand of the Heavenly Father where He still intercedes for us. Look at verse 16.
16 Let us then (with all that in mind) Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence …. ~ Hebrews 4:16a
Stop right there. Let the magnitude of this really hit you. Because of who Jesus is and because of what Jesus did, we now have this promise. We can now approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. We have access to God’s throne. You and I go can go to our Heavenly Father in prayer with confidence. Confidence is the Greek parrésia. It means freedom, openness, with transparency, with boldness. We can march right up to the throne of God, as kids of the king. We can cruise right into daddy’s office knowing He will be thrilled to see us. We don’t have to be afraid that He’s going to say, “UGH! YOU’RE here AGAIN? Why are you bothering me again? What mess have you created now?” No! None of that! We can run right in with freedom, openness, transparency, confidence, and boldness. We can go in just as we are.
Just being ourselves and we will be loved and accepted. Why? Because we have a High Priest who understands what it is to be human. We have a Savior who can sympathize with everything we face and everything we feel. That’s the truth. That’s a promise. Why should we approach the throne of God?
… so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:16
That is a MAJOR promise of God. Don’t miss this! Listen! In this one verse, we get a picture of everything we can expect to receive in this life from God. When you go to God in prayer with a need, with a concern, the two things that you can absolutely expect from God – He promises – you will receive mercy and you will receive Grace. We’ll talk about both of those words in more depth in a minute.
Notice, the promise is not that you will find miraculous intervention and deliverance in your time of need. The promise is not that you will be healed in your time of need, made wealthy in your time of need, have your circumstances rearranged in your time of need. NONE of those things are promised. Yes, God does sometimes choose to bless us with those things but you are not promised that kind of intervention every time. You are absolutely promised, mercy and grace in your time of need. As you are learning to be fully willing and able to completely surrender yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, “not my will but Thy will be done,” you will find that mercy and grace are more than enough. It’s perfectly okay to pray “I still hope you change my circumstances, I still hope you give me miraculous healing, miraculous provision, miraculous blessings. I still hope and pray for that Lord, but what I’m clinging to is Your promise of mercy and grace in my time of need. That is enough for me. Not my will by Thy will be done.”
Now, what is mercy? Imagine a father leaning over and listening intently to the concerns of His little child with undivided attention. Not because the concern is of such great magnitude, but simply because it is His child expressing it. Especially if you’re a parent, you understand that. Especially when kids are very little, oftentimes our children come to us very distraught, very concerned, and we realize their concerns are really nothing to be concerned about at all. A stubbed toe. A splinter. Hurt feelings over a toy not shared. Really, not a big deal in the grand scheme of life. But because it’s our child, and it’s important to them, we care. We hurt when they hurt. That’s the picture of mercy we have of our Heavenly Father as well. When you and I come to God with a need, a concern, we will always receive undivided attention, His mercy, His empathy, His understanding, His love, His comfort.
A wonderful picture of that is found just outside of Lazarus’ tomb. Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. In a few minutes, Jesus would tell Lazarus to come out of that tomb alive. Yet before Jesus performs this miracle what did He do first. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible and yet one of the most profound…
Jesus wept. ~ John 11:35
Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus. Why did He stop and weep in grief for his lost friend? Because it sent a BOOMING signal down through the ages to all of us that our God, who has all the answers, is not so consumed with having all the answers that He is unwilling to pause and feel with us what we feel, hurt with us when we hurt, cry with us when we cry. He loves us! That’s what you receive when you come to your Heavenly Father. Mercy in your time of need. But listen, don’t miss this. Mercy isn’t just pity. Mercy is more than that.
Mercy means God will never allow you to face or to feel more than you can bear. God will never allow the pressure to mount up so high that you collapse under the weight. When it finally becomes too much for you, God will intervene and lighten the load. Mercy is this: When you are at your breaking point when you just can’t go another inch, when you just can’t handle one more catastrophe, mercy is God coming alongside you and lightening the load. He doesn’t always remove the weight 100%. Usually, He lightens it just enough so that you can take another step. He carries your cross with you the same way Simon of Cyrene helped carry His at Calvary. That’s mercy. It could be something like an unexpected check in the mail that’s just enough to pay your rent. It could be somebody putting their arm around you and just giving you that little bit of encouragement and that little bit of energy to get through another day. Mercy is not completely changing circumstances. You may still have some pain. You may still have some debt. You may still be in trouble.
