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- Jacob Ninan
Admittedly, we all face a lot of difficulties and challenges in this world, some more than others. For us Christians our final resort is our Lord to whom we turn with everything that is troubling us. And many times, it is only His promises that can keep us going, when things on earth seem to be stacked up against us. With this in mind we look up God's promises during times of trial and even stock them up for times to come, as our way of encouraging ourselves (1Sa.30:6;Jude.20,21). We are also happy to receive such words of encouragement from others. Preachers and writers are also eager to encourage others by presenting to them God's great promises.
But we know that all promises written in the Bible are not meant for us; God gave some of them to someone in specific situations and it would not be right for us to take them for ourselves. For example, when God told Joshua that the people of Israel would possess everywhere they set their foot on (Josh.1:3), it is clear that He was referring to the land which He had already promised to them (v.2). If God did not promise any particular land for us then there is no way we can get it by walking over it and claiming this 'promise'! It is not even right for us to spiritualise it and assume that whatever we attempt for God will succeed. Don't we need to understand that He will only do for us what we ask according to His will (1Jn.5:14)?
Unfortunately many of us don't think like this to examine the proper application of what we read in the Bible. Many are hunting for 'promises' from all over the Bible (even bringing out 'books of promises' or Christian calendars filled with promises). Many preachers and writers also hand out promises rather freely without checking for their applicability. The intention may be to encourage the people, but can false hope ever work for good?
Think of the disillusionment that comes when we don't experience what we believed were promises from God! How many people turn away from God because of this one reason! They imagine that God or His word cannot be trusted, and they have thus lost the only One who can really help them in this life. Those who give out such false hopes to the others are like parents who promise something to their children which they don't carry out. Mistrust is bound to develop. We can't blame God when it was our wrong assumptions that gave us such false 'hope'. We ought to understand God's word rightly and take only promises that are meant for us.
At the same time we know that sometimes God uses a word from the Bible to speak to us (which may be strictly 'out of context') which is impressed on our heart through the Holy Spirit. Then we know in our heart that it is from God, even though we cannot explain to the others every time. But since there can be a lot of error here, we need to check with other parts of the Bible and also with godly people to see if we are making wrong assumptions.