What if you got a medical report back that wasn’t good? What if you lost your job? What if you caught COVID-19? What if someone you love died? What if you were robbed by a car jacker? What if someone broke into your home? What if…What if…What if….
We could go on for hours listing all the possible “what ifs” you or I could face. I want to encourage you to move from “what if” to “even if.” It could become a turning point in your spiritual journey, as you learn to trust God in the face of the unknown.
The “what ifs” are often negative, right? They are usually full of fear and worrisome imaginations. And when you focus on all those “what ifs,” when you allow your mind to go to those negative possibilities, it just discourages you and frankly, makes you miserable. So, let me ask you: How much time do you spend in the “what ifs” of life? In fear and worry, thinking about what could or might happen?
Here’s another “what if”: What if you changed “what if” to even if”? Even if I lose my job. . . even if I catch COVID-19, even if I’m robbed, even if someone I love dies. If you’re born from above through faith in Jesus Christ, what if you faced your “what ifs” with truth from God’s Word, truth that would set you free from the fear and worry and despair that your “what ifs” have caused?
We have promises from God’s Word that we should throw in the face of our “what ifs.” Promises like:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2).
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
So, when you’re facing a “what if,” stop and talk to yourself. Seriously, you need to talk to yourself—out loud if possible—and remind yourself of God’s promises. Remind yourself of these truths. Bring those “what if” thoughts into captivity and make them obey the Lord.
You remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, those three Jewish young men who were forcibly taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Shortly after they were forced into the service of this pagan king, they were faced with a direct affront to their faith in Jehovah God, as the king set up a golden image and said that everyone had to fall down and worship this pagan image or else be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Talk about a “what if”! What if they continued to serve the true God, Jehovah, and refused to bow down and worship that golden idol? They would perish as young men in the prime of their lives. This was a serious what if; there was no question that refusing to obey the king’s order would result in death. So, what was their decision? Here it is from Daniel 3:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
They went from “what if” to “even if” and declared that they trusted in their God to deliver them, but even if they were burned to death in that furnace, they would not bow to any other god.
Maybe you’re facing a fiery furnace of your own—something that could totally destroy you, or so it seems. Maybe a financial furnace, or a health furnace, or a relationship furnace, and you’re in the “what if” stage as you face that furnace. Can you replace your “what if” with an “even if,” declaring that even if your fears are realized, even if the worst happens, you will trust in God to deliver you, to go through it with you, and to rescue you?
Can you say with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “even if he does not,” you will trust him? That is walking by faith and not by sight, and even if your faith seems small or weak, God will be pleased with your “even if,” and you can be sure he will get you through. I pray you will place your trust in the same God who delivered these young men and who will deliver you.
And then there’s the story of Moses when God confronted him and told him he had a job for him to do—to face Pharaoh and deliver his people from bondage. Moses had a bunch of “what ifs.”
What if “I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” “What if I can’t speak well because I am not eloquent and I am slow of speech?” (Story found in Exodus 3.)
Moses had lots of reasons why he could not do what God was asking him to do. But God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God reminded Moses that he could go with confidence in God’s ability to do what Moses could not do. Moses’s “what ifs” were real, but the God Jehovah was greater than his fears.
Are you in the “what if” stage of doing what God has asked you to do? What if I fail? What if people think I’m crazy? What if I don’t have enough resources? If that’s where you are, I understand. I’ve been there, but I’ve learned that if God is in it, he will accomplish it through you. Following Jesus is not risk-free. C. S. Lewis puts it this way, referring to Aslan, the Lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “He’s not safe, but he’s good.” If you’ve decided to follow Jesus, you are learning that it’s not always safe, but it’s always good to do what God is calling you to do.
You can trust God, wherever he is leading you. He is good and he will take care of all your “what ifs,” just as he did for Moses. Remember, his name is I AM—I am everything you need. And you can replace your “what ifs” with this truth from 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
What if the day comes when you and I will be truly persecuted because we follow Jesus? That is not a far-fetched possibility, is it? We have seen our religious liberty seriously threatened, especially this last year. What if you will have to choose between keeping your job and standing true to your commitment to Jesus Christ? What if you will be ostracized or isolated or mocked because you claim to know and love Jesus? What if you are required to agree to certain politically correct principles that you know are wrong and false?
These are real possibilities for us, even here in our free country, and some are even facing these situations already. This is a “what if” we need to think about, and it can be frightening. Here is what Peter tells us about suffering for Jesus:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).
This is a good example of what it means to go from “what if” to “even if.” Even if you are called to suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ, Peter says you are blessed. And Jesus addressed this possibility clearly in his Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12).
So, even if you find yourself suffering in some way because you are standing firm for what you know is true and righteous, you have this promise from Jesus of a great reward in heaven. Don’t dwell on the “what ifs” of being persecuted for righteousness sake; focus on the “even if” and rejoice and be glad that you are qualified for a great reward.
In the past months we’ve all gone through a lot of “what ifs,” haven’t we? Facing a global pandemic can cause you to imagine all kinds of “what ifs.” And this has caused fear to grip our country and the world.
Now we are living through the aftermath of what fear can do. It brings out the worst in people, doesn’t it? It causes those in authority to place lots of restrictions on us because they fear this disease and what it could do. I wonder if you have been caught up in the “what ifs” of fear?
The book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament is full of the “what ifs” of the people of Israel. Their way of life was being threatened, but listen to what Habakkuk said to them:
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:16-18).
Notice that he recognized and confessed his fear and the effect it had on him. It affected him physically and spiritually, as fear always does. And he lays out all the bad things that could happen to them; they could be wiped out. But Habakkuk declares that even if that happens, he will rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God. He sets his will to do what he knows he should do—trust God and be joyful.
Can you do the same today? Will you say, “YET I will rejoice in the Lord,” even though your prayers have not been answered or your dreams haven’t come true? Rejoice today because the joy of the Lord is your strength, and remember that even if your “what if” becomes a reality, God will not change and he will see you through. Instead of what if, set your heart to know that even if. . . you are in the hands of Almighty God and he will never leave you or forsake you.