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“Receiving God’s Promises”
Who in the Bible had the greatest faith? Was I Noah who built the Ark? Was it Abraham, the father of the Jewish race? Or was it one of the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Elijah? Each of these and many others whose stories are found in the Bible displayed great faith. But the person with the greatest faith was the most unlikely of them all, a Roman Centurion.
The story is found in the eight chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus had just entered the city of Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. The centurion came and pleaded for Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus then shocked the Jewish crowd saying that He would go with the centurion to his house and heal him.
But the centurion told Jesus that such a trip was unnecessary. He probably knew his house was unclean according to Jewish law, but more importantly he understood obedience and authority.
He said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:8-9 NKJV)
And the implication is that just as he is under authority and will do what those in authority say, so will those who are under His authority do what he says with no questions asked.
After hearing what the centurion said, Jesus marveled saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10 NKJV)
And then He said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” (Matthew 8:13) And at that very hour the servant was healed.
And so, what do we learn from the Roman Centurion, and what then is the key to having great faith and receiving God’s promises? The key to great faith and receiving God’s promises is linking God’s authority with our obedience. This understanding is what made the centurion’s faith so great. Faith and obedience go hand in hand. When you trust someone, you’ll do what they say. If you don’t, then the trust really isn’t there.
You see, God has linked trust in Him, i.e. faith, with obedience. Most of God’s promises are conditioned upon our following His directions. And when we do, then God says we’ll have success and live life to its fullest.
“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV)
God has given to us incredible promises and has linked them to our obedience, it’s the “if,” and “then,” promises of the Bible. If we obey what He says, then He promises that He’ll deliver us, watch over us, take care of us, and give to us our needs.
If we follow God’s directions then we’ll be happy, live longer, lack nothing good, live in perfect freedom, have greater wisdom, dwell in peace and security, have success and prosper, and be great in the kingdom of God.
Behind all of these great promises, however, is the premise of our obedience to God’s word.
God gives us His commandments so that we can live our lives to the fullest. And while God’s commandments may sound unfair and unreasonable, God knows what’s best. God’s not out to cramp our style or limit our lives. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
Now. from our perspective these commands don’t make a whole lot of sense. Like giving God the first ten percent of what we make, or the tithe. Or then there’s this, that if someone hurts us we’re suppose to forgive them, and not return their evil with our own.
But no matter how unreasonable these commandments may sound, God tells us to obey anyway. It’s a matter of trust, it’s a matter of faith, and since God created us, he knows what’s best us.
Obedience to God’s word is then our statement of faith, and it’s the key that unlocks all the promises of God. Today, I’d like to look at how we can receive God’s promises through our obedience.
1. Obey Immediately
Don’t delay, wait, procrastinate, put off, or make excuses. Instead we are to just do it.
“I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:60 NIV)
If there’s ever a time to be in a hurry, this is it. When God tells us to do something we should do it immediately, whether we feel like it or not.
Further, we don’t have to understand something to benefit from it.
• I don’t understand how something as heavy as a commercial airplane can get off the ground, or how it can fly at such altitudes, but I still benefit by flying on one.
• I don’t understand how computers work or the Internet, but I benefit from the time I save.
• I also don’t understand engines, but I benefit from driving a car.
I don’t always understand God’s commands, but by obeying them I’ve greatly benefited. Like the command to tithe, we have a hard time understanding how when we’re in debt and can’t pay our bills, how can we benefit from giving the tithe? Yet God promises that He’ll open up the windows of heaven and remove the devourer that’s taking it all away.
Every parent knows that when we tell our children not to do something they’ll say, “Why.” Most of the time our response is, “Because I told you so.”
The reason we do this is because of how long it would take to explain it, especially to someone who’s not old enough to comprehend. One day they will, but not now, we just hope we’ll be around before we die from the aggravation.
As God’s children we do much the same thing. When God tells us to do something we ask, “Why.” It’s as if God says, “Because I told you, and I know more about this stuff than you do, for My ways and thoughts are not like yours; rather like the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts and ways higher than yours, so for right now you’re just going to have to trust Me.”
And just as a side note, it’s pretty audacious of us to question the Creator of the universe if what He’s doing is right?
It also helps when we obey God to do so with the right attitude. But even if we have a wrong or negative attitude, it’s still better to obey.
Again, do we tell our children to clean their room only when their attitude is right? If that were the case their rooms would never get clean.
We are also to walk by faith, not by feelings. That’s because feelings lie, and we have an incredible ability to believe our feelings rather than God’s word. Therefore, we’re to do what is right according to God’s word whether we feel like it or not, and we’re to do it immediately, not later.
Therefore, if God tells us to do something we’re to do it immediately, and if we continue to pray about it, or go to counseling about it, then it’s the same thing as delayed obedience, and delayed obedience is disobedience.
