The Peril Of Promises

Psalm 61:5, “For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 10-years-old. It was one of those sideshow carnivals that sweep into town each year. You know the kind I’m talking about. Rides. Game booths. Lots and lots of deep-fried foods. Buy your tickets and ride, ride, ride until you either puke or pass out. On this occasion they had set up shop just down the street from my house. Like most children, I was enthralled with all the bright lights, spinning wheels, and loud music. And as soon as school was over I ran home, dropped off my books and headed up the street ready to embrace the magical and mystical thrills that awaited me.

One ride in particular immediately grabbed my attention. I can’t remember its name but it was something along the lines of “Twister” or “Tornado.” The individual seats spun in circles. The mechanical arm that connected the seats to the center pole spun in circles. And then, as if all that motion was somehow insufficient, the steel rod that served as the central pillar also spun in circles. The longer you stayed on the ride the faster it spun. For a 10-year-old boy it was heaven come down to earth. Five tickets or fifty… it didn’t matter to me. I was going to ride this one or die. Little did I know what awaited me.

As soon as the ride started moving I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The ride started spinning. My head started spinning. My stomach started spinning. The hot dog and bag of cotton candy that I had just ate began looking for the nearest exit. I screamed. I cried. I begged for the ride to stop. And then, it happened. In the midst of my pain and peril I petitioned the Divine One for His merciful intervention. “God, save me!!! Get me off this ride and I will do anything. ANYTHING!!! Just do something!!!” Thankfully, the ride came to an end in the next few moments. I pulled myself out of the seat, staggered over to the metal railing that surrounded the ride, and deposited my entire stomach contents right there on the carnival midway. And then, just like any 10 year-old boy, I quickly forgot about my promise to God and ran on in search of my next adventure.

Most of you can probably guess the point of today’s devotional. For my part, I wanted to use a little humor in an effort to make a very serious point a little more palatable. But we have all been there at some time in our lives. Life began spinning out of control. The thrill we had initially anticipated had given way to trials and testings. The situation was making us sick. The circumstances had brought us to tears. All we wanted was for it to end. And so, we sought to make a bargain with God. We promised Him anything and everything if He would just intervene. “God, I will serve you. I will obey. I will stop. I will change. I will go. I will give. Whatever you want. Wherever you want me to go. Just SAVE me!!!”

Or maybe the circumstances surrounding your vow weren’t so dramatic. Maybe it was just part of an expression of gratitude. In a moment of emotion you told God the same words. The music had been moving. The preaching had been passionate. The call had been clear. And so, you went to the altar and promised God the sky and the moon because of all that He had done for you. “God, I will serve you. I will obey. I will stop. I will change. I will go. I will give. Whatever you want. Wherever you want me to go. Just USE me!!!” In that moment you meant it. With all your heart. But now, in the years that have passed you have long since forgotten the promises of a more youthful time.

Regardless of the situation that gave rise to our vows of fidelity and faithfulness the point remains the same. In the aftermath of His deliverance and mercy have we kept our word? Have we fulfilled our vows? Or have we thoughtlessly moved on to the next great adventure? In closing, let me leave us with this serious word of warning from the Bible. “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay (Eccl 5:1-5).” David wanted God to hear his cries for help. (Don’t we all?) But David understood that the same God who heard his call also heard his vows. We forget that our words have value. Our promises carry tremendous power and potential. Let today’s note serve as a catalyst to prayer and meditation. Spend some time alone with God and let Him take you back today. Back to that time when your life was out of control. Remember? When you cried out He heard you. He saved you. He kept His word. Only one question now remains. Have we kept ours?