Have you ever considered how big the little word “if” is? Consider a few simple examples:
“We will go on a picnic tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.”
“If the Tigers beat the Bears, they go to the championship game.”
“We’ll buy that new car if I get that raise.”
But there are even bigger “ifs” that have had far greater influence in the course of humanity, such as:
What if the colonists had lost heart and given up their fight for freedom from England?
What if Jonas Salk hadn’t discovered a cure for polio?
What if the Allied forces had not prevailed on D-Day?
What if people had accepted the opinion of Ken Olsen, a technology pioneer, who declared, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”?
Sometimes we can get in trouble by dwelling on the “what ifs” of life, but even the Bible seems to put a high premium on “if,” although it approaches the term in a somewhat different way.
Proverbs 2:1-5, for example, presents a classic “if-then” scenario:
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
This says it’s conditional – if we do what’s instructed, to sincerely and earnestly pursue wisdom and understanding, then we will gain a deeper, more profound, life-changing understanding of God. Looking at it from the opposite perspective, if we don’t engage in this pursuit, then we can’t expect to experience God in any meaningful way.
These “if-then” conditions God sets forth aren’t found only in Proverbs. They appear also in Philippians 2:1-3, where the apostle Paul wrote:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one spirit and purpose.”
I particularly like this passage, because it’s framed almost in a sarcastic way. It’s like Paul chiding the believers in the ancient city of Philippi, “You do have encouragement from being united with Jesus, right? You do find comfort from His love, right? You do have fellowship with God through His Spirit, right? You do experience His tenderness and compassion, right? Well, if that’s the case, then avoid divisiveness. Be like-minded, share the same love from God and for one another, be united in spirit and purpose!”
An amazing admonition. And it all hinges on one little word: If.
In a sense, the word “if” defines one’s faith in Christ. If the Scriptures aren’t true, if – as skeptics are some fond of saying – that it’s all fantasy, fiction, fable, then nothing really matters. We’re fated to live in a meaningless, purposeless, directionless world. However, if what the Scriptures say is true, that trusting our lives to Jesus Christ is indeed Good News, that makes all the difference in the world!