Mercy is the assurance we have that there will be no temptation or trial that is so strong that you can’t handle it with Jesus’ help. There is no frustration, no pain, no sorrow, nothing so big and so bad that is going to come against you and take you down as long as you are holding tight to Jesus. You can cling to the promise of the mercy of God. I know many of you could stand and give testimony to that kind of mercy. A painful divorce, a time of financial turmoil, a chronic illness or injury, a time of great anxiety or stress. A time came where you just thought, this is the end. I just can’t take another step. I just can’t live another day. And then you felt at that critical time, God comes alongside and lightened your load just a little bit. Maybe He came to you through someone else’s kind word or touch.
Maybe He shows you a promise through something you read or something you heard or in your time praying with God. In some way, you felt Him lift that weight about half an inch off your shoulder. It didn’t change everything in your life. But it enabled you to continue on. That was the mercy of God that you and I have been promised. The writer of Hebrews says, when you come to the throne of God, the throne of grace, in your time of need, you will always receive from your understanding High Priest, mercy. Maybe someone here or someone listening online right now is receiving mercy in that way right now. Maybe I have the privilege of being the deliverer of God’s mercy to you right now. He loves you. He feels what you are going through. You are not alone. He is going through it with you. Though you might not be fully aware of it, God is lightening your load right now. He is carrying it with you. Because He loves you and He still has a plan for your life. So don’t give up. Please don’t give up. You are going to make it. God promises.
The author of Hebrews also says you will receive grace in your time of need. G.R.A.C.E. is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We have access to God because of what our High Priest did. His sacrifice tore the veil that separated sinful humanity from Holy God. That access to God gives us incredible things. Grace is the infusion of inner strength, power, wisdom, knowledge to get you through difficult times. Your husband may not come back, your wife may not change, your kids may not straighten up, your parents may not lighten up, you may not get the job you want, you may not get into this college you want, you may not get the girl you want, you may not ever get fully healed of that illness or that injury. But listen. Don’t miss this. This is a promise for you from God.
According to God’s promise, you can always expect the grace you need to carry on. Grace is the power and wisdom of God that comes to bear on your circumstances. God HAS NOT promised to deliver us FROM our circumstances, but He HAS promised to deliver us THROUGH our circumstances. I shared a couple of weeks ago, I’m like you. I love to hear a big bold miracle story where God does, on occasion, deliver someone FROM their circumstances. But again, the Christians that challenge me to the very depths of my soul and to the roots of my faith are the men and women who live every single day of their life completely trusting in the grace of God. Trusting in the riches of God purchased for us by our great High Priest. God shares His strength, love, wisdom, and presence with us, allowing us to persevere through anything life deals out.
It’s the man or the woman whose circumstances are terrible, the man or the woman who’s constantly under pressure. Yet they’re still able to praise the Lord, worship sincerely, able to pray with you. They say “Greg, I don’t really understand it. I’ve never faced this kind of tragedy, this kind of pressure, this kind of abandonment. But God gives me the strength, the courage, the wisdom, the love, the encouragement I need. God continues to give me the grace to endure and when I think I’m all out, He shows me mercy and lifts that weight just a little bit off my shoulder and it doesn’t feel so heavy anymore.” The good news is, that is what God has promised every single one of us too, grace and mercy in our time of need. Plus, don’t miss this. Here’s another thing God has promised us. When you and I come to the place in our Christian life where we’re willing to put down the tug of war rope, quit arguing with God, and say Thy will be done…
When we are willing to, by faith, experience the mercy and grace of God as more than enough then, Paul tells us, we receive another promise of God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:7
Have you felt that peace? I have. When you feel that peace, you know that is clearly the work of God. You know without a doubt that He exists and He loves you. When I sit and talk to someone who I know moment by moment, day by day, has terrible circumstances and yet they are clinging to the mercy and grace of God and are experiencing His peace there’s a person who challenges me, inspires me, strengthens my faith. That’s the one I call a real Christian. There’s a person that causes the world to say “Why? How? What is different about you?” And oftentimes God uses those Christians in a powerful way to draw attention to Himself and to draw the hearts of non-believers to Himself.
