Last night I preached the funeral service of a man that had attended the services of the church I pastor about 20 years ago. The last time that I had spoken with him was this past summer when he was at the church on a Saturday for a graduation party. I didn’t recognize him at first, not having seen him for so long, and when he introduced himself we had a few moments to “catch up” on the last 20 years. Before we parted, he promised me that he intended to start attending the worship services again and I would see him tomorrow. I genuinely believe my friend’s promise was credible and so I was looking forward to that Sunday. But when the day came, he didn’t. I found out afterward that he was dealing with cancer and apparently it had reached a stage where the activity of the party on Saturday drained his energy, making it impossible to worship on Sunday. My friend’s promise was sincere, but he lacked the resources to accomplish it.
How can we be sure when someone promises us something that they will accomplish it? At least two factors are necessary to have an assurance that the promise will be fulfilled. The first is a credible record of accomplished promises. A lot of promises are made by individuals who lack credibility. I told the congregation last night, that if I had a dollar for every time a person promised me that they would be in church on Sunday, and then didn’t show up, I would have a lot of dollars. But when a person who promises something has a faithful track record of fulfilling their promises, one can be fairly certain of the fulfillment of the promise made to them.
A second factor is one that is two-fold. The first part deals with the ability to foresee obstacles that will prevent the fulfillment of the promise. The second part deals with the ability to overcome those obstacles. Consequently, we make some promises conditional. For example, I say to my wife, “I’ll take you out for supper as long as I get my studying done for Sunday’s messages.” (It’s amazing how many times my studying seems to bog down and take forever!) As human beings, we lack omniscience and can’t foresee all obstacles, and we lack omnipotence, and often can’t overcome even the obstacles we might foresee.
In 1967, the group The Young Rascals recorded a song on their Groovin’ album that began with, “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing?” When human beings can’t make a promise with absolute certainty that they will fulfill it, how can anyone be sure of anything? The answer is that God never fails in His promises. Scripture states that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18) and therefore, every promise of God must be true. Scripture concludes that God is omniscient, He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:10) and that He is omnipotent (Genesis 18:14). History records the faithfulness of God. God always fulfills His promises! Of that we can be sure.
The promise of God that I shared at the funeral service last night is that Jesus has promised He will come again (John 14:1-3). I look forward to His coming because I have put my faith in what He did on Calvary’s Cross in paying for my sins with His blood and giving me eternal life. That is a promise of God (1 John 2:25). But some will say today, “Where is the promise of his coming?” They conclude that it has been nearly 2000 years since His promise was made and that the promises of people showing up at church on Sunday is far greater than His return. Peter, by inspiration, had forseen this and wrote, “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.” (2 Peter 3:9). I (as well as everyone) cannot say when Jesus shall return. It may be in the next moment or the next millennia. But I can say with absolute certainty that He will. That is His promise.