2 Corinthians 1:20
For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us.
1. A promise is the antithesis of a threat. The Bible abounds in both.
2. When God more apparently guided the courses of man personally, promises were made to individual men. To patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; and by such they were upborne through trial. But when this became impossible the promises were made applicable to whole nations and generations.
3. Thus the Word of God is filled with assurances of blessings as no other book is. Promises cover the whole period of human life. They meet us at our birth; they cluster about our childhood; they overhang our youth; they go in companies into manhood with us; they divide themselves into bands and stand at the door of every possible experience. Therefore there are promises of God to the ignorant, poor, oppressed, discouraged, etc.; to every affection, to every sphere of duty, to all perils and temptations. There are promises for joy, sorrow, victory, defeat, adversity, prosperity, etc. Old age has its garlands as full and fragrant as youth. All men, everywhere, and always — have their promises of God.
4. They belong to mankind. There have been periods when, for special and beneficent reasons, God's promises seemed to belong only to His own people.
5. And they are fresh with everlasting youth. The stars never wear out; the sun is not weary from the number of years. The heaven and the earth, however, shall pass away, but God's word shall not pass away.
6. Not one promise has ever been unfulfilled. There is not a witness in God's universe that can testify that he has leaned on a promise of God, and that God forgot to be gracious to him.
I. WHAT ARE THE USES TO WHICH WE ARE INVITED TO PUT GOD'S PROMISES?
1. To make rude duties more attractive. It is affecting to see with what tenderness God has taken care of those that no one else cares for. How He goes down to the poor, and the ignorant, and the enslaved. How He goes down to those that can find no motive for right living in their ordinary experience, and says to them, "Be faithful, if not for the sake of your master, then for My sake." And once let us know that We are serving One that we love, and One that loves us, and love vanquishes difficulty.
2. To fortify our faith. Duty is often surrounded by peril or hardship, and is often apparently without adequate result. It is needful, therefore, that there should be some promise which shall assure us that a perilous duty well performed will bring down upon us the Divine blessing. You are oftentimes brought into trials when it seems as though everything would be wrecked, and the world says, "Prudence": experience says, "Draw back"; policy says, "Change a little"; and expediency says, "Compromise"; but the Word of God, which is yea and amen, says, "He that will lose his life for a right principle shall save it." And in the end, when you come to count the wrecks along the shore, you will find those men who would save their lives by losing their principles are the men that have lost their lives.
3. To equalise the conditions of life. Men are of different calibre, and, owing to this, men follow Christ in different ways. Now, if a party of men are going to California assured that each shall be the possessor, in five years, of one million dollars, the differences between them are annihilated while they are going across. One may have twenty-five dollars in his pocket, another a hundred; one may have almost no conveniences, and another all that heart could wish; and yet, if they are assured that in five years they shall each have a million dollars, they do not care for these inequalities. And let the promises of God rest on the poor man's lot, and he forgets the inequalities of life. For that man who is ere long to be crowned in eternity cannot find the road there so hard that he will complain of it.
4. To redeem secular life from barrenness, and make it worth our while to continue faithful to the end. And while there are promises of God that run through our whole lower life, the promises grow broader and deeper as you go up to those spheres where a man is obliged to live by faith, and above the ordinary affairs of life. So the promises of God are in proportion to our exigencies.
II. WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES IN THE WAY OF USING THE PROMISES OF GOD?
1. We are ignorant of them. There is many a man that lives on his farm years and years without knowing the different growths that it produces. Many a man is buried within a yard of plants that, if their healing properties had been known, would have saved his life. Many a field is capable, if properly tilled, of producing fourfold as much as it is made to produce. God's Word is like such a field. There are promises in it that no man has ever tried to find. There are treasures of gold and silver in it that no man has taken the pains to dig for. There are medicines in it, for the want of a knowledge of which hundreds have died.
2. When men find them they do not know how to use them. Tea was first served in England as greens. The people rejected it, and thought it rather an imposition. When potatoes were first introduced into Ireland they were rejected there, because they did not know how to use them. And many and many a man rejects, or fails to profit by, the promises of God's Word, because he does not know how to gather them, and cook them, and use them.
3. We are afraid to venture upon using them. There is many and many a man that would be afraid to trust himself upon a single plank stretched across a deep chasm, though others had walked over on it often without accident. There is many a promise of God that is strong enough to carry men across the abyss of this life, but they do not dare to try it. In an emergency the promises of God are to many men what weapons of defence are to a man who does not know how to use them when he finds that he must fight for his life.
4. We wish the result without the fulfilment of the conditions attached. Many a child that is promised a vacation on condition that he will perform a certain amount of labour, would like the vacation, but does not like the condition on which it is promised. So many of the things promised we would like to steal, instead of working for them.
5. We do not appropriate them. The promise of "grace to help in time of need" comes to men thousands of times without benefiting them for this very reason. Many carry the promises as a miser carries bank bills, the face of which calls for countless treasures, but which he does not carry to the bank for presentation. Many a man holds bills for blessings of God, but does not present them. They enter upon a philosophical inquiry as to whether there is a presumptive argument in favour of prayer, and whether God will stop the laws of nature for our benefit, or so use them as to fulfil His promises to us. But the way to employ a promise of God is to comply with its conditions, and then wait for its fulfilment.
6. Many are afraid of presumption. Well, it may be presumptuous for you to go into a stranger's house without an invitation; but if a man has invited you to come and see him it is presumptuous for you not to take him at his word. And to be afraid to appropriate the promises of God is to charge Him falsely.
7. Many would like to take the promises of God, but they fear they may be self-deceived. You may be, but God is not; and therefore you may rest upon the promises.
8. There are others that have a fear about their own unworthiness; which is as if a man should advertise that he would cure the infirmities of men free of expense, and a blind man should say, "I would go to this physician if I were not so blind." Therefore plead the promises because you are sinful; the nature of goodness is to relieve want, even though that want be founded on sin.
9. Much of the want of faith in the promises comes from a neglect on the part of Christians to bear witness to the fulfilment of those promises in their own experience. There are hundreds of men whose life God has made significant and memorable, and they have never uttered a word about it to those around them.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.