God promises, whatever your need is right now, you’ll ALWAYS find grace and you’ll ALWAYS find mercy when in your time of need, and you will experience peace that defies description when you approach His throne in prayer with confidence that your High Priest has paved the way for you. There are other promises for us in the New Testament but you’ll find all of those other promises still come under the umbrella of mercy and grace in your time of need. God has promised to be a Father to the Fatherless. That’s grace and mercy. God has promised to never allow a temptation to overtake you and force you to sin. That’s mercy in your time of need. And on and on we could go with the promises that God has given to us. As you are faithful and continue to come to and cling to Jesus, God will always give you grace and mercy in your time of need.
Now, here is our problem with that. Like you, I don’t want just mercy and grace in my time of need. I want full-blown intervention and deliverance in my time of need. Right? Let’s be super honest with each other this morning. Sometimes, I am not content with mercy and grace in my time of need and sometimes neither are you. And here is the tragedy. When you and I refuse to be content with the promises of grace and mercy from God, then we oftentimes step out of a position to be able to experience the mercy and grace of God. We don’t approach His throne. We try to go it alone, go it our way. Consequently, we’re so full of turmoil running lost and scared on our own path, that God’s offer of grace and mercy just flies right over our head. We miss it. We want intervention and deliverance.
But here is what you’ve got to understand. This age that we live in right now, the meantime, the in-between time, between the two comings of Jesus? This is the age of mercy and grace. This is NOT the age of intervention and deliverance. Not yet. There is coming a day of intervention and deliverance. That’s a promise of God as well. The return of Christ is promised as the great intervention, the great deliverance for God’s people. One day Jesus will return and once and for all time put an end to all sin, sorrow, death, pain, tears, grief, depression, anxiety, frustration. The Great News of this promise of God is when intervention and deliverance finally come, it’s not even going to happen incrementally. It’s going to happen all at once. Our problem is, and God understands this, we really want to experience the intervention and deliverance of the age to come. This age of grace is mercy is all good but what we really want is the age of intervention and deliverance. Our Great High Priest, Jesus, knows exactly how that feels.
He knows exactly what it feels like to be a human being. So, every once in a while, our merciful, loving Heavenly Father just kind of drops in, and intervenes or delivers us in some way. He doesn’t do it all the time. It’s rare. That’s why we call it a miracle. When He does that, it’s as if He is saying, you see what’s coming? That’s just a taste. There’s a little bit of proof for you. There is much more of that coming your way one day. Just trust me. Just hang on. Keep having faith in me. Keep sharing your faith with others because there is coming a day of intervention and deliverance. If you think that little doodad (that miracle I just did for you) was something, just you wait till I show up with ALL OF MY POWER and ALL OF MY GLORY and intervene and deliver everywhere all at once because that day is coming. AMEN? YAY GOD! So, when you and I see someone healed miraculously or when you and I see God just unbelievably solve our financial circumstance, or our career circumstance, or our relationship circumstance, that’s God giving us just a little glimpse of His glory. It’s like a little teaser trailer of the blockbuster that is to come.
But listen, don’t miss this. My friends, this is not yet the age of intervention and deliverance. This is still the age of mercy and grace. Despite what we may sometimes feel, that is still really good news. Do you know why? Because God has not only made the offer of mercy and grace to you and me as believers. God has made the offer of mercy and grace to unbelievers as well. He’s saying to them, just as He said to you and to me at some point in our life, I want you to trust me. Have faith in me. I am giving you this opportunity. I’m giving you the opportunity to have your sins forgiven, to have your sins washed away. That’s actually a little intervention and deliverance miracle right there yeah?
God says to all human beings, everywhere, I am inviting you to know Me as your Savior, to have the promise of eternal life, to live with the promise that one day I will fully intervene and deliver in your life and in this world. In the meantime, this is your opportunity to trust me, that Jesus is My Son and He is the only way, the only truth, the only path to eternal life. If you cling to Him, you too can approach my throne with confidence and experience my mercy and grace. Now, as you think about those who are not yet followers of Jesus, think about this. Aren’t you so glad God did not usher in the age of intervention and deliverance before YOU became a follower of Jesus? Right? I mean, we tend to be like, “Okay Jesus! Whoop glory! I’m in the lifeboat, you know I’m saved, so come on back right now! Jesus Christ, COME ON DOWN! You know, just intervene, deliver. Call this broken world of sin and pain thing to a halt. Sound the trumpet. I’m ready!
