“…I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.”
Psalm 66: 13-14
A great many people, when at their wit’s end, cry out to God for help. Whether it is their first communication with the divine or their thousandth, that cry is often accompanied by an expressed desire to negotiate a deal with the Almighty. It is in the nature of negotiators to start bargaining at the lowest price they think will be accepted. The value of the offer then rises as the urgency for relief increases.
All too often, once the deal is sealed, the transaction reverses itself. In a movie scene, a man is stranded in the sea far from shore. He is sure he will drown before reaching safety. So, calls out to God for help in exchange for which he promises to do whatever God wants. He then begins swimming for shore and his commitment to God shrivels the closer he gets to shore. Once upon the sands of the beach, he tells God, I hope you didn’t take any of the things I promised seriously.
I’ve never been a good negotiator. When I meet with resistance or an obstacle, my first thought is to launch an atomic strike and dig through the rubble later to see if there’s anything salvageable left. The voice of a cooler head, or perhaps the Spirit of God usually prevails before I push the button. Although, I have promised rashly in the past—my record of painful payments has been pretty good. At least, I think so. God’s final approval is still pending.
Peter says that God is not slack concerning His promises and has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. I have found this to be absolutely true. God keeps His promises, but we tend to be willingly ignorant of the fact that they are most often delivered as an “If, then statement”. That is, God says, “If you do this—then I will do this.” Too often we are iffy on the “If” part of the equation.
God does not just honor His promises. He honors those who keep their promises to Him. As with any attempt to be godly, failure to some degree is a given. This often makes keeping our promises to God painful. However, growing pains are preferable to offering less than our all so that we might boast of “success” as a keeper of promises.
David asked God, “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Part of the answer is: “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”