Do you have some "What if's" in life? I think many of us wonder what life would be like if certain things either had taken place--or hadn't...
What if the British had won the Revolutionary War?
What if the South had won the Civil War?
What if Germany or Japan had won World War II?
What if the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, had been averted?
What if I had pursued teaching instead of ministry when I graduated high school?
What if I had not met and fallen in love with my wife some 54 years ago?
What if our twins' birth mother had chosen not to allow them to be adopted?
Life would certainly be different if some important events had not taken place the way they did. If people did not make the choices they made. If I did not make the choices I made.
What if's can be important parts of making dreams come true. What if I go back to school and get a degree for a different career? I know a pastor (deceased now) who left a six-figure income to go to seminary and become a pastor making $30,000 per year in the 80's. He was one of the most effective Pastors I know.
What if's can also be an exercise in regret over the choices we made in the past. What if I had thought to call home and let Shirley know I was stopping by to talk to her mother after bowling that night when she was panicking over where I was (in the days before cell phones)? She didn't speak to me for two days. Man, I wish I had that one back.
What if's can also be used as holy imagination to ask questions about the Scriptures. We have an adult Sunday school class that submitted some What if questions about the Bible for our You Asked For It summer sermon series.
What if Abraham had refused to leave everything behind and follow God?
What if Moses became discouraged and threw himself off a cliff?
What if Joseph had divorced Mary?
What if Judas had repented?
What if Jesus had not gone to the Cross?
These questions assume an unspoken question: Would God have still accomplished His purposes if humans made different choices?
We only have the choices presented to us from which to choose. I cannot choose to stop big government spending because I am not the President nor a Congressman nor Senator. I can choose to budget responsibly in my own house, where I have both opportunity and authority to do so.
On the other hand, God has infinite choices available to Him, and can accomplish His purposes whatever the choices we humans make. God could have raised up someone else to be the patriarch of Israel if Abraham refused to follow Him. God could have miraculously saved Moses' life is he threw himself over a cliff. God could have raised up another man to marry Mary and shelter the Christ child. God could have forgiven and restored Judas if he had repented.
That last one is unique. There was no Plan B. God's Son taking on flesh-and-blood to lay down His life on the Cross was the center of the plan of redemption. If Jesus did not go to the Cross and die for us, we would all be hopelessly, helplessly lost.
But He did! Jesus submitted His human desire to avoid the pain and death of the Cross in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." He went to the Cross and laid down His life for us. He paid the price for the sins of all humanity so we could be forgiven and receive new life!
God's plan of redemption was not in the hands of Pilate or Caiaphas or Peter or any other human player in His crucifixion. It was in the hands of Jesus. And in unconditional, sacrificial love, He did go to that Cross so we could be saved from sin and death! Hallelujah!
And that means that God is a God of redemption. Even if my past is dotted with poor decisions and refusal of His highest and best will for me at certain points, He can redeem them--and He can redeem me!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:23 NIV)
In all things. God works for good. Even in our disasters. Even in our rebellion. Even in our pain. God keeps working for good, and God redeems us through it all. Thanks be to God!