‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
So said Lord Acton and there is no doubt some truth in his words. But it’s not just those who, for example, have at their disposal the second largest military in the world who need to be careful – we all are sometimes prone to abuse the power we have even if that which we posses is considerably smaller. Likewise, though few of us will have reneged on assurances given that we would not invade a neighbouring country or failed to keep to previously agreed humanitarian ceasefires, we too are not always as good as we should be at keeping our promises. Perhaps then it is no surprise that lately we have grown all too accustomed to those in authority breaking their promises and we could, perhaps, be forgiven for wondering if we should ever trust anyone who holds a position of power.
I am confident though that there is at least one who we can take at his word.
God is working his purposes out as year succeeds to year – including this year, irrespective of how abnormal and unexpected the world is in increasingly becoming.
God frequently works outside expected norms. What could be more unexpected, what could be more abnormal, than his saving of wretched sinners through the death of his son on a cruel Roman cross?
But Christ crucified, though it appears, on the face of it, to be foolishness, it is in fact the power of God and the wisdom of God. [1 Corinthians 1:14). We need to remember that we are surprised by God only to the extent that we have a wrong idea of who he is. The problem lies with us. It is we who are abnormal, we who are, because of our sinfulness, prone to act in ways contrary to how we should.
We too easily forget about grace and mercy. God never surprises himself by the way he acts. Thousands of years before it happened the death of the Messiah was prophesied as the means by which he would one day save sinners.
That a gracious and merciful God should keep his promises should not be something that surprises us. Even so, there will be those who will ask, ‘What evidence is there that God will, in the future, deliver on all the promises he has made in the past? How can we be sure?’
This is a valid question and one that is important for us to be able to answer since it asks why we should have faith in God. Christian faith is all about believing that what God says is true, trusting that, however improbable it may sometimes seem, God is in control and what he says will happen will one day come to pass. If we cannot answer how we can be sure that he will keep his promises, ours is a blind faith, one that is not based on solid foundations.
Peter urges us to be ‘prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us]’ [1 Peter 3:15]. Since ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ [Hebrews 11:1], if we are to have any assurance at all, it is important that we have solid reasons for our faith especially when what we can see seems only to be that things are going badly wrong.
So, in no particular order, here are some of my reasons why we can trust God.
1. Past record. When God has made promises in the past he has kept them. He promised as far back as the garden of Eden that one day a Messiah would come who would bruise Satan’s head even as his own heel was bruised [Genesis 3:15]. This promise was kept in the coming of Jesus Christ. And throughout the Old Testament there are countless other promises made in the form of prophecies about Jesus. These include that he would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, that he would be betrayed by a friend and sold for thirty pieces of silver, that he would be struck and spat upon, pierced through the hands, feet and side, that not one of his bones would be broken, that lots would be cast for his clothing and that he would be resurrected on the third day. The fact that all these promises were kept assures us that we have good reason to believe that we can trust that God will keep all of his many other promises.
2. God’s nature. Because God is by nature good and true, it is impossible to think of anything more certain than his word. It is not possible for the God who defines what is true to lie, or the God who defines what is good to break a promise. ‘For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’ [Hebrews 6:13-19a]
3. God is omnipotent, all powerful, and as such, unlike us he never makes a promise he is unable to fulfil because of any limitation in himself. The answer to the rhetorical question of Genesis 18:14, ‘Is anything too hard for the LORD?’ is a categorical No!’. Likewise God is omniscient, all knowing, and so, unlike us, he never makes a promise without fully appreciating all that there is to know and thus is never surprised by circumstances which might prevent him acting in the way he has said he will.
4. God is God and there is no other, He is God and there is is none like him. He declares ‘the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ [Isaiah 46:10]. There is therefore a sense in which, when he makes a promise, God is declaring what will one day be and, since he says these things from the position of someone who already knows all that the future holds, his promises are utterly dependable.
5. God’s word creates what it commands. His word is powerful. When God said ‘Let there be light’ there was light. He spoke and what he spoke came into existence. When Jesus said to the storm ‘Be still’ the storm was stilled, when he said to Lazarus, ‘Come out’ the dead man came out. Creation has no option to obey what God demands. If God speaks it happens, therefore if God speaks his words are bound to come true.
6. Ultimately we can trust God’s promises because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. For ‘he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?’ [Romans 8:32]. The God who can raise from the dead the one whom he sent to die for us is revealed to be a powerful God of love, one who can be trusted to fulfil all the wonderful promises he has made to us because he is good enough and strong enough to do so. All God’s promises ‘find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ’ [1 Corinthians 1:20]. His promises are therefore sure for ‘the word of God is not bound’ [2 Timothy 2:8], not even by any limitations in ourselves for even ‘if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.’ [2 Timothy 2:13].
There are no doubt many other evidences that our God will deliver on his promises but these are at least a few that can give us great confidence, even in a time of war, that he will not fail to bring about what he says he will.
We can indeed look forward with eager expectation to the time when the great promise of the gospel will be fulfilled. As the old hymn puts it well, ‘God is working his purposes out as year succeeds to year’, and were we to sing it now we could do so confidently for, since it is based on another of God’s promises [Habakkuk 2:14]. For it is undoubtedly true that ‘nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.’
Personally I can’t wait.
To read ‘A Hand Held’, click here
To read, ‘Jesus wept’, click here
To read, ‘Light in the Darkness’ click here
To read, ‘Real Power’, click here
To read, ‘Weeping with those who weep’, click here
To read, ‘But this I know’, click here
To read, ‘I’ll miss this when we’re gone – extended theological version’, click here
To read ‘Rest assured’, click here
To read, ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’, click here
To read ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here
To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.
To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here
To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here
To read, ‘True Love?’, click here
To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it just rhubarb?’, click here
To read, ‘Rest assured’, click here
To read, ‘Hope Comes From Believing The Promises Of God’, click here
To read “Waiting patiently for the Lord”, click here
To read “Good Friday – 2021”, click here
To read “Easter Sunday – 2021”, click here