Faith Secures the Promises of God

Dr. Brian Allison

The genius of faith is that it continues to cleave to the promises of God regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the opposition. When you take that vegetable can from your cupboard, on which is the brand name Heinz; or when you open those baby food jars or take that bottle of ketchup from the refrigerator, on which is that same name, remember the above statement. Henry J. Heinz of the 57 varieties fame wrote his will as follows, "Looking forward to the time when my earthly career will end. I desire to set forth at the very beginning of this will, as the most important item in it, a confession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I also desire to bear witness to the fact that throughout my life, in which were the usual joys and sorrows, I have been wonderfully sustained by my faith in God through Jesus Christ. This legacy was left me by my consecrated mother, a woman of strong faith; and to it, I attribute any success I have attained." Henry J. Heinz died in faith, having not received all the promises of God, but by his faith he continued to cleave to those promises, regardless of the dire circumstances, opposition, or sorrows in his life.

Faith patiently waits for the promises

We read a summary statement in Hebrews 11:13-16, referring to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah, "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." Now, how would you feel if you had been promised something, but never witnessed the realization of it; you wait and wait and wait? How would you feel? The patriarchs waited their whole lifetime to receive that which had been promised, but they died without receiving it – "All these died in faith without receiving the promises."

The nature of true faith is that it continues to cleave, it never gives up, it never quits; it perseveres, resting in the promises, regardless of the challenges and the trials. Recall the statement in Romans 4:18, "In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which has been spoken, 'SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.'" And Abraham died in the hope that continued to believe in that promise. Could that be said of you; that you will wait patiently for the fulfilment of the promises; that even if you are on your deathbed, and the promises of God had not yet been realized, it will be said of you, that you died in faith, though not having received the promises? Now, there may be the criticism, "I think that the patriarchs believed in vain. They waited their whole lifetime and received nothing. What's the point? They gambled and they lost." I don't think so. True faith extends beyond the earthly realm into the eternal one, implying the fact that an essential aspect of faith is patience.

Though these patriarchs did not physically experience the actual realization of the promises, they did spiritually. They were convinced that one day, there would be an actual fulfilment of them, even if it were to be on the other side of the grave – "But having seen them, and having welcomed them from a distance." A number of years ago, I went to Philadelphia for further studies. I was anxious to return home. While flying back from Philadelphia to Toronto, the pilot came on the intercom, saying, "We are about to make our descent; we should be arriving at Pearson Airport in about 15 minutes." Out the window, I saw the city, and I welcomed it from a distance. I felt the anticipation; I felt the excitement. As we were making our landing descent, moving closer to the airport, the excitement and anticipation grew. I saw my specific destination, and I was welcoming it from a distance; and such was the case with these patriarchs.

In faith, we should not be discouraged, nor should we lose hope. Our experience of seeing those future promises should be just as real as seeing a city and airport on a landing descent. That is the nature of faith. Faith imports the future into the present and embraces it in the fulness of its reality.

Faith embraces the promises concerning heaven

There was absolutely no doubt in the minds of these saints concerning the promises of God as they lay on their deathbeds. They had seen them through the eyes of faith, they had welcomed them, they had embraced them; and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would be the realization of them. What did they see? What were the promises that they embraced? Simply, the various aspects of the eternal state – the blessings that pertain to God's country, God's city, God's eternal home. God had promised Abraham not only physical blessings, but spiritual ones; not simply a physical land, but a spiritual domain – heaven, in all its glory, consisting of myriads of redeemed souls. Recall the language of Genesis 22:15-18 in reference to Abraham's obedience in being willing to offer up Isaac, "Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, 'By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed [i.e., Christ] all the nations of the earth shall be [spiritually] blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

So, Abraham and others, by faith, recognized that they were of a different realm; they clearly recognized that this world was not their home; that they did not belong here – "and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." For instance, in Genesis 23:3,4, Abraham addressed the sons of Heth, "Then Abraham rose from before his dead and spoke to the sons of Heth saying, 'I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial sight among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.'" I am sure that the sons of Heth did not realize all that Abraham meant by that confession; and most likely, Abraham did not fully understand the full significance of that confession; but in any event, he self-consciously recognized his status on the earth.

