4 If only or what if?
Many of us have made bad decisions in the past and we have had bad things happen to us. Many of us have what I call, an if onlylist. If only I did this and did not do that. If only I married him or did not marry him. If only I made this investment, or took this job or bought this property, etc. Our if onlylist can even be things that we cannot control. If only I was not born in this country, if only we had a different pastor or president etc. Our if onlylists is usually based on regret, disappointment and discouragement.
I remember, years ago, when I first went to Russia, my landlord gave me the first option to buy the apartment where I was living in. He wanted $60 000 for the apartment. For almost a year I considered buying the apartment, eventually, he sold it to someone else. Within a few years, that apartment was worth more than $300 000. I thought to myself, “if only I had known that, I would have bought that apartment. Unfortunately, it was too late, I lost the opportunity.
We have a few examples of this in the Bible. We read in Numbers 14:2“And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!” They were saying, “If only we had not followed Moses and stayed in Egypt!” We have the example when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In John 11:21, “Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if (only) You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary said the same in verse 32, “If (only) You had been here...”
Looking through the eyes of Philip, or looking through the eyes of Andrew:We are all familiar about the miracle where Jesus fed the five thousand. When Jesus told them to give the people something to eat, Philipsaid in John 6:7, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them.” He looked at this situation in the natural and saw that it was impossible to feed all these people. He may have thought to himself, “if only we had enough money!” However, we read about Andrewin verse 9, “There is a lad here with five loaves and two fishes...” He probably thought to himself, “what if we bring those five loaves and two fish to Jesus and He performs a miracle. After all, we have seen Him do so many miracles in the past!” We need to change our “if only” list into a “what if” questions.
We have another example of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment. In Mark 5:28, we read how she said to herself, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” She thought to herself, “what if I touched His clothes...” The truth is, we cannot change the decisions we have made in the past, or even that what has happened to us in the past. However, we can do something about our future. The Bible says in Jeremiah, 29:11, “God’s thoughts towards us are good, to give us a future and a hope.” God is a God of hope, and always has a good future in mind for us! I want to look at a few ‘what if’questions that can change our disappointments into blessings and our failures into successes:
1. What if we prayed and believed God for a miracle?We have the example of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 32. The powerful Assyrian armies had invaded Israel and was encamped around the cities. He could have sat down and cried, “If only this did not happen!”But we read in Isaiah 37:15, “Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord…”In verse 21, the Lord said to him, “Because you prayed…”Then in verse 36we read, “The angel of the Lord went out and killed the Assyrians.” Instead of saying, “If only this did not happen! He said, “what if we prayed.
We have a similar example in the book of Acts. Herod killed James for his faith. He then arrested Peter, in order to also have him executed. We read in Acts 12:5,“Peter was kept in prison, BUT constant prayer was offered to God for him.” We know what happened, God miraculously delivered Peter. We too may be in a crisis today. The question we need to ask, “What if we prayed!” There is nothing impossible for God. Jesus said that all things are possible to those who believe. There is no situation that God cannot change, no sickness that He cannot heal, no prayer He cannot answer.
Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but by prayer and supplications, let your requests be made known to God with thanksgiving.” We may say, “I have prayed so much and nothing has happened.” What if we continued to pray and something does happen! n Colossians 4:2, we read, “Continue earnestly in prayer…”
2. What if we use our authority in Christ and resist the devil? Jesus said in Mark 11:23,“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Sometimes the only way that we will receive something from God, is to use our authority in Christ and speak to our mountains. Unfortunately, too many are speaking to God about the mountains instead of speaking to the mountains about God!. is when we use our spiritual authority.
The Bible says in James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It is our responsibility to resist the devil. In Luke 10:19, Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Jesus has given us His authority. We have His word, His blood, His name and His position in heavenly places. Therefore it is our responsibility to use that authority and change our circumstances. We have the example of Jesus and His disciples in a boat in a storm. He was asleep in the boat, the disciples woke Him up and cried out to Him to save them. Jesus stopped the storm, then rebuked His disciples for their lake of faith. He was expecting them to stop the storm. Many are crying to Jesus in the storm, instead of using their authority to stop the storms or go through the storms.
3. What if we declared and confessed God’s word? The Bible says that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20). In Job 22:28we read, “Thou shall also declare a matter, and it shall be established: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.” There are so may scriptures that speak about the importance of confessing God’s word. When Jesus wanted to go and heal the servant of the Roman centurion, He said to Jesus, “Speak only the word.” (Matthew 8:8) Maybe for some of us today all we need to do, is just to “speak God’s word!”The Bible says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21) Just as God created the earth by speaking His word, we too, can change our circumstances if we would regularly declare and confess God’s word.
4. What if we changed our attitudes? We read about the three friends of Job. For almost 30 chapters, they criticized Job and Job criticized them. Instead of being bitter and angry, we read in Job 42:20, “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” When he changed his attitude, God restored more than he lost. Many of us want God to bless us, restore us and give us a breakthrough. However, God may be waiting for us to change our attitudes. Instead of being bitter, we forgive. Instead of complaining, we are thankful. Instead of worrying, we trust God. We rise and fall on our attitudes. We read in Proverbs 25:2-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”
5. What if we obey the word of God? The Bible says in Joshua 1:8, ” This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you[a] shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”What ifwe began to tithe and give generously. What ifwe became serious about our commitment to the local church? The Bible say that those who are planted in the house of the Lord, will flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalm 92:13-14) What ifhusbands would love their wives, wives respect their husbands, children honor their parents, etc. What if we simply just did what the Bible tells us to do! What if we repented of our sins and surrendered our lives to Jesus! In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11we read, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” The word salvation here means, eternal life, healing, deliverance, prosperity etc.
6. What if we praised and worshipped the Lord? We have the example of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16. Their situation was desperate, but we read in verse 16:25-26, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,… Suddenly there was a great earthquake.”What ifwe just worshipped and praised the Lord, even if we do not feel like doing so!
We read about David’s and Bathsheba’s baby in 2 Samuel 12. The baby was sick and David fasted and prayed and wept before the Lord for four days. However, the baby died. Instead of crying and being discouraged, he simply got up, washed his face, went into the temple and worshiped the Lord. We read in verse 24, that God gave David another baby, whose name was Solomon. If we stop focusing on the ‘dead babies’ in our lives, our regrets and disappointments, maybe, God will give us a ‘better baby.’ He may give us better opportunities, greater blessings and restore even more than we have lost.
Finally: In the light of eternity, money and possessions are not so important. We will not take anything into eternity with us. The only thing we can take into eternity, are the things we have done for Jesus. We will all one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our rewards for eternity. Even though we have made mistakes on earth, and suffered great loss, these will be forgotten when one day we meet with Jesus. The Bible says that one day, God will wipe away all our tears. Therefore, what if we serve God with all our hearts, and put Him first so that we can one day receive a great reward in heaven.? We cannot change our past, but with Jesus, we can have a wonderful future. Amen