If Only…

September 12, 2018
by Diane Eaton

Psalm 139:19a – If only you would slay the wicked, O God! (NIV)

If only my boss weren't so narcissistic. If only the church elders weren't so worldly. If only that teen weren't so rebellious. If only my relatives were more loving. If only our politicians didn't oppose Christian values. … If only God would intervene and change or remove those troublesome people, or even — as in the psalmist's agonizing cry for justice — "slay the wicked"!

We naturally crave freedom from the distressing thorns of ungodly people. We may feel that we cannot experience proper Christianity unless they change or vanish from our situation. Perhaps, we expend relentless energy trying to change people's ways — or we blame the devil.

It may be, though, that the ungodly are in our lives by divine sovereignty. They are God's tools, God's grace-builders for us, to expose our blind spots, mature our faith, and build our character. After all, even the darkness of our own situations can be what makes us shine brighter for Him. Is that not how the ungodly receive a taste of His grace? Is that not how God advances His kingdom, through you and me?

I admit, I forget such remarkable truths while obsessing over the irritating faults of others. So, to overcome that weakness, I draw my attention to the testimonies of Christians who have learned to serve God effectively in the very presence of evil, oppression, and persecution. They remind me of the apostle Paul, who never once said, "I'd be a better Christian if my situation were different and if those evil people would change." No! Paul gave up his "if only" illusions and learned to trust God's grace, whether "in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties" (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV). Paul trusted God's promise to him:

2 Corinthians 12:9a – But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (NIV)

Our "if only" ideals blind us to such truth. They squelch our faith. Really, it's misplaced faith: idolatry. We're putting greater hope in imagined situations than in the God of real situations. Furthermore, our "if only" wishes can become excuses for neglecting our own responsibilities and not seeing how God can empower us to serve Him as things are.

Paul realized that nothing needed to be different before God's sovereign purposes could be fulfilled through his life situations. Centuries earlier, Job came to a similar conclusion, saying:

Job 42:2 – I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. (NIV)

What about you and me? Are we learning to trust God and His use of grace-builders to help us grasp such magnificent truth claims? If so, then how can we not respond in gratitude for His sovereign grace — in any circumstance? For surely, genuine faith is far more precious than our "if only" illusions.

Prayer: Sovereign Lord, forgive us for our uncharitable attitudes towards the grace-builders that You've put in our lives. Train us to be a blessing and a testimony of Your grace in such situations. Amen.

About the author:

Diane Eaton <d.eaton@bmts.com>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    I really needed this today.


    Thanks for the good word, Diane.


    Great reminder, thanks and God Bless!


    “IF ONLY” Excellent devotional this morning. Thank you Diane.


    Diane, thank you for sharing this devotional reminder of God’s grace with us. Blessings.


    A beautiful reminder to refrain from finger-pointing, to look within, and allow God to work in us and through us. Thank you Diane.


    Diane, so appreciate your emphasis on sovereign grace.
    Thanks.
    (MI)


    Thanks Diane! Seems to be a bigger than life-sized demon in our churches these days. Blessings,
    (Ont)


    Good morning Diane,
    I like your devotional: If Only….
    Thank you.


    Diane, thanks so much for this prophetic word, a reminder that the thorns in my life can be faith-builders when I allow God to work in my heart and mind and through my attitudes and actions. His grace is truly sufficient!


    Hi
    This was good to open our eyes. I never realized if only was putting faith in something. I figured it was just a thought, if only I……. but thanks, change my thinking for sure.
    God bless


    Still, we can pray, asking God to deliver our world from evil politicians. We can pray and ask our Abba Father to protect, preserve, and defend the poor and those in need of justice.


    Dear Diane,
    I love and appreciate pithy phrases that just seem to cut to the truth in trying situations and your ‘if only’ and ‘grace-builders’ does that for me.
    To have a new way of re-framing the present lifts our thoughts to see new possibilities. Thank you for sharing your words of truth and grace. Blessings.


    Oh my! You have said this so well – to make it so clear- to remind us that God’s grace is so precious. Our training in righteousness couldn’t happen if we didn’t have obstacles to overcome. Praise God for those, like you Diane, who help us with the semantics that so often get in the way of understanding! Thank You, Lord, for all the obstacles that help us learn to lean on You Lord and not on our own understanding. Praise Him and thank you Diane.


    I grew up on a farm I think it was the minister’s wife who told us young new teenagers. “It is easier to stay out of trouble than get out of trouble.”
    I think now at 84 God was guiding me. At 16 I was sent to be a mother’s helper. I knew absolutely nothing my mother or father never told me the dangers of boys but I think now God guided me to do the right thing. I became involved in the church and those girls became my friends.
    When you say rebellious I see them, too, but I wonder what goes on at home.


    Thank you,, Diane for your devotional this morning. These words of wisdom the Lord gave you which you have shared really spoke to me. As a birth Mother who has become estranged from my only daughter right before her wedding because of the interference of her adopted parents some 50 years later has left me broken. During the past two months I have gravitated to God’s Word and am trying to remain strong in my faith. As I go this morning to lead our Bible Study on Gifts of the Spirit, I continue to struggle with James 1:26. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
    Thank you again.


    Thanks for the wonderful reminder.


    Thank you. Your words are timely and encouraging.
    Blessings.


    Very well written, Diane!! I often lament the sinfulness of this world, and to be honest I hadn’t thought about this point of view!! I will be more mindful of my own irritations and thank God for His grace and mercy to move forward in a dark world with His grace builders!
    (NV)

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