In fact, this is what a pastor told me when I knew what God had told me to do, but when the pastor asked me to do it, I told him I would pray about it, and he said, “Dennis, for you to pray about what God already told you, is sin.”
2. Obey Completely
We can’t just cherry pick God’s word. It’s not like we’ll obey this but not that.
“Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2 NIV)
To seek God wholeheartedly is to obey God completely. To do this there are two truths for us to consider.
a. God Doesn’t Change
“I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6a NKJV)
God’s standards for right and wrong have never changed, and they never will.
If it was wrong 6,000 years ago, then it’s still wrong today. Lying was wrong then, and it’s still wrong now. Cultures change, popular opinions change, lots of things change, but truth doesn’t change. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong regardless of opinions.
b. God’s Ways Aren’t Ours
God has a much better perspective than our own, because He can see things we can’t. He knows the future, we don’t.
The Apostle James said, “But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you” (James 4:11b NLT)
Our trying to see from God’s perspective is much like an ant trying to see life from our perspective. We’re not capable of seeing it as God sees it. He’s infinite, and we’re finite! He’s all knowing; at best we know that we don’t know. So we need to trust God and His word.
Did you know the oldest temptation isn’t lust or greed? It’s the desire to be like God, and with that temptation comes our doubting God’s word. Satan said to Eve, and I am paraphrasing here, “Did God really tell you not to eat from this tree?”
Every time we’re tempted Satan uses this exact same line. He hasn’t changed his strategy, because it works so well. Today he says something like this, “I know the Bible says this, but is that what God really means? This is the 21st century, the Bible was written over 2,000 years ago, so God surely didn’t mean it for today!”
Faith is not only trusting God, but also it’s also doing it Gods’ way. That’s what Solomon said.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The Bible speaks about our need to completely obey God’s word through a captain in the Syrian army by the name of Naaman. Naaman had leprosy, and there wasn’t anyone who could do anything to heal him. But then one of his servants, a Jewish girl taken captive said that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him. So Naaman sets off to Israel, with a letter from his king, along with gold, silver, and a whole wardrobe to give for his healing.
When the prophet Elisha heard that he had come, he sent word to the king to have Naaman come and see him, but instead of meeting him, Elisha had his servant meet him at the door and tell him to go wash in the Jordan river seven times to receive his healing.
It says that Naaman was furious at such a slight. Further, Naaman said that the waters of the rivers in Syria were a whole lot cleaner than the Jordan, and so he left in a rage. But at the insistence of his servants, Naaman followed the instructions completely and after going down into the waters of the Jordan for the seventh time, his flesh was completely restored, he was completely healed, because he completely obeyed.
This brings out this truth, and that is, partial obedience is disobedience.
3. Obey Joyfully
“I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love.” (Psalm 119:47 NKJV)
The psalmist said he enjoyed obeying God’s commands. In other words, it’s enjoyable to do what God says.
God is the creator of this world. He created every one of us, therefore we should follow His directions for life. In other words, since He created it, He knows all about it. Further, these commands aren’t burdensome, but a joy.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3 NKJV)
When we realize just how much God loves us, and what He’s done for us, then we’ll love to follow His commandments. When we realize that God loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us so we can have everlasting life, then following His commands are not a burden; rather they are a pleasure.
God measures our love for Him, not by what we say, but by our obedience. Jesus said that if we love Him then we’ll keep His commandments (John 14:15).
4. Obey Continually
In our message the other week entitled, “Running God’s Race,” we saw that life is a race, not a hundred yard dash, but a marathon. Therefore our obedience needs to be continual, not sporadic, so we can reach the finish line.
“Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end.” (Psalm 119:111-112 NLT)
Obeying God is something we need to do until the very end.
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.” (Psalm 119:33 NKJV)
We need to come to God by faith saying, “Whatever you say, Lord, I will follow.” But here’s the point, why should God tell us anything when we haven’t done what He’s already said. God isn’t going to give us further revelation until we act upon the revelation He’s already given.
Obedience is the key then to receiving God’s promises.
And so, from our study we need to ask ourselves several questions.
Is our obedience to God immediate or delayed, complete or partial, joyful or reluctant, or is it continual or sporadic?
And so receiving God’s promises is through obedience to God and His word, trusting that God knows not only what we need, but also what’s best for our lives.
But in saying all of this, the one thing I know is that we will in no way be perfect in our obedience, but God doesn’t expect perfection. Look at the Apostle Paul, even he couldn’t keep God’s word as he liked, saying that he didn’t do what he knew he should do, and he didn’t say what he knew that he should say, instead, he said he did the exact opposite (Romans 7:15-20).
But what we can expect is God’s faithfulness, because God is faithful to His word and to His promises. So, what God looks at then is not our keeping the letter of the law, but rather He looks into our heart, that is, our desire to keep the law even though we fail to do so.
This is the at the heart of our maxim that we repeat every Sunday Morning, that while our heart may condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows what truly lies within.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study