Charles Stanley - The Fulfillment of a Promise
It's one thing to know a promise of the scripture; it's something else to experience it. So when we talk about the promises of God, the Bible's full of them. And we talked about many people say there are forty thousand, thirty-two thousand, eight thousand. As we said before, the important thing is not how many, but the fact that God has kept every promise He's made and He's never forgotten a single one.
His promises come in two forms, they're either conditional, which means He makes a promise conditioned upon something that must happen or must not happen. And He makes and unconditional promise, which means He promises something is going to happen, and regardless of the circumstances it will happen and cannot change. He's an awesome, loving God who desires to give us promises by which we are to live. And if you'll think about it for a moment, many people wonder why God doesn't answer their prayer.
One of the primary reasons is the fact they ask for things that are not the will of God; and secondly, they doubt. And one of the primary reasons people doubt God answering their petition is because they don't have any foundation for it. That is, they ask and it's a matter of feeling and hoping and wishing, but no foundation. If you're asking God to give you guidance in some area, or if it's something that you need in your life, you need, listen, to put a foundation to that so that you can get anchored in that. You need to have a promise from God's Word. And there are many promises in God's Word, and there's a promise for every single solitary thing that you and I need, it's here.
So what I want to do in this message is this. I want to use one story, one event in the Old Testament, as a track to show you, How does God answer prayer? How does He deal with His promises? We said sometimes He has unconditional promises. They're going to be that way, nothing's going to change it. So I want to take you along that track. Now, it's not that you simply have never heard the events. What I want you to see is the, I want you to see principle after principle in this scenario with Abraham. So now let's start with the very beginning and I want you to turn to the twelfth chapter of Genesis. We read this passage before, but I want us to read this very clear promise that God gave to Abraham in these first few verses.
Beginning in chapter twelve and verse one, "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, from your relatives, from your father's house, to a land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.'" In you, He says, "'in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.'" Now that's eight promises. And notice what is not here. He didn't say if. He said, I will show you; I will make you; I will bless you. "'All the families of the earth will be blessed.'" Here is an eightfold, unconditional promise by God to Abraham.
Now what I want you to see is I want you to watch what happens in this man's life; because, a long period of time takes place before God fulfills all these promises. And one of the reasons we miss some of God's best blessings in our life is because His time schedule doesn't meet ours. And of course we see, here's a perfect example in this passage of scripture that shows us, between chapter twelve and twenty-two, what happens when people are not willing to wait for God's promises, when they take things in their own hands and what happens as a result.
So let's look at this and the first thing I want you to jot down in your notes is simply this, and that is, that the promises of God are stated clearly. That is, God would never say to you, Now here's what I'm thinking about. Or He wouldn't say, I want you to consider. Or He wouldn't say, Well, here's what I'd like for you to do, you figure it out. God's promises are crystal clear. There's not a single hazy, shady kind of uncertain promise in the Word of God. So therefore, He's going to make it very, very clear. And there are many promises in the scripture, and many of these promises apply to you and me just like they did to Abraham.
You say, Well I haven't been a Christian very long. That's not got anything to do with it. God doesn't change His principles, watch this carefully, He loves every single one of us unconditionally. That is, He wants the best for every single one of us. His promises include every single aspect of our life, because He has a purpose for your life. And sometimes people have the idea, Well, who am I and God doesn't have any purpose for my life. Yes He does. You're not listening to Him. He has a purpose and a plan for your life. He wants to accomplish something through you.
So, the first thing He does is He makes His promise very clear. But the second thing I want you to notice is this. And that is, with God's, listen, with His promises comes clear guidance. For example, if you're seeking His mind and heart about something and God says, Here's what I want you to do. God is never going to leave you to sort of figure it out for yourself. And, in this sixth verse, the Bible says that, "Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the Oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was, in the land". Now, why is He saying this? Because He wanted him to follow a certain path.
Now watch this carefully, because this is what gets people in trouble. They don't follow God's direction. They start out following God's direction, then they feel, I'll take it from here. And so he said, "the Canaanite was, in the land". Remember, the Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, all the "ites". They were all enemies of the people of God. And so He said to him here, He said, I'm going to be with you. So the important thing is that we recognize that God is going to guide us in whatever He tells us to do. You think about all the decisions you have to make in life. And think about decisions that pop up that you and I don't even plan on, things that we don't even have any details about. But He says, I will guide you.
