Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What If? Doubt Creating, Hope Crushing Words

These are, in my opinion, two of the most dangerous words in the Christian's vocabulary.

Doubting Your Decisions

Doubt is one of the greatest enemies of faith.  Our doubt is aimed at one of two objects: ourselves or God.  Doubt knows no time limits.  It can be applied to the past, present or future.  It creates worry on every level.  It causes us to second guess past decisions, worry whether we are making the best decision at this moment, or to agonize over future events and expectations.

Doubt's favorite words are "What If"?  That is the question that arises when doubt is knocking at the door. WHAT IF, I had done this or that differently?  WHAT IF, I do this and that happens?  What if?

WHAT IF, I screw my child up?  WHAT IF, I choose the wrong career?  WHAT IF, I don't get that promotion?  WHAT IF, I can't pay my rent or feed my kids? WHAT IF, I married the wrong person?


It can be endless, faith stealing, hope crushing madness if we do not understand how to defeat these two words.  I used to make myself crazy over all kinds of WHAT IF's in life, thinking I had somehow screwed up God's plans for my life and thinking how he couldn't use me in the same way he could if I had made a different decision.  As If God had some perfect will for my life but because I wasn't listening and submitted, He let me screw up what He had planned. That is not how it works.  Read Psalm 139. David understood the sovereignty of God at work in our lives.

Some Christians make themselves crazy when it comes to witnessing to others.  Pastors do that as well, as it relates to preaching and shepherding those in their care.  They are so concerned that they may say or do the wrong thing that will cause someone to not believe the gospel and end up in hell. That also, is not how it works.

What Does God Say?

God's word is loaded with truth on the matter of worry, doubt, unbelief, and His Sovereign decrees which no one can thwart.  God's word is clear on the WHAT IF's of life.  WHAT IF's are lies from the devil to distract us from the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Let's look at some truth.

In Job 42:2, Job says, "I know that you can do anything and that no plan of yours can be thwarted."  How does Job know that?  Because God has just spent a few chapters explaining that fact to Job.

In Psalm 139:13-16 David declares, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Isaiah 14:27 says, "For the LORD of Hosts has purposed and who will annul it?  His Hand is stretched out and who will turn it back?"

Isaiah 46:9-10 says, "for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose."

Psalms 33:11 says, "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations."

In John 6:37-39 Jesus states, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Ephesians 1:4-5 states, "even as He chose us in him before the foundation  of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."

Ephesians 1:11 states, "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of  his glory."

2 Timothy 1:9 states, "who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave in Christ Jesus before the ages began."

So What Does All This Mean?

So what is the point of all these passages?  God has a plan.  From the beginning of time until Christ's triumphant return He has decreed and ordained by His will, for His purpose, and for His glory all that shall come to pass.  Some of His decrees are revealed and clearly seen by us, some are hidden and we will not understand them fully until we are with Him in glory, if they are even revealed to us then.

You see we serve and infinite God, so there are infinite things to learn about Him.  The only things we are sure to understand in this life, is that which He has clearly revealed in Scripture.  The greatest key is to understand that God is not required to explain all of his ways to us however, we are required to trust Him according to what He has revealed to us in scripture.  "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works"(Psalm 145:17).

As it relates to sharing the gospel, we should always study to show ourselves approved and we should always rightly divide the word of truth as we share the gospel(2 Timothy 2:15).  However, we can rest in the fact that if we don't do it perfectly or know just what to say in a certain situation that we have not caused an eternally damning scenario.  God knows all who will believe and they will come to faith in Christ no matter how poor a job we do of presenting the gospel.  If we are striving to be obedient in understanding and sharing our faith, we can trust that He will appropriate the necessary heart change in His timing because it is perfect.

Do I Have Any Control?

As it relates to salvation and other decisions in life some may ask, are we robots?  What about "free will"?  If God knows everything we do before we are going to do it and has ordained that it will happen, then how do we have any will at all?  Don't I choose to be saved?  Don't I make choices freely everyday?  For certain there is some mystery here.  But again, scripture teaches us what we need to know.

The problem with free will is it assumes personal autonomy or a will that acts independently, free of influence.  That is a fallacy.  It does not exist.  We do make choices freely, of our own will, but not totally without influence.  Our wills are driven by our hearts.  We make decisions either from a heart that is bound by the law of sin and death and is at odds with God; or we make decisions from a heart that has been changed and freed by the Spirit of life and molded to love God and desire to please him(Romans 8:1-11).

In his famous work, Freedom of the Will, the great pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards makes a distinction between our natural will and our moral will.  For instance, our natural will is that will which makes fleshly decisions which have no particular moral impact i.e. which socks to put on or what we will eat for breakfast.  The moral will however is that will which, as stated previously, either functions from a heart that desires to please and glorify God or a heart which does not.  Our salvation and our moral actions will only derive from a heart which loves God, if the Spirit of God first gives a new heart which loves Him.  The unregenerated heart does not and will not ever love God or be motivated to please Him.

