What If …?
Opening our mailbox, I held my breath and prayed, Please God, not today. No bills today.
After months of unemployment, our bank account had dwindled to nothing. We’d survived by living on a shoestring while my husband worked a series of odd jobs — positions well below his qualifications. Recently, he’d faced a dozen refusals, and now our situation was dire. What if we lose our home? I thought. What if he can’t find a job? What if…?
My mind wandered to several years earlier when my husband ventured into business for himself. He traded the security of a dull but lucrative government job for the opportunity to do what he’d always wanted — build energy-efficient luxury homes. I supported him in his decision. We knew it was risky, but we had plenty of savings — or so we thought — and we knew he would be successful. And he was until the economy turned. Now, my mind bent backward. What if he hadn’t gone out on his own? What if we still had the safety net of his retirement? What if…?
What if…? Two words that throw you fearfully into the future or imprison you with regret. Two words that fit nowhere within the framework of faith. Two words that deny God’s sovereignty, goodness, and love.
In Exodus 3, when Moses encounters God in the burning bush, Moses asks the Lord, “What is [your] name?” The Lord replies,
“I AM who I AM.” Exodus 3:14 (NIV)
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “am” as “the first person singular present of be.” Present. Not future. Not past.
Theologically, we know God is not defined by time. He is eternal, with no beginning or end.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV), and He is “from everlasting to everlasting …” Psalm 90:2 (NIV).
And yet we, His children, are constrained by time. The enemy of our souls knows that and tries to use the burden of time against us as he tempts us to focus on a future filled with fear or a past ruined by regret. What if…?
In Hebrews 13:5, God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV)
When our minds drift ahead toward worry and fear or behind to shame or regret, we forget God’s eternal faithfulness. Satan wants to get our minds off God and onto our circumstances. He strives to steal the stability we have in Jesus Christ.
This is why we must refuse to follow the enemy’s leading into an imaginary future or an unfortunate past. When we find ourselves being lured into Satan’s lies, we need to stop and “take our thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by confessing the truth of God’s Word.
Living in the present — focusing on the here and now — doesn’t mean you don’t set goals or you ignore your mistakes. Knowing God is the great I AM means you rest in His eternal sovereignty, goodness, and love, and you trust that …
“… in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
My husband didn’t have a steady job for three long years. It was a difficult season, but God was faithful. When the enemy deceives you into focusing on what if, give him the what for. Take your thoughts captive, and remind yourself that God is the great I AM. He is always in the present. And that’s where He wants you. Because, simply put, God is not the God of what if. God is the God of what is.
by Ryan Duncan
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:17-18
In a perfect world, Christians would be people without any disagreements. Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect world, it’s a fallen one, and even the Church sees its share of conflict between members. Pastors argue, Churches split, and professed Christians hold grudges against their brothers and sisters. This last one is something I particularly struggle with. A few years ago I was in a really bad place; I was feeling hurt and angry because of something some other Christians had said to me.
When I finally confided this to one of my friends, I can remember saying,
“I just hate them so much.”
It wasn’t until later that I learned the disciple Peter had been in a similar situation. Look at what Jesus said to him,
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22
But Jesus didn’t stop there, he continued by telling the parable of the Servant and the Master. It begins with a kind man who dismisses his servant’s enormous debt,
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:28-35
As Christians, we are commanded to forgive those who wrong us. Not just because God wants us to love one another, but because he first loved us.
Streams in the Desert – September 16
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Hide thyself by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3).
God’s servants must be taught the value of the hidden life. The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says: “There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself b the brook–hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away.”
Happy is he who can reply, “This Thy will is also mine; I flee unto Thee to hide me. Hide me in the secret of Thy tabernacle, and beneath the covert of Thy wings!”
Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. The acquisition of spiritual power is impossible, unless we can hide ourselves from men and from ourselves in some deep gorge where we may absorb the power of the eternal God; as vegetation through long ages absorbed these qualities of sunshine, which it now gives back through burning coal.
Bishop Andrews had his Cherith, in which he spent five hours every day in prayer and devotion. John Welsh had it–who thought the day ill spent which did not witness eight or ten hours of closet communion. David Brainerd had it in the woods of North America. Christmas Evans had it in his long and lonely journeys amid the hills of Wales.
Or, passing back to the blessed age from which we date the centuries: Patmos, the seclusion of the Roman prisons, the Arabian desert, the hills and vales of Palestine, are forever memorable as the Cheriths of those who have made our modern world.
Our Lord found His Cherith at Nazareth, and in the wilderness of Judea; amid the olives of Bethany, and the solitude of Gadara. None of us, therefore, can dispense with some Cherith where the sounds of human voices are exchanged for the waters of quietness which are fed from the throne; and where we may taste the sweets and imbibe the power of a life hidden with Christ.
–Elijah, by Meyer
“They gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”’” – Matthew 28:12-13 NASB
Octavian was determined to shape history. After becoming Rome’s first emperor, using the name Caesar Augustus, he wanted future generations, to believe only his accounts of events, particularly concerning Mark Antony.
For a time, Antony and Octavian had ruled Rome with Lepidus before becoming rivals. While preparing for war with the Parthians, Antony fell in love with Cleopatra, the powerful ruler of Egypt. After losing to the Parthians, Antony’s forces were defeated by Octavian. In the following days, both he and Cleopatra committed suicide.
This story has been retold for two thousand years through plays, films, and books. But few realize that the “facts” have been distorted. Octavian ordered the destruction of thousands of documents. The only records remaining support his version of events.
A similar distortion of facts took place when the chief priests didn’t want people to know that Jesus had risen from the dead. They bribed soldiers to spread a false story.
History is filled with examples like these. We still see it all around us as people using various means to spread their opinions about the Bible, Jesus, and the Christian faith. They tell stories that support their theories and may sound true.
How can you know what is fact and what is false? Don’t allow the world to shape your opinions. Stand on God’s Word. Make Jesus your Lord. Seek an intimate relationship with Him. Seek His wisdom and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.