When All You Have is A Promise

Living a Prevailing Life in the Hope of God’s Promises
By James Ryle

“Until the time that his word came: the Word of the LORD tried him.”
Psalm 105:19

coat of many colors 1There was a young man very dear to the heart of God, who dreamed a dream when he was but a boy. His name was Joseph, son of Jacob and the beloved Rachel; brother to Benjamin. He also had ten other brothers from another mother, Leah; and the bitter enmity between them and Joseph would unfold in a story of startling twists and turns.

While still a young lad Joseph was indignantly bullied by his brothers, and mercilessly sold by them as a slave to a caravan of Gypsies, traveling to Egypt. Once in Egypt Joseph was falsely accused as a rapist, unjustly imprisoned as a criminal, and completely rejected by all around him. But at no time was he ever forsaken by God. Nor did he at any time during the long and unbearable process turn away from trusting completely in the Lord.

What was his secret? Simply this: Joseph had a dream; and that dream was both the source of his strength, as well as the cause of his brothers’ hatred, for it told of a time to come when Joseph’s brothers would bow down in submission unto him.

It was the dream that carried him through all the unanticipated turns along his troubled path. Such is the power of a promise from God.

The phrase, “Joseph had a dream”, is very instructive. Strong’s defines the word had as meaning, “to bind firmly.” In other words Joseph became so committed to the dream that God had given him, that nothing could take it from him — nor shake him from holding firmly to it.

We could say that Joseph was bound to the dream, and he was also bound by the dream. Perhaps we could even more accurately say that the dream had Joseph!

May I ask, “What dream has you?” What promise from God holds onto your heart with such a grip that nothing can wrestle it from you?

 Five Lessons from the Life of Joseph

The Bible says of Joseph, “Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him” (Psalm 105:19).

Let’s take a minute and walk through this passage of Scripture, and we will discover five Lessons that help us solve the riddle of suffering while we wait for God’s promise to come true.

Lesson #1 First, we see that a time is set by the Lord for His promise to come true in our lives.  The verse says, “Until his word came.”

hour glassThis first phrase refers to the promise which God gave to Joseph when he was a young man — the dreams God gave to him concerning his future – “He would be highly exalted, and honored by his brothers.”

However, it would be some time before he ever saw it happen!

We are an impatient people; wanting what we want – right now! But, God knows that there are things we cannot handle “right now” – and so He delays the timing until it is right. In other words, we must “wait on the Lord.”

Nothing but sorrow and great disappointment await those who jump ahead in impatience and try to force their dreams to come true. Ultimately, they find themselves living in a nightmare.

Lesson #2 Next, we come to the phrase “the Word of the Lord tried him.”

This means the decree of God. In other words, it was ordered by God that Joseph’s faith be tried for the purpose of revealing its genuineness and purity. The point is that before God could prove the dreams were true, He first had to prove that the dreamer was true. And that is exactly what He did.

This shows us that God is not only a promise keeper, but also a keeper of those to whom the promise is made. Is God keeping you?

But, “Why the testing?” we ask. And that brings us to our third lesson.

Lesson #3 We are shown that God must do a work in us, before He can do His work through us.

The Bible says “the Word of the Lord tried him.” This word describes the purifying process of a refiner, who heats metal to bring the dross to the surface so it can be removed – leaving only the pure substance of gold or silver. The New Living Testament puts it this way, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”

Perhaps the Lord has given you a promise; one so astounding that you hesitate to share it openly, lest others think you crazy.

Then know this — if indeed the Lord has spoken to you, giving you some great promise of what is to come, this is what you may expect – the Lord will try you, He will test you. He must prove you true – before He proves His promise is true. The question is – Can you handle the test? Will you make it through the fire?

anvil and hammerAround the turn of the 2oth century, a bar of steel was worth about $5.  Yet when forged into horseshoes, it was worth $10.; when made into needles, its value was $350; when used to make pocketknife blades, its worth was $32,000; when made into springs for watches, its value increased to $250,000.

What pounding the steel bar had to endure to be worth this much! The more it was shaped, hammered, put through the fire, and polished – the greater its value became. (Streams in the Desert)

“For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalms 66:10-12 NKJV).

The Message sums it up this way, “he pushed us to our very limit; road-tested us inside and out; took us to hell and back. Finally, He brought us to this well-watered place!”

Years ago I was taught a prayer that I have oft repeated through my journey of faith – and the Lord never fails to answer it. I challenge you to pray it from now on. Here is it –

“Lord Jesus, do in me anything You need to do so that You can do through me everything You want to do.”

Lesson #4 We are assured that God’s promises never fail. The Bible very specifically tells us that Joseph’s ordeal was limited “until the time his word came.”

Peter says we are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love (1 Peter 1:5-8 NKJV).

lightning strike 1I like the way The Message puts it, “You’ll have it all–life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of His victory. (1 Peter 1:5-7 MSG).

God is keeping careful watch over us and our future. The Day is coming when every promise God has made will be fulfilled – and we will be filled full! So, even though we go through hard times, they do not cancel out the Faithfulness of God.