That's a promise that belongs to every single child of God. That you can't bring up any issue that He doesn't know all about it. You can't bring up any question He doesn't have an answer for. And He's not going to say, Well maybe. He's not going to say, Well I'll think about it, and I forgot that. God wants to be personally involved in every single area of your life, because He knows you and I live in a world that's wicked, vile, corrupt, you name it; and Satan is our enemy. And therefore, God wants to be involved in every aspect of our life. Then there's a third thing that's important here and that's this. And that is, there should be many times in life when there's a time of personal worship and meditation in our life, seeking His guidance and direction. And the more critical the decision, but the more time you and I should be spending in doing what? Just what we're talking about here, meditating upon His Word. What did He say? How does He operate?
And so, what we find in these passages here, beginning, for example, in this seventh verse, now, Abraham's already on the move, "The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord who, appeared to him". Then the scripture says in verse eight, "Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord". So when he, what do you find him doing? He moves in the direction God wants him to go and then he takes the time. And when they built an altar, it could have been all kind of altar, but usually, for example, a stone altar, and at that pile of stones represented.
You just think about all the technology we have. Their technology was real simple, pile of stones here, pile of stones there and pile of stones over here, because he went back to the same pile of stones, the scripture will tell us in a moment. He went back to the same pile of stones because he wanted to be reminded of what God said to him. This is why I encourage you to keep a diary. This is why I encourage you to write down what God says to you. Because you, listen, Satan will steal it. He will take it right out of your mind. And I do believe that God oftentimes speaks to us the same requirement over and over and over again because He knows. Think about how busy you are on any given day. He wants us walking in the center of His will. Why? Because He wants the best for your life.
And if there's anything I could say to someone, God wants the best for your life, but you've got to cooperate with Him. He's going to do His part. He's going to show you the way. He's going to make a way. He's going to provide the way. He's going to do everything that a sovereign, loving God can do to help you on your way in life. But if you violate that, and you decide you're going to do it yourself, you're going to get in trouble. It's very, very simple and it's very clear in the Word of God. Which leads me to this next point, and that's this. That is, God will renew His promise because He wants us to follow Him. He will renew His promise to us as we follow His will. In the fifteenth chapter, if you move on over there. And we're skipping some chapters because of things that are going on that are not necessarily, did not apply to this.
So in the fifteenth chapter, verse one, "After these things," look at this, "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram. I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.' Abram said, 'O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'" is one of his servants. "And Abram said, 'Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.' Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.' And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him," listen, "'So shall your descendants be.' Then he believed in the Lord; and he reckoned it unto him as righteousness. And He said to him, 'I am the Lord who brought you out of the Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.'"
Then, of course, he said, Oh, Lord God, what about so-and-so. What I want you to see is this. In God's awesome love for us, wherever He leads us, and especially when the way gets difficult and hard and we can't quite see our way. It's in His wonderful grace that God will take the time and do whatever's necessary to reassure us that we are walking in His path, though it may be difficult, may be hard, be walking in His path, may be questionable. Others may think, well why you're doing that? He reassured him; here's exactly what I want you to remember; here's what I'm doing; we're going to do it just exactly like I said it.
And so, the Lord kept blessing him. Then of course, sometimes the fulfillment of God's promise may seem impossible when we view it from our eyes. And this is what, in the seventeenth chapter; this is where we find the Lord speaking to Abraham and telling him what He's going to do. "I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her". Now listen to this. Because it didn't seem reasonable, "Then Abraham fell on his face laughing and said in his heart, 'Will a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'"
And so, you look at this passage and you think, Well God, what in the world were You up to in all of this? It seemed impossible. Why did You just go ahead and let Sarah have a son? What's all this putting it off a quarter of a century? It didn't make sense, unless you know God. And when you see it from God's perspective, then we say, Oh I see. So, he laughed. When Sarah heard it, she laughed. They're both laughing at God about God doing what He promised to do on His schedule in His timing and His way. But he followed Him. He obeyed Him, as tough as it may have seemed to him at that particular time.
So then that leads me to the next point and that's simply this. That the fulfillment of God's promise in life may require of us something that appears to be in opposition to what He's promised. And He's promised that through this child, Isaac, He is going to bless all of mankind. And then one day God says to him, in the twenty-second chapter, "It came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' He said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, offer him there on Mount Moriah as a burn offering on one of the mountains of which I will show you.'"