Regarding salvation, we learn from Scripture that apart from Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins.  A dead person never made a decision to do anything.  Yet, even as we are dead, God makes us alive in Christ.  We are saved by grace, through faith as a gift so that we can take no credit(Ephesians 2:1-10).   Jesus taught that we must be born-again(John 3).  No one ever chooses to be born.  Salvation comes through faith that is exercised from a heart that has been changed.  A concept known as regeneration.  As I said, that heart was bound up and unable to even want to please God much less give itself to Him(Romans 8:7-8).  Once that heart is brought from death to life, i.e. regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, it now wants to believe and is now able(Romans 8:9-11).

So, are we robots?  No.  Are we slaves?  Yes. Without Christ, we are slaves to sin, with Christ we are slaves to righteousness.  The word slave generally has a negative connotation but in this case it is actually a freeing and life giving concept when rooted in a relationship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is akin to a bond-servant in bible times.  This type of slavery was actually highly relational and often bound together in love. Through Christ, we have a reconciled relationship with the Father. From the Father, we receive all of the marvelous promises which can resolve the doubts and what if's. Through Christ, we are free to live lives that are worthy of the gospel and designed to bring glory to God(Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10).

What Does This Look Like?

 As long as we are not violating the clear principles of Scripture, we are free to make choices that meet our needs and desires based on personal preference and if we need wisdom and guidance beyond that we can ask for it(James 1:5-6).

As for the perfect spouse or career, you don't have to stress that either.  God gives us guidelines for choosing a godly husband or wife.  Basically, they have to be a committed, bible-believing Christian. Other than that if you love 'em and you wanna spend the rest of your life with 'em...go for it.  Well, WHAT IF, I married a non-Christian and I was a Christian who didn't know any better or have become one since.  1 Corinthians 7:12-16 answers this question.  In essence, it states that as long as they are willing to live peaceably with you, you should remain married and continue with all the functions that come in marriage, representing Christ-like character to them.  In doing so, hopefully you will win them to Christ(1 Peter 3:1-2).

However, at no point can God's sovereignty be looked to as an excuse for disobedience.  For instance, my marriage is on the rocks and I don't want to work at it anymore.  God is sovereign, so he must be allowing this to happen, thus I am not responsible to fight for my marriage any longer.  That is a clear violation of what scripture teaches regarding marriage and divorce.  While He may allow you to disobey, God in His sovereingty will never give you permission to violate his word.

God gives guidelines for careers as well.  If it interests you, you seem to be good at it and again, it does not violate any clear principles of Scripture, it's probably a good idea.  God simply says this, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."(1 Corinthians 10:31)  Now I do believe that the Holy Spirit provides some guidance along the way but you get the point. We tend to super-spiritualize so many decisions and make it way more complicated than it has to be.

We also receive instruction on how to move forward in our Christian walk.  In Philippians 3:12-13 Paul tells us how he pursues attaining the goal of Christlikeness.  He says,
"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own , because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Eye On The Prize

What is the prize?  What is the upward call?  It is eternity with Jesus.  It is a completed salvation which culminates in a perfect body and a perfect soul that are no longer sin-stained and corrupted but are perfected and in complete submission to the God who loves them and whom calls them His own.

To be in perfect relationship with our holy Creator and King, with whom we will reign in the new heavens and the new earth, must be the goal.  There, we will have no more pain or sorrow.  Tears and disease will be gone.  Sin and rebellion will be gone.  God will make all things new.  He will be our God and we will be His people(Revelation 21:1-5). 

Until That Day

We press on.  We trust that the Creator of the universe and our Heavenly Father is solidly in control and that we could not mess up His plans for our lives even if we wanted to.  We trust, study and learn God's word because that is the way in which we get to know and understand God more deeply.  We spend time in prayer because that is how we learn to commune with God and enter into His presence and His rest.  We fellowship with other believers and encourage one another to love and good works while building ourselves up in our most holy faith, holding fast to the confession of our hope.(Hebrews 10:23-25, Jude 1:20)

We share the gospel as hard and fast as we can go and we work hard to fulfill the Great Commission.
(Matthew 28:19-20)

If we are doing all of these things, not only will we find answers and encouragement to deal with many of the what if's in life, we will not have time to even think of them.  We will be so busy growing in the Lord and striving to serve Him faithfully that we will not have time to worry or doubt.

Our doubts will sink and our hopes will rise!!


In case you don't know what these words mean, a benediction is a closing, usually as a prayer.  A doxology is a moment of praise often regarding the attributes and actions of God.  For me the Doxology in Jude 1:24-25 is very effective and is very appropriate to this topic, so here goes:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen!

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