“But, Daddy, you promised,” Herbert W. Armstrong quoted his two sons, around seven and nine years old, “and you’ve got to keep your promise.” He recalls being reminded of this promise in The Plain Truth About Healing.
“Well, what do you think?” he asks the reader. “Do you think I could break a promise when my two sons came to me and put it like that? No, and if you’ll just as boldly tell God He has promised and then claim that promise as applied to your case and trust God to keep it and quit worrying about it—quit trying to work up faith—just relax, and let God take over from there—leave it with Him—let Him do it—He’ll do it, every time! I know whereof I speak, because I’ve put what I’m now telling you to the test not once, but literally hundreds and thousands of times, and God has never failed to keep His promise once.
I’ve seen the answers come so often and so frequently that I expect the answer when I ask!”
To develop our faith, we must ask: What did God promise? Did God promise what I’m asking for? Or, phrased another way: Is this God’s will?
Romans 10:12-13 promise, “… the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Verse 14 then asks, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
How can we believe, if that belief has not been educated? Verse 17 says: “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our faith must be educated by God’s Word, which tells us His will, His promises and His conditions for receiving such promises.
Examples of Healing
In the healing booklet, Mr. Armstrong uses healing as an example of how to grow in and exercise faith. It educates us from the Word of God: It is God’s will to heal; that is a promise. We can have faith in that. Further, it explains the conditions for God to fulfill His promise: One of those conditions is faith (as we read in verse 14). Another is obedience,since requests for healing seek forgiveness of past sin that caused the ailment and show our willingness to obey moving forward.
In addition, the timing of God fulfilling those promises is entirely up to Him. God has also promised that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Reconciling that promise with the healing promise is simple when you realize not only that healing is a type of the resurrection, but also that literal healing occurs when one is resurrected to an incorruptible spirit body. That is what the healing signifies in the first place, which is God’s ultimate goal for us. Healing in this life teaches us this—but, of course, it doesn’t extend this physical life forever. And the faith we learn from our experiences with healing aid in God’s ultimate purpose for us: making us into spirit beings.
The same is true of those in Hebrews 11 who “died in faith, not having received the promises” (verse 13). Their promises are awaiting them at the resurrection. That is no cop out: They will be raised from the grave with all divine power—the most glorious possible fulfillment of those promises!
Prove the Will
Our faith does not center around physical healing. We ask God a number of things. He wants us to bring all our cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7). And in so many cases, our requests are claiming God’s promises.
What has God promised? What is His will? Romans 12:2 says we must “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
In this epistle, Paul shares how he had been praying to visit these Church members in Rome, asking if it was God’s will (Romans 1:9-10). There was no statement in the Bible saying, Paul shall visit Rome within five years of writing the brethren there.
He asks the brethren to pray: “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God …” (Romans 15:32).
In the healing booklet, just before recounting the story of his sons, Mr. Armstrong writes: “Remember, whatever your need, the first thing to do, to be sure of receiving an answer to your prayer, is to search the Scriptures, to learn whether it is God’s will (Ephesians 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).”
The first of those passages reads: “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
This epistle to the Ephesians contains a fair bit about God’s will. Verse 1 begins, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God ….” Paul opens four other epistles this way, stating that his apostleship is by God’s will.
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (verses 4-5). Our calling as firstfruits is due to God’s will, and it has “made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” (verse 9). Yes, God’s will can be a mystery, but we know the big picture of God’s plan and the order in which He intends to save humanity.
Another term for God’s “will” is His “desire.” We know He is reproducing Himself through mankind, and everything orbits around that desire. If that is our number-one desire, then our will aligns with God’s. That informs how we pray and what we pray about.
Even when we are praying according to that ultimate purpose, though, what is God’s will concerning certain specifics in our lives? When you pray for help on the job, with a date, or in a relationship, can you have faith that God will answer what you ask?
When Paul was trying to determine whether it was God’s will that he visit Rome, he had to pray about it and asked the brethren to pray as well. Today, we know it was God’s will, but that only became clear after much prayer!
Some passages speak of God’s will with a big “if”—since we don’t know God’s will for every exact situation (see 1 Peter 3:17; James 4:15; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3). 1 John 5:14-15 reads: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Of course, when it comes to something like healing—specifically promised in the Bible—we know God’s will there; there is no if.
Immediately preceding the story of his sons claiming that promise, Mr. Armstrong writes: “The Bible reveals God’s will. We need never say, ‘Well, I know God could heal me if it is His will.’ You can know His will. And so far as healing is concerned, I can tell you definitely that His Word says plainly and emphatically that it is His will. The Bible is full of promises—literally full of them. If you need anything, study to see whether God promised it, and if He has, He can’t break a promise!” (ibid).
The Bible includes a lot about God’s promises. Some are specific to historic events: for instance, the heir promised to Abraham and Sarah, or land promised to Israel. Regarding the latter, Solomon declared: “there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56). Other specific promises include the wisdom promised to Solomon himself, and the promise throughout the Old Testament of a coming Messiah.
Some promises had historic fulfillment but are still being kept today: the Davidic dynasty, the promise of the Holy Spirit to God’s Church. The Fifth Commandment has a promise attached. Some promises are specific to future events: heavens and earth to be shaken, paradise coming for Israel and Judah, the promise of the Messiah’s coming in power and glory, the new heavens and earth are described as a “promise” (2 Peter 3:13), and of course God’s ultimate purpose—phrased as the “promise of eternal life,” termed that way in over a dozen verses.