Now that didn't make any sense at all because it looked like God was contradicting Himself. He says, Through this child I'm going to bless the nations of the earth. And now You're telling me to go kill him? Now let's put in cold language, kill him? That doesn't make sense. That, in other words, that couldn't be God. God would never say that. Watch this. This is why we live by promise and we live by obedience, not by feelings and not by reason. Because some things just will not seem to be reasonable. But what did he do? The scripture says very clearly, "Abraham rose early in the next morning and saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him and Isaac, his son; he split wood for the burnt offering, and rose and went to the place of which God had told him".
Here's a significant thing, "On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men," now watch this, very significant verse in the Bible, "Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.'" What was Abraham saying? God's made me a promise, and He's taken me this far. He gave me a son when I didn't even think it was possible. He's done all this. If God tells me to sacrifice my son, I'm going to be obedient to Him because I believe that God will have to raise him from the dead, but I'm going to trust Him to do it. Wasn't reasonable, but he trusted Him. Which leads me to the last point and that's this.
Sometimes the fulfillment of God's promise may lead us to surrender something very dear to us. So of all the things that Abraham owned, and he was a very, very wealthy man, the most important possession he had was Isaac, his son. That's why He called him the one, the only one he loved. Think about this. Isaac was that link in the chain that kept the chain of the genealogy of Jesus in perfect sequence. And so what did he do? He took him up to the mountain. He had him bound. Laid him up on the altar and raised the dagger to take his life. It's interesting, you'll recall the scripture says on their way up there, that Isaac said, Well, Father, I see the wood and, I see how we can build an altar and, I see the fire. Where is the lamb? Remember what Abraham said? God will provide the lamb. Now watch this. Isaac was the most precious thing he owned, that was his son. But he was willing to lay him down for the purpose of obeying God.
So let me ask you a question. What is there in your life that you are gripping, you're holding onto and somehow you just can't surrender to God? Watch this carefully. Is it a relationship that you have that you can't open your hands to? Is it something you possess that you can't lay down? Something you own? Is it some dream that you have; some goal that you've set; some path that you have chosen to walk? But you're not willing to lay it down. Let me simply say this. You will end up disappointed, in pain, in heartache, in suffering, because that's the way disobedience leads every single time. But if you give it up and give it to Him, watch this carefully, you will never lose. You cannot lose giving yourself to Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ. You cannot lose. You cannot win holding to yourself what God intends for you to lay down.
So where are you in your life? Have you ever trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior or have you just decided you're going to live your life the way you want to live it and somehow you're going to make it work? You can't make it work. Watch this. You cannot make work something that God will never allow to work, and that's disobedience. As a believer, you and I may make decisions that are not right and God will forgive us and we'll move on. But if you deny Jesus Christ, if you reject the Son of God, listen, Isaac was to Abraham what Jesus is to the Father. And the Father gave Jesus to die on the cross so that you could be forgiven of your sins; so that you could have the gift of eternal life. When you reject Him, you reject God's only avenue to a holy life and a life that's eternal.
So if you hold onto what is yours, to your way of life, and reject Him, what do you have? You don't have His guidance. You don't have His presence. You don't have anything. It's a deception of the devil that somehow you're going to make it anyway. You cannot. Please listen to me. You cannot. You will not. God will not allow it. The wisest thing you can do is to ask the Father to forgive you of your sins and tell him that you're trusting Jesus Christ, His sacrificed Son at the cross, who died to pay our sin debt in full. You're trusting Him as your personal Savior and from this point on, it's His life. Your life is His life, whatever He wants to do. Wisest decision you will ever make in your life.
Father, I pray the Holy Spirit will sink these truths so deep, so strongly they cannot be forgotten; they cannot be ignored; they cannot be thwarted in any way. We love You for loving us. None of us would boast that we deserve it, but we know in our heart we belong to You by creation. And those of us who are your children, we belong to You also by redemption. And it's our prayer that people everywhere will discover who You are. And we as your children come to You this moment to say, Lord, whatever there is in our life that we're holding onto that doesn't fit Your plan, God, we lay it down today, in Jesus' name, Amen.