But let’s be honest. Aren’t you glad he didn’t do that before you trusted Him as savior? What we have to understand is that on the day the Lord Jesus comes back and ushers in the age of intervention and deliverance and finally does on this earth what we all wish he would do every single day of our lives, so ends the opportunity for all of those who still don’t know Him to come to know Him and they will be lost forever. When the age of intervention and deliverance arrives so ends the age of mercy and grace. With the age of intervention and deliverance also comes the age of judgment. God will remove all pain and sin and dwell with all believers for eternity and we’ll see Him face to face and we’ll all be changed into the likeness of Christ. That’s true. Unfortunately, it’s also the age of judgment and everybody who rejected Him, their eternity without Him is also set in stone.
When you think about it that way, we should be so thankful that the age of mercy and grace has lasted this long and is still going on. What loved ones have come to Jesus in your lifetime? What loved ones have yet to come to Jesus? Thank God that we are still in the age of mercy and grace and not yet in the age of intervention, deliverance, and judgment. Amen? But you know what the truth is in our hearts? If you are honest, the ultimate return of Christ isn’t viewed as intervention. We would kind of view that as an interruption, wouldn’t we? I mean, I just got married, God. Give me a few years. God, we’ve got these little ones and we really want to see them grow up. I’m about to graduate, I’m about to have a baby, I just got the job of my dreams, things are pretty good right now, you know, don’t come back just yet. The full intervention, the second coming, that’s just a big interruption. What we really want, if we’re honest, is we want God to sort of do some spot intervention for us. We want to pick and choose the places where God intervenes in the world.
It’s amazing when something bad happens to us. We’re like, “God, where are you? Why don’t you help me?” But have you ever, in your life been doing something bad and prayed, “God, where are you? I can’t believe you’re letting me get away with this? Why don’t you intervene and stop me? “No! Let’s put this all together. Again, God invites us and welcomes us to talk to Him all the time and we can ask Him and hope for absolutely ANYTHING we want. But what can we have 100% faith in Him giving to us? His promise of mercy and grace in our time of need. Now, that’s a little frustrating. And for some of you, you probably hate this message. You may not even come back and you may not ever watch me online anymore because you don’t like what I am showing you in the Bible.
Maybe you go to a different church most of the time, and at that church, they teach you and tell you “Look, as long as you really, really, believe then you can have anything you want from God.” Maybe that’s your experience. Maybe that’s what you’ve been taught. I just want to say something to you. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just speaking for a lot of experience. Let’s face it. That doesn’t work. It just doesn’t happen that way. It’s a pipe dream. God never promised that. He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not an ATM machine that as longs as you’ve got the right code He will spit out whatever you want in life. It’s none of that kind of hocus pocus, magic, power of positive thinking, manifesting, new age universe stuff. It’s just not. The Bible NEVER claims ANY Of that. Miracles are called miracles BECAUSE they are rare. They don’t happen every single time every single Christian asks for every single thing. They just don’t, no matter how strongly you want it to happen, how strongly you believe, how strongly you’ve convinced yourself it will happen.
I don’t deny that sometimes, God does choose to step in a miraculous way but He has absolutely not promised to do that for us every single time. God is a holy, loving God that wants you to know him. He has made it as simple as possible. When we begin to pray, “God, you know what I’m hoping for, but this is what I’m trusting you for, mercy and grace in my time of need.” I promise you, something amazing will happen in your faith life. You will experience at a deep, deep level the mercy, grace, peace, power, wisdom, knowledge, love, provision, and presence of God. Now, we have one other thing to cover and then we’re going to pray. What about some personal promise you feel God has made to you? In other words, this is not a universal principle to all people.
This is just something you feel God has promised to you about a specific situation in your life? You know, I’ve been trying to decide whether to ask this girl to marry me and I was reading in the Book of Psalms today and I just really felt like God was speaking directly to me and I felt like He promised me that, you know, she’s the one for me. I 100% believe God does, on occasion, sometimes, do that. But, here is my advice. When you feel that God has given you a personal promise. My advice is, hold on to it with an open hand. Why? Because you and I are terrible at misunderstanding God. When you close your hand on that kind of presumed personal promise, here’s what often happens. That becomes the focus, the foundation of your faith. And then, if it doesn’t happen the way you thought for sure that God was telling you it was going to happen. She says no to the proposal, they choose a different applicant, you don’t get that raise, then you see that as God didn’t come through for you even though He promised He would.
