Believe you me.
I commit myself.
From the bottom of my heart.
You have my word.
Hand to God.
Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye...
There are so many different phrases we use to make promises. But promises are only as good as the people making them. You would be way less likely to believe someone who has broken their promises before (no matter what phrase they use) than you would someone who keeps their word.
I find that many promises usually fit into a few categories:
1. I fully intend to, but forget
I have three kids. And these three kids don't forget anything, except for all of their stuff at church every Sunday! Many times we will get to the car and while we are buckling them in, they will remember something they left and ask me to bring it home. (We drive separate on Sunday, cause I am the kids pastor.) All it takes is two little words, "I will", and they lock in on it like I just signed a peace treaty with every nation of the world.
Usually, I fully intend on going straight in, finding the object, and putting in my backpack to bring home. However...when I walk back in the church, and someone, anyone, talks to me about something other than what I was planning to do, I forget, and then show up at home empty handed. There's very little grace from a child that you make a promise to and then don't keep it.
Now I tailor my promise with "If I remember..." Not exactly a guarantee. It's more of a conditional promise. It gives me an out if I just completely forget, and helps me to be a little more cautious with exactly how many promises I make.
2. I definitely will, but circumstances or new information changed my mind
I think of the friend who asks me to help them with moving. (everyone's favorite activity) I promise them I will be there to help them move, show up, and discover that they aren't even fully packed yet. NEW INFORMATION has altered my desire to stick around for the duration of this move! (I think I hear my wife calling...)
I think of a promise I made to my kids that we would take a trip to the Trees of Mystery to see the giant, 50-foot statue of Paul Bunyan and his ox. Only, a few days before our trip, me and their mom discover that we both feel tired and feverish. It turns out that Covid has hit our home and we have to cancel our plans. The CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding our trip have changed, making the trip undoable.
I think of a husband and wife that call it quits. The CIRCUMSTANCES have changed. Either one or both of them decide they don't love each other like they used to, and they've changed their mind about the vows they took to be there for each other "till death do us part."
Sometimes we have no control over the results of the promise because of unforeseen obstacles or circumstances. It's not that we don't want to keep our promise, but we have no choice to change plans or cancel them altogether. And other times, we come upon new information that changes our desire to follow through on the promise. Right, wrong, or indifferent, we break our promise.
3. I absolutely will, and do
This is the pinnacle of promise making. It's the "no matter what" attitude that can't be changed or altered.
Just as there are couples that seem to give up at the first bump in the road, others stay and fight for their marriage with a vengance. They made a promise, and "by God" they are going to keep that promise even if it kills them (you know, the "death do us part" part).
Maybe it was a promise made to a dying parent or spouse that rings in your heart. It's a solemn promise and one that you take very seriously.
It could even be a promise that you make to yourself. Maybe based on a bad decision you made and your determination to never make that same mistake again.
Whichever of these categories you identify with most, what remains true is that every promise we make is only as good as we are at being able to keep it.
COVENANT MAKER AND KEEPER
This week we will take a look at the story of Abram. God called him to go the land of Canaan without any idea of what it would look like. Then, when God told him that he would give him a family that outnumbered the stars in the sky, Abram believed God even though he was old and childless.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,and you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3, NIV
This doesn't mean that Abram was perfect or particularly special. All it means is that God made a covenant, a legally binding yet loving and unconditional arrangement, with Abram to bless him and all families on earth because of him. The promise made was dependent on the One making it. And, as we know, God is perfect. He would not break his promise to Abram. He even changed Abram's name to Abraham which means "father of many".
God's promise was never going to be forgotten. It didn't matter what circumstances were in play, or what new information would come up. And it was more certain than any amount of determination or will-power mere mortals could muster.
This story should give us such hope. God's plan is to bless the world and to redeem as many people as possible to spend eternity with him (that's a promise). He could accomplish this in any way he wanted, and yet he chooses to use people to carry out the plan. Regular people. People like you and me. People like Abram and Sarai who were not the best choice by any worldly standards.
Fortunately for me and you, God can use anyone. Nothing is impossible for God, and
He uses the foolish and weak to shame those the world deems strong and wise. (1 Cor. 1:27) He can use you too. He can accomplish his plan of blessing more and more individuals and families by using you. Even though we are prone to wander and break our promises from time to time.
Jesus made a promise that he is coming back, and you know he is going to keep it. We need to be ready for that. So let's get busy with blessing others with the truth of who Jesus is and what he's done for them. Start with your own family, then your friends, your small group of kids at church, your neighbors, and beyond.
It's time to live like the One who made the promise is going to keep it. This ain't no pinky promise...it's a guarantee!