A Promise to Live By

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

There is no verse in the Bible I have used more often to strengthen my hand for a frightening task. It is my default promise. It is the whir of the gears of my brain when they are in neutral. It has served me for decades like no other verse. It has strengthened me for traveling to strange places, speaking a foreign language, taking doctoral exams, interviewing for jobs, preaching to big crowds, facing cancer surgery, making undesired phone calls, and saying I’m sorry.

It is the most common first T in APTAT — my way of walking by the Spirit. When I face a challenge, I walk through APTAT: A — Admit I can’t do anything without Christ. P — Pray for help to do it. T — Trust a specific promise of God to help me (Isaiah 41:10!). A — Act. T — Thank him when I’m done.

One of the reasons this verse is so helpful is that it is not about God in the third person (“he will”), but by God in the first person (“I will”). Every time I say it, I hear him talking directly and personally to me. This is enormously powerful. It is as if he were standing right here and saying, “Go ahead, do what you have to do. I will help you. Yes, I will. I will give you strength. I will hold you up.”

Another reason it is so helpful is that it is general and sweeping. “I will help you” fits every situation. I need help all the time. All the time! This promise is perfect, therefore, all the time. There is no situation where it is not needed.

Another reason it’s helpful is that it closes with a reference to God’s nature: his righteousness. “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God’s righteousness is his unwavering commitment to act for his glory. He never swerves from that course. Therefore, where his name is at stake, he can be counted on to act with zeal. That is a warrant for faith. It has helped me hundreds of times.

Finally, this promise is helpful because it is valid for me, a Gentile, even though it was made to Jews. That’s because all the promises of God are Yes in Messiah Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). This means it’s mine because of the gospel. Christ died to make this promise true for all who are in him. By faith I am in him. So this promise, and all the promises, are mine. God will be as faithful to this promise, and this child, as he is to his crucified and risen Son. It is that sure.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.