Two campers are hiking in the woods when one is bitten on the butt by a rattlesnake. “I’ll go into town for a doctor,” the other says. He runs ten miles to a small town and finds the only doctor delivering a baby. “I can’t leave,” the doctor says. “But if you want to save his life, here’s what to do. Take a knife, cut a little X where the bite is, suck out the poison and spit it on the ground.” The guy runs back to his friend, who is in agony. “What did the doctor say?” the victim cries.
“He says you’re gonna die.”
We have too many ifs in our lives. We keep them around to hedge our bets. We’d rather not take a risk. You see that’s because if something is only an if—if so-and-so does this then I will do that, or if things don’t fall in place then I don’t know what will happen—we are free and clear. With ifs we get to play both sides of the fence. We don’t have to be right. We can come next, after someone else. We’re not responsible. We have more time to make our decision. We can’t be wrong when we let someone else go first, and we’re just following what they did.
We don’t want to be so hedgy and dodgy. Don’t play it so carefully. Rather live more courageously. So what if you’re wrong. Just say you made a mistake, but at least you made one. As scripture says, “for God didn’t give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”
“If” people are fearful. If people don’t have much fun. If people have a tough time shining. If people don’t know how to trust themselves. It’s tough for God to show us what we’re made of and made for when we live filled with ifs.
The truth is we have this one lifetime, this brief span in which we can contribute. We have this lifetime to make our mark, and not to have lived defeatedly. The wonderful American poet Walt Whitman wrote, “the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
Drop if. Make something else more important than the fear. It’s not possible to contribute a verse when you’re writing your life with ifs. Don’t live to regret what you didn’t do.
We can’t let what might happen convince us never to give what may happen a chance.
Many of us run into the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid of…?” You’re supposed to fill in your own personal fears. Some possibilities of stuff we’re afraid of are failing, disappointing someone, disappointing your own expectations, looking like a fool, not making money, having to give up and try again.
Bill Gates reportedly said, “If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it’s your mistake.” It’s a little too simplistic because for just one reason not everyone gets to win the brain lottery like Bill Gates did. But the point is we’re given opportunities; we’re given challenges; we’re given spirit; we’re given hope; we’re given fortitude; we’re given capabilities; we’re given hours in a day and days in a year and years in a lifetime. Don’t waste these.
Making your life happen requires a lot of effort, done in the background, which the rest of the people rarely get to see. I love what perhaps the greatest male great soccer player, Lionel Messi, said, “It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.”
If you listen to your ifs, to what you’re afraid of, you won’t ever get from here to there.
Now I’m not saying you’re not supposed to have some doubts. We’re right to wonder if something could go wrong. The problem comes when strategic questions of concern become cosmic answers of conclusion. When comprehending the challenges involved becomes the reasons why you don’t try, then we’ve let concerns become conclusions.
J.K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potters series, said, “The first agent I ever queried (for Harry Potter) sent back a slip saying ‘My list is full. The folder you sent wouldn’t fit in the envelope,” says Rowling. To add insult to injury, the agent kept the folder in which she sent her book. To which she says, “I really minded about the folder, because I had almost no money and had to buy another one.” But she never gave up trying, even after rejections from twelve publishers.
She could have given up long before, like before she even started to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She could have given in to “What if….” Instead determined to do exactly as she knew she wanted, she crumpled up “if” in her hand like bad text on a piece of paper and threw it in the trash bin.
Decide, dedicate, do. People who do things, who change things, who become better, who drive forward and don’t get washed up, they don’t wait
to see if their ifs come true. They decide this must happen, and so they make it happen for themselves, their family, church, community, country, for their God.
Our scripture reading in Philippians starts out with the word “If.” But it’s not really if. The word really means “since.” This isn’t a Greek to English translation mix up. “Since” is what Paul means when he wrote, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy” because of course there is.
There’s no if about it. Of course there’s encouragement in Christ. Of course there’s consolation in love and sharing the Spirit. In fact, if there aren’t these, then what good are Christ, love, and the Spirit. We’re not to read this and pause and doubt. We’re to agree completely.
Since we agree, and know and believe, then our reading really says, “(Since) then there is encouragement in Christ and consolation in love and sharing in the Spirit, and compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete.”
We’re so used to wondering whether something we believe in makes sense. We’re accustomed to doubting if the good we want to happen will come about. We’re willing to entertain early and often thoughts that the negative will remain and the hoped for will vanish. We need to turn this around. We should stand this customary way of looking at things on its head.
Don’t live in an if world. Live in a since world. We don’t have an if God, we have a since God. Since there is encouragement in Christ, and obviously there is consolation in love, and you know there’s sharing in the spirit, and you better believe there’s compassion and no doubt there’s sympathy, then make one another joyous. Put your minds to harmony. Find out how much you love. Get yourself together, put yourself on the same page, reach for the same goals, inspire each other to new and better heights.
Forget about ifs and move on to since.
Sometimes we face whether we’re going to do just that. We look at what it will take to get where we want to go, no matter what’s in the way. We must decide to move forward in faith that God has our back, and the Lord can be leaned on for help. If we don’t make this not ifs and or buts decision, then we close down, and the Lord can’t open us up.
Brittany Dejean tells us exactly how this went for her and her father. She said, “My dad was paralyzed in a car accident when I was 12 years old.
He’s lived without moving anything from the chest down or his fingers for the last 17 years.
My dad faces challenges related to his disability, that’s for sure, and our family endured a great deal of hardship when it first happened, but it doesn’t mean our lives ended that day. In fact, my dad lives a very fulfilling life as a wheelchair-user.
However, oftentimes when I share that my dad has a disability, many make assumptions about his life. Most often they are negative or limiting, but these people have most likely never seen an alternative that shows otherwise.”
She went on, “…I began sharing a story about my dad dancing for the first time in the 17 years since his accident to give me a father-daughter dance at my wedding. He loved dancing before he was paralyzed, and although he knew it was possible to dance in a wheelchair, he could never bring himself to do it. That lasted until he chose to honor my request for a dance at my wedding.
Not only did my dad dance with me, but that one dance broke down a wall in him, and he didn’t leave the dance floor the rest of the night. Then he danced at a wedding two weeks later. He even took another dance lesson with my step-mom, so he could learn more techniques.
My dad’s transformation is a story of a man who endured a life-altering trauma and a special moment broke through an emotional wall that had kept him from doing something he loved.
We ought to break through walls. We think we’re better off staying put. It may feel like the Lord is on this side but God is knocking on the door of that wall inviting you to walk past and through and out.
Close your eyes, pray, and step through. There’s no if about this. It’s a since, and a cinch, when you take Christ’s hand and share your life with the Spirit. Let go of ifs especially since God so loved the world that God sent the Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.
Can the church say Amen?