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May 25, 1994

Promises Made, Promises Kept

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When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. ECCLESIASTES 5:4
It is one thing to thank God, to ask Him for something, or to praise Him for His love. Even in those times we should proceed with caution—with fewer words than with many words. But it is quite different to make a promise or a vow to God. Solomon has advice about this that can’t be misunderstood: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. … It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).
Making promises to God is a good way to increase your spiritual maturity. When you tell God you will do something, you are forcing yourself to focus on the issue about which you have promised. You are throwing yourself at the mercy of the Holy Spirit to help you change something in your life that is so difficult to get a handle on that the only way to address it is in the form of a promise or a vow.
When you make a vow, however, it is best to make one that you know you can fulfill, which often means that it needs to be a short-term promise, not a long-term or even a lifelong promise. You don’t want to make a vow, only to find yourself unable to complete it, or worse, forgetting that you made the promise. Even with the best intentions, Solomon says long-range vows that might not be fulfilled are best avoided entirely.
If you make a promise but end up not fulfilling it, you run the risk of making God angry: “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. . . . Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:6). Essentially, Solomon says it would be better to have never made the vow in the first place if it isn’t going to be fulfilled.
A moment of reflection is in order. What have you promised that you have been unable to fulfill? Ask God’s forgiveness about these issues. Then ask yourself, What promises do I need to make to God?

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