Promises Paint the Future
When my girls were little, they had a record. Remember those? A record was a black plastic round thing with tiny grooves in it. Their record had a song on it called "I am a promise." The main theme repeated, "I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise with a capital P." Out of the mouth of babes.
We live best by promises and not by principles, especially if the promises are God's promises.
We swim in a vast ocean of principles: mathematical ones, biological ones, financial, relational, technological ones. We have principles for everything. Then, here come the expert Bible-handlers providing their ever-so-helpful "biblical principles." The thing is: principles don't really do much for us. That's why God gave us a Bible chock full of stories about people (like us) who encountered an untameable God who made promises to them.
I think it would have been easier, if principles are all that necessary, for God to have given us an almanac of principles. Why waste our time with stories about God talking with Abram and Sarah and Abram's incessant lying about Sarah to the Egyptian kings? Why give us ghastly stories in the Book of Judges, exciting stories about David the shepherd-king, and rough and tumble stories about the prophets? Why give us four Gospels bristling with Jesus-filled stories? Why this Bible, if succinct principles are the "real" need? Yet, there it is: a Bible with stories of people who lived sometimes well and sometimes horribly in response to the living God's promises.
Promises have a divine "I will" in them. God's "I will" not only points us toward the future, it takes us there. A principle, on the other hand, just lies there like a cold, raw fish fillet asking us to do something with it. Wouldn't we rather have our future energized more by God's resolute "I will" than by our faltering "I will"?
Promises are God's paint with which God presents us with a breath-taking picture of a new, preferred future. With infinite wisdom and endless power, God extravagantly splashes color all over the future. We look up from our tiny "paint by numbers"/"live by principles" lives and almost collapse in wonder at the dazzling sight before us. We can almost hear God saying something like this: "I will make everything new! Do you want to join me?" Isn't that more inviting and compelling than gnawing on "seven principles of newness"?
Life transformation takes place in the wildness and adventure of promise, not in the quiet library of tidy principles. You can, of course, analyze promises, catalogue promises, exegete promises and stay spiritually numb. The same with principles. Yet the moment we believe God's promise, we come alive to the potential of a whole new future.
Learn a principle or live a promise. We get to make a choice.