Lesson #5 We are taught the value of remaining faithful to the end.

joseph exalted in egyptThe Bible specifically tells us that “…his word came…” – what God had promised Joseph, happened! And you may be equally certain that His promises to you will prove true, also!

The last two years of Joseph’s unfair ordeal were crucial — for they ultimately proved to be the final test showing his qualifications for being exalted to so trusted a position as God gave him – second in power only to Pharaoh!

As a young man Joseph was quick to speak and imprudent in his manner. Seasoned by the suffering of Egyptian hardship he now stood beside Pharaoh as a man of humility and discretion.

Luke writes, “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9-10 KJV)

Pharaoh himself said to his court, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? (Gen 41:38)


Joseph’s life leaves us with a pattern of Faithfulness, Courage, Humility, Endurance, and Triumph.

He was a man of faithfulness to God and to His promise, which filled him with courage to face anything. His courage proved itself by developing humility in Joseph’s life.This provided him with the endurance to make it through the long season of trial. And, ultimately, God saw to it that Joseph was a man of triumph.

victory 2Triumph is a word we don’t use much anymore, and that’s our loss. It means the act of winning by overcoming. Triumph is an emotive word – it’s literally the joy we experience in our success; it is the happiness that comes from winning; the feeling of elation that comes from overcoming something that had held us back and kept us down.

Triumph is much more than a victory; it is a resounding conquest that ushers in a complete new way of thinking and living. Triumph is a celebratory spectacle which spawns festive celebrations and great exultations.

The Bible resounds with the celebratory notes of triumph over and over again.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord, who has spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the power of His death and resurrection!” (Col 2:15)

“And now, because of this — we give Him thanks! For He always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place” (2Co 2:1-4)

“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. Join in the celebration with those who stand and say, “For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands” (Psalm 92:4).

These Five words sum up the story of Joseph’s Journey:




“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and will he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and will he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

Search exhaustively for any record anywhere that tells of a time when God did not do what He said He would do. Your search will be in vain. Flimsy are the promises made by man, and trusting in them places one upon shaky ground – for any number of things may interfere with even a good man’s best intentions; rendering him incapable of keeping the promise he has made.

But it is not so with our God. What He says, He does. When He speaks, you may stake your very life upon it, for His word never fails.

The Bible tells us that Joseph’s brothers came to him in Egypt and “fell before him on the ground”(Genesis 44:14). This is exactly what Joseph had dreamed so many years ago – and now it unfolded right before his eyes. Thus did God show His great faithfulness in fulfilling the dreams of a boy, when that boy had ultimately become a man.

When all you have is a promise,
Then a promise will have all of you.
Of course, it depends
On the worth of the Friend
Who has made the promise to you.
If the record is sure
That His word will endure;
If He’s delivered on promises made.
Then with peace you proceed,
Having all that you need.
It will come – even if it’s delayed.
(Author Unknown)

Dreams surely do come true. Though a man may be immature and unseasoned in the things of God when a dream first comes, and speaks beyond the boundaries of prudence, thereby stirring the hearts of others with disdain or envy; and though much trouble may arise over the course of time and challenge not only the validity of the dream, but also the sanity and credibility of the dreamer — nevertheless, know that a dream from God will surely come true.

Therefore, wait for it; wait for the appointed time when the Lord brings to pass that which He promised in the tender days when you took your first fledgling steps of faith. Between the promise which God has made and the fulfillment of it in your life there may await a pit, a prosecutor, and a prison — yet always the palace is indeed towering in the distance. Stay the course, for you shall enter in and find full vindication from God, and satisfaction in the things He has ordained.

Hold on tight to your dreams; for they will never let go of you!


prayer handsHeavenly Father, thank you for Your love and faithfulness to keep us true to Your calling while we are in the midst of great aggravations and troubles. Remind us over and over of the great promises You have given us, lest we forget – and surrender to the voices of darkness.

I pray for a special outpouring of Your grace upon my readers today, so that their faith would be renewed and strengthened; and their hope would remain steadfast and true – until they possess the dream that possess them!


Questions for Discussion Group

Here is a way you can share this truth with others. Print out the PDF version of this Devotional — 05 When All You Have is a Promise — make copies and distribute among a group of friends. Meet together, read the devotional, and then use the following questions to help lead a discussion time.

  1. What Dream “HAS” you?
  2. In what way is the Lord “testing” you right now?
  3. Are you willing for the Lord to do in you anything He needs to do, so He can do through you everything He wants to do?
  4. Describe a time when you know the Lord “kept you by His power” from doing the wrong thing.
  5. As you look at the five words that sum up Joseph’s story, where would you place yourself at this time? Why?
  6. What would you say is the one Lesson that you can take from this Study today ?


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2 thoughts on “When All You Have is A Promise

  1. How very timely! Truly ‘awesome’ (and I really mean this. I very rarely use the word awesome, by which I mean ‘full of awe’.)
    Thank you, James, for this. I could not see why the trials in my life had to be so severe, but now, gloriously, I see clearly – Awesome!! May God be glorified in all that He is doing, right now, here in Norway.

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