Bible / Blazing Center / Theology / September 2, 2016

You Can’t Claim a Promise

ISAIAH 41:10 

Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. 

In 1964 my grandfather shared this verse with my father as he was preparing to move away to college. As I grew up, my father shared it with me often as well – when I started at a new junior high school, when I left for missions trips, and when I left for college. Recently I helped my 8-year-old daughter memorize this legacy promise. Isaiah 41:10 holds special significance to me because of how it has blessed my family for decades. I look to it, hold on to it, and I am encouraged by it.

But I don’t claim it.

To claim something is to take ownership, to say “it’s mine.” When we lay claim to property we gain certain rights and privileges. Litigants are awarded claims or denied them, claims of monetary value. Promises don’t work like that.

Often people “claim” a promise when life is hard or they’re afraid. They might even claim a promise for someone else, a child who has walked away from the Lord perhaps. When people do this, though, they are taking the Word of God and attempting to “own” it like a talisman or mantra. They’re treating an utterance breathed out by God as a silver bullet or a security blanket, a quick solution or a comfort to carry around. Sadly, some preachers even express these ideas from the pulpit.

This misses the very nature of a promise, though. A promise isn’t a thing; it’s an expression of something greater. When God uttered promises in Scripture He wasn’t giving us a buffet of blankies, Band-Aids, and silver bullets. He was showing us His character. A promise tells a little bit about who God is and what He will do. It is anchored in His holiness, goodness, power, and sovereignty. It is based on his omnipotence and omniscience. And it will come to pass in a way only God knows and ordains.

When we claim a promise we are attempting to take control of it. We come to it with a presupposed notion of how it should play out. But when we realize that a promise is not a thing for us to have or use, only then do we realize it is bigger and better than we imagined. It may not come to pass as we imagined, but it will come to pass. We know this because it’s from God.

When I remember Isaiah 41:10 I am remembering big things about God, too big for me to claim as my own. Too big for me to completely understand and definitely, too big for me to dictate or apply to my own life. Instead these things are so big that I can rest on them and find peace. It is a promise from the mouth of God, and He has claimed me. That is why I believe it.

This post was originally posted at HCSB.org; used with permission. 




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31 Comments

Apr 17, 2014

From someone who was brought up in a “name-it-and-claim-it” denomination and wondered why it never worked for me, this is pure gold.


    Apr 17, 2014

    Thanks, Chris. It’s such a set up for disappointment and disillusionment with God, even though it’s not a right understanding of him.


Apr 17, 2014

From someone who never grew up with this mantra of ‘claiming a promise’ but later was introduced to it, I never understood why people thought/think they could just cherry-pick promises to suit a situation. Aren’t the promises for all, especially believers? That’s the question that always went through my head. I appreciated your tackling this very topic. Spot on!


    Apr 17, 2014

    I didn’t grow up with it either. I’ve just encountered it a lot, especially in certain church traditions. It just seems so clearly off-base from who God is and what a promise means.


      Jul 02, 2014

      Rose, claiming a promise is not “cherry picking” out of scripture. It is taking promises that are relevant to a situation, and believing it. As you stated, promises are in fact for all believers. Barnabas I see where you are coming from with this post. I do, however, think that you may be misinformed. Try not to get stuck on a definition of “claiming” that suits this arguments purposes, and try instead to view it as “believing”.


Apr 17, 2014

Something to consider – and perhaps discuss: I am definitely not a “name it and claim it” guy, nor do I view the promises of the Bible like some incantation to be recited in order to serve us and our determinate desired result(s)…but…I have recently revisited this issue pertaining to the “authority” and “promises” given to us “in Christ” as “children (sons/daughters) of God” (Jn. 1:12-13) who “has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) – and although I am still working through it (trying to determine its scope & application), I do “think” we have may have more available to us than what we as believers are allowing ourselves to believe – and I don’t think this is being “presumptuous” – and I am aware of the dangers of going” beyond what is written.”
I’ve been thinking through when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-10). He could have ended the confrontation before it began by simply saying, “Get thee behind me Satan,” but He didn’t. Instead He went toe to toe with him, showing us (I believe) how to use the authority of God’s word for a particular attack; wielding “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [gk. rhema (not “logos”): a particular word] of God” (Eph. 6:17b) to confront a particular temptation. So what “promises” do we have that speak to “lust” or ” worry” or “gossip” or “covetousness”? The overall attack on Jesus was for Him to use His authority to “prove Himself,” which would have been a sinful, self-serving abuse of His authority; disqualifying Him to be our Savior who was on His way to the cross. Satan’s attacks on us are not all that different – though he uses fallen man as his representatives to attack our identity or ruin our witness – for he is “the accuser of the brethren.” The issue for us may be about whether or not we are being sinful and self-serving in our approach to God’s promises purchased for us in Christ – but what if we are truly aligned with (or faithfully pursuing) the revealed will of God for His glory? Are not His promises “yea and amen in [Jesus]” (2 Cor. 1:20).

