There are three ways of ‘obtaining the promise.’ Many of them only need the outstretched hand to grasp them; you may go with believing faith at once and take the promise—‘Ask and ye shall receive.’ There are many of the promises so readily attainable, that if you are in Christ you may see them fulfilled by simply believing them. Believe them to be true, and you shall have what they promise you. Some of God’s promises are like cheques; you present them at the counter and the cash is given; you have but to take the promise stamped by God’s own hand, signed and sealed, believe it to be God’s, and you shall have the mercy now. This is true of a very large number of the promises. Of some others I must give a second direction. You must not simply believe them, but exercise importunate prayer about them. ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ These promises are not to be had for the mere believing. Of some kind of devils it was said, ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’ Of some sort of promises it may be said, ‘This kind is not fulfilled but by prayer and importunity.’ You must knock, and if the gate does not open you must knock again, and continue so to do until God shall give the favour. You are certain to have the blessing if you know how to wrestle with the angel, and declare that you will not let him go unless he shall bestow it upon you. A third kind of these promises is not even to be fulfilled by prayer or by faith alone; you must obtain them by earnest seeking after them. ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ Where God has appended to the promise a something that is to be done, diligently do it, and you shall obtain the blessing.
For meditation: God’s promises to us in Christ are all ‘Yes’ (2 Corinthians 1:20); he is not reluctant to fulfil the promises he has made. However, his promises are also both ‘great and precious’ (2 Peter 1:4); they are not handed to everybody on a plate, but reserved for those who value them enough to approach God for them. We are to blame if we fail to ask or ask wrongly (James 1:5–8; 4:2–3).