The Almighty God, our loving Heavenly Father, has made many, many promises to His children. This has given rise to a whole religion of people who think God will give them anything and everything they ask for or desire, without any effort on their part. They see God as some supernatural Santa Claus, ready and willing to grant all their heart's desires --- all they have to do is ask.
While it is true that God does make many promises that we can fully trust and depend on, there is something that He requires of us to receive those promised blessings. There is something we must do, in order to have all the fullness and abundance God promises.
So what is it that God demands in return for all His promises? Obedience. Simple obedience. Notice that almost every promise contains the words "if", "then", and "but": IF we will .... THEN He will...... BUT if we don't...... Fact is, the Bible is pretty clear about the things God promises if we don't obey Him, as well. Obedience. It's as simple as that.
Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: (Ex.19:5)
God promises He will treasure His people above all others, IF they are obedient and keep His covenant.
IF ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; THEN I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new. And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. (Lev. 26:3-12)
In these verses we see a whole list of promises that God will grant His people IF they are obedient:
1. He would send them just the right amount of rain, neither too much nor too little, that their crops will prosper and they would have plenty of food, more than enough to last until the next harvest; when they brought forth a new harvest, they would still be eating the old store, which they would then have to empty out of the storehouses to make room for the abundant new harvest.
2. He would protect them, so they could live in safety, for He promised peace to their land; they would need to fear no enemy, not even wild animals tht roamed the land;
3. He would give them victory in battle. God promises that they can overcome and defeat even enemies who vastly outnumber them.
4. He would look upon them with favor, so they would be fruitful, and have many children. They knew that children are a blessing from the Lord (see Psalm 127:3-4) and the lack of children, or barreness, was a curse, or a punishment for sin.
5. He would establish His covenant with them. A covenant is a legal agreement, a promise of action, and legally binding; in other words, God's covenant is a promise that He will do what He has said He would.
6. He would set His tabernacle (holy place of worship and sacrifice) among them;
7. He would not hate them, or ever desert them, but would instead walk among them. He promises to be their God, and that they would be His people, a loving and intimate relationship.
And, while God promises His children all they need for peace and prosperity, as well as they joy of fellowship with Him, He promises much more to those who refuse to be obedient. Just look at the next section of that chapter of scripture.
BUT if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And IF ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: THEN I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
And IF ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, THEN I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
And IF ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.
And IF ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; THEN will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
And IF ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; THEN I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness (cowardice) into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies. And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.(Lev. 26:14-39)
IF ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, THEN he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. (Joshua 24:20)
Have you noticed yet that the Bible has much more to say about what God will do to punish disobedience than it says about how He will reward obedience? That's probably because there is much more disobedience and rebellion than there is obedience and submission. However, even while punishing His disobedient and rebellious children, God still makes promises to them. All they have to do to receive God's forgiveness and His favor once again is to humble themselves once again to obedience.
IF they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: THEN will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. (Lev. 26:40-43)
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, IF thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.(Deut. 4:30-31)
For IF ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: THEN will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. (Jer. 7:5-7)
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; THEN will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.(II Chron. 7:14)
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, IF ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, IF ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (Deut. 11:26-28)
And as for thee, IF thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; THEN will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.
BUT if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; THEN will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.(I Kings 9:4-7)
IF ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: BUT if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 1:19-20)
Many people take one verse, or a couple of verses, and use them to claim that God will give us whatever we ask Him for. The only problem is, they place the emphasis on the wrong part of the verse, or they don't read the verses immediately before and after it.
For example, take this very popular verse: "You have not, because you ask not." (James 4:2) Many people use this to say that anything you want, all you have to do is ask. However, this is really just a portion of the verse. The entire verse explains "You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not." (James 4:2), and the very next verse explains why: "You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts." It might be easier to understand in the New Living Translation:
"You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure."
Or, look at another popular verse:
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, IF we ask any thing according to his will , he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (I John 5:14-15)
God promises that if we ask ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He will hear us and answer us. Of course He will! If we are asking according to His will, we are asking Him to do the very thing that He wants to do, anyway!
So how do we learn to ask according to His will? How do we learn what His will is? The answer can be found in the words of Jesus, in John15:7:
IF ye abide in me, and my words abide in you , ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)
IF we abide in Jesus, that is, if we live in submission and obedience to Him; and IF His word abides in us, that is, becomes a part of our hearts, affecting the decisions we make in every area of our lives, THEN we can be sure that we will not be asking for things selfishly, or for the wrong reasons. Only then can we know that we are seeking God's will, and He will hear and answer our prayers. No ifs, ands, or buts about it!