Lent 06: Day 20

On the way home from work this evening, something on the radio sent me momentarily down the “what if” rabbit trail. I wrote a post recently dealing with the concept of “do-overs.” It is so easy, at least for me, to fall into that trap.

However, tonight when I found myself on that familiar trail, I had an interesting insight to go along with it. For a Christian, there is one overriding reason that do-overs or what ifs are not possible. God is sovereign and even if for some unfathomable reason he allowed me to go back in time to relive my life beginning at a point of my choice, it would be useless, both for me and everyone else. Why? Because no one who was saved will be lost and no one who was lost would be saved. I could affect no change whatsoever in the outcome of things. As a result, I would make nothing better, despite that being the average reason for thinking along these lines.

I find that insight an important point in helping me to deal with this issue of what if. God has ordered the events to his own ends, what could I add to that? Absolutely nothing. So, anything else would be entirely selfish, a failing I am trying to remove from deal with in my life. (You cannot completely remove the old man in this life, so selfish is always there lurking in the background, waiting for an opening)

So, if you are ever tempted to think about a what if, remember that God has already done the best thing possible to get everything to this point, and nothing can change that.

Grace and peace and the blessing of him in whom we live and move and have our being.

Update 3/24 7 a.m.: I realize that some people have a hard time with believing that at any given moment in history (like the moment you might want to go back and deal with a personal what if) everything is exactly as God has planned it. He has accomplished his will to that point in history and the greatest possible good has been achieved for all those who love him and have been called by him to accomplish his purpose. However, it is usually at this point that the what about, but have you considered, but why did he/she have to die, why did God allow that horrible person to do those horrible things all come into the discussion.

If you stop and consider the whole picture for a moment, on one hand people don’t want to extend to God absolute authority over all events, but then they turn around and complain that he allowed this to happen or didn’t stop that, which could only be dealt with by exercising absolute authority.

I remember a Presbyterian minister, who went to an Armenian Bible college as a young man, explaining how he had been the butt of jokes, jibes, and put downs while in school. Everyone knew he was Reformed in his theology. However in a class on prayer, the professor made an astonishing admission. He said to the class, that when we pray we are all Calvinists because we are asking God to act in sovereign ways, especially when we pray for another’s salvation. What that Presbyterian minister found most revealing was the professor’s inability to take the next step and deal with that inconsistency in his thinking.

If there is one thing in life I want in myself, it is to be consistent. I want my beliefs to be consistent and I want the way I apply those beliefs to my life, to my thinking, to my decisions, to be consistent also. I cannot be a Reformed thinker when I pray and Armenian when I want to make my own decisions. God, unlike me, is absolutely consistent, so he is either in control or he isn’t. He has said that he is and I take him at his Word.

So as I said before, do-overs and all the other second chance day dreams are a waste of time. Right this moment, this second, God’s perfect plan is advancing through time and history. Nothing better can or could have been achieved by anything being any different. He has worked it all out, including accounting for every decision everyone through all time has made, every act they chose to do: good bad, or indifferent.

So, might I humbly suggest that you accept where you are, confess and gain forgiveness for your past, praying for those you harmed in any way and making restitution where possible. But, never, no never, wish it could be different. That is a fool’s game and I believe one of the subtlest traps of the Devil.

If you want something to be different, make tomorrow different. Do your what-ifs going forward, not back. What if I prayed more consistently today or treated my wife more lovingly this weekend; what if…?

My closing prayer is that God richly blesses you in the moments, hours, days ahead and that you may come to terms with the past and look expectedly to the future, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

  1 comment for “Lent 06: Day 20

  1. March 24, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Hi William,
    I think you know I believe truth lies in a parodox between divine revelation and human understanding. Being a somewhat Arminian soul (I say somewhat because definitions are hard to come by today), I don’t believe God always gets his way. He says he is “not willing that any should perish” but many do. You and I know this raises one of the core disagreements between Arminians and Calvinist regarding the nature of election and sovereignty. Wesley and Whitefield had a time of it for awhile, but amazingly the Lord worked through them both.

    But at the moment I’m frying a bigger fish in my life and have no desire to argue the point. Because I accept a paradox that only faith can resolve, I have no trouble finding a measure of comfort in your words while still seeing some things differently.

    I have no question whatsoever about your love for Christ and hope that isn’t taken as a patronising statement. In the gospel I can freely count you better than myself. All the best for the days ahead, especially in your observance of Lent.

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