You know the Bible makes many wonderful promises to us doesn't it?
One of those promises is the promise that God's promises never fail. Every one of them will be fulfilled. In Joshua 21:45, for instance we read, "Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled." (NIV)
But let's be honest for a minute. Do we really believe those promises? We say we do, we want to believe them, but then we are struck with a healthy dose of reality: it doesn't always work out the way we thought it would work out. Good people suffer and die, despite all our prayers.
So how do we respond when it seems as if God's promises have failed?
To answer this question, let's do a quick character study in the life of Joseph. If you want to read the story for yourself, it is found beginning in Genesis 37. God's promise to Joseph is he going to be a prince, but, betrayed by his own brothers, he finds himself a slave.
God's promise is that people will bow down to him, but the reality is he is forced to bow before others. What happened to the promise?
He ends up a slave in Potiphar's house and manages to distinguish himself; maybe his "luck" is turning.
But not so fast -- Mrs. Potiphar tries to seduce him. He refuses, does the right thing and flees from her temptation, and God rewards his faithfulness by having him thrown into prison.
God's promise to Joseph was fame, power and recognition; instead Joseph experiences shame, prison and defamation of character. So much for the promises.
Those of you familiar with the account of Joseph know that God was working behind the scenes in all of this to get him exactly where he needed him to be. How do we know this? We have the record, most likely preserved for us by Joseph's own hand.
But for Joseph, the time from receiving the promise to actually getting that promise is 13 long, hard years where it must have seemed at times that the promise was anything but true.
Maybe Joseph had imagined the promise. Maybe it wasn't really a promise after all, but rather a mere dream that he had mistaken as a promise from God.
Still, in all that pain of 13 years, Joseph remains faithful. Sold into slavery, he still performs his work "as unto the Lord."
He doesn't give up on God. There is no hint of him becoming angry or bitter at the multiple injustices he experiences. Instead, he continues to be faithful and obedient to the God who has, for all seeming intents and purposes, turned His back on Him.
It is that trust in trials, that strength of character that keeps on believing, that takes the dethroned favorite of an individual family and enthrones him as a prince of Egypt.
The key to such faith is to remember that when God's promises seem to be failing, "seem" becomes the operative word. It is not the promises which are suspect; it is our perceptions that need to be examined.
God is Sovereign and as such He never has to resort to Plan B. I fear that we have forgotten this fundamental truth of theology today.
Perhaps you are struggling with some failed promise today. Let me assure you, if it is a promise from God, it has not failed, though it might not be being fulfilled the way you would like to see it fulfilled.
I can tell you from personal experience that things which were once my greatest bane have been used of God to become my greatest blessings. The great 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to say, "When you can't trace God's hand, trust His heart."
Don't give up. Don't quit. Know that God's promises never fail.
Even though you might be going through a dry spell right now, even though you may not see how God is weaving together those dark threads in your life at this moment, trust Him, wait on Him.
You will one day discover how those dark threads are as needful in the Master Weaver's skillful hand as are the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the www.gatewaycommunity.org.