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“Always True: God’s 5 promises when life is hard”—Book review

Always_True_by_James_MacDonaldWhat is a promise?

A promise is the assurance God gives His people so that they can walk by faith while they wait for Him to work.

I think I need to pick a promise and hang on.

Sometimes all the promises of God can be overwhelming. There are so many! And they’re all so good.

I’m not complaining about that. But when you’re working through a particular trial or season, wouldn’t it be helpful to zero in on a promise or two and linger there for awhile?

James MacDonald helps with that. He focuses on only five major promises in Always True.

  • Promise #1: God is always with me. 
                       I will not fear.
  • Promise #2: God is always in control.    
                       I will not doubt.
  • Promise #3: God is always good.
                       I will not despair.
  • Promise #4: God is always watching.
                       I will not falter.
  • Promise #5: God is always victorious.
                       I will not fail.

He says that how we relate to God is “largely determined by what we do with His promises. All that stands between you and what He has promised you is time.”

So he wrote a book about “learning to live with today in the reality of what God has promised is our future.”

We know it’s the gap that can get us—the gap between knowing the promise today but having to wait until tomorrow to receive its outcome.

But we don’t have to be idle in our waiting. MacDonald suggests:

  • Remind yourself often of God’s promises (they are the antidote for despair)
  • Grow in knowing the Giver of the promises
  • Talk about God’s promises with others
  • Memorize scripture verses about the promises

He also details five truths about the theology of a promise:

  1. God is a promiser by nature
  2. God keeps His promises
  3. God wants us to test His promises
  4. God’s promises are activated by faith
  5. God’s promises are experienced in Jesus Christ

For the most part I agreed with MacDonald’s explanations, but a few spots I disagreed with his interpretations. For example, I don’t believe that having faith that something good will happen (as we define good) is necessarily a precursor to it happening. Or vice versa.

Perhaps he doesn’t either, but I picked up that message in his explanation of Psalm 27:13, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!”

Do you have faith to believe that? I’m going to see my daughter come home. I’m going to see my spouse turn back to God. I’m going to see my career turn in a better direction. I’m going to get a good report from the doctor. The life of faith doesn’t know how it’s going to happen; it simply maintains the perspective that with God, good outcomes are my future!

I believe the last statement, but I put no faith in the preceding four statements. We can’t decide for God what outcomes are in his will; we can only trust that in his sovereign plan that they will be good, whatever they look like (maybe a good doctor report, but maybe not...).

So while MacDonald and I agree on the promises themselves, we don’t necessarily agree on some of the particulars in between. But because MacDonald is very good about listing out the scriptures word for word, you can evaluate them for yourself.

[On a minor note: I also didn’t like MacDonald’s frequent grammatical misuse of “like,” as in “God was like, You’re going to Nineveh and you’re going to deliver My message. And Jonah was like, I’m not going there and I’m not doing that.” It’s just my personal pet peeve from years of living with teenagers.]

Bottom line: if you read with discretion, I recommend this book to encourage you to dwell more on God’s promises, for good times, for bad times, for all times. For me in this season, I’m focusing on Promise #1—God is always with me, and #2—God is always in control.

God is everywhere; therefore He is where we are. In the truest sense, God is not in our presence, we are in His presence. Distance makes no difference to God.

...You can put your whole weight on the promises of God and He will hold you up.

...God wants you to succeed at the Christian life. Considering His great love and honor toward you, do you honestly think He would let you go through more than you can handle? No....He won’t allow the temptation to be so strong it knocks you off your feet.

* * *

Thanks to C. Grant & Company for sending two copies of this book—one for review and one I gave a friend wanting to read more about God’s promises.

Which promise of God are you clinging to right now?


Katie said...

Happy Easter Lisa! Wonderful thoughts to meditate on God's promises.

Barbara H. said...

I appreciate your discernment in evaluating the author's statements of interpretation. I agree that God's good may not necessarily include prayers answered in the way we had in mind. I agree about "like," too -- adding that just seems to trivialize what God and Jonah said.

But I like the way he delineated the five major promises -- sometimes boiling things down to their simplest elements really helps. And I really like the thought that "God is not in our presence, we are in His presence."

Bobbi said...

I often find myself going back to a sermon I heard in college...where we were taught the cyclical All the time God is good...God is good all the time. I find it very helpful. I will be checking out this book...thanks!

Davene Grace said...

Hi, Lisa!

First of all, your comment about "like" made me smile. :) I don't have teenagers yet, but I still hear that word more than I would care to!

But to the meat of your post - thanks for sharing this! I like how you summarized his book and respectfully disagreed with a few things, too.

Have a wonderful week!

Lisa notes... said...

There is probably, like, no book that I could totally agree with. ;-) And for the most part, this book was helpful so I hate to throw out the baby with the bathwater and not recommend this one because of some non-essential issues that I disagree with.

I do think he was right on with his main points of God's promises. And we definitely agree on this biggie:

"God’s promises are experienced in Jesus Christ. Romans 11:36 says of Him, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” Jesus Christ is the Promise of God!" p 128

bekahcubed said...

Ooo-good review! I, too, appreciate how you summarized and described the good points, and respectfully disagreed with others.

I appreciate that fifth truth about the theology of a promise: "God's promises are experienced in Jesus Christ." It reminds me of 2 Cor 1:20 "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us."

I think the distinction you made between the author's first statements and his last in the section you disagreed with is vital--and often missed by followers of a prosperity gospel. We don't have the option of coming up with promises from God for ourselves (I'm going to see my career turn in a better direction, I'm going to get married, I'm going to live in the house of my dreams, whatever). Rather, we must cling to the promises that God Himself has made--and allow Him to fulfill His promises in whatever way He chooses.


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