PROMISES, PROMISES…

(January 29, 2021) Brian Bell shares some precious seed thoughts…

It has been said the scriptures contain 366 promises, one for every day of the year, including a leap year. I have not tried to ‘prove’ that piece of information however, reading in 2 Peter 1: 1-11, I believe the Holy Spirit showed me a some lovely ‘seed thoughts’ which spoke to me about God’s promises.

Nature
Verse 4 ‘…rich and wonderful…’

Rich speaks to me about value these are promises worth having; wonderful in the context here speaks to me about satisfying. Surely, we all appreciate things which have value and bring satisfaction.

I believe Russell Kelso Carter captured the nature of God’s promises in his 1886 hymn Standing on the Promises. The second verse says –
‘Standing on the promises which cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.’

The nature of God’s promises is not to keep us from difficulties or sickness but to be with us in every situation of life.

No doubt you would agree that it can be more difficult to experience real value and satisfaction in the promises of men and women on which we may not be able to stand; however, the promises about which Peter speaks here bring spiritual enrichment to our lives and will not bring disappointment.

Encouragement
Also in verse 4 …you will escape the decadence…’

Writing about the letter to the church in Thyatira as in Revelation 2, Dr Michael Youssef writes, ‘The Christian church was born into a world of incredible decadence and immorality. First century Christians were surrounded by immorality of every description.’

We are also reminded in the book of Genesis that God saw people’s hearts were only evil continually and so he destroyed that generation by means of the flood.  That generation destroyed by the flood or those first century believers in Thyatira could not be seduced or influenced by the internet or television which is pervasive today, yet we know from historical records and from reading scripture that immoral influence was rife.

In his letter to first century believers Jude warns about ‘godless people who have wormed their way in among you saying that God’s forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives…’

2 Peter 1: 4, I believe, is encouraging readers – and that includes us – about how we can remain spiritually active in a decaying world. Sometimes this means we will have to defend truth or speak out against deception. The Message version encourages us to ‘be tender with sinners but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.’

Application
Verse 5 ‘…apply the benefits of these promises…’

In verses 5 to 8 Peter also refers to how the benefits may be realised as he speaks about qualities such as self-control, patient endurance, and love for other believers in which we are encouraged to grow. This speaks to me about my need to allow the Holy Spirit to ‘work in and work out’ the practicalities of God’s Word in my everyday life. Will this be challenging – yes indeed. A challenge when perhaps I find myself in a situation in which a conversation turns inappropriate or something appears before my eyes which will not contribute to my purity of thought.

Alistair Begg in his book Pray Big, writes: ‘The same is true of those of us who have doubts. They can come from nowhere, can’t they? What is the answer? Not a book on apologetics so much as the ministry of God’s Spirit. And what about the devilish thoughts that can come our way – strange and bizarre and horrible thoughts that can come while we’re singing or praying or just going about our day? What is the answer? The ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, pointing us back to the beauty and kindness of Jesus.’

Prospects
Verses 10 and 11 ‘…never stumble or fall away…enter into the eternal kingdom…’

As I understand what Peter is speaking about here, in saying we will never stumble or fall away, he is not talking about believers living a life of sinless perfection or never experiencing what we may call ‘failure’ or even ‘backsliding’ but his encouragement is to live a consistent Christian walk which, if I should be overtaken by sin, makes it possible for me to claim 1 John 1:9 (‘If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin…’).

Some people refer to this as ‘keeping short accounts with God.’ Perhaps you have heard it said as believers we are saved from the penalty of sin, saved from the power of sin and, while we are not presently free from temptation, one day we will be ultimately removed from the presence of sin.

The words ‘… enter into the eternal kingdom…’ remind me of the great hope given in the scriptures. Peter saw the risen Lord Jesus and his ascension to heaven, so I believe, more than I can do myself at this time, that he had a great personal insight into the eternal realm. However, for me as a believer it is a promise waiting to be fulfilled, just as the writer of Hebrews wrote about Abraham saying he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:10).

During the week I was bringing this article together, three believers known to me were all ‘promoted to glory’ as our friends in the Salvation Army tend to say. One of these, a young minister in his fifties, had battled with an overly aggressive cancer for just short of a year. For all of them, their faith has now become sight and, as Peter says, they have now entered the eternal kingdom and inherited the promise.

In the midst of a troubled world, struggling with sickness, political and financial instability is it not encouraging for us to look to the prospect of a future which ‘…eye has not seen, nor ear heard…’ (1 Corinthian 2:9).

Sanford Fillmore Bennett helps us by putting it into verse –
‘There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a dwelling place there.

‘In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore...’

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Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’
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