Shel Silverstein, long one of my favorite poets, penned a poem entitled WhatIf. It begins, “Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear and pranced and partied all night long and sang their same old Whatif song: Whatif I’m dumb in school? Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool? Whatif I get beat up? Whatif there’s poison in my cup? Whatif I start to cry? Whatif I get sick and die?”
Instead of breaking up the late night party, we join in, serve refreshment, turn the music up and add our own lyrics!
Our grownup version tends to go more like this: Whatif I can’t pay my rent? Whatif all my money’s spent? What if my spouse decides to leave? What if my children begin to deceive? What if the doctor gives me a cancer scare? What if I lose all my hair? What if my house is taken away? What if I die and this is my last day…? What if my child is born with defect? What if my teenagers are in a wreck? And so on…you know how it goes.
I challenge you to change the tune completely and consider these lyrics: What if God is, as His Word says, in control? What if God is omniscient? What if God is omnipresent and is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)? What if God has a plan for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11)? What if with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)? What if God’s Word does not return empty but, rather, accomplishes His purpose and succeeds in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:8-11)? What if in His hand is the life of everything (Job 12:10)? What if God is faithful and will provide (1 Corinthians 10:13)? What if nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27) and what if you can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13)? What if God will strengthen, help and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10)? What if all that seems to be meant evil towards you God means it for good (Genesis 50:20)?
What if you stopped worrying and started trusting?
Silverstein ends his poem, “Everything seems well, and then the nighttime Whatifs strike again!”
When the Whatifs strike you, strike back with the Word of your Lord! Stop worrying. Start trusting.
THIS WEEK take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) including your whatifs! Replace each with a promise from God.
Just as the Israelites were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, God commanded the priests to step into the water. Hmm? Not exactly what you might expect, but no big deal, right? Wrong! The Jordan River was at flood stage! We’re talking wet feet and probably a few other wet things here.
Now surely God knew the Jordan River was there, and He knew that it was at flood stage when He told the Israelites to cross over to their Promised Land. Still He gave the command to Joshua: “. . . Arise, GO OVER THIS JORDAN, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them. . .” (Joshua 1:2).
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like getting my feet wet – especially when I have my shoes on! Ladies, you know the deal! Confession – yes, I take certain shoes off in the rain – even if I am wearing hose. The way I see it, I can buy another pair of Hanes for a WHOLE lot less money than I can a pair of shoes! I learned the hard way, but it only took one pair of spotty leather pumps for me to learn to save the shoes!
Anyway, back to the Israelites and the Jordan River.
Now, if we didn’t know before, we certainly knew after the Red Sea episode that God could part the waters. In Exodus 4:21 Moses stretched his hand out over the waters, and the Scriptures tell us that the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. We know, too, that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:24), so what’s up with the wet feet? He parted the Sea for Moses. Why not part the river for the priests?
I think it’s less about the wet feet and more about our desire for God to go first. That way, we don’t mess up our shoes. We don’t have to work as hard. We don’t have to wonder how things are going to go. We don’t get wet feet.
It’s that hesitancy to get wet feet that can keep us camped out on the wrong side of the Jordan River. It’s that waiting for God to go first that can keep us from our miracle. Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Several examples in the Scriptures – the Red Sea and the Jordan River encounters being two of them – teach us that we are always to exercise faith in God. Sometimes that faith requires us to be still and wait patiently (think Joseph in Potiphar’s prison), but at other times, it calls us to step up (think Nehemiah), step out (think Naomi and Ruth) and step into the waters (the Israelite priests).
Contrary to our belief, there can be just as much faith involved in taking personal initiative as there is in waiting passively for the Lord to provide.
Pray hard. Listen hard. Swallow hard. And go first! Step out in faith knowing that our God sees, hears and is faithful!
THIS WEEK seek God’s desire for you – patience or a step of faith. What would the latter look like? What’s holding you back? Are you being obedient in patience or fearful in waiting? Seek God’s direction for you and your life. He will give you peace about what YOU are to do!
When I learned to drive, road maps were all the rage. I have very vivid images of my dad sitting at the kitchen table with his maps spread out and a World Atlas at his fingertips. He would sit there for hours planning our family vacations, mapping the routes, making note of the connections, turns and exits. I thought he and my sister were amazing the way they could recall and discuss highway numbers… “Turn right onto 42 and go about 37 miles then take NC 97 North to 301. You’ll go about 12 miles then merge onto Interstate 95 North.”
I well remember my first solo trip with a road map. Like Daddy, I sat at the kitchen table, spread the map, made my markings and jotted notes. I was going on a job interview and, worried enough about that, I wanted the travel to be uneventful. I even used the little scale in the bottom corner of the map to calculate mileage and approximate time. All along the way, though, I had to keep stopping on the side of the road to consult my trusty road map.
