Chapter Seven

Promises: The Faith Crisis

Fundamental to placing confidence in another person is the solid conviction that the person will abide by his word. People who do what they say they will do are the people who are trusted by others. One’s faith in another person cannot exceed the person’s trustworthiness in keeping his word. Trust is placed in those who prove themselves trustworthy by being dependable. Deception, irresponsibility, unpredictability, and undependability stand as insurmountable barriers to being the recipient of others’ confidence.

There are numerous ways to say that a person is deserving of the faith of others. A person worthy of trust is said to be one “who abides by his word,” who “can always be counted on,” who “is trustworthy in all matters,” who “is honest and honorable,” or who “is a person of integrity.” While all such phrases may have differing shades of emphasis, they all have one essential thing in common. All such phrases refer to one who keeps his promises. If a person does not keep his promises, it is impossible for him to abide by his word, be dependable, be trustworthy, be honest, be honorable, or be a person of integrity.

Promises come in many forms. A declaration of commitment, a verbal assurance, a pledge, an acceptance of responsibility, and a contract agreement are some common forms of a promise. When one affirms that he will or will not do something, or makes a declaration which gives another the right to hold specific expectations of him, he has made a promise. His faithfulness in keeping that promise provides the rightful reason for others to place their faith in him. Broken promises dig the grave of human confidence.

God: The Promiser

Divine promises are a fundamental part of God’s relationship with people. God’s promises provide the primary reason for man, the free moral agent, to choose to belong to God. The divine promises of eternal life to those who live in a covenant relationship with God and of just, eternal consequences for those who reject His covenant constitute the greatest reason for people to give serious consideration to surrendering their lives to God. Were it not for the promises of God, mankind would find little reason to seek a living relationship with God.

God’s Word bears eloquent testimony to the importance of divine promises in the God-man relationship. God’s promises were the reason for people accepting the responsibility of a covenant relationship with God throughout the Old Testament. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon were all challenged to establish a powerful faith relationship with God by virtue of divine promises. The Old Testament prophets sought to move the Israelites to repentance and to spiritual restoration by extensive use of divine promises. Among the many promises the prophets made in God’s behalf were the physical restoration of the nation (Ez. 37:24-28), security from their enemies (Jer. 30:7-11), the return of prosperity (Ez. 34:25-31), times of peace and well-being (Isa. 35:5-10), and the coming of the Messiah (Isa. 53). Even when Judah was in captivity, the prophets urged the people to repent and to renew their faith in God because of God’s promise to return them to their land and to reestablish them as His people. Throughout the Old Testament, from Noah through the prophets, the reason for a person or a people having faith in God was the divine promise.

In the New Testament, a new covenant with God was made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice. With the new covenant came better promises (Heb. 8:6). With the death of Jesus, the covenant between God and man changed. The nature of the relationship between God and man changed. The proper concept of how to relate properly to God changed. The means of living within God’s security changed. The means of acquiring forgiveness and atonement changed. The nature of God’s kingdom and people changed. Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of mankind brought basic, sweeping changes to the whole concept of how man belonged to God and what it meant for man to belong to God. However, one thing did not change. The basic motivation, the fundamental reason for developing and maintaining faith in God continued to be the divine promise. The promises of complete forgiveness, salvation in Christ, the constant caring of a personal God, the strength to endure trials and pain, and an eternal life free from all earthly woes provided a person the reason for having faith in God.

God always has wanted people to understand one basic truth about His divine nature: God the promise maker is also God the promise keeper. God established the rainbow as a symbolic reminder to man that God would never forget His promise to Noah (Gen. 9:16). Sarah conceived because God kept His promise (Gen. 21:1). Moses declared that Jehovah is God, the faithful God who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations (Deut. 7:9). God would not forget His promises to the Jews’ forefathers (Deut. 4:31). In Joshua’s farewell address to Israel, he testified that God had not failed in one good thing which He had promised (Josh. 24:13). In Solomon’s dedication prayer for the first temple, he declared before all Israel that God the covenant keeper had fulfilled every promise which He made to David (I Kings 8:22-24). The psalms contain many references to God’s faithfulness (Psa. 40:10; 89:1, 8, 33; 119:90). When Daniel read Jeremiah’s writings and understood God’s promise of deliverance from captivity he prayed to God the covenant keeper (Dan. 9:14).

The New Testament frequently stresses the same truth. God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:18; 2 Thess. 3:3). It is impossible for man’s unfaithfulness or deceit to make God unfaithful (Rom. 3:3, 4). God’s being faithful means God keeps His promises; He does that which He says He will do. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that God would not permit temptations to exist which exceed the ability of humanity to endure. The validity of this promise was assured in these words: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.." (1 Cor. 10:13). Paul prayed that God would preserve the Thessalonian Christians’ spirits, souls, and bodies until the Lord returned. This was the assurance that such could happen: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it” (1 Thess. 5:23, 24). Paul declared this promise to Timothy: “For if we died with him, we shall also live with him: if we endure, we also shall reign with him ...“ The surety of that promise was this fact: “...He abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself’ (2 Thu. 2:11-13). The writer of Hebrews urged the Christians to whom he wrote not to apostatize. They must draw near to God with true hearts and must hold fast the confession of their hope. Why? “For he is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:19-23). John declared that the Christian who would confess his sins can be assured that God will cleanse him from all unrighteousness. Why? God is faithful and righteous (1 Jn. 1:9). The fact that God is faithful was the reason for persecuted, suffering Christians to commit their souls to God’s keeping (1 Pet. 4:19).

