Words are powerful. Words can inspire, correct, heal, bring shame, place blame, bring honor, acknowledge, encourage, give hope or even start wars. Each has it’s own meaning, and could stand alone, if needed, to get a point across. But few of us have command of the English language to the degree that we can hurl one word at a time and get our meaning across. The strength of some words, like “Halt”, for example, is found in the authority of the one speaking the word. I can witness a crime and yell “Halt” until I have no voice left to yell and it will never carry the strength of an officer of the law. Combine that word with a series of other words and a simple “Halt”, becomes, “Halt, in the name of the law!” Again, I could scream that out but without the gun and the badge to back it up, they are powerless words that would more likely receive a hearty laugh instead of fear and trembling.
There are few combinations of words as powerful as “I promise.” By definition a promise is “an express assurance on which expectation is to be based”. When combined with “I”, that assurance becomes a declaration that it will receive my personal attention, my word that it will or will not come to pass. The effect on the recipient of the promise is impacted by whether or not I have kept the promises I have previously declared. Did I or did I not follow through with what I declared I would do? If I kept my promise then the faith of the recipient is strong that I will follow through again. If I did not, the promise can fall on ears deafened by my inconsistency.
Making a promise is the same as making a vow or signing a contract and should not be taken lightly. Promises and vows are extensions of my character. Each one, fulfilled or forgotten, casts a reflection of my character. If my character is rooted and grounded in the solid teachings of Christ, then I have a better chance of reflecting His image. If I want to be known as a woman of my word, I have to live according to His Word.
It is only through my faith in Him that I can model His example to make a promise and keep it. There is no doubt in my mind that the promises of God are true and loving towards me. There is no doubt that He can keep His promises. Although I may question His method or His timing because I do not see the larger picture, I do not doubt His ability to keep His Word. I wonder how many people can view my life in the same way. Am I a good steward of the words I declare? Or do I flippantly throw an “I promise” onto the end of my sentence, hoping to put a period on the conversation? Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 has some strong words regarding God’s opinion of our rash vow making and promise breaking. “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” ”
How many times have I been guilty of promising something to my kids, a loved one, a friend, my boss or spouse and not followed through? Have I made promises and then conveniently forgotten about them? Doing so is detrimental to my character. By not following through and keeping my promise I have essentially lied to the recipient of the promise. Have the words fallen on ears deafened to the sound of my voice by my unkempt promises?
My encouragement for you (and me) today is to guard our tongue. Think long and hard before making a promise. The moment the words leave our mouths we are bound to them as an reflection of our character and ultimately as a reflection of Christ. As Christians we are to model Him, even in our promises. Our lack of following through with what we declare can hinder people from seeing Christ. He was and is the ultimate promise keeper. I want my life to be a reflection of Him, my words to be regarded as true and my character so grounded in His word that when people hear me declare “I promise”, what they really hear is “I love you.”