I've been thinking a lot lately about the promises of God. More specifically, I've been thinking about how loosely the concept is defined and how often the promises are broken (hint... a lot).
The problem seems to be that the Bible is not the encyclopedia that many people seem to want it to be. You can't go to the book of 2nd Promises and the chapter on 'promises having to do with my love life' and find the appropriate verse. The Bible is a narrative... a story. It contains all sorts of statements from God and a lot of them could potentially be taken as promises.
And this is why it becomes so important to understand what is and is not a promise... and whether or not there are different kinds of promises. Are proverbs promises? Are some (all?) promises conditional? Do earthy sounding promises always find their fulfillment on earth?
You see, if I think that Proverbs 22:6 guarantees that if I do my best at training my kids in God's way then they'll automatically (eventually) become believers... I might end up thinking God broke a promise. If I felt Jesus was going to come back in 1988 because that's a generation after Israel became a nation again, it may have left me lost in my faith. If I think that passages in Isaiah and James can be combined to make every sickness go away, it may leave me incredibly disappointed with God in a bed (or next to one) at a hospital or, worse, yet, a funeral home.
As a quick aside, there's also the issue of non-biblical 'promises' of God. If I really believe that God called me to plant a church in Kelowna, BC (Canada) and then it never happened or failed miserably... does that mean God failed?
Clearly this is a life-affecting issue. I perceive that there are many disappointed Christians (and ex-Christians) out there as a result of the apparently broken promises of God. The sad thing is, I think this disappointment is needless. I don't believe that God has ever broken a promise, but I also don't think He's made nearly as many as some people think. Proverbs are principles, not promises. Some prophecies were (and are) set in stone, but many of them were (and are) conditional. Jesus had a healing ministry, but healings are signs pointing to the ultimate message of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Savior. Miraculous healings are still possible, but were never meant to be the norm. In fact, it would be more accurate to think of Jesus' words 'in this world you will have trouble' as a promise than some of the more instantly gratifying verses that some suppose are promises.
My point is that it doesn't make much sense to be disappointed with God for not keeping promises that He never made, so we should make sure we think through these issues pretty carefully. It's not enough to just Google a list of Bible promises. It's not enough to just 'feel' God has promised you something. It could be that there are actually a small set of actual promises from God. They might not include things like ease and earthly happiness (they might even mean the opposite!), but you can bet they are eternally beautiful.