The Hidden Blessing of an Unfulfilled Promise

One of the most valuable things you can have in this life is a promise from God. “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). The reason promises from God are “exceedingly great and precious” is because they are guarantees that, before our story is finished, God is going to visit us with His power and glory.

When God has not yet answered, we get discouraged all too easily with the fact that we haven’t yet experienced our breakthrough. What we fail to fully appreciate is the amazing treasure that we actually possess—a promise from God.

The first thing I want to say to everyone who has a promise from God is this: Do everything in your power to keep your fingers wrapped around that promise! It’s just too precious to lose.

When holding to promise for a long time, we’re often tempted to lose heart and relinquish our hope. The reason it’s so imperative to hold fervently to promise is this: Jettisoned promises can be lost forever. Not every promise is unconditional. Some promises must be carried tenaciously if we are to see their fulfillment. We see this truth in these verses:

Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12).

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal. 6:9).

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise (Heb. 10:35-36).

Hold onto promise like a wide receiver holding onto a football. As he sets his eyes on the goal line, he says within himself, “No matter what happens, I must not let go this football!” That’s how intently we must resolve to hold fast our confidence.

I can hardly imagine anything more tragic than to receive a promise from God but then to fumble it because it wasn’t fulfilled in our timing. To once have a promise, but to be now without it, is like subsisting in a wasteland of heartsick hopelessness.

My soul refuses to live in the badlands of abandoned promises. I am resolved to do whatever I must to keep His promise close to my heart. Fasting, prayer, and word immersion are gifts from God to empower us to maintain our grip on His promise.

When you have a promise firmly in your possession, an uncommon boldness and confidence overtakes your soul. The unfulfilled promise means that it must be fulfilled in your lifetime. That confidence puts boldness in your soul about the present.

Let me explain what I mean with some biblical examples.

Abraham had a promise that God would make him into a great nation (Gen. 12:2), even though his wife was barren. At a time when Abraham still had no son, Lot was taken captive by invaders. In response, Abraham mobilized the entirety of his resources—318 men—against the federation of foreign armies (Gen. 14:14). The odds were stacked miserably against Abraham, but promise had placed a boldness in his spirit, and he stepped forward audaciously to engage the enemy. Guess who won? The man who carried a promise. A legion of foreign armies can’t kill a man with an unfulfilled promise.

Caleb had been promised a mountain in Canaan (Josh. 14:9,12). Not only did that promise empower him to endure the 40-year trek through the wilderness, it also preserved his body so that at age 85 he had the strength and energy of a 40-year-old (Josh. 14:11). God preserved his strength so he could take and inhabit the promise given him 45 years earlier.

David had been promised the throne when he was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Sa. 16:13). That promise put brash boldness into David’s spirit, so much so that he went up against Goliath, a seasoned champion of the Philistine army (1 Sa. 17:48). After all, how can a man of faith who carries a powerful promise and is led by the Holy Spirit be taken out prematurely by an uncircumcised Philistine?

Peter had been promised by Jesus that he would live to an old age (Jn. 21:18). When he was imprisoned by Herod (Acts 12:3), he wasn’t old yet. That’s why, even though he was slated for execution on the following day, he lay fast asleep between his two guards. Why stay up and fret when you’re living under the shelter of an unfulfilled promise? The promise that he would reach an old age gave Peter the confidence to get a solid night’s sleep before his seemingly inescapable death. And of course we know the story—Peter was released from prison by an angel (Acts 12:11). Why? It was impossible for him to die before he was an old man.

If you have a promise from God, allow that promise to put this same kind of boldness in your soul. Okay, so you haven’t received your breakthrough yet. Okay, so all you have is a promise. But do you know what you’ve got?