At our house, we use the word "promise" sparingly because I want my girls to know that promises have to be kept. If I promise that we will go to play at the playground, ride bikes or rename the prolific number of dolls in our home, then my girls know that we will do it.

My own parents strongly modelled promises for me. I fondly remember that whenever Dairy Queen advertised 99-cent treats, my daddy always promised to take my sister and me to get one. So no matter how late he arrived home after a myriad of evening calls that a preacher has to make, he would scoop us up (sometimes pajama-clad and already in bed) and drive us to Dairy Queen. Ah, the sweet taste of a promise kept.

God is the ultimate promise-keeper

God is big on keeping promises. "God is not a man, that he should lie. . . . Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19). Joshua answers this rhetorical question in his farewell speech to Israel’s leaders. "You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed" (Joshua 23:14). The Biblical record is chock-full of promises kept. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s best promise, and someday soon, we will see the ultimate, final promise – eternal life with Him.

Until that day, it’s clear that God means for us to be people of our word. God tells us that it is better not to make a vow than to make one and not keep it. Jesus exhorts us: "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ " (Matthew 5:37). There’s no need to swear or pinkie promise or make elaborate contingency clauses. Our word should mean something.

Being accountable to our word

What does this look like in everyday life? It means paying our bills on time, following through with both loving discipline and laughter-filled outings, and being a good parent. It means guarding the Lord’s Day and setting aside time for personal and corporate worship, even when I’m tired and have a to-do list that desperately needs to go on a diet.

It means if we say we will do something, others can count on us to do it, from picking up a neighbour’s mail while he’s on vacation to remaining faithful to our mate. Promise-keeping can be an exorbitant witness, a novelty, a marvel that causes others to ask about Christ.

Often in times past, a visible record accompanied a Biblical promise or covenant. Perhaps that’s because God in His graciousness knew we might need a tangible reminder now and then. A wedding ring is such a thing. So is the index card with a scribbled reminder to pray for someone.

Keeping promises as a family

Consider composing a list of a few things related to keeping promises that you’d like your family to be known for. Make a covenant with those who can help keep you accountable. Then, gather some stones, shells or other objects with which to fill a clear container. Make this a family witness pile; a reminder to keep your word on everything from Dairy Queen visits to showing up to meetings on time.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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