For just 2 letters “if” is a powerful word. It conveys our limits. There are uncertainties we cannot predict or control. Yet is also conveys our influence. Many things around us can be significantly influenced depending on our choices. Scripture uses this brief conditional conjunction in hundreds of places and several ways; often with “then” either implied or explicitly linked.
“If” tells us that our past has been influenced by the choices that we and others have made. What if Jesus had never come to earth? What if He came, but “backed out” in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of submitting to the Father’s will? Imagine a world where Hitler was a casualty of WWI instead of precipitating WWII. What might have happened if George Washington had been killed when a musket misfired with him in the crosshairs? Picture the landscape of our country if Abraham Lincoln had given up on politics after his early election failures.
As you look back on 2017, you probably see the results of some good choices. You could see that “since” you did something specific; a blessing or positive influence resulted. I hope that you can and will look back on them and extract motivation for the year ahead. Most of us can also reflect on some “since I…” did “this”, I am experiencing or someone else is experiencing “that” and “that” is not a good thing. Sometimes we say things that tear down others. Sometimes we squander opportunities to comfort or encourage someone. Sometimes we waste resources that could have accomplished much more fruitful benefits. Wisdom and discipline can help us learn from the past and make a better choice when confronted with “if” moments.
“If” can also help us plan ahead for 2018. We can plan in light of contingencies. We can think about how we have reacted in the past and consider better ways to navigate situations. We can look at potential “forks in the road”, better evaluate our options and develop plans for maximizing the situation. We can proactively look at the end objectives we want to pursue and use “if” to help reverse plan the steps to arriving at the goal.
The “if” uncertainties can also lead us to trust in the One who knows and controls all of the uncertainties. There are some great “if-then” connections given in the Scripture for us to remember. Forgiveness and restoration are linked to this sequence of “ifs”…
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)
The promise of God’s presence and favor in any circumstances…
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:28-32 (NIV)
We can trust that as we face the uncertainties of 2018, even with all of the tumultuous momentum of 2017, God is working His plan of eternal redemption. He invites us to evaluate our potential for good and link our choices with His. He invites us to evaluate our “ifs” in light of His kingdom purposes and choose in ways that produce “then” results that bring blessing and glory.
Looking forward to worshipping with you as we look to the New Year this weekend with a study of Ecclesiastes 3, “Time for Everything”.
May the Lord bless you as we all look to Him for another year!