The Promises of God

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Promises of God; Trust; Patience; New Year

The Bible, the inspired Word of God, is a many-faceted book. It is a book of history, poetry, proverbs, parables, biographies--and, of profound importance, it is a book of promises--God’s promises.

Russell Kelso Carter, who was born in 1849, was a star athlete of a military academy and an outstanding student academically as well. He was multi-talented. He was an ordained Methodist minister, a musician and song-writer, and also earned a medical degree and spent the last of his professional years as a practicing physician. At age 30 he became critically ill with a heart problem, and the doctors told him there was nothing they could do. He was already a Christian, but it was during that health crisis that he came to a new depth in his faith. God’s Word became more alive to him than ever before. He began to study with new zeal and intensity the great promises of God set forth throughout the Scriptures, and he came to the point that he prayed, “Lord, whether you see fit to heal me or not, from now on my life is fully yours, and I’m going to stand on your promises.” He then wrote that great hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” It was several years later that his health began to improve, and he lived a full and productive life until he died at age 79.

God doesn’t always see fit to heal our illnesses--sometimes he takes his children home to heaven where they experience perfect, eternal wellness. At other times he does heal us in this life. It all depends on his plan for the individual. But one thing is certain: If we will study God’s promises, correctly understand them, and rightly apply them, they will revolutionize our lives--in a positive way.

So, we’re going to look today at some basic facts about the promises of God--and as we do so I am praying that all of our lives will be changed. I am praying that some folks will respond by making a first-time commitment to Christ, and that others of us will respond by committing to a closer walk with our Lord.

As we consider the promises of God, let’s first take note of...


A. Types of Promises

His promises are of two types: some are unconditional, and others are conditional. An example of an unconditional promise is found in Genesis 9:11 in the words that God spoke to Noah and his sons after the flood: “And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off anymore by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth.” An example of a conditional promise is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

B. Distinction of Promises

Some of God’s promises are to be fulfilled in the future, some are being fulfilled now, and some have already been fulfilled.

1. An example of a promise relating to the future is Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” God, through Isaiah, was speaking of the time following the return of Christ, when Jesus will set up his millennial

kingdom--because Jesus said, in Matthew 24:6-7 that until he comes again there will “wars and rumors of wars” and he said that “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

2. Isaiah 7:14 is a promise that has already been fulfilled: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That promise, of course, was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.

3. An example of a promise being fulfilled now, in our present generation, is 2 Timothy 3:1: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” And the verses which follow describe sinful attitudes and actions which are rampant in our day and age.

C. Intention of Promises

Some of God’s promises were intended only for the specific individuals to whom they were given--such as the promise that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.” That applied to Abraham, and Abraham only. But many other promises are intended for all people of all generations--such as Revelation 22:17: “...whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

D. Reliability of Promises

God’s promises are 100% reliable. In connection with the dedication of the temple, Solomon spoke these words to the congregation of Israel in 1 Kings 8:56: “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” That, of course, is not true of man’s promises--some of man’s promises are kept, and some are not.

1. Sometimes men make promises that they have no intention of keeping--but not so with God. Titus 1:2 makes reference to “eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” In reviewing how God kept his promises to Abraham’s descendants, Hebrews 6:18 says that “it was impossible for God to lie.” Whenever God speaks--at any time, on any subject--you can write it down as absolute truth.

2. Well-meaning people sometimes make promises and then forget them--but that never happens with God. Regarding God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, we read in Psalm 105:42-43: “For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant. And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness.” God never forgot any promise that he ever made to anyone--and he never will, because he is God and is not subject to forgetfulness.

3. There are times when men make promises with all good intentions, only to find that for some reason they are unable to follow through. Dr. Lynn Jones told about a little boy talking to a shopping mall Santa Claus. The little boy asked, “Are you a politician?” Santa said, “Why do you ask?” The little boy said, “Because you always promise more than you can deliver.”

Politicians, advertisers, friends and co-workers--and even family members--sometimes make promises that are not kept. You and I could not honestly say that we have always kept every promise that we ever made--but it is different with God’s promises. God is not subject to any of man’s weaknesses or limitations. He is the all-powerful Creator of the world, he is the Sovereign of the universe. The prophet declared, in Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” In Luke 1:37 the angel said to Mary: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Whatever God says, you can count on it with absolute certainty.

Now, a second thing about the promises of God. I’ve alluded to this, but now let’s get specific and consider...


In other words, what are those promises meant to accomplish? The answer to that depends on the individual promise, for different promises have different purposes.

A.    Warning Promises

Some of God’s promises are intended to warn. Some are to warn unbelievers of the wrath to come. Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Others are to warn wayward believers to get “back on track” for God. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

B.    Saving Promises

Great numbers of God’s promises are designed to lead people to salvation--and many of those promises are pointed and direct. Such a promise is John 3:16, probably the most familiar verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 1 John 2:25 says, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” Romans 10:13 declares, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

C.    Motivating Promises

Other promises that God has made are intended to motivate us to right living, once we are saved. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul wrote, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

D. Guiding Promises

Some promises have to do with God’s desire to guide us in the decisions we must make, so that we don’t go astray. In Psalm 32:8 the Lord says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” In Proverbs 3:5-6 we read: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

E. Comforting Promises

God gives us promises to comfort us in times of adversity and pain. Psalm 37:3 says, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 55:22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

F. Lifting Promises

All of us, at times, are cast down and depressed--but God has given us promises to lift us and encourage us. For example, he says, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In Deuteronomy 32:27 we read: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms....” Earlier, in verse 25, he promises that “as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” One of the most encouraging promises in all the Bible is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Psalm 8:7: “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble.” Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Someone has said, “God’s promises are like the stars--the darker the night, the brighter they shine.”

