4 Promises You Won’t Find in God’s Word

We’re a culture accustomed to customization. From our coffee orders to our music playlists to build-your-own pizza joints, the idea of personalization is normal to us. It’s not wrong to consider the options available to us and make choices according to our personal tastes and preferences. But if we carry this mindset of personalization and customization into the realm of Scripture, we’re going to stray from the truth. We might even make some assumptions about God’s promises to fit our preferences without even realizing it. We skim our Bibles, preferring 2 Opinions 4:12 or 1 Assumptions 5:1 to shape our theology instead of studying and clinging to sound doctrine. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth provides an explanation of sound doctrine and its importance in her book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Take a look:

Doctrine, you see, simply means teaching. It’s the content of what we believe, the understanding of reality that shapes our faith. Like soil in a garden, doctrine provides the context for growing character. The soil of doctrine in which we’re planted can make us beautiful and help us point others to the beauty of Christ and His gospel. But only if it’s the right doctrine. Even those of us who are longtime Christians can be misled by false or skewed beliefs we’ve picked up somewhere. If we aren’t intentional about where our hearts and minds are planted and watered, we can’t expect to end up with a healthy crop. Bad doctrine, bad fruit. Good doctrine, good fruit” (p. 33, emphasis added).

As a result of skewed beliefs formed out of customizing God’s Word to our liking, we cling to promises God never makes. Here are four promises we won’t find in God’s Word:

1. A Simple Life of Comfort and Ease

False Promise: Those who put their faith in Jesus will experience smooth sailing, minimal struggles, and unending happiness.   Scripture tells us to expect trials. Anticipate them. Know that life won’t be a breeze, because the gospel isn’t a suffering-free program.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12–13).

Following Jesus doesn’t sentence us to a life of joyless pain, though. In fact, God’s Word reminds us often that suffering for Christ’s sake yields joy, steadfastness, and a purified faith:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2–4).

Suffering for Christ’s sake yields joy, steadfastness, and a purified faith.

Life will be filled with difficulty, and sometimes gut-wrenching grief and loss (2 Cor. 4:7–11). If we cling to God when the trials hit, we’ll experience a deeper hope and peace in Him we’d never experience any other way.

2. Writing in the Sky

False Promise: When you aren’t sure how to make a decision, ask God for a physical sign, and He will surely provide one. God doesn’t often send angels to appear to us in dreams or write messages on walls today. On the other hand, He has given us His Word to study and His Holy Spirit to enable us to grow in wisdom. Walking with God—and making wise decisions that honor Him—isn’t like shaking a Magic 8 Ball and waiting for the answer to show up. Instead, James instructs us to ask God for wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:5–6).

Trust God. Love Him. Seek to honor Him with your decisions. He’s doesn’t play guessing games. He’s a good—and sovereign—Father who lovingly guides (Prov. 3:5–6).

3. The Fulfillment of All Your Dreams

False Promise: Because nothing is impossible with God, He surely can bring all your dreams to pass. All you must do is believe. I used to cling to Ephesians 3:20 as my great hope for a beautiful future, as if God were the granter of my innermost wishes, hopes, dreams, and desires.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20–21).

It is true: God will do far more than we can ever ask or think, though not according to our personal interests but according to His grand redemptive plan and eternal purposes in order to bring Himself glory.

God is truly able to bring about spectacular things, but it’s all for His glory, not for the sake of our dreams.

When we join in Jesus Christ’s gospel mission, He truly can and will do more than we could ever imagine! He gives good gifts we never expect—and never deserve. He brings sinners into the family of God in ways beyond human capability and comprehension. He works all things for good (Rom. 8:28). God is truly able to bring about spectacular things, but it’s all for His glory, not for the sake of our dreams. Because the gospel isn’t about achieving personal dreams; it’s about dying to self, laying aside our hopes and dreams, and following Christ with abandon:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:24–26).

Align your goals and passions with the gospel, seek hard after Him, and watch Him do things you never could imagine. Then praise Him for it all.

4. A Rewards System

False Promise: Read your Bible, and you shall earn a brownie point. Obey what Scripture says, and you shall be rewarded with special favor and additional love from the Lord.

Never forget this: Your relationship with God is grace-based, not performance-based.

We know that God’s love isn’t earned—it’s unconditional and unending—but we often approach Him that way, don’t we? In our actions, we live out the premise that if we read a Psalm and a Proverb today, God will reward us by sprinkling extra goodness into our lives. Never forget this: Your relationship with God is grace-based, not performance-based. We can’t earn extra points like frequent flyer miles. Because He loves us and showers grace upon us, we in turn love and serve, motivated not by a reward, but by love.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8–10).

God does promise to bless righteousness. When we behold the wondrous mystery of the gospel, His Spirit works in us to motivate and enable us to honor Him.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! (Ps. 119:1–3).

Have you found yourself buying into any of these man-made promises? What steps will you take to cling to sound doctrine?

About the Author

Samantha Keller

Samantha Keller loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck.