Chapter 3: A Promise
When I was 13, some kids introduced me to a killer... no! I mean it, a real killer – cigarettes. When you’re 13 you don’t think about COPD, lung cancer, heart attacks, the cumulative cost. You just think: “Wow, this is something only adults are allowed to do so it will make me look cool to all these friends.”
And so, I became a smoker.
Now you may be thinking, is this a chapter about smoking or about promises?
Well, it’s a little of both.
Implementing my best abilities at hiding the habit, my parents found out. But that wasn’t the clincher. My GRANNY found out.
Her nickname was “Tiny” but that only applied to the outside – not her spirit.
Birdie's grandmother, Haseltine "Tiny" Berry
Granny begged me to quit smoking, but I was had! I didn’t own the cigarettes, they owned me.
By the time I met Birdie in college, she smoked every chance she got. I told her to quit. Everyone who cared about her told her the same – to no avail.
As a freshman in college, I came home one weekend and, as was my routine, I went to see my Granny & Grandaddy, both of whom I adored.
I was getting ready to leave and, after the hugs, Granny took my hand. With teary eyes she said, “I want you to promise me that you’ll stop smoking. Here is $50 now. When you stop, there’ll be 50 more.”
Four years later, it was Birdie’s senior year in college. By this time Birdie understood that God had placed a calling on her life and that is ultimately what caused her to say, “I’m gonna quit.”
It nigh unto killed me, but I did it!
I put my last pack of cigarettes in a scrapbook. There are still cigarettes in the pack today.
By that time I had forgotten the promise my Granny made – but she didn’t.
A couple of months later I got a card in my college mailbox. I recognized Granny’s handwriting. I opened it and out fell a $50 bill. The note read:
“You kept your promise. I kept mine.... Granny.”
POINT 1: EVERY PROMISE IS PRECEDED WITH A DIRECTION
If you do this then I’ll do that.
As children our parents encourage us to take our first steps, promising, “I’ll catch you if you fall.”
But, you can’t fall if you don’t walk.
And you don’t need a promise, if you won’t follow God’s direction.
If you haven’t seen a promise come true, take a hard look at the direction you have been given. That MUST be completed before your promise will come to pass.
POINT 2: BIG PROMISES REQUIRE BIG STEPS
Rebecca and I made a 10+ hour round-trip drive every weekend from Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY to serve in a church while working on a Master’s degree.
The winters were terrible during those two years and we often found ourselves driving very late at night in dangerous conditions.
Horrific electrical storms!
White-out snow, several times we couldn’t be sure we were on the road!
Semi-trucks speeding down on us.
One Christmas break I was leaving my home in Virginia, facing a 9-hr drive to Louisville, KY. When I got into the car, I found a handwritten note taped to the dashboard:
It read: “WHEN you pass through the waters, I will be with you; WHEN you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. WHEN you walk through the fire, you will not be burned...” Isaiah 43:1, 2
Birdie’s mom had put it there.
Birdie's parents, Joan and Sam Clark
Now, if we had been driving to the grocery store, she wouldn’t have posted those promises. If we had been watching television or following our friends on Facebook, we wouldn’t have needed those promises.
You see, Momma knew we were taking BIG steps and she was reminding us that GOD has made us some BIG promises. It doesn’t take the same caliber of faith to pass through the waters as it does to walk through the fire.
It doesn’t take the same caliber of faith to get up and go to church on a rainy day as it does to sell everything you have and follow Him. So, why would the two be met with the same caliber of promises?
To Samson’s mother, God promised a son.
To Abraham, He promised descendants, more than there are stars!
BIG promises require BIG steps.
The former was required to drink no wine and eat no unclean thing, while the latter was required to leave his native land, all his relatives and go to a place only known to God.
To some in the Bible, God’s word simply says, “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.” While others, facing an onslaught of enemies on a fierce battlefield are told, “Go! I will fight this battle for you.” If you’re going to take big steps, make sure you have big promises.
POINT 3: EVERY PROMISE HAS ITS TIME
The promises of God are realized WHEN the step is taken, not before.
But first you have to know a promise is FOR YOU. Many of God’s promises are for EVERYONE. But some are specifically yours to claim.
I personally didn’t need the promise of a son, but I desperately needed the promise of God’s sustaining strength.
When we were so afraid we would fail, I needed: Do NOT be afraid! I am with you.
When we faced insurmountable obstacles, I needed: I WILL deliver you!
When we didn’t know where the money would come from, I needed: I WILL supply every need!
So IF a promise is for you, then do exactly what God has directed and know that God WILL do what He said.
Throughout her life, my mother encouraged us with the promises of God.
Another note Mom sent to us, appropriately enough, on a prescription tablet. Birdie's father was a pharmacist.
As for God’s timing, many in God’s Word have gotten to see their promises come to pass. But the Bible is full of saints and heroes who NEVER, in their lifetimes, saw their promises fulfilled.
Even Isaiah never saw the Messiah whom he so accurately described and prophesied. But God kept His promise.
These words from NarroWay’s THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TENNESSEE say it best:
“Noah knew there’d be no rainbow, ‘til he made it through the storm!
Sarah knew there’d be no baby, ‘til the birth pains were done!
Moses knew there’d be no Promised Land, ‘til the wilderness be crossed!
Jesus knew that stone won’t roll away, ‘til he finished hanging on that cross!”
And when we draw our final breath on this earth, and take our first jaw-dropping look into Heaven, I like to imagine that St. Peter might just hand us a little note:
“You kept your promise. I kept mine.... God.”
And, my friend, that’ll preach!
Let's be honest (Applying Truth to Real Life)
1. Think of any promises you feel God has made to YOU, even if it is a promise God has made to everyone.
2. Everytime you read your Bible, underline every promise GOD makes in your reading.
3. Of those promises you underline in your Bible, highlight every promise that you believe is YOUR promise.
4. What needs do you have in your life for which you desperately need a promise of God? Fear? Forgiveness? Worry? Sustaining power? Deliverance from something?
5. Research online or by looking up related verses in your Bible to find the promises God has made that relate to your need.
6. Note what directions, requirements or stipulations there are to the promises God has made. You must do what God has directed in order that his promises be fulfilled.
7. Write YOUR promise on a note and put it on the dashboard of your car, on your bathroom mirror, on your child’s bed, on your front door, in your kitchen – wherever you will constantly see that promise.