There is a question that some friends and I will jokingly ask each other from time to time, especially during difficult seasons of change. "Are you perishing right now?" The question is based on Proverbs 29–"Where there is no vision, the people perish." It’s also code for, "Do you need vision right now?" In the world we live in today, it's easy to perish.
That’s why it's essential to get a promise from God for your season, year, and life.
Remember, God's promises are the key to survival on the journey of faith. This is why God commanded His people to remember over 100 times in the Old Testament!
What is a Promise from God?
A promise from God is not something we manufacture or create; it is something we remain open to.
That doesn’t mean that we won’t face resistance when we’re contending for the promises of God. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The Old Testament depicts 11 times during the journey into the Promised Land that Israel resisted God and His plan. It all started when Pharaoh threatened to add a heavier burden to the daily labor requirements of the Hebrew slaves.
The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble… When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, "May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us." Exodus 5:19-21
Taking the long-term view, this should have added to Israel's desire to leave. Why work harder for Egypt with no pay? But, because the situation required short-term pain, Israel resisted. They weren't so different than we are today, were they?
Israel's journey out of Egypt warns us about the path to "beyond." An entire generation of Israelites perished in the wilderness because they lost sight of God's promises.
The Lord's anger burned against Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone. Numbers 32:13
Years ago, in a difficult leadership season, God told me a simple truth: "Don't miss the beauty of My Kingdom." It is beauty that motivates us and compels our vision. It can be so easy on a long journey to get consumed with logistics, needs, and operations that we forget the reason for the trek in the first place.
Promises are important because they provide us the beauty needed to fuel our journey. There are many examples throughout history of the power of beauty. In Ancient Greece, Helen of Troy is said to have had a "face that launched a thousand ships." Sir Edmund Hilary was so compelled by the power of beauty that he made it his life's work to climb Mt. Everest. A remarkable aspect of God's promises is that they reveal Him.
How to Get a Promise from God
Promises from God are essential to going beyond our current experience of faith. So, how do we get a promise from God? There are three critical truths we must discover about our “why” to truly move beyond our current territory of faith:
1. Move Beyond Our Imagination
There is a lot of talk among counselors, coaches, and consultants about finding one’s life purpose. Many of these discussions are helpful and motivating. I get concerned, however, when we believe that something so significant as a promise from God can be divined from a whiteboard session, branding meeting, or one-hour coffee appointment. God wants to give us promises that are beyond our imagination.
We often cannot even imagine what going “beyond” would be like. Just one century ago, the big inventions being celebrated were disposable razors, electricity, and the pop-up toaster. Who could have imagined that over the last 100 years humans would travel to space and communicate for almost no cost via an invisible global network (the web)! Henry Ford once famously commented that if he had asked the average consumer what she or he wanted, they would have asked for a “faster horse.” The idea of automobile travel was so “beyond” the average person’s way of thinking at one point, it was inconceivable.
With all that in mind, imagine what God has in store for us? Why would we limit our goal-setting ability to our natural mind and circumstances? Rather than limiting a promise from God to what you can understand, I suggested asking God to stretch your imagination.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20)
2. Look Beyond Our Ability
Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, states, “If you can accomplish your goals in your own strength, you’re not pursuing godly goals in the first place.”
Don’t allow your natural mind to discount a promise or calling from the Lord. The journey of faith is never easy and will often require a miracle.
Moses himself wrestled with this. His response to God’s calling was, “Who am I?” Focusing on ourselves and our abilities will lead to a small life. Focus on God, the needs around us, and the potential for miracles will lead to a great faith journey.
3. Believe Beyond Ourselves
In our desire to make an impact, find our calling, and invest our time wisely, we sometimes miss a critical issue — purpose is about service.
Through a life of service and generosity, Moses found his “why.”
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey... And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:8-10
When you focus on how your life will impact others around you, the less fortunate, and future generations, you realize that your life matters. People are counting on you. This is sometimes the motivation we need to keep going when change comes at a great personal cost.
Daily Practices to Receive a Promise from God
We must remember that the day Moses received his incredible call from God started like any other day. The “burning bush” story of Exodus 3 reminds us of three daily practices we can maintain if we would like to receive a divine promise.
• Daily faithfulness. Stay faithful where you are today. Moses was a faithful shepherd, tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law (Exodus 3:1). The very skills that Moses would need in the desert were being developed in his service to Jethro.
• Daily listening. Moses decided to stop what he was doing and see the “strange sight” of the burning bush. Be willing to pause your daily activities to listen to God in prayer. We never know when a burning bush may appear in our lives!
• Daily worship. Moses showed God great respect when he realized he was upon “holy ground.” Worship gives God our attention and sensitizes our hearts to the Holy Spirit. After Moses responded to the Lord in worship, the promise came.
The great thing about a promise from God is that God will move in His power to keep it. His word in our life does not return void!
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…(Psalm 105:8)