Faith is what connects the promise of God to our reality. It is the “substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The promises of God will not come to pass in the life of a passive person. God’s promises are obtained by faith.
Knowing that God has promised us something does not guarantee that we will receive it. It’s not enough to know the promises of God—we must possess the promises of God! It is active.
A prime example of this fact is when the children of Israel are about to enter the Promise Land. As Joshua prepares to lead the nation into its inheritance, he says, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?” (emphasis added). The land had already been given, but it was yet to be possessed.
God’s promises to us through His Word have already been given, but we must take possession, and possession comes through faith. Hebrews 11:32-33 says,
“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith… obtained promises” (emphasis added).
We may possess as many of the promises of God as we have the faith to believe for. Faith is what connects us to the promise.
To use an analogy, picture a pipe with water flowing through it. The water in this analogy is the promises of God. If the pipe is disconnected at any point, the water will no longer flow to its destination. This is what happens with unbelief. Unbelief disconnects us from the source, which is God. But if the pipe is connected, the water can flow unhindered from the source to the destination. As the great revivalist Smith Wigglesworth once said, “I can get more out of God by believing Him for one minute than by shouting at Him all night.” God does not need to be reminded of His promises, He just asks that we actually believe He'll do what He said.
Before ending, I would like to make one distinction: obtaining and achieving are not the same thing. We cannot achieve the promises of God—we receive the promises of God by faith. We must be careful not to fall into the mindset that we somehow might achieve God’s promises, because then our faith is no longer in God’s faithfulness, but in our own ability to achieve. It is not faith in our ability, but faith in the character of the Faithful One that obtains the promise.