Our lives are filled with many vows: those we have made, and those made on our behalf. There are also vows made by the Lord on behalf of every Christian.
These vows, whether we like it or not, are binding. In cases where vows remain unfulfilled, some people fail at the point of success, while others have a catalogue of woes that stretches beyond reasonable limits. Many marriages, businesses, and projects have suffered and are still suffering because of the rod of oppression unleashed through unfulfilled vows.
While some of these vows are inherited, others are self-inflicted. Some men are laboring in their marriages today without fruit, because they broke the initial vow they made to another woman with whom they were once in love. In the atmosphere of infatuation, they bound heaven and earth in promises that have now turned out to be inconvenient. No matter how hard they strive in marriage, it doesn’t seem to work out. They seem to have lost all hope as countless prayers are said; each time they remember the unfulfilled vows they wished they’d never made.
Some realize the source of their problem yet in denial keep searching for solutions that will not be, while others know the source but refuse to be honest about it, troubling men of God for prayers that God will not answer. Some are not even aware of the source of their problems, as they entered into the vows in ignorance. This latter group will require God’s merciful intervention.
I’m reminded of a woman whose parents borrowed money to do her naming ceremony and vowed to pay it back with interest within a specified period of time. (Naming ceremonies are common shortly after a child’s birth in African cultures, and the parents invite spiritual leaders or family elders to pray for and bless the child.) The lender in this case was a well-known witch in the village who’d sternly warned them about the consequences of defaulting. Unfortunately, they couldn’t fulfill their promise, and as a result she put a curse on their baby girl, who toiled under the weight of this curse for 40 years. The climax came when a director in the government agency where she worked observed her many years of stagnation and decided to act. But every effort to help her get a deserved promotion proved abortive as her name was mysteriously dropped from each list sent for approval, and because of bureaucracy, it would take between six to 10 months to correct it. It was only then that she and her director realized there was a satanic power behind her troubles.
She took the matter to her pastor, who, on hearing the details, was shocked. He immediately organized a prayer and fasting session to deal with the cankerworm stealing the joy of one of his sheep. In the course of prayers, God revealed the secret behind this sister’s problem. The pastor inquired of God how she could pay back the money, since the witch and the borrower were both dead. God told him to apply the blood of Jesus for the payment, as it is sufficient to pay all debts. This was how the sister got her freedom from the consequences of an unfulfilled vow.
The issue of a vow is a serious matter. Whether it is the vow of marriage, commitment to service, or provision, a vow is serious business. The Bible warns us in Ecclesiastes 5:1:“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God.” There are people who just can’t control their tongues. They make such lofty promises that you wonder how they’re going to fulfill them. Even when you draw their attention to the unrealistic nature of their promises, they call heaven and earth as witnesses to the fact that they’ll do it. Most of the time, they fail to fulfill these vows.
I’ve worked with many people like this in the secular and the church worlds, and one can never put any stock in their words; they are people of the moment. These individuals are untrustworthy and have no regard for personal integrity. This attitude cuts across people of different shades and opinions, but it is most disheartening to see Christians, and worse still pastors, get entangled in the web of unfulfilled vows. They usually have a track record of failed promises and are ever working but never making significant progress. They are the ones who get their appointments mixed up and mangle your day. They cannot keep track of promises, because they had no intention of fulfilling them at the time they made them.
As unimportant as this may seem, it is common for people to keep promising to visit you and never turn up until you tell them not to bother because it has become embarrassing. Many Christians do this just to sound nice, contrary to God’s warning in Ecclesiastes 5:2. If there is anything a man must watch out for, it is careless disregard for the counsel of God. Every vow a man makes is either witnessed by God or satan, so it carries great consequences when not fulfilled. These are the days in which men have the audacity to carry on the same way in God’s house. They make pledges they know they don’t have the power or means to fulfill and insist they are acting in faith! Yet God warns us: “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed” (Ecclesiastes 5:4).
Several years ago, I met a man who told me the sad story of his life. He lost almost all he he’d labored for in rapid succession. After counseling with him, it became obvious that he was the architect of his own misfortune. He owed God several unpaid tithes and pledges and therefore opened himself up for the devourer’s afflictions. The words of God are very clear on this subject, yet the devil has blinded many in order to oppress them by throwing them up against the Almighty God through their acts of disobedience. The book of Malachi 3:10 reads: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house…And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.”
It is important for you to learn the ways of God, which are founded on integrity. God is ever faithful, and He keeps his promises no matter what. This should be the resolve of every child of God, but often they fail to do so because “…they consider not that they do evil.” If they had realized the gravity of their conduct, they probably would have repented of their ways long ago. This is one of the reasons why some prayers are not answered.
A man that vows and does not pay is a fool, because he has declared war against heaven and there is no way he can win. He will automatically come against unimaginable forces that will spring up to limit him whichever side he turns to. The battle of life is won and lost in the realm of the spirit. It is the fittest who survives. In Psalm 50:14-15, we see the benefit associated with the payment of vows: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most high. And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
Furthermore, God does not mince words when He declares that: “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:5-6). God can destroy the works of your hands, my friend! He has done it before and can still do it if you fail to align yourself with Him. Haggai 1:9 states that: “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? Saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man to his own house.”
This is not satan or his demons; it is God at work against rebellious people who refused to fulfill their promise to build Him a house. They made empty promises and hoped to escape from them, but God came calling for their fulfillment. They left the house of God uncompleted for 17 years and even had the audacity to say that the time to build the Lord’s house had not come. The consequence of their actions is described in Haggai 1:6: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
Is this the story of your life? If so, shouldn’t you bow your head now and examine your life? Jesus can rebuild your life if you give Him the broken pieces. Why not yield to Him by praying for the grace to fulfill your vows?
● What is a vow? It is a “solemn pledge or promise earnestly made, to perform a specific act or task; or to behave in a certain morally upright manner.”
● Whether we like it or not, vows are binding. They are serious business.
● People of the moment make scores of rash promises they never realistically expect to fulfill. They are the type who are always striving in their work but never make progress.
● The Word of God counsels us not to be quick to make promises. But if we do, we must fulfill them or we will be fighting against the forces of heaven.
● The ways of God are founded on integrity. He fulfills all of His promises, and we should do the same by His grace.
Next month, Pastor Ayeni considers the different types of vows mentioned in Scripture that apply to all believers.
Taiwo Ayeni is president of Rehoboth Bible Ministries, Inc., in Grand Prairie, where he lives with his wife Abidemi and their son and daughter. You may contact him at rehobothbministries.org.