The reason for Abraham placing his trust in God was God’s promises. Abraham demonstrated the faith of righteousness by placing full trust in God’s promises rather than in his own ability and power. The reason for Christians placing their trust in God is God’s promises. Christians demonstrate the faith of righteousness by placing full confidence in God’s promises rather than in their own abilities and powers. They trust the faithful God, the God who keeps His promises.

God’s Promises: Our Faith Crisis

Few Christians ever determine why they experience crises in believing. When a Christian struggles with doubt or endures a stressful trial, he readily will admit that his faith is inadequate. He will identify the reason for his struggling as being “too little faith." He will acknowledge that the solution to his problem is “having more faith."

Having “too little faith” and needing “more faith” are vague, indefinable ideas. Of what specifically does he have too little? Why specifically does he have too little of it? Precisely what is it that has caused this deficient faith? What specifically needs to be done to increase that faith? Precisely why did the faith crisis occur?

The greatest single reason for any Christian experiencing a faith crisis is his failure to trust God’s promises. Behind every faltering faith is a distrusted divine promise. The basic challenge in believing to any Christian is the challenge to trust God’s promises. The struggle to believe is the struggle to place full confidence in God’s promises. Any time the Christian doubts that God can do what God said He could do, the Christian experiences a faith crisis.

This truth is easily illustrated. A Christian man lived a horrible life of sin prior to conversion. He committed sins which debased him and hurt others. His conversion was genuine, and his change of life dramatic. However, the more spiritual maturity he gained, the more aware he became of the terrible sinfulness of his past life. After years of faithful devotion to Christ, he still was plagued with an enormous sense of guilt for the sins of the years of his alienation. That guilt worked against his faith. He could not believe that God could forgive him of such horrible sins. Why was his faith in crisis? He did not trust God’s promise of forgiveness of all past sins.

In an unusual set of circumstances, in a time of great loneliness, and in a time of severe personal stress, a devout Christian woman committed fornication. Though her repentance was genuine, she never was able to forgive herself. She continued to be so guilt-stricken that she regarded herself as unworthy of Christian association. She held herself in such contempt that she felt her presence in any assembly of the church offended God. She desperately desired full, renewed relationship with God and His people, and many Christian friends reached out to her, encouraged her. Yet, her faith was in deep crisis. Why? She did not trust God’s promise to cleanse His penitent children from all unrighteousness.

A properly baptized believer seriously doubted the validity of his baptism. He was baptized with a penitent heart in the full conviction that the resurrected Jesus is God’s Son. He confessed his faith, was immersed, and was baptized for the remission of his sins. However, every day was plagued with doubt because he wondered if he really belonged to God. Did he know enough when he was baptized? Could he be sure that he responded for the right reasons? How could God accept his baptism when he knew and understood so little? His faith was in crisis. Why? He did not trust God’s promise to transform a believer into a full child of God at the moment of baptism.

A faith crisis involves a question which raises a terrifying doubt. The question involves a promise of God. The crisis exists because the person cannot trust the promise. “Will God be with me as I face this trial?” “Did God make me a new creature when I was baptized?” “Will God hear my prayers?” “Will God forgive me?” “Can God sustain me in this crisis?” “Will God raise me from the dead?”

Every Christian needs to determine if he is standing on the promises or if he is resting upon traditional habits. He needs to ask himself, “Do I trust God, or am I mindlessly following ritualistic practices?” God’s promises and human faith are inseparably linked. God’s promises form both the foundation of faith and the crisis for faith.

Chapter Seven Questions

1. Explain how a person gains the trust of another person.

2. List different forms of a promise. Illustrate each form of a promise.

3. Discuss the importance of God’s promises to people.

a. What role did God’s promises play in His relationship with the following people: Noah? Abraham? Saul? David? Solomon?

b. Read the following passages and discuss their promises to the Israelites: Ezekiel 37:24-28; Jeremiah 30:7-11; Ezekiel 34:25-31; Isaiah 35:5-10; Isaiah 53.

4. What does Hebrews 8:6 say about the new covenant?

5. List the things which changed when the new covenant of Christ became authoritative and the authority of the old Mosaical covenant ended.

6. What did not change?

7. God always wanted people to know that He kept His promises. Use the following passages to demonstrate that fact: Genesis 9:6; Genesis 21:1; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 4:31; Joshua 24:13; 1 Kings 8:22-24; Daniel 9:1-4.

8. What does the statement, “God is faithful’ mean? What is the significance of that statement in the following passages: 1 Corinthians 10:13? 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24? 2 Timothy 2:11-13? Hebrews 10:19-23? 1 John 1:9? 1 Peter 4:19?

9. What is the greatest single reason for Christians experiencing a faith crisis?


Have the class make a list of serious “faith crisis” situations. Discuss what divine promises need to be trusted in each crisis situation.

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