I tend to be a very process oriented person. I like systems because I believe they produce efficiency, accuracy and consistency. In short….give me a list or a set of rules and I will be very content. I heard a pastor say several years ago that “between the promise and the payoff there is always a process.” This resonated with me because it is basic. It is simple. It is logical. It is true.
The difficult part for most of us is accurately understanding the promise and wading through the process all the while longing for the payoff. Have you ever found yourself holding onto a promise believing that the payoff would eventually come? When we begin to feel discouraged and find ourselves lecturing God regarding His faithfulness to His promises I think we have to ask a couple of important diagnostic questions. First, what has God actually promised me? Second, what will the payoff actually look like? Wrestling with these two questions will ultimately produce good fruit in our lives because it will bring a needed focus on what God’s promises “actually” are and what the payoff will “actually” look like.
The reason I stress the word “actually” is because many times we try to morph our desires into “promises” from God. It is all too easy to develop a desire from the flesh and then try to talk God into it or to manipulate our understanding of scripture to support our stance. This is not only reckless….but sinful. God has promised believers a number of things and we should hold onto those promises.
He will never leave us or forsake us.
He will give us life abundantly.
He will be a refuge for us in our time of trouble.
He will supply all of our needs.
He will discipline us because He loves us.
The list could go on and on. God’s promises are there to encourage us and we should never doubt His faithfulness. The problem isn’t with His ACTUAL promises but rather with the ones we make up. God never promised our lives would be easy. He never said we would live with an abundance of wealth. He never promised we would be free from physical illness. He never promised we would dodge persecution.
Difficult circumstances do not compromise God’s promises. In fact, many times they highlight the fact that His promises are at work in our lives. The process doesn’t, as we may think, make life easier. The process is used to refine us, shape us, and chisel us so that we might look more like Him.
As far as the payoff goes, it is oftentimes manifested in ways we never would have imagined. I have to tip my hat to the great theologian Garth Brooks who eloquently crooned “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.” The pay-off may not be as we imagined but it will always be God’s best!
What has He “actually” promised you? What “promises” have you made up and then expected God to embrace? What assumptions do you have about the payoff?
God never breaks a promise……never. Our circumstances may not be favorable in the moment but God’s promises will never falter. The payoff may not seem like much of a payoff in the moment but the final outcome and the ultimate payoff will be that you and I are conformed more and more into the image of the Son.
So, whatever today brings your way remember that between the promise and the payoff there is always a process and the process will in the end ALWAYS be worth it!
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8