Mr. Richard Ames often reminds us to “claim God’s promises.” How often do we take that advice? God wants us to come boldly before Him, as children do with their human fathers. After all, God is our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is our elder Brother (Matthew 6:9; Hebrews 2:11–12, 17).
The Apostle Paul tells us, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption [sonship] by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14–15). God does not adopt us, notwithstanding the translators. He begets us, as is clearly shown by many scriptures. For instance, the very next two verses tell us that God’s Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (vv. 16–17). Note that there are two spirits—the Spirit of God and our human spirit. By the laying on of hands, we receive God’s spiritual “DNA”: “Whoever has been born [begotten or conceived] of God does not sin [that is, does not practice sin], for His seed [Greek: sperma] remains in him” (1 John 3:9). What a remarkable truth God has revealed to us!
If we believe this, why should it seem strange for us to approach our heavenly Father and claim His promises? Little children are often bold in holding parents to their promises, and God wants us to know that He is our caring Father. Because God is our Father and Jesus is our older Brother and High Priest who advocates on our behalf, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Understanding God’s Promises
Dear brethren, we ought to walk confidently in faith. That does not mean we walk foolishly in this time of trouble, but neither should we be frozen in fear. We should know that no matter what happens to us, our Father and our elder Brother know what is happening and are there with us. After all, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (v. 15).
We ought to trust in the promises God makes to us and remind Him of those promises. At the same time, we must not be as small children who sometimes fail to see the nuances in promises made. Some promises are conditional. Promises are also not subject to a child’s whims. Children can be impatient, and sometimes so are we.
God’s promises to Abraham, the father of the faithful, were certain—but not all were fulfilled during his lifetime. Their ultimate fulfillment will be completed at the resurrection—only an instant from when he went to sleep, even though thousands of years will have passed. Paul made a statement that we may easily forget in times of trouble. Referring to Abraham and others who went before him, he writes, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). These heroes of faith looked beyond the here and now to a heavenly country that will endure forever. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (v. 16). From this we see that God is pleased with His children when they put their complete trust in Him.
Later in the chapter, similar statements appear about other faithful servants. “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39–40). Yes, they will be made perfect and yes, they will receive the promise—but not yet. God is saying, Patience, children. He is working out the “big picture.”
Paul admonishes us in the next verses: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2). He describes what Jesus endured and then reminds us, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (v. 4). Then follows the reminder, “My son, do not… be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him” (v. 5), for He is a loving Father who cares for each of us.
This is not to suggest that you and I are necessarily or personally being rebuked by the crisis at hand, though surely each of us can learn from the experience. But clearly our world is being rebuked. God has allowed this to wake mankind up, and it is apparently waking a few. Most, however, will need an even louder alarm.
Many of us have read and meditated on Psalm 91 during this COVID-19 pandemic. This beautiful psalm promises protection for those who put their trust in God. Review the whole psalm, but note especially verses 3, 6–8, and 10–11. We certainly appreciate this protection today, but as I pointed out earlier, this does not mean we should walk about foolishly tempting God. Verses 11 and 12 were the very verses Satan quoted to encourage Christ to tempt God (Matthew 4:5–6). So we must not be foolish. We must see the big picture. While it is evident that God has been very merciful to His children during this time, we must face the fact that He allows some of us to get sick, and we will all die from something at some time (cf. Psalm 103:3; 2 Kings 13:14).
We can only address the problems and challenges that we are truly willing to face. Let us face the truth that many people fear: It is true that this pandemic is our enemy and has the potential to kill. Yet, it is also true that God gives us this wonderful promise: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57–58). Do we truly believe this?
How easy it is to see only the here and now, to become fearful over what we see around us, and to fail to see the big picture of God’s plan and how we individually fit into it. Notice this most encouraging passage: “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works” (Psalm 33:13–15). Wow—He fashions our hearts individually! He knows you and me, and He is working with us individually as He knows best. He is a Father who is intimately involved in rearing His children.
Most of us will come out on the other side of this pandemic just fine. Some of us may get sick, but most who do will recover. We believe God is our Healer (Exodus 15:26). Nevertheless, we lose members every year from a multitude of causes and illnesses—as of this writing, only one of our members has died of COVID-19—but we can be assured that, no matter the cause, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
Take courage, brethren. Don’t live foolishly. There is a threat out there, but look to God and trust Him that He knows you individually—He is your caring Father. If a sparrow does not fall to the ground without Him knowing it, how much more valuable are His children in His sight!