STANDING ON THE PROMISES

In the Howling Storm


Kelso Carter had an astonishingly varied career--a sheep rancher, a minister, an author and publisher, a physician, and more! His name also appears in our hymn books as the contributor of a gospel song. Mr. Carter (1849-1928) wrote the widely popular “Standing on the Promises” in 1886, while he was serving as a professor (of chemistry and mathematics) at the Pennsylvania Military Academy. The music, composed by Carter as well, has the kind of bright marching style that must have been familiar at the academy.

The song begins, “Standing on the promises of Christ my King, / Through eternal ages let His praises ring; / Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, / Standing on the promises of God.” In the second stanza, the author addresses the problem of fear. Not just the ordinary kind. Great fear. “Howling storms of doubt and fear.” Doesn’t that paint a picture for your mind’s eye? Veritable tornadoes of fear, and blinding blizzards of doubt. “Am I going to make it through this? I don’t know if I can!” Maybe you’ve never faced an emotional gale like that. Maybe you have. I can remember an occasion when I did.

Years ago, I had to defend myself before an angry, hateful man, who seemed bent on causing me great harm. I had requested a meeting with him. But as I made my way there, the winds of fear and doubt swirled about me and I felt powerless against them. However, a ball point pen in my pocket brought special encouragement. A lucky charm? No. The pen was a gift from a friend of mine who knew what I was facing. He had been supportive and helpful many times. We shared a common confidence in the faithfulness of God. Above all, I knew he was praying for me. As I braced myself against the tempest, I felt that pen in my shirt pocket, and thought of my friend.

The words of Joseph also came to mind. His brothers had kidnapped him, and sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God worked in a wonderful way to bless his life and make him a blessing to others. At a later meeting with his siblings Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant if for good” (Gen. 50:20). It is an illustration of the words of the New Testament: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). That was a promise I was eager to claim, in my personal storm! Perhaps, with stronger faith, I would have faced my ordeal with more serenity, but I do believe I got through it with integrity.

Jesus told a parable one day about two builders. One foolishly erected his house on sandy soil, without an adequate foundation. The other dug down and anchored his house to the solid rock beneath. When the rains and raging floods struck, the house upon the sand collapsed, but the other did not. In making an application, Jesus said, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24-27).

In Mr. Carter’s words, “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, / When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, / By the living Word of God I shall prevail, / Standing on the promises of God.” Life’s storms may threaten to sweep us away at times, but when we choose to stand upon the promises of God, we have found a place of safety, a place where the footing is forever firm. With confidence we say, “the Word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8). To believe it and obey it is to anchor our lives to the impregnable rock of God’s truth.