Every Promise

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Joshua 21:43-45

This is a daunting statement. Not one promised failed! Every promise was fulfilled! Oh, how we long for those statements to be true in our own life. God is the Faithful One who will complete what He started. Philippians 1:6 says, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It may be helpful for us to remember that the ones to whom God made these promises weren’t even alive at this point. He started these promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had been dead for more than 400 years. He continued these promises through Moses and a whole generation of Israelites who were not longer living. And it took Joshua’s entire life to reach this point.

In our same-day delivery culture, we often expect God’s promises to happen overnight. Or, if we’re mature Christians, we expect them within a few years. But God’s timing is different than ours. God is a Promise Keeper. He is faithful. We need to become people of patience and perseverance.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up“(Luke 18:1). The name of this story became The Parable of the Persistent Widow. Jesus told his disciples this parable in order to illustrate endurance, persistence, and unyielding determination.

At the conclusion of the parable Jesus assures His hearers that God will hold up His end of the deal but then asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?“(Luke 18:8). Jesus was saying that one way we display our faith is through relentless persistence. Faith often looks like unyielding determination. Faith is when we have every reason to give up on a promise from God and instead we press in even more.

What promise are you waiting to be fulfilled?

Don’t give up! Keep going! Keep believing! Keep trusting! Keep praying! Keep pursuing it! God will keep His word.

Faith Testing

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4

There is something that happens to us when we face trials. If we don’t give up, we get stronger. It is a testing of our faith to pray for something or someone over and over and not see the answer we want. Our faith is being tested. We know that this testing will build in us a perseverance–an endurance–that will make us mature and complete. When we feel like nothing is happening visibly, we can be sure something is happening in us. God is giving us gifts that we can’t see yet, but they are there.

It’s like training for a marathon. Someone could come back from run after run and be discouraged because they feel so badly. Their legs are sore and their body feels weak. If they didn’t realize that this is the natural process of a body getting stronger, if they didn’t realize this is how runners build endurance, then it could be discouraging.

But if they don’t give up, they will find that they’re able to run longer and longer distances. The thing that feels painful and discouraging actually becomes the source of strength. It is the training runs, day after day, that are the foundation of running a complete race on race day. The painful training runs are what ensures that a person lacks nothing on race day.

The testing of our faith does the same thing. But the testing can’t do its work–it can’t accomplish its intended goal–if we give up. If after a few runs a person stops running, the pain never accomplishes the goal of giving them endurance. If we quit after a little testing of our faith, we don’t allow the testing to give us the gift of persevering faith. We don’t allow it to increase our maturity.

Scripture says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross…”(Hebrews 12:2). And so when we find joy in our trials, we are imitating Jesus. We are identifying with His suffering. And the apostle Paul talks about our participation in the sufferings of Christ. He said:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11

When we face trials of many kinds it is a way we participate in the sufferings of Jesus. And when we participate in His sufferings, we make available to us the opportunity to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

Faith-Hope-Love

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul praised the Thessalonians for essentially three things: 1) their work, 2) their labor, and 3) their endurance. But what is so interesting is what produced each of these: faith, hope and love. It’s not the only time Paul would write about how these three fit together (1 Corinthians 13:13).

In Christ, we will work hard for the gospel. Work is from the Lord and is a good thing. But our work doesn’t come from a place of striving. It comes from faith. James wrote about how work and faith go together when he said, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”(James 2:18). In other words, real faith produces action. Real faith will work.

Then Paul mentions that the Thessalonians’ labor was prompted by love. The word translated “labor” in the Greek is the word kopos. It means “laborious toil involving weariness and fatigue.” We have here the image of a woman in labor, fatigued by the process of delivery. Ultimately, it is the unconditional love the mother has for her baby that gives her the strength to labor. Love is capable of doing what seems impossible. Love will labor through just about anything.

Finally, Paul mentions their endurance inspired by hope. When a marathon runner hits the wall in the middle of the race, it is the hope of the finish line that gives them the endurance to keep going. Hopelessness saps all our energy and steals our ability to press through hardship. But hope is energizing. Hope keeps a person going long after they should have given up. Hope sustains us and gives us endurance.

Faith, hope, and love: the essential trinity of character formation–the superfood fruits of the Spirit. Faith, hope, and love produce people who can work hard, labor through difficulty, and have endurance for the long haul.