G. Hopeful Promises

In that same connection, at times when the future seems bleak and barren, God provides wonderful promises that give us hope.

1. He gives us hope for this present earthly life. The inspired author of Psalm 27:13 said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” In Lamentations 3:21-24 we read: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.”

One of the greatest missionaries of all time was William Carey, a British cobbler who lived from 1761 to 1834. He is often referred to as “the father of modern Protestant missions.” As he worked at his cobbler’s bench, he would look frequently on a map of the world hanging on his wall. He had an ever-deepening conviction that God was calling him to take the gospel to the people of India. When he told the members of the church he attended about it, one of the men said, “Sit down, young man, sit down. If God wants to convert the heathen he will do it without your help.” But Carey was not to be denied. He saved and scraped, and obtained help from others who believed in his call, until finally he was able to travel to India. The work was difficult and dangerous, and he experienced one sorrowful setback after another. For the first seven years in India he had not a single convert. One of the people back home corresponded with him and asked, “Mr. Carey, what do you think now of the future of your missionary work in this backward land?” Carey answered, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

2. The Lord not only gives us hope for better days ahead in this present life; he also gives us hope for the life to come--and the term “hope” in the Bible refers not to wishful thinking, but to confident expectation based on God’s assurances.

Jesus says to saved people, in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Over and over the Bible assures us that Jesus is coming again. For the unbeliever it will be a tragic time. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”

For the Christian, Christ’s return will be a time of victory and rejoicing. Titus 2:13 speaks of the promise that Jesus is coming again in these terms: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”

A wonderful promise to believers is found in Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me [the apostle John was the inspired author of these verses], Write: for these words are true and faithful.”

Now, having considered the nature of God’s promises and their purposes, let’s look together at the crux of the matter--and that is...


A.    We claim those promises by faith

Referring to some of the great heroes of the Old Testament, Hebrews 11:33 says, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions”--and the list of what they did goes on in the next several verses. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”--and verse 6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

But it is crucial that we understand that the faith God honors and responds to is not just any kind of faith--to obtain results with God, our faith must be placed specifically in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who shed his blood on the cross in order that all who repent and believe might receive the gift of everlasting life. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” There is no hesitation or vacillation about Jesus; he is God’s emphatic, eternal yes to those who trust him, and any effort to reach God otherwise gets a strong, resounding no--maybe not from man, but definitely from God.

Once we’re saved, then God expects us to grow stronger in our faith, just as we’re to grow in all areas. Romans 1:17 speaks of going “from faith to faith”--meaning, from one level of faith to another.

B.    How do we obtain faith?

The Bible gives clear answer to that question. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” In Acts 20:32 the apostle Paul declared: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” James 1:21 says, “Wherefore lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Not only does that initial, saving faith come from exposure to the Word of God--it is also true that, as believers, we grow in faith as we continue to study his Word. 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

The renowned lay evangelist, D. L. Moody, said that as a young Christian he used to bemoan the fact that his faith was so weak, and he tried every way he could think of to become stronger in his faith. Then one day he began studying his Bible in a regular, disciplined manner--and he said, “I’ve been growing in faith ever since.”

Paul Powell said that there are more than 700 promises in the Bible, and that those promises of God are like sacks of cement. For cement to do what is is designed to do, it must be mixed with water--and for the promises of God to accomplish their purpose in our lives, we must mix those promises with faith.

C. Exercising patience for His promises

There’s also another thing to be said in regard to claiming God’s promises: we must exercise patience. We must realize that God’s timing is not always the same as ours, and we must wait before him prayerfully.

The writer of Psalm 94:3 cried out wearily, “ long shall the wicked triumph?”

With a burdened heart, the prophet prayed in Habakkuk 1:2, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear?”

But God, in his perfect wisdom, works according to his own divine schedule. Acts 7:17 says, “But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.”

In Acts 1:4-5 the risen Christ spoke to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem: “And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”

In 2 Peter 3:3 we read, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” Then he goes on to say, in verse 8, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Some of God’s promises, as mentioned earlier, relate to the future--but even in the case of those relating to the “here and now” God sometimes requires that we patiently wait until the time is right. Sometimes we must wait until our hearts are conditioned to receive the promise--and sometimes God has other reasons for requiring us to wait. But be that as it may, we are to bear in mind such admonitions as Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Hebrews 6:12 exhorts us to “be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” The author of Psalm 40:1-2 said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”


The wisest decision any person can ever make is to link your life to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, and from point on to live in accordance with God’s promises--in other words, as Russell Carter expressed it in his great hymn, “Standing on the Promises of God.”

Dr. Lynn Jones tells of an experience in the life of the late Charles Allen, who served for many years as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. The worship services of the church were broadcast on television, and many people watched those services every week. Allen said that one week he got a letter from a young man who had served in the Vietnam War, was grievously wounded, and was in a local hospital being treated. The young soldier had tuned in to the service the previous Sunday, and wrote Dr. Allen to express his appreciation. He wrote, “You sang the hymn, ‘Standing on the Promises.’ I love that hymn. During the war I stepped on a mine and lost both of my legs. Now the promises of God are the only things that I can stand on.”

Thank the Lord for that young man’s faith--and thank the Lord for the great promises he has given to all of us--promises on which we can stand with assurance. Let’s sing that great hymn together:

Standing on the promises of Christ, my King!

Thro’ eternal ages let His praises ring;

“Glory in the highest,” I will shout and sing;

Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that 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.

Standing on the promises, I now can see,

Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;

Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,

Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ, the Lord,

Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,

Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s Sword,

Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises, I cannot fall,

List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,

Resting in my Savior as my All in All,

Standing on the promises of God.