The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was once traveling in a stagecoach with a military officer for an official visit. While on the way, the officer pulled out a bottle of whiskey and invited the president to take a sip. But the president declined the offer. And the journey continued peacefully.
On their way back, the officer from Kentucky pulled out a pack of cigars and asked Mr. Lincoln to join him to smoke. At this point, the president looked at the kindhearted officer and smiled. Then he says, “I will join you to smoke, but I would first tell you a story”.
The officer was eager to hear the president’s story. Lincoln related to the officer how when he was about nine years old, his mom called him to her sickbed and revealed to him that her doctor said she would not recover from her illness. He further recalled how his mom asked him to promise her that he would never drink liquor nor smoke in his life, and he promised.
Turning to the officer, Abraham Lincoln asked, “would you advise me to keep the promise I made to my mom or break it for the sake of the company we are having now?” The officer who happens to be a colonel was shocked and encouraged him to keep to that precious promise he made long ago to his mom. Of course history tells us that Lincoln never drank alchohol nor smoked.
A promise is a verbal or written declaration of one’s intention to follow a certain line of action or conduct. It is often easy to make promises, tempting to believe them, but often challenging to keep them. If you scan through your life, you might recall some promises you made which you never fulfilled. They could be something you declared that you would do but never did. They could be secrets you agreed to keep, but you later revealed. It takes something more than words to make and keep a promise; we shall return to that reality.
The Book of Second Samuel (2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16) tells us about the promise God made to David after God rejected his offer to build a house for the Lord. Among other things, God promised to raise an heir from his loin whose kingdom shall be firm and would endure forever.
In the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38), the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to announce God’s gracious choice of her to become the mother of a son whom she would call Jesus. Furthermore, God promised through the angel that the child shall be great and would be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of David, his father, and he will rule over the house of Israel forever. An active review of the angel’s message would easily remind us of the promise God made to David between 490 to 1,000 years earlier.
The Keys to Promise Keeping
The activities of God in the scripture have both inspirational and teaching powers. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ encouraged us to learn from him (Matt. 11:29). There are two prominent keys in every divine fulfilment of promises and we shall learn from these to power our relationship with God and others.
(1) Commitment: Abraham Lincoln is credited with the statement that says, “commitment transforms a promise into a reality”. Here we understand that the fulfilment of a promise would not be possible unless one commits to it. But what is commitment?
Commitment is often confused with interest in something or someone. Interest is not as stable as commitment, that is why we often hear about people losing their interests. Commitment involves devotion and dedication. God is the author of commitment and we see a lot of instances in the scriptures. The Book of Numbers (23:19) tells us that God is not a man that he should lie,or the son of man that he should change His mind.
(2) Loyalty: Loyalty is more than a word, it is a desirable act that involves trustful allegiance and fidelity. In fact another way to describe a loyal person is to say that the individual is faithful to a course or an agreement.
A loyal person does not change even when situations change; therefore, the loyal person is consistent and constant. Loyalty is a characteristic of God. The Book of Deuteronomy (7:9) tells us that God is faithful and keeps his covenant, and Psalm (33:4) says that the Lord is upright and all his works are done in faithfulness.
Moving Forward: Responding to God’s kept Promises
The feast of the birth of Jesus Christ, just like the Easter event, is the celebration of the fulfilment of God’s promise.The Book of Joshua (21:45) tells us that not a single one of the good promises of the Lord to Israel was left unfulfilled; everything spoken came true.
The challenge we have now is how to respond to the fulfilled promises of God in our lives. We should quickly know that such a response would be of immense benefit to us and the best way to respond would be by our active commitment and loyalty to God. Psalm (18:25) says with the loyal God shows himself loyal and with the blameless, he shows himself blameless.
Our commitment and loyalty to God should begin in the relationship we share among ourselves. How far do you go with keeping the promises? Are you just a promise maker and not a promise keeper? Can you be trusted with a secret. Are you committed and loyal to the Christian life. Can God boast about you commitment and loyalty like in the case of Job?
As we come to the end of the Advent season and enter the Christmas season let us try to make the soon coming King super happy by our profound resolve to keep our baptismal promises of renouncing the devil and all his empty promises that could lead us to destruction. We are also invited to place our trust in the triune God who promised not to leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6)
God bless you.