Your faith takes a hit. Maybe it is destroyed. God promised me this. And then He didn’t do it. Maybe He doesn’t love me. Maybe there is no God. I know many people who’ve spent months trying to get over the fact that God didn’t honor His supposed promise to them. When people get devastated by what they thought was a broken promise by God, it takes a loooooong while for them to come to the conclusion, you know, maybe I misunderstood Him. Sometimes they never reach that conclusion and they say “I used to be a Christian but I’m not a believer anymore.” Now, let me say this again, just so we are crystal clear. I 100% believe God sometimes makes personal promises to us. I will give you an example from my life.
I knew, weeks before this church officially offered me the pastor position, I already knew God was going to give it to me. I had peace that passes understanding. I knew it as sure as I knew my own name. I felt like God had spoken directly to my heart and said “It’s going to be you. Get ready.” It was exciting, spiritually exhilarating. But here’s what I did. I held onto that promise with an open hand, just in case I was wrong. Just in case I had misunderstood. Hawaii or not, God is still God. Greg employed or Greg unemployed, God is still God. Likewise, I believe the wisest thing you can do is hold on to any personal promise you think He has given you with an open hand as well. You might be wrong. Don’t make that presumed promise the foundation of your faith.
As a child, I remember asking my parents if we could do something and they would answer “We’ll see.” Usually, parents what does that answer mean? It usually means no right? But, in my childlike mind, “We’ll see” was as good as a promise. Remember that? Were you like that too? And the next day I’d say, “Well, Mom and Dad? Ready to go to such and such?” — “Well Greg, we’re sorry, but it didn’t work out. We can’t go.” And I WAS FURIOUS! “You promised!!!” But they were like, no we didn’t we said “We’ll see.” But for a child who wants something badly enough, any little indication that it even might happen, what happens in our minds is it becomes a promise. Listen. Don’t miss this. In the SAME WAY, we do the same thing with God. Sometimes we want something so bad and we come across a verse that kind of, you know, sort of, almost kinda, seems to be talking about that, and BOOM! We’re convinced that’s from God. We’re just as sincere as we know how to be.
We think God has promised us that. My advice is, whenever that happens to you, it’s happened to me, whenever that happens to you, just keep your hands wide open. Instead, pray like this, “God, I believe this is what You are promising me and I really hope it is the case. But God, I will not make this the focus or the foundation of my faith. Jesus is the foundation of my faith. If You choose to do this, it will be a blessing. If I’ve misunderstood you, no problem, I know You are still making the best choice for me. Thy will be done. I am blessed to have Your mercy and grace in my time of need. That’s enough for me. If you choose to bless me in a bigger, more specific way, from time to time, well, that’s just icing on the cake.” Now, let me ask you one more thing and then we’ll close in prayer.
Have you been holding God to something that He hasn’t really promised? Have you confused hope with faith? Is your faith beginning to dwindle or already on life support or maybe even dead and buried, simply because you’re still kind of clinging to what you thought God promised you about something in your circumstance? Can I just encourage you to simply, finally, lay that expectation down and say, “God, You’ve said no for the time being? I asked for a big intervention, a miracle, a special promise for me, and You’ve said no at least for now. That’s ok with me. I understand. Lord, help me to instead fully experience at this stage in my life, your mercy, your grace, your love, your peace, your wisdom.” I guarantee you that is a prayer God will say yes to every single time. Because that is a promise God has made to you. He’s ready to dish that out to you like crazy. He has promised mercy and grace in your time of need. Because he has walked this earth as your Great High Priest, as Your Savior, living a fully human life just like you, He knows how you feel.
And, because He is God, Omnipresent, Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent and Omniscient, that’s what we’re going to be talking about in-depth on Wednesday nights soon, Because He is God, He knows what you need. So you can trust Him. You can have faith. You can have confidence that He really is who He says He is and that He will always do everything He has promised to do.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~