If Only…

If Only…

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.

Diane Eaton Kincardine, Ontario, Canada

Thanks to PresbyCan Daily Devotional

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