I apologize for the long-winded post, Barnabas, but I suppose I am thinking out loud regarding an issue that may need more consideration before we throw the baby out with the bath water – and I am trying to put away my presuppositions to take another look at this issue. I’ll let you know how it all turns out…
Peter > 3Jn2


    Apr 23, 2014

    I so agree! I too am not a name it and claim it christian, however I believe the word of God and His promises do apply to me personally. They are my strength and hope in getting through this present world.
    B


      Apr 23, 2014

      It is a really helpful thing to see the difference between “claiming” a promise and seeing that it applies to us personally. Good point!


    May 09, 2017

    Three years later…yes! Grappling with the concept, scope and validity of Gods promises right now. Promises are definitely both less than what we have thought and more than at the same time…the revelation is in recovering which is which.


Apr 18, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise […]


Apr 18, 2014

[…]  Read more at Barnabas Piper […]


Apr 19, 2014

John 3:16 is a promise. I can’t claim it as personal?


    Apr 23, 2014

    why is it a ‘promise’? it seems that many verses that people say are ‘promises’ are actually just statements of trust and reality. They may be promises in some sense but is there any real difference or advantage to viewing them as promises above simply Gods words of truth and being?


      Apr 23, 2014

      ***statements of truth (not trust, sorry)


      Apr 23, 2014

      I think some of those statements have promise qualities to them – they indicate what God’s character is and will be forever, and that is something to hold to.


    Apr 23, 2014

    John 3:16 isn’t a promise, it’s a statement of what God did and who it He did it for.


Apr 19, 2014

Oh I see I have erred here..Mine was always ” train up a child in the way…” Maybe I should have said I was counting on the promise, or believing the promise, but that would have meant that somewhere along the line, I was questioning the truth of the promise. Best thing is to continue praying and having faith.


Apr 22, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise […]


Apr 22, 2014

I think it is important to differentiate between person promises made to individuals at specific times, promises made to groups in certain situations (like promises made to Israel) and general promises made to many or all, like John 3:16 (notice the “whomever”). They all reflect God’s character and ways in which He may or does work, but not all are for each of us. I will not have descendants like the stars, or lead Israel to freedom and I can’t have the Christ child born to me. It’s important to read verses in context historically and according to genre to best understand them. The “train up a child” example is a good one. It is a proverb, not a promise. Proverbs are bits of wisdom that reveal general truths, give warnings and help guide us, but they are not specific, exact promises.
We can trust the Lord because of promises of protection and deliverance to others because it reveals who He is and that revelation is consistent throughout scripture. We can trust promises made to us when they are to us because we have seen God’s promises fulfilled to others.


    Apr 22, 2014

    I meant personAL promises


    Apr 22, 2014

    Corey,

    Those are helpful distinctions and a good reminder that context is ALWAYS important when trying to understand and interact with scripture. One of the biggest pitfalls of “claiming” promises is the proof text aspect – it’s easy to make them mean what we want instead of what God intended.


    Apr 23, 2014

    Yes, thank you, Corey, for pointing out the context of the proverbs. I think many Christians don’t understand that. For example, a soft answer does not always turn away wrath.


Apr 23, 2014

I too am not a “name it claim it” Christ follower, but I also believe that God’s Word is very personal! I disagree that it or He is “too big for me…to apply to my own life.” I desperately need his Word to apply to my life and my very situation. However, again, I believe that God is completely sovereign and while I memorize and read scripture and claim it for my own as a child of God, it is not with the false expectation that he is under my control. Although, I rest in the peace of knowing a glimpse of His ultimate purpose and plan for His children. I will continue to claim them as my own even if He chooses not to heal, spare, deliver in this world…I KNOW it will happen for me in the next!


Apr 23, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise “A promise isn’t a thing; it’s an expression of something greater.” […]


Apr 25, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise: By Barnabas Piper – Piper says: “When we claim a promise we are attempting to take control […]


Apr 25, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise – “When we claim a promise we are attempting to take control of it. We come to it with a presupposed notion of how it should play out. But when we realize that a promise is not a thing for us to have or use, only then do we realize it is bigger and better than we imagined.” […]


Apr 26, 2014

[…] Barnabas Piper: You Can’t Claim a Promise  […]


Jul 22, 2014

thanks ! Just came over after listening you on Steve Brown etc. this will be another great discussion topic to bring to a family meal. We do tend at times to make scripture a lucky charm… we do love to control don’t we… praise God that it’s His Grace !


Dec 22, 2014

[…] You Can’t Claim a Promise: “A promise isn’t a thing; it’s an expression of something greater. When God uttered promises in Scripture He wasn’t giving us a buffet of blankies, Band-Aids, and silver bullets. He was showing us His character….” As far as books, here are a few that I’ve read recently or I’m reading currently: […]


May 09, 2017

And if the only promise I can rely on is related to what happens after I die (oft-quoted John 3:16) where do I get my hope joy and sense of purpose while I’m here? Indeed, what good is God? I’m currently grappling and wrestling with this. This dialogue is very helpful to me in this process.


Jun 24, 2017

There are promises that you can take and apply to your life. Jesus said believe, what is there to believe if we cannot apply it to our lives, where does hope come into play?, where is trusting in what he says? Have you ever used his word in your life and derived comfort, peace, change of mind or seen it work? He said to Ask, seek, knock. Yes it is up to God and whatever his will is in our lives. We are to walk by the Spirit, that’s his Word which is our identity 😀. We claim our identity and who we are in him.



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