God’s return policy: “His Word will not return void”

“His Word will not return void” 

If I had nickel for every time I heard this phrase, I would have at least ten dollars. (Guess I should ask for more than a nickel.) Here’s my two cents on this topic.

This phrase is a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:10-11. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

When God refers to “My word,” he is talking about His creative and purposeful utterance that brings about what He desires. Look at Genesis 1. He did not need to draw up a blueprint and form committees and hire workers to create the Earth; He needed only to say a few words and it was done. He said, “Let there be light” and “there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Humans are complete opposites in that respect. If we want light, we must open up the blinds or flick on a light switch or open the car door because we still haven’t figured out which button to push to get the interior light to come back on when the timer shuts it off; we have to do something. God merely has to say a word, and it is accomplished.

In the same way, when God speaks to us, He does not need to pinky swear because when He speaks, it happens. It may not happen instantaneously like when light was created, but things have already been set in motion to accomplish exactly as He said He would do. The very definition of faith includes “the evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The word translated “things” can also be translated “deeds” or “events.” In other words, faith is trusting in God that what He says, He will do and if it has not happened yet, then the preceding events that must occur in order for His word to be fulfilled have already been set into motion though we may not see them just yet.

Often I have heard people use the phrase “His word will not return void” in other contexts rather than in reference to a promise of God. After a long afternoon passing out tracts or talking to an unsaved loved one or preaching a sermon to a sleepy congregation, many reach for encouragement by stating matter-of-factly, “His word will not return void.” I don’t mean to discourage such good deeds, but these actions often go unrewarded. There is no promise in the Bible that every tract we pass out or every sermon we preach (behind or without a pulpit) win souls. Thousands of tracts end up in the garbage, yet many sanitation workers remain unsaved. Hundreds of people fall asleep during sermons every Sunday, yet none of them benefit subconsciously somehow or through osmosis though the Bible lies open under their heads as a makeshift pillow. When the sower spread his seed (identified as the “word of God” in verse eleven) in the parable in Luke 8:1-15, at least ¾ of the seed proved unproductive. That doesn’t mean 75% of our words will fall on deaf ears, but it does prove my original argument: when we speak (even if we are quoting Scripture), it takes incredible effort to accomplish our goals and even then there is no guarantee that we will eventually succeed. When God speaks, it will happen.

Though your friend remains unsaved, be encouraged that if God told you that your friend will become a Christian, it will happen and things have already been set in motion to accomplish this. If your congregation refers to your sermons as “nap time,” be encouraged that any given week God might choose to use you as His microphone to speak His word of life to those in desperate need of it. His words are not void after ninety days or even ninety years. If God said, believe it. It is even more dependable than a Jonny B guarantee.

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