Three things are important when planning a trip using a map – knowing where you are, where you need to end and which direction you need to travel to get there! And therein lies the beauty of GPS. The screen shot always includes a big arrow indicating YOU ARE HERE. That’s good news to any driver!
Want some even better news? Not only are you “HERE,” so is God! He is everywhere! He is with you!
Joshua 1:9 (ESV) reminds us to be strong, courageous and without fear or dismay because the Lord, our God, is with us wherever we go. Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV) echoes the same encouragement adding a reminder that He will never leave nor forsake us. David asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7-10, ESV) In the heavens, in Sheol, in the uttermost part of the sea – even there David said we find God’s hand which shall lead us and hold us!
I find that latter thought to be particularly encouraging because I live in the boondocks, and I frequently drive rural highways. This means I regularly lose signals for my telephone and GPS. The “GPS Lady” often tells me she is rerouting. I suppose rerouting sounds better than “I don’t have a clue where you are.” When the GPS loses its signal, I am left to go it alone trying to read road signs while I drive. That is not only frustrating, it is unnerving, especially if I am traveling an unfamiliar and not well-marked route. Whenever the signal reconnects, the GPS offers instructions to correct whatever mis-turns I may have taken and tries to get me back on track. It’s rare, but sometimes GPS cannot get it right and I have to rely on other sources like stopping strangers to ask for instructions or accessing Google Maps on my cell phone.
Our God never loses connection with us though we sometimes choose to ignore the promptings of His Holy Spirit. Now there are times when I know better than the “GPS Lady.” She tells me to turn left and I am looking at a ONE WAY sign or a ROAD CLOSED sign, so I know not to follow her directions. But our God gets it right 100% of the time! Isaiah 40:13-14 asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?” The answer is NO ONE! He is omniscient and omnipresent, so He knows and He is with us. He is also faithful, so we can trust that He is with us, just as He promised, wherever we are.
There are times when we ignore God’s directions or believe that we know better. Surely when God has us on a route that is bumpy or one that is twisted or winding or scary or lonesome or dark even, He has made a mistake, somehow gotten it wrong. No, it is not God that has gotten it wrong, it is our perspective that is limited while God is finite.
Question God? Be puzzled by His directions? Surely, but never doubt. Even Abraham had questions about God’s directions and decisions (e.g. the destruction of Sodom), but Abraham obeyed in faith. He never mocked, rebelled or cursed God. Abraham knew what we can know as children of God and that is that God is Here, right here with you!
I was reading the notes captured from an interview between Dolly Parton and Allison Glock (for Southern Living Magazine). Dolly was summarizing 10 lessons she had learned while filming Steel Magnolias. Lesson #7 was “There is No Such Thing as Too Much.” Specifically Dolly was quoted as saying that this applied to “hair, jewelry, laughter, heel height, cake, cleavage, pulled pork, emotion, faith, persistence and revelation. Contrary to the old adage, less is actually less and more is divine.”
Well, there are a few of these that I might agree with. You know I really like jewelry – and the bigger, bolder, quirkier and unique, the better. And in the words of Emeril, “Pork fat rules!” But, it seems that we have become a society where “too much” is the norm.
Too much TV. Remember when it used to sign off at midnight? Now there’s programming for every hour of the day. Nielsen says the average American watches about 33 hours of television each week. Doesn’t sound like much to you? Well, that’s about 71.5 days/year just watching television. And remember, this is average. Some people watch much more. Too much?
Too much food. (Am I really typing this?) The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says we suffer from “portion distortion.” In the same report, the NHLBI says that 20 years ago the average fast food cheeseburger contained 333 calories; today it offers a whopping 590 calories. Sodas came in cute 6.5 ounce bottles (remember those cute little green Coke bottles). Today single-serve sodas commonly offer 20 ounces and 250 calories. Too much?
Too much cell phone. I am amazed every day. By who has a cell phone. Like Kindergarteners. Really? By how often people talk on their cell phones. (Nielsen says 34 hours each week – that’s a week more than we watch television!) By where people talk on their cell phones. My doctor’s office has a sign that reads: You may be denied service if you are talking on your cell phone. Really? There has to be a reason why he posted that sign. Too much!
Too much shopping. Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes $7,281 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,607. Too much!
Too much stuff. A UCLA study says, “The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.” (While watching those 33 hours of television did you by any chance watch the popular show, Hoarders?) Too much!
I could continue, but it would probably be too much for you to really take in, so I will offer just one more.
The American Bible Society reports that 88% of American households own a Bible, 80% think the Bible is sacred, 61% wish they read the Bible more and 37% of those households actually read the Bible. Not enough.
So how much of what should you be doing? I cannot say for you, but I will suggest you assess your own habits and make adjustments asking yourself just two questions – Too much? Not enough?
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV)
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity… (Titus 2:7 ESV)
Let your moderation be known unto all men. (Philippians 4:5 KJV)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8 ESV)
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-11 ESV)
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29 ESV)