Not every single word in the Bible applies directly to each person reading it. It’s all inspired by God and we can learn from it, of course, but not everything applies to everyone directly. For example, some cleanliness laws in the Old Testament were gender specific and some prophecies were delivered to a specific person or group (like the dream warning Nebuchadnezzar he would become like an animal for 7 years).
But we can take this observation too far. We might make the mistake of thinking that because warnings to follow God alone were delivered to ancient Israel they don’t apply to us today. Yet the New Testament confirms we still need to make a choice between darkness and light (Deut. 30:15-20; 1 John 1:5-2:6). This type of thinking can also block us from accepting encouraging promises as well.
Have you ever read one of God’s promises and thought, “That sounds wonderful, but it can’t really apply to me?” I’m sure many of us have. For me personally, I struggle with believing God will answer my prayers the way He promises too (mostly I feel like my prayers for other people aren’t effective). But does that mean God’s promise to hear when we call doesn’t apply to me? Of course not. And I’ve even seen some examples of His direct responses to my prayers. My doubts and anxieties don’t cancel His promises. But they can block me from recognizing or accepting His work with, in, and for me.
God’s Presence In You
The Holy Spirit is one thing God promises to new believers. Jesus told His disciples the Father would give them the Holy Spirit after He left and we see that promise fulfilled quite spectacularly in Acts 2. As the narrative continues, a pattern emerges where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they covenant with God at baptism. And it’s made clear that this promise isn’t just for the people of that time.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39, WEB)
Everyone God is calling gets the gift of His Spirit once they repent and are baptized. That’s what it says. Peter doesn’t list any exceptions based on a person’s past actions, gender, ethnicity, or any other reasons we humans could come up with. If God is working with you and you commit to Him, then you get the promise of the Holy Spirit. All you have to do is ask (Luke 11:9-13).
Love And Friendship
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). You are not the one exception to that rule. God loves you, and everyone else, and wants you to have eternal life. And that also means He wants you to be part of His family. He wants to adopt you and befriend you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13-14, WEB)
This is a promise from Jesus. He already loves you and now He wants you to love Him back. We demonstrate love for God by developing the same character and interests as Him (e.g. keeping His commandments demonstrates that we value His morality). And when the relationship between us and God involves us loving Him as well as Him loving us, we become friends. We can count on that. God will always respond to those seeking relationship with Him. We’re typically the only things holding us back from claiming these promises and feeling loved.
He Will Hear
As I said earlier, one doubt I struggle with is wondering if God’s paying attention to my prayers. For me, and others with similar questions, Jesus gives a direct answer. Both the Father and Jesus are listening to us and care about answering us. We can even go directly to God, through Christ, with our petitions because “the Father himself loves you” (John 16:27, WEB).
Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, WEB)
And on that day you will ask me nothing. Truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. (John 16:23, LEB)
But what about when you aren’t seeing direct results to your prayers? I know I’ve asked things of God that I haven’t received, at least not yet. Sometimes, the answers come on a different timetable than we want, or in a different way than we expect. But if we’re trying to follow God, we can count on the promises that He really does hear and care when we call out to Him.
Yahweh is near to all those who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him. He also will hear their cry, and will save them. (Ps. 145:18-19, WEB)
These are promises we can cling to and count on, even when things seem hopeless. And we’re just barely scratching the surface of what God has promised to them that love Him. I’ll probably keep studying this topic for next week’s post, and I encourage you to join me in searching the scriptures. When we find promises that God makes to believers, we can ask Him to make them real for us — to let us see His work in our lives.