Claiming the promises of God.

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Have you heard about the “name it and claim it” principle?  Some people live by the code while others think it is nonsense.  Some people have over-spiritualized a single proverb to give unwarranted power to the Devil and humanity:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.”

– Prov 18.21

And while it is true that the tongue is a mighty force for which we will all give an account (Mat 12.36-37), and James calls it a fire set ablaze by Hell which no one can tame (James 3.5-8), Scripture never promises or warns us that the simple utterance of a statement will forever bring God’s or Satan’s power upon us.  Speaking ill of someone or something will not give Satan any extra incentive, insight or ability to malign a person or situation.  Speaking a promise of God will not guarantee that things will immediately turn to your liking.  This one proverb does not bestow upon us the power of life and death!  When we read the entirety of Scripture, we understand that Jesus alone holds the keys to death and Hades, that God is sovereign over every minute of our life and Satan only has the impact God allows on our lives (Job 1-2)

What then does it mean death and life are in the power of the tongue?  It simply means we can greatly encourage or greatly hurt someone by the things we say.  We can build others – and ourselves up, or we can break people down.  The tongue is definitely a fire set ablaze by Hell and it hurts people, but it also builds them up.  Just like other proverbs teach, in more direct language:

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

– Prov 12.18

Ok, so the tongue has no supernatural power to command the power of God or give opportunity to the Devil.  But did Jesus Himself not tell us that whatever we ask in His name He would give it?  If we name the promises of God, or claim our desires in His name, will He not grant them?

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

– John 14.13

That sentence is so alluring.  It appeals to everything we Americans long for:  a powerful genie who will satisfy our desires and make us happy, healthy and wealthy, all without any commitment from or impact on our daily lives!  But let’s look at the greater context of this promise:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

John 14.12-17

Jesus came to the world to live a simple life – He had no home, He had minimal belongings, He was persecuted, murdered and raised back to life in order to bring salvation to all who believe.  He preformed miracles to proclaim the power of God so that people would believe.  These types of works, He promises, will be preformed by His followers to continue the effort, to the end that God is glorified and people are saved.  He has granted the Holy Spirit to guide and direct believers, and He promised to empower us to be vibrant witnesses to the glory and power of God.  This is why we are regularly hearing of miracles, dreams, and supernatural occurrences around the world where the Gospel is being pioneered.  Jesus by no means promised that we could ask Him for personal health, gain or pleasure and be guaranteed it.  He promised to validated our claims to His deity.

However, we absolutely should make it a daily habit to claim the promises of Jesus.  His promises are the key by which we will defeat sin in our lives.  His promises are the strength by which we will make it through trials and tribulations.  His promises are glorious and that by which we have our hope.  Let’s look at some of the promises of Jesus:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

– Matt 11.28

“…I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

– Matt 16.18

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.20

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

– Heb 13.5

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

– John 8.31-32

Jesus promises to give us rest, to empower us to proclaim the Gospel, to remain with us until the end and He will never leave us.  If remain in His truth, we will be set free!  It is because of all of these glorious promises that Paul boldly says (and exemplifies):

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

– Phil 4.13

This, again, however is a verse that is regularly and grossly taken out of context.  Let’s look at a few more promises of Jesus:

“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

– Matt 10.35-36

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

– Mark 13.13

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

– Matt 10.16

“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.”

– Matt 24.9

“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues…”

– Matt 10.17

Paul summarizes these promises of Jesus, the example of His life and the expectation we should have when encountering the world thus:

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

– 2 Tim 3.12

In this light, and in the context of the verse, we understand Paul to proclaim that He can indeed to anything through Christ:  he can suffer persecution, he can go hungry, he can be shipwrecked, and he can proclaim the Gospel:

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

– Phil 4.11-13

It is of utmost importance that we always understand Scripture in its context, that we examine a particular promise and teaching against the rest of Scripture, and that we are true to the author’s original intention.  Jesus lived a life of poverty.  We are promised that God will provide everything we need (Phil 4.9), and also that everything will work out for our good and for God’s glory, if we love God (Rom 8.28).  Our needs and our good, however, might very well be poverty, persecution or even death.  Our family members may never come to salvation.  Our country may kill us.  But in the midst of that, it is always God who is at work to grow us to Spiritual maturity and work out our salvation – and this, friends, is the greatest promise we could ever have.

“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

– Phil 2.13

Therefore, let us be mindful of the promises we claim.  Let us be respectful of the situations around us and always remember the path Jesus walked.  Let us consider that perhaps God knows what is best for us, better than we know ourselves.  Let us trust Him, as we pour out our hearts to Him and wait for the answer He gives us to our prayers.  Our tongues have no supernatural power by which we empower Satan or release the blessings of God.  We do not speak literal life and death into people.  God alone is sovereign and God alone provides, and He is faithful if He provides in the way we want – and He is faithful if He provides through suffering and tribulation.  Let’s trust Him.  Let’s claim His promise that He is working out our salvation to His glory.

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