Thoughts to Ponder

But God Promised!

God made a statement in His word that I think is just as true today as it was for the people when God said it:

Hosea 4:6a My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Of course the knowledge God is speaking of is knowledge of Him and His word. I have long complained that churches today aren't teaching people God's word. Most often there are more quotes from other people's books and opinions than there are quotes from God's word.

Even worse is the fact that most people don't bother to read God's word on their own regularly. They think they know Him and His word, but their lack of knowledge is very evident when you speak to them and it puts them in danger of destruction.

I could give many examples of this, but I want to focus on just one because it is one that I hear repeated often and this error often directly affects the person's relationship with God.

I often hear from people that they are angry with God because He hasn't kept His promises. Let me quote directly from one such letter I received:

"I have been a Christian for 25 years - Why - I really wonder why... I tried to read the bible but I don't believe it now - do not believe any of the promises are real."

Why would this person feel this way? Simple, because she mistakenly believed there was a promise in God's word that does not exist. It is a 'promise' that many people believe is there, but they are sadly mistaken. Let me quote again from this same letter:

"I don't want to be rude and hateful but He said he would not give you anymore than you can handle - we sure must have different definitions of that statement."

There you have the so called promise; that God won't ever give us more than we can handle. Some of you might even think you have me, because you too believe that promise is in God's word. Well please send me the book, chapter and verse where that promise is located, I can't find it anywhere.

What the Bible does promises along these lines is this:

1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

That is a promise and we can bet out lives on it, but that promise does not say that God will never give us more than we can handle in this life. It is only speaking about temptations. God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle, if He did, then we would not be to blame for sinning because we were unable to resist.

But people take that passage and claim that God has said that He will never allow you to have more adversity in your life than you can handle. Sorry but it does not say that, in fact many places in God's word say just the opposite; if not in those words.

So what happens? A believer who believes there is a promise from God that says, they will never have to endure anything beyond their ability to handle, has an event happen in their life that they can't handle and from that moment on, they quit trusting God. This is natural, after all if God lied about this or broke this promise how can we ever trust anything He says? The honest answer is we can't.

Of course the problem isn't that God lied or that He broke His promise, the problem is our lack of knowledge of what God's word really does say.

Many people will disagree with me, they will say something like; "Well maybe that isn't what it says exactly but that is what it means. A loving God would never give us more than we could handle." See, they have just judged God and He came up short, unless in fact He has promised not to give us more than we can handle. Again the problem is that the person who believes this just doesn't know God or His word very well.

Before I go further, let me show you that God's word does show in several places that we will have problems that we can't handle. Let's take the Apostle Paul as an example. Surely he knew God better than most of us do, surely he would never have been given more than he could handle, right? After all he was an Apostle and I am sure he could handle much more than most of us could. I will let him tell you whether that is true or not:

2 Cor. 1:8-9 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.

'Far beyond our ability to endure...' 'we despaired even of life...' 'in our hearts we felt the sentence of death...' Wow, if God had promised never to give any of us more than we can handle you would think that Paul would know that, yet he plainly says that this was way past his ability to endure. If you look up this passage you will notice that I didn't finish verse 9. I didn't finish it on purpose, because I wanted first to show how Paul felt. Now let me quote the same passage and finish verse 9 and add verses 10 and 11 to it:

2 Cor. 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. [10] He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, [11] as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

'But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God...' Not only did it happen, but God purposely gave them more than they could handle alone. This is important; make sure you understand what I am saying before going further. God never promises that we won't come up against things we can't handle; in fact He will give us more than we can endure on purpose to help us.

In Paul's case this was to teach him to lean on God and not himself, but there are other reasons too. God will give us more than we can handle in order to call us back to Him in repentance:

Amos 4:6-11
    "I gave you empty stomachs in every city
        and lack of bread in every town,
        yet you have not returned to me,"

declares the Lord.
    [7] "I also withheld rain from you
        when the harvest was still three months away.
    I sent rain on one town,
        but withheld it from another.
    One field had rain;
        another had none and dried up.
    [8] People staggered from town to town for water
        but did not get enough to drink,
        yet you have not returned to me,"

declares the Lord.
    [9] "Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
        I struck them with blight and mildew.
    Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
        yet you have not returned to me,"

declares the Lord.
    [10] "I sent plagues among you
        as I did to Egypt.
    I killed your young men with the sword,
        along with your captured horses.
    I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
        yet you have not returned to me,"

declares the Lord.
    [11] "I overthrew some of you
        as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
    You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
        yet you have not returned to me,"

declares the Lord.

God was using these unbearable things to bring His people back to repentance but they refused so the problems continued. Why would God do this to them? Simple, He loved them. He cared more about their eternal destiny than He did about their earthly comfort.

So do you really want to ask how a loving God could ever give His children more than they can handle? The question makes assumptions that are dead wrong, and shows a dangerous lack of knowledge.

What does God promises us? He has some very wonderful promises in His word and we can believe every one of them, however, again we have to be careful that we don't take every word in God's word as a personal promise to us. Much of God's word has nothing to do with us, and we risk disappointment and shipwrecking our faith if we try to apply everything to ourselves. Yet there are many promises that we can stand on.

The bottom line is that God will never give us more than He can handle for us, if we will allow Him to take control and if we are willing to lean on Him. He promises never to leave us or forsake us, if we will continue to follow Him.

Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert YOU, nor will I ever forsake YOU,"

Isaiah 41:10
    'Do not fear, for I am with you;
    Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
    Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'

These are all great and wonderful promises but God also promises us things that most people have never heard and would rather not hear:

Hebrews 12:7-8 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? [8] If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

Mark 10:29-30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel [30] will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Discipline, which is not pleasant and persecutions which also are not pleasant are both promises from God to us. I wish those two promises weren't there, but they are and unless we understand that those things will happen to believers, we risk judging God wrongly and destroying our faith and thereby our lives.

I want to close with one of my favorite passages. I keep a copy of it up in my work cube, because I know it describes me. This is my prayer, because I know that I am weak, yet I know that God loves me and will do what I need in my life to keep me spiritually safe, all I have to do is continue to love Him and follow Him:

Proverbs 30:8-9
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
[9] Otherwise, I may have too much
    and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

E-Mail Ralph

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March 2007