Like healing, these promises also have some conditions. For instance, God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). There are things we must do to claim these promises.
Here is a beautiful verse about God’s promises and His faithfulness, which informs our faith: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (Hebrews 10:23).
One verse promising eternal life says that God, “who cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). Since God doesn’t lie, a verse doesn’t need to use the word “promise” for it to be a promise. Notice this statement: “… be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Interestingly, that is quoting what God said to specific Old Testament personalities (Jacob, Joshua, Solomon)—not you personally. But Paul takes that promise and says it applies to all faithful saints in the Church of God. So you can put your name there.
The Desires of Your Heart
Did God promise it? Is it His will?
Here is one of the greatest verses in the education of our faith: “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4).
That’s a rather open-ended promise! This too has a condition: We must delight in God’s will. This means our desires aren’t sinful. But if we meet that condition and something is a desire of our heart, we can claim this promise!
Later in the same masterful Psalm, David writes: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off” (verses 25-28).
David had enough life experience with God’s promises to record such things.
At the end of Mr. Armstrong’s story about his sons claiming the promise, he adds one more important statement: “God promises to supply every need—that if we’ll seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness—which is right doing—He will provide every material need (Matthew 6:33).”
God’s people are familiar with that verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” That is a promise. That is God’s will.
Earlier in this chapter we read this phrase in the prayer outline: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (verse 10).
We pray God’s will be done. Sometimes this is contrary to what we ourselves might want humanly (e.g. Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42; Acts 21:14). But it can be claiming a promise. We ask God to ensure something gets done according to His promise.
Another important aspect of the above quote from Mr. Armstrong is that Matthew 6:33 refers to our needs. The Apostle Paul wrote: “my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When it comes to God’s will and promises, He promises to provide our needs, and Matthew 6:33 shows the condition—that we seek His overarching purpose first.
God Wants to Bless
It has been said that there are three answers God gives to any prayer: 1) yes; 2) not yet; 3) I have something better in mind for you. This is biblical—for those who are striving to live God’s way.
The fact that God has conditions to His promises isn’t a “loophole.” God wants to give us good things! “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). That is God’s will—His desire.
God will “take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers” (Deuteronomy 30:9, Revised Standard Version). Jeremiah 29:10-12 makes a similar point.
Psalm 37:4 doesn’t say God will give us the needs of our hearts. It simply says that if we delight in God, He will give us our desires.
Psalm 35:27 proclaims: “Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.” God delights in blessing us. He is eager to do so!
Be Eager to Do God’s Will
Likewise, us delighting in God means we want His will. A full third of all the verses explicitly discussing God’s “will” are about us doing the will of God. Hebrews 10:36 is particularly relevant: “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” The specific promise there is that of eternal life. We cannot earn it, but there are conditions to receiving this free, promised gift.
John 9:31 also educates our faith in this regard: “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” God hears those who do His will. This is a “condition.”
Remember, God is creating Himself in us. This requires our cooperation. We have to want what God wants for our ultimate potential. If we do, we are asking everything as it harmonizes with that purpose. It may mean asking some things as Paul did: If this lines up with your plan for me, then this is what I’m asking. Or it could be claiming something as a promise: Please fulfill this request so I can better do your will. Those kinds of requests—putting things in terms of how it will benefit the Work or God’s ultimate purpose—get results!
In Christ’s Name
So, we are studying to know God’s will. We are praying to know it. We pray that this will will be done—as though God Himself were doing it. And we should be praying that we do that will too.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). We also must ask things in the name of Christ. Do that, and He says He will do it—to glorify our Father (see also John 15:16; 16:23).
Christ explains: “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:26-27). We don’t pray to Christ and ask Him to ask the Father. We pray to the Father directly because we ask in Christ’s name. We are asking the Father, but if we are meeting the conditions, it might as well be Christ Himself asking.
Educating our faith increases our belief in God’s promises—teaching us what those promises are. Educating our faith instructs us in God’s will—shaping our will and our actions. Educating our faith impacts our prayers—informing how we pray and what we pray about.
Mr. Armstrong writes in the healing booklet, “I know whereof I speak, because I’ve put what I’m now telling you to the test not once, but literally hundreds and thousands of times, and God has never failed to keep His promise once. I’ve seen the answers come so often and so frequently that I expect the answer when I ask!”
Here was a man presumably asking for God’s will to be done on Earth—praying that he too would do God’s will. But there was also an expectation that God would hear and answer His prayers.
Think of a friend who is always there if you need something, consistently willing to do you a favor or help you out. When we ask these kinds of people for things, we have a certain “faith” that they will follow through. They never promised it, but we know them well enough to expect a certain kind of response.
In Mark 11, the disciples drew Jesus’s attention to a withered fig tree that He had previously cursed. Jesus replied: “Have faith in God” (verse 22). He elaborated: “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (verses 23-24).
To move mountains, or to walk on water, would require zero doubt in our hearts. That’s a condition. But, per verse 24, that is exactly the kind of faith God wants to build in us: What you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.
Believe! Yes, that belief has to be educated. This is why we study God’s unbreakable Word. His Word, as Mr. Armstrong taught us, is full of promises!
But herein also is a relationship. It’s a relationship with a Being who is 100 percent trustworthy—who cannot lie, and who wants to bless. He is not looking for an “out” or a “loophole” in your request. So ask, and expect answers.
In forging that relationship, we take part in the ultimate purpose for our existence—the ultimate will of God: as He creates Himself in us.