Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
I chose this to begin with, because it underpins all the promises of Jesus. He is giving us his word, and he wants us to take him at his word. Staking heaven and earth against his word is a very strong endorsement of that word. There is no way that he could be more emphatic about how sure and certain his promises are. He lays it on the line for us. He cannot do any more to convince us of his sincerity, and his reliability.
Jesus is caught in a bind, in that he makes a promise, he emphasizes how serious that promise is, but then he leaves the rest to us. We may choose not to believe him, or to ignore his promise, which is just another way of expressing our unbelief. No wonder Jesus said that the sin of this world is unbelief in him (John 16:9). Without a response from us, his promises hang in the air. Jesus doesn't give us anything; he offers us everything. Nothing happens until we accept his offer.
It was the absence of a response that caused him to weep, as he overlooked Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Our indifference, of course, is a response, because 'no' is also an answer. The opposite to love is not hatred, but indifference. Love or hatred is to feel strongly, one way or another. Indifference is just not to care at all.
In the Book of Revelations — the last book in the Bible — God says "I wish you were either hot or cold, but, because you are lukewarm, I will begin to vomit you out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16). In simple English, "you make me sick". Strong words from God! Imagine the following scenario: Jesus arrives back in heaven on the Ascension Day. "Welcome home, son ... and I'm sorry" was the Father's greeting. Jesus replied "It wasn't the nails that hurt as much as the kiss."
Refusal to accept or believe this word is a very serious thing. The gospels contain many solemn promises, and we are rejecting the core of the message if we refuse to believe those promises. Elizabeth said to Mary "All these things happened to you, because you believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:45).
Faith is a response to love. I will only trust those people whom I believe are interested in my welfare. Not to believe Jesus is to throw the whole offer of Incarnation, and all that stems from that, back in his face. The whole purpose of his mission, and everything he achieved for us, is rejected. What is left for us? Nothing; nothing at all. We are lost sheep who choose to remain lost, and exposed to the ravages of the world. Jesus would certainly weep once again, if this was our response.
It is absolutely impossible to grasp the enormity of the rewards and blessings that are ours when we accept the truth of his promises. We are safe and happy for life, and for eternity. His promises protect us, like some superb insurance policy. We are insulated against evil, against sin, against death. When we walk in the certainty of those promises, we enjoy the happiness of heaven now. It is uniquely the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us into such belief. "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief" (John 9:38). "Lord, increase my faith" (Mark 9:24).
Belief in his promises is not some magic formula, nor is it a question of gritted teeth, clenched fist, or flexed muscles. It is a simple response to a sincere and genuine offer of love. This offer has no small print, or no hidden agenda. It is an offer that is made for my sake only, and accepting the offer brings nothing but untold blessings. It is important to be a person of my word, to be as good as my word, to be true to my word. Jesus is all of that, and all he asks is that we believe him. He pledges that word against heaven and earth. Heaven can cease to be, and the earth can no longer exist, but his word still stands. Right now I can stake my whole happiness for life, and for eternity, on that word.
I have to seriously search my heart, to ensure that I actually do accept his word. This is not something that I presume, without any serious reflection. Acceptance and belief is more than the absence of doubt. It is the presence of something strong, powerful, and tangible; something around which I live my life. It effects everything I do, and everything I hope to do. My hope and purpose for now, and for eternity, rests on believing the promises of Jesus. Yes, Lord, I believe that your word will never pass away, and that I can safely stake my life and happiness, for now and for eternity, on you being faithful to your word.