God’s Unfailing Promises
Why is a righteous life cut short? How can persecution and martyrdom of the righteous occur when God has promised protection, good health and prosperity? Why do we suffer financial problems, sickness and grief when the Bible says that it is the unrighteous who will suffer?
Surely the unrighteous will have their lives cut short not the righteous, “The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” (Proverbs 10:27-28). Yet we know of righteous people who have died prematurely and we also know of many wicked people prospering to an old age.
Many promises are made in the Bible, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Psalms 92:12-15). Many of us have sought anointing expecting to be healed, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:13-14). And when healing does not occur immediately our faith may be shaken especially if it is a life-threatening illness.
We are not alone in feeling discouraged because God does not act within our time-frame. Jeremiah had expectations of protection but when he was treated badly he asked of God, “Shall evil be recompensed for good?” (Jeremiah 18:20). He wanted God to recompense his enemies for their sins then and there. David too asked how long would his enemies prevail over him (Psalm 13:1-6, Psalm 94:3-4). Joseph was imprisoned unfairly. Job wished that he had not been born. Paul was beaten and shipwrecked and there are many other instances in the Bible where righteous people have suffered.
Because we are human we are geared to think in terms of the physical and easily become discouraged when God’s promises are not fulfilled within the time we expect. But God is working on a bigger picture and to Him life extends far beyond the physical. Our promised reward for righteousness is in the future when we will be given everlasting life that cannot be touched by sickness, poverty, death, misery and sorrow. And make no mistake, the unrighteous will receive their just deserts, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7).
But God is not willing that any should perish and will give the unrighteous every chance to repent, “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.” (II Peter 3:9). In the end after they have been finally judged and have refused to repent their lives will be cut short. They will be consigned to the Lake of Fire and eternal death, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Although they may have prospered during their physical lives their existence will finally be cut off and all prospect of eternal life extinguished. The righteous on the other hand will prosper and live forever.
If the rewards God promises were given in this life and people could see that Christians are becoming wealthy and healthy, having great status and being rewarded openly in this life they would all flock to join a church and fill the pews to overflowing – but most would be there for the wrong reasons. Just as many followed Christ for the wrong reasons in His time, “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” (John 6:26-27).
When He went on to speak about matters of spiritual importance many of these people who did not truly believe turned away, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:63-66).
God did not say it would be a bed of roses for all of us. Look at what Christ said in Luke about things that will happen toward the end of this age, “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” (Luke 21:16-18). It doesn’t mean that we shall not be harmed or even killed in this life – it simply means that no matter what they do to us it will not affect the promise of eternal life that God has given us. And it is on these promises that our hope and comfort is established.
There is always a bigger picture that we need to keep in mind. Some say that God has promised to give us anything we ask for in prayer based on the following, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (I John 3:21-22). But when we look a bit further on we see that God will give us anything we ask according to His will, not according to our own will, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” (I John 5:14). If we pray for the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that will bring us to perfection, or for wisdom (James 1:5) and understanding He will answer our prayers, but praying for wealth and status just does not cut it with God.
But He will look after us, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:25-34).
When we are faced with sickness, disease and natural disasters we often ask where God is in these matters - if everything He created was ‘good’ how come these things are allowed to exist and why are the righteous affected just as much as the unrighteous? Some will blame God for their misfortune and turn away from Him. But He is not to blame.
Everything God created was ‘good’ and He gave mankind dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). He also gave our first parents the freedom of choice with the two trees in the Garden of Eden. But when they rejected God’s way and listened to Satan they submitted themselves to him, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they were actually taking the power to determine good from evil for themselves. And without realising it they were also handing their God-given dominion of the earth to Satan. That is why he is known as the god of this world, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not...” (II Corinthians 4:4).
By submitting dominion of the earth to Satan everything was corrupted – the nature of man became a mixture of good and evil, and there was also a change in the environment that God had created for man. When God said, “...cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow ye shall eat of it all the days of thy life;” (Genesis 3:17) He was telling them that they would have to suffer the consequences of their choice for the rest of this age. Satan corrupted the very nature of plants and animals resulting in a range of species that has now become poisonous, carnivorous and predatory. That included the manifestation of illness and disease emanating from various viruses and organisms that had previously played a passive, or inert role in the environment had now become harmful, contagious and in some cases even lethal. God is not to blame for these things – we have brought a lot of our problems on ourselves and have to live with it.
Since that time mankind has exacerbated the damage through the manufacture of harmful chemicals and gases that are absorbed, or ingested causing all sorts of mutations and cancers etc. None of this is God’s doing. We need to lay the blame where it belongs – on Satan’s head. He has caused the woes of this world – not God!
Satan is the perpetrator of all our woes and problems not God. He is trying desperately to subvert God’s plan of salvation by sowing the seeds of discontent and doubt among the righteous. In his capacity of god of this world Satan will do anything he can to prevent humanity from receiving the rewards God has promised, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8).
Fortunately for us God has not changed - He is still love, (I John 4:8) His divine nature is established on goodness, righteousness and truth and everything He does is good. He has made promises that in the fullness of time will be fulfilled. The good news is that He has already sent Jesus Christ to this earth to begin the destruction of Satan’s work, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8). The process has begun.
In time Christ will come to take back dominion of the earth, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15). And the corruption of the environment will eventually be reversed, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 NKJV). It will be delivered into the hands of the righteous, “...the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:21-22 NKJV). And Isaiah spoke of a time when, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
We believe God created the heavens and earth with a purpose. He had a plan when He said “Let us make man in our image,” (Genesis 1:26). He has promised us eternal life, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” (I John 2:25). This was His plan from the beginning, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
He says we are to be changed from our physical existence into eternal spirit beings, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption… …It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (I Corinthians 15:42-44). We are to become part of His Kingdom,“...walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (I Thessalonians 2:12).
This is no ordinary kingdom. It is a Kingdom of a heavenly nature, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom:” (II Timothy 4:18). In other words it is a spiritual Kingdom. We are to become spirit beings in God’s Kingdom. And He is going to receive us into His Kingdom as members of His own family, “…and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18).
When He was on earth Christ referred to His followers as brethren, “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Matthew 12:49 see also Hebrews 2:11). And Paul said that Christ was, “...the first born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). We are to be children of God, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17). We have an inheritance preserved for us in God’s heavenly Kingdom, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:4).
What God has prepared for His children is far beyond anything we can imagine, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9). If this beautifully created environment that we live in now is anything to go by, then the spiritual Kingdom into which we are called will be even more spectacular.
These are the promises we need to keep uppermost in our minds – we need to keep focussed on the bigger picture of what God has planned for us. However, it is not easy to focus on these promises when we are faced with fiery trials that affect us here and now. When our faith does take a battering we need to remember the words of Paul, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
God has not changed - He is still love. He will keep His promises, “…let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9). Hewill not let anything happen to us that we cannot bear, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13).
He is preparing us for a future role in His Kingdom. All of His promises will be fulfilled!