“But, Daddy, you promised,” Herbert W. Armstrong quoted his two sons, around 7 and 9 years old, “and you’ve got to keep your promise.” He recalled being reminded of this promise in The Plain Truth About Healing.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked 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.
So let’s go through the Bible and let it educate how and what we ask of God.
Examples of Healing
First consider how Mr. Armstrong used healing as an example of how to grow in and exercise faith. The Word of God reveals 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 Romans 10:14). 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 alsopromised 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 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 aids 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.
What kinds of things does God want us to bring to Him? 1 Peter 5:7.
In so many cases, our requests are claiming God’s promises. What has God promised? What is His will?
How can we know God’s will? Romans 12:2.
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 wrote: “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. How did Paul’s office as apostle relate to God’s will? Ephesians 1:1.
Paul opens four other epistles this way, stating that his apostleship is by God’s will.
What does our calling relate to God’s will? Verses 4-5.
Verse 9 refers to the “mystery of his will.” 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 school or in a friendship, 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!
Do the Scriptures ever speak of God’s will with the word “if”? 1 Peter 3:17; James 4:15; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3.
God doesn’t reveal His will for every exact situation. Of course, when it comes to something like healing—specifically promised in the Bible—we know God’s will; there is no if.
What are some other conditions for God to grant what we ask of Him? 1 John 5:14-15.
Immediately preceding the story of his sons claiming that promise, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “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.
How did King Solomon describe God’s promises? 1 Kings 8:56.
Some scriptural 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 promised new heavens and Earth (2 Peter 3:13), and of course God’s ultimate purpose—phrased as the “promise of eternal life” in over a dozen verses.
Like healing, these promises also have some conditions. What is a condition for God giving the Holy Spirit to someone? Acts 5:32.
Another beautiful verse about God’s promises and His faithfulness, which informs our faith, is Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.”
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.
What does God promise His faithful saints? 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
How did God inspire David to address the questions: Did God promise it? Is it His will?Psalm 37:4.
This is one of the greatest verses in the education of our faith, and 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!
What else did David declare later in the same masterful psalm? 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 added one more important statement: “God promised 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)” (ibid).
What is the exact thing Christ promised? Matthew 6:33.
That is a promise. That is God’s will.
What request are we admonished to make each day in our prayers? Verse 10.
Praying this can sometimes be contrary to what we ourselves might want humanly (see Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42; Acts 21:14). But it can beclaiming 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.
What did God promise through the Apostle Paul about our “needs”? 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.” Can you prove that God wants to give us good things? Matthew 7:11; Deuteronomy 30:9; Jeremiah 29:10-12.
The Revised Standard Version for Deuteronomy 30:9 states that God will “take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers.”
We read Psalm 37:4 earlier. It 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.
Does God take pleasure in blessing us? Psalm 35:27.
There it is in your own Bible! God delights in blessing us. He is eager to do so!
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. What follows when we do the will of God? Hebrews 10:36.
The specific “promise” referenced here is that of eternal life. We cannot earn it, but there are conditions to receiving this free, promised gift.
To what kind of person will God listen or not listen? John 9:31.
God hears those who do His will. This is a “condition.”
Remember, God is re-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!
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.
What is another condition to how we ask for things? John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23.
Ask things in the name of Christ, and He says He will do it—to glorify our Father.
John 16:26-27 explain further: “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.” 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 actions. Educating our faith impacts our prayers—informing how we pray and what we pray about.
Mr. Armstrong wrote 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 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.
How specifically did Christ describe the faith to move mountains? Mark 11:22-24.
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 re-creates Himself in us.