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Make A Promising Start to 2024

Sometimes we say that ‘money makes the world go round’ but it’s perhaps more accurate to say that it’s a ‘promise that makes the world go round,’ for it’s the promise on the bank note, taken in trust that makes the economy work.

Promises have also played a role in recovery. AA’s famous twelve promises give people hope of a better perspective on the past and a brighter outlook for the future. It’s taken in trust that these things will materialise if people work for them. And so too in the bible the theme of promise is key in God’s dealings with His people. At Christmas we have focussed already on the birth of Christ, Israel’s long promised Messiah who would be saviour of the world, bringing hope to millions across the globe.

That hope of a future, based on a promise, was imprinted on the minds of God’s people and was the fuel in the fire that the faithful needed daily in their lives, in order to trust the Lord. Now as we enter a New Year, where we make promises to ourselves that are often broken by March(!) it’s  perhaps good to focus on this theme to fuel us similarly for the year ahead.

To do this let’s look at how the theme of God’s promises harness hope, promote perseverance, and foster faith in Hebrews, a letter that has plenty to say about promise.

Firstly, in Hebrews 6:13-14 we read that

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.

This promise is combined with God’s oath in verses 16-18 which in the ancient world was used to give greater weight to a promise or an agreement. The higher the authority, the more credible the oath, the more certain that the promise will be fulfilled. Thus, the certainty of God’s promise, to bless Abraham with many descendants, which would ultimately be fulfilled in the gospel (i.e. those who belong to Abraham through faith in Christ – Galatians 3:29), is unbreakable and inviolable for it rests upon God himself who holds the greatest authority in our universe.

This is a promise that harnesses hope, for it rests upon a God who cannot lie. If you want to know how bright your future is as you head into 2024, meditate on this verse. Unlike our lives, our character and our world that changes like shifting shadows and is thrown and tossed around like the waves of the sea, God is unchangeable and always true to his word.

In Hebrews 8:6 we then read that

The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

But why are these promises of the New Covenant ‘better?’ The answer is found in verses 8-12 which are actually from Jeremiah 31:31-34. The New Covenant promises are better because of their permanency. These promises fulfilled in Christ, lead to God’s law being written on people’s minds and hearts.  They lead to knowledge of God and his abiding presence that does not fade, as God is known in a deeper and more personal way than was previously possible. They lead to a situation where God is permanently merciful and remembers our sin no more and where He is closer to the believer than a friend or family member.

This harnesses hope, because the failures of the past can be addressed and our alienation from God reversed. We can genuinely turn to him for restoration and the loneliness of our lives, marked by sin and the emptiness of broken relationships, often as a result of our addictions can be overturned.

In Hebrews 12:26 we then read that

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.

This verse relates to the giving of God’s law at Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus where His people were established for the first time.

In Hebrews it’s also an echo of another judgement in the future, when Christ returns and where God’s people will be established once again, but this time for eternity. When this promise is fulfilled, God will shake out the temporal dross of our world and our lives and create our permanent, eternal standing before God, with the Lord Jesus Christ in a new creation. 

That’s also a promise that harnesses hope for as we walk in this life we pick up and absorb that which is fleeting and fragmentary and live with the awareness of a life that disintegrates and decays and one where sin can still have an impact upon us. Our lives were shaken up by sin and addiction but with Christ they will be shaken up again one final time and for our supreme good.

So God’s promises harness hope and they also promote perseverance.

In Hebrews 4:1 we read

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

Sin and addiction is a tiring, draining affair. Often one of the early blessings of recovery is a proper night’s sleep! In a spiritual sense, the sinner also longs for sincere rest. Rest that unburdens the soul and brings release from guilt and shame. The addict knows these feelings well and the gospel gives that kind of rest. The type of deep rest that can only come from being at one with God.

Yet that rest is incomplete. It is experienced in part, but it has a future element and so Hebrews issues a warning for those tempted to go back to the old way of life before Christ. You will miss out.

