I’ve always hated “what if” questions. My son, however, loved the “what if” game. What if –insert movie star or famous musician name here — walked through those doors, what would you do? What if cows could talk?
Now why these seem fairly non-threatening questions with obvious answers, I’ve never liked this game because it seems like a waste of time asking questions of which we already know the answer. Today, however, I want to pose a “what if” that isn’t so easy to answer.
When God Asks
What if God asked us to do something that we know would cause pain and fear? There’s no easy answer. It’s the kind of question that pushes our faith to the limit, possibly sending us into a faith crisis that questions everything we know about God, Scripture, and our Christian life.
Jesus was faced with this exact question and his response was appropriate yet hard fought in prayer. But sometimes my human mind thinks, “Of course, Jesus would say yes to whatever. He was God after all.” However, the Bible gives us another example. In Acts 21, Paul is faced with this same type of question.
After several days of visiting, a prophet from Judea by the name of Agabus came down to see us. He went right up to Paul, took Paul’s belt, and in a dramatic gesture, tied himself up, hands and feet. He said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The Jews in Jerusalem are going to tie up the man who owns this belt just like this and hand him over to godless unbelievers.”
Paul plans were to head to Jerusalem, but now he was faced with the idea that when he arrived, it would go completely awry. (I think I’d be planning a trip somewhere else or maybe it would be a great time for a stay-cation.) Even Paul’s friends suggested he “not be stubborn and persist in going” (verse 12). Paul’s response was just as it should be and one that we must learn to make ourselves.
Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backwards. This issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether the arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?
Paul did go to Jerusalem. He was wrongly imprisoned for two years. Then he traveled on ship for a trial. The ship wrecked, causing him to go without food for two weeks. Next, a snake bit him. Sounds like the prophet had been right in his prediction!
Even in the face of those realit, Paul answered his “what if” correctly. Throughout all the pain and fear, hundreds of people, both prisoners and authorities, heard Paul’s testimony and the news that Jesus died for their sins. Not only that but after the shipwreck, when they reached the island of Malta, many people were healed. Paul kept right on speaking of his innocence and preaching the gospel to anyone who would hear.
When What If Becomes What Is
What if that were us? (Back to the dreaded question) What if we were warned that the road ahead of us would be fraught with problems, pain, and life-threatening situations, would we still choose to walk that road? We might go willingly, but our “yes” would be whispered along with a prayer of “Please, God, don’t make me do this.”
If you are reading this, then you are probably on that same dreaded road like Paul’s. Our lives have been shipwrecked by betrayal. We feel imprisoned by secrets – our husband’s and now ours. The snake bite of triggers often threatens. We received no warning that life was changing drastically, and we sure didn’t get a chance to answer that “what if” question. It was forced upon us.
The “what if” game is fun when it remains rooted in conjecture, but not so fun when it becomes reality. For me, some tough questions have been answered, like “What if we didn’t walk that road? Where would my life be right now? Would my relationship with Christ be stale, vibrant, indifferent?
There’s a line in a popular worship song titled “King of Kings” by Chandler Moore. Basically, the lyrics tell the story of Jesus’ life. As the song crescendos with Christ’s resurrection, there’s a line that destroys me (in a good way) each time.
And by His blood and in His name, in His Freedom I am Free
For the love of Jesus Christ has resurrected me
My “what if”-turned-reality situation is the reason those words fill me with so much joy. While I wish I wasn’t walking the road of betrayal, it has brought me closer to Christ and enabled me to discover who I truly am in Him. Discovery took my legs out from under me, yet I’m still standing. The sting of loneliness threatened to consume, but Christ has never left my side. Swirling anxiety and boulder-sized depression tried taking me out, yet my God held me close and flooded me with peace.
None of us wanted this “what if, ” but we can take Paul’s advice.
This issue . . . is not what they do to me, . . . but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience.
Even if our life as we knew it is dead, may we choose to let him resurrect us as we walk with Him in obedience and surrender.