I’ve recently had cause to think about a number of people’s lives, which, for a variety of reasons were blown seriously off course by wrong choices they had made. I found myself saying something like, “If only they hadn’t done those things” and then went on to contemplate how very different things would have been for them, if they had taken note of the word If, stopped to think about what they were doing and changed direction.
This led me on to think about some of the ‘Ifs’ of the Bible which have been important for us over the years in the work of Ellel Ministries, beginning with that moment when God declares Himself to be the One who heals, but first says: “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26).
The Lord is definitely our Healer, but it is very clear from these verses that if we want to know Him as our Healer, then we need to be making the right choices about whether or not we are going to walk in His ways.
One of the most often quoted promises in the Old Testament is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Our lands are desperately in need of God’s healing, and there are many people asking Him to do so – but there is a condition attached to the promise which requires the people of God to humble themselves before Him and to deal with their sin. So often we have prayed with people who want God’s healing, but later we have discovered there has been unconfessed sin in their hearts. And where there has been sin on the land, the promise of healing the land is directly linked to the people of God humbling themselves before Him.
In the New Testament Jesus is speaking to the Jews who have believed in Him and He said to them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This wonderful promise that the truth will set us free is not as straightforward as some people make it out to be. It is not an unconditional promise. Jesus requires us to hold on to the teaching which means ‘hang on to it for dear life’! Are we as concerned to listen to the teaching of Jesus and obey it as we are to want His freedom?
Finally, the Apostle Paul says something very similar in 1 Corinthians 15:2, but is very clear about the possible consequence of making a wrong choice, when he says: “By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” To Paul there was a very real possibility that someone who had been saved through the good news of the Gospel could then discover that all their believing was in vain, because they had ignored that word If, and chosen not to obey the teaching that Paul gave them.
I found these four verses profoundly challenging. They are all very encouraging verses, because of the wonderful promises they contain – but it’s clear that none of those blessings are automatic. That little word ‘if’ stands in the way. It tells us there is a choice to be made – a choice that can mean everything from personal healing, to healing of our land, to knowing the freedom that Jesus came to bring and ensuring that our believing has not been in vain.
There are many more divine Ifs in the Bible – but perhaps these few will encourage you to do your own study and search out some more and see what God says to you through them. Have a great adventure as you seek out the blessings we can receive through understanding what that little word ‘if’ can really mean!