God’s promises promote perseverance because a key motivation to press on with Him and walk the Christian life (and the path of recovery), is the knowledge that the promise of a fuller rest still stands but if people go backward and abandon Christ, they will miss out on it.  If ever there was a time for FOMO, this is it! We missed out on plenty of God’s wholesome gifts when using. Don’t let it happen in 2024.

Next is Hebrews 6:12 where we read that

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

This can be combined with Hebrews 10:36 which states that

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

It takes sincerity and patience to keep walking with the Lord. Sometimes the gains are immediate but much of what we gain is long term and far off. It takes a lifetime to be shaped by God and we have learned the bad habits of a lifetime so we shouldn’t be surprised at this! It’s possible though, as we play the long game to become lazy, fed up or bored. This is sometimes the addict’s problem. The addict becomes restless, irritable, or discontent if progress is not as quick or easy or if perceived blessings don’t materialise.

It can also become difficult. We may face opposition as those receiving this letter did. These were people who were not only tempted to go back to the old life spiritually but who were also being pressured by others to do so.  Our opposition sometimes comes from within and without. The world, the flesh and the devil are common foes, yet we can treat them like our friends and whilst we are sometimes our own worst enemy not everyone is for us in recovery. In fact, it’s when we begin to walk this path that we find out how many people don’t like it and want to drag us back to the old life.

Well God’s promises promote perseverance because they point us forward to the reward even as difficulties arise.

A great preacher once gave a powerful illustration of this when he told the story of two men who were tasked with hammering nails into wood for one year. Two men with the same monotonous, repetitive task. One man was told that at the end of the year they would both receive five million pounds whilst the other was kept in the dark about this. Guess what? The man in the know was motivated to work hard and keep going throughout the year whilst the other became lazy and gave up after a few months.

God’s promises promote perseverance. So, stay focussed on them as we begin 2024.

Finally, God’s promises will foster faith.  In Hebrews 10:23 people were encouraged to

Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

We have a reading at Hope For Glasgow that points out that we were ‘iffy’ people. We were unreliable and changeable. We were inconsistent and lacked integrity. We were double minded and dishonest. These are our bed fellows in a world of sin. Yet because God is faithful to his promises, we are now different and if things haven’t changed for you yet, January 2024 is a good place to start. We have been familiar with holding unswervingly to false gods (alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex) so let’s do things differently in 2024.

God’s promises foster faith because as we mentioned they are certain and based upon his unchangeable, consistent character. By faith, we are ready and willing to arrange everything around this God of hope who gives us a future.  So, we hold on to him unswervingly and take action. Which leads nicely to Hebrews 11 and two other examples that make this point.

In verse 13 we read that

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

And in verse 39

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

Hebrews 11 is a chapter often described as the ‘Hebrews hall of fame.’ However, unlike our present-day hall of fame(s) these people are commended not because of what they achieved or attained but because of what they did not attain.

But therein lies the example to follow in 2024. They were commended because their faith led to action even though the promises remained unfulfilled.  Indeed, they longed for the far-off country with God so much that they felt like aliens and strangers as they lived and breathed the cultural air of their time. How often we can feel out of place in our world and crippled by it.

Well, the bible points us toward people like Abel (V4), Noah (V7), Abraham (V8), Joseph (V22), Moses (V24) and Rahab (V31). These were people who acted upon the promises of God that you can read about in His Word and are commended for doing so because they did not see the promise realised in their earthly lives yet still lived for it even as those around them in the world did not.

God’s promises promote perseverance because they take us beyond our earthly existence. It’s enough to live life that way because they are rooted in  God’s character and so even if they are not fully attained yet, they are in no way depleted or discredited. This leads not to inaction but to action as the examples from Hebrews 11 show us.

In 2024 there are things that should change or even must change. There is action to be taken in recovery and life. Yet we often take action because we expect a result. The greater action in recovery might just be the new choice, direction or change that is rooted in a result that is not presently attainable but is nevertheless entirely right for it is ultimately found in the God who rescues and saves in the Lord Jesus Christ and a future that will materialise because He worked for them.


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