by: Eric Wheeler  (originally posted 2-4-2006 and re-posted 9-14-2014)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the promises that God has given to me personally. You know the ones that I’m talking about. The personal promises that God has either whispered into our minds, through quiet subtle revelations from His Holy Spirit, or maybe through powerful dreams and visions, or through some profound manifestation of His Word to our souls. However He chooses to reveal His promises to us, we know that it is Him, because He is our Shepherd, and as He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

In any case, we who are His, know that He has personally promised us certain things. Sometimes, it’s a word about us directly. Sometimes, it’s a word regarding our current circumstances. Or maybe, it’s a word about what He is going to do in our lives yet in the future. Whatever the case may be, we are certain that He has spoken it to us, and we trust that He is in control. But in the meantime, as we face the day to day decisions and pressures of life, and experience the perhaps, mundane schedules of our lives, do we live in those promises? Do we really believe? Do we really live our lives in these desert places believing that God has us right where He wants us?

I am convinced as I study the Scriptures that God is in charge of everything that His children go through. I believe that God places His children in seemingly “dismal” surroundings and circumstances that are designed to bring about the maximum trust and reliability on God. I believe that this is clearly expressed in the Scriptures.

For starters, let’s look at Jesus Himself! When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and a loud voice spoke from Heaven and declared (promised) that God was indeed pleased with Him as His Son. But then notice, Jesus was immediately led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to go through a time of intense physical suffering and agonizing discomfort (Matt. 3:16-17; 4:1-11). It was to be a time of grueling trials and testings. Jesus was forced to go through forty days and forty nights of physical exhaustion and hunger and mental torture while Satan whispered evil thoughts and temptations into His brain trying to persuade Him that God was a liar and not worthy of His unwavering loyalty and unyielding allegiance!

How many of us since baptism have experienced, or are experiencing, similar kinds of testings and trials? We know that we were given His Holy Spirit; we know by the Scriptures that He has declared us to be His son and/or daughter; we wholeheartedly believe that He can at any time deliver us and provide for us abundantly; and yet, we find ourselves every day struggling to make ends meet and survive, and to endure in faith. And all the while, as we are striving to persevere, during our suffering, Satan is happily whispering into our brains thoughts of ‘giving up’, ‘taking the easy way out’, ‘going back to Egypt’, and/or ‘selling out’. Then on top of all of this mental torture and anguish, just to add insult to injury, along comes our unbelieving spouse and/or unconverted friends, just like in Job’s case, to accuse us of being fools in our beliefs, and stating that our suffering is justified because of all of our hidden sins and shortcomings!  It is enough to make us want to quit, give up on Christianity, and forget all of God’s promises.

But my dear friends, and brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, let’s not forget that it was not those who gave up and quit believing God that were delivered from the Sinai Desert during Moses’ Day. But rather, only those who continued to believe in God’s delivering and saving power survived the wilderness journey. That is why it says, “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years; to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger, and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you” (Deut. 8:1-5).

Sadly, only two individuals who came out of Egypt, survived the wilderness experience, and entered into the promises of God. They were Joshua and Caleb (Num. 14:30). Why? Because the Bible says that they had a different spirit in them and followed God wholeheartedly (Num. 14:24; Num. 27:18). Just like the other ten spies who were sent out with them to observe the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb also saw the giants of the land. They, too, knew that they were “grasshoppers” in comparison to them. Yet, they did not allow what their eyes were seeing to contradict and counteract their faith in God. Instead, they boldly proclaimed to the people, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Num. 14:8-9). But unfortunately, the people didn’t listen to them and they murmured and rebelled against God and His promises in their unbelief. Because of this, God slew them all except for Joshua and Caleb. As the Bible says, “Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His Rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter in because of their unbelief” (Heb. 3:16-19). The Scriptures are clear, we mustn’t stumble at the promises of God – no matter what the physical circumstances or situation looks like!

If God has promised you something, then stand firm in it no matter what! He will test you mightily to see whether or not you will believe Him or trust Him to make it all come about. Isn’t this the whole testimony of the Old Testament? God promised the Israelites a “beautiful land flowing with milk and honey”. Instead, He immediately took them out into a dry desert place flowing with snakes and scorpions! God promised Joseph that the people of the world, including his own family, would one day bow down to him. Instead, within a few short months and days of these promises, he was bowing down to everyone else as a slave and as a prisoner. God promised David that he was going to be king –”the Law of the land” in Israel. Instead, God made him the direct opposite of that – he became an outcast and an outlaw. God told Abraham that he was going to be the “father of many nations”. Instead, Abraham and Sarah spent the next twenty-five years being barren and childless. And then, when God did give him a son in Isaac, God told him to offer him up as a sacrifice!

If God promises you something, be prepared to receive the opposite for a while. Learn to live by faith, not by what you see and hear. For this is truly living by faith! For as the Bible says, “The just [those who are right with God] live and walk by faith, not by sight!” (Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38; II Cor. 5:7).

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