Keeping Your Word
March 11, 1942, was a dark, desperate day at Corregidor. The Pacific theater of war was threatening and bleak. One island after another had been buffeted into submission. The enemy was now marching into the Philippines as confident and methodical as the star band in the Rose Bowl parade. Surrender was inevitable. The brilliant and bold soldier, Douglas MacArthur, had only three words for his comrades as he stepped into the escape boat destined for Australia:
I SHALL RETURN.
Upon arriving nine days later in the port of Adelaide, the sixty-two-year-old military statesman closed his remarks with the sentence:
I CAME THROUGH AND I SHALL RETURN.
A little over 2 1/2 years later—October 20, 1944, to be exact—he stood once again on Philippine soil after landing safely at Leyte Island. This is what he said:
This is the voice of freedom, General MacArthur speaking. People of the Philippines: I HAVE RETURNED!
MacArthur kept his word. His word was as good as his bond. Regardless of the odds against him, including the pressures and power of enemy strategy, he was bound and determined to make his promise good.
This rare breed of man is almost extinct. Whether an executive or an apprentice, a student or a teacher, a blue or white collar worker, a Christian or a pagan—rare indeed are those who keep their word. The prevalence of the problem has caused the coining of a term painfully familiar to us in our era: credibility gap. To say that something is “credible” is to say it is “capable of being believed, trustworthy.” To refer to a “gap” in such suggests a “breach or a reason for doubt.”
Jurors often have reason to doubt the testimony of a witness on the stand. Parents, likewise, have reason at times to doubt their children’s word (and vice versa). Citizens frequently doubt the promises of politicians, and the credibility of an employee’s word is questioned by the employer. Creditors can no longer believe a debtor’s verbal promise to pay, and many a mate has ample reason to doubt the word of his or her partner. This is a terrible dilemma! Precious few do what they say they will do without a reminder, a warning, or a threat. Unfortunately, this is true even among Christians.
Listen to what the Scriptures have to say about keeping your word:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Colossians 3:17 NIV)
O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity . . .
And speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1–2)
It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiastes 5:5 NIV)
When a man . . . takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. (Numbers 30:2 NIV)
Question: Judging yourself on this matter of keeping your word, are you bridging or widening the credibility gap? Are you encouraging or discouraging others? Let me help you answer that by using four familiar situations.
1. When you reply, “Yes, I’ll pray for you”—do you?
2. When you tell someone they can depend on you to help them out—can they?
3. When you say you’ll be there at such-and-such a time—are you?
4. When you obligate yourself to pay a debt on time—do you?
Granted, no one’s perfect. But if you fail, do you own up to it? Do you quickly admit your failure to the person you promised and refuse to rationalize around it? If you do, you are really rare . . . but a person of genuine integrity. And one who is an encouragement and can encourage others.
Do you know something? I know another One who promised He would return. He, too, will keep His word. In fact, He’s never broken one promise. There’s no credibility gap with Him.
He will return!