Those who walk in faith can give the testimony, "I do not belong here, this world is not my home." My brothers and sisters, do not get comfortable here. This world is not your home; the Word of God says that your citizenship is in heaven. We read in Philippians 3:20,21, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."

Faith desires and seeks heaven

Having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth, do you see what that implies? It implies that they belonged somewhere else. Their homeland, their fatherland, was somewhere else; and thus they naturally sought it. Accordingly, if you really believe this, that is, the divine promises of God (what He has laid up for you); if it is true that you see, by faith, these things from a distance, and you have embraced them, doesn't it stand to reason that you will desire and seek them? You see, all else then pales in comfort and significance. In receiving the promises, the patriarchs sought for their fulfilment – "For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own."

That is the nature of faith. Faith looks forward. Faith yearns for that which has been promised, by which we make the confession that we are strangers and exiles on the earth. Confession translates into motivation. This realization is absolutely critical in terms of our development in the faith. What am I saying? I am saying this: if you come to a self-conscious realization that you are a spiritual stranger and exile on the earth, and you make a clear confession of that (you verbally acknowledge and declare it), it will change your perception; and it will affect your motivation, affecting how you live. I suspect that many Christians have not made that self-conscious confession, and have actually said (even to yourself), "I am a stranger and an exile on the earth. I do not belong here. I belong elsewhere." Again, my friend, when you make that confession, and you believe it, your perception changes. Have you made that confession?

There is absolutely no comparison between the earthly and the heavenly realities. As the glory of the sun inestimably outshines the glory of a light bulb, so the glory of heaven inestimably outshines the glory of earth. Once you have 'seen' the coming glory through the eyes of faith, you want nothing else. The former life no longer satisfies – "And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out they would have had opportunity to return." If these patriarchs had been thinking well of that prior homeland, then they, no doubt, would have thought about returning. But there was no attraction, no pull to go back, because they had become preoccupied with the promises of God. They had seen the coming glory and had acquired a glimpse of that eternal city; they had seen God's country, as incredible as that may sound; and there was no further desire for the past – "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one."

Let me ask you, are you looking back? Be honest now. Are you preoccupied with this world? Do you feel the pull of the pleasures and enticements of this world? Do you sometimes say to yourself something like this, "I am not sure if I am ready to leave this life just yet. I am not sure that I am prepared to go and meet God. I still want to enjoy some of the things this world has to offer?" Are you having second thoughts? Are you looking back? Even more seriously, are you thinking about 'returning'? Remember Lot's wife. She looked back to the perishing city of Sodom, out of which she escaped, because her heart's desire lay there; and she lost everything. We read, "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt" (Gen. 19:24-26).

In Luke 12:29ff., Jesus instructs, "And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Do you 'hear' the Scripture? Where is your heart? What is preoccupying your thoughts and desires, your aspirations and ambitions? What takes up your time and energy during the week? What are you focused on? – "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Where is your treasure? We are to be people of faith who clearly 'see' their treasure in heaven, and as heaven. Our hearts should be longing for the heavenly fatherland – "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one." What do you desire? Do you desire the spiritual fatherland?

Faith shall receive its reward

Do you notice that we have the notion of a gift, a reward, conveyed here? The heavenly country is God's present to us. God has prepared it for the people of faith – "for He has prepared a city for them." God Himself will be in that country, that city. We read, "And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:22,23). This will be the greatest joy of all – Jesus Christ will be there in fellowship with His people; and we will "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev. 14:4b). So, God will present this glory to those who have lived and who have died in faith.

Do you see that it is those with whom God is pleased who shall receive this heavenly domain? – "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God." My brothers and sisters, having lived and died in faith, God feels no disgrace nor dishonour to own you as one of His people. He takes great delight in the people of faith. Can I put it this way? He takes holy pride in His people; an attitude similar to that which marked the original creation – "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). God was deeply satisfied. And so God rejoices over the people of faith. He will proclaim His pleasure to the whole of creation on that final day of this earth's history.

So, are you rejoicing in the promises? If you have faith, you will cleave to these promises, regardless of the circumstances and the opposition. You will persevere; and if you should die in faith before the realization of the promises, you will awake in the full joy of those promises in the glory of God's presence, a glory that shall be increasingly experienced and enjoyed, world without end. Amen.