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(054) IF

Sea Shore Sunrise

If you can keep your head when all about you

   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

   But make allowance for their doubting too; … – If, Rudyard Kipling


The poem “If” hung over the dresser in my childhood bedroom until my mother sold her house in 2000. It was written by 19th/20th century British poet and author Rudyard Kipling who is most famous for his story “The Jungle Book.”


The poem “If” is a powerful declaration both over and for his son. Advice which the son must actively choose to live out in order to reap the benefit …


If …

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

    ⁠And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!


Our relationship with God is like that too. We must actively choose to live in alignment with him in order to receive the promises of scripture.


Growing up I would see this poem every day and read it often. Unfortunately, it was never truly real to me. It was never read or spoken to me. It was just there. Sage advice without the sage. As such, much of its power and influence in and over my life was lost.


Early on, I had no clue who Rudyard Kipling was. There was no connection with him other than the fact that my mother had placed his poem on the wall above my dresser. The same is true when we first hear of Jesus and read his word. There is no real connection. Nothing more than someone else’s assurance that both are important and “good” for us, and we really don’t have a context for what “good” means.


Unfortunately for most of us, we first learn about Jesus and his words during times of pain, loss, or trauma. Already being in a dissociative state of mind, our first response to this introduction is something religious like, “What? Oh, sure!” said with an unbelieving, condescending tone. I mean, we’ve been lied to most of our lives, and we’ve learned that it is more than prudent to be skeptical of what we’re told.


Even for those of us who have grown up in the church, early on, the Bible is very much like a poem hanging on the wall above your dresser. Nice words but “What do they mean?” And the author? Well, you really don’t know him from Rudyard Kipling or Adam for that matter.


Regardless of the path we take, as we come to know the author, the Bible comes alive and provides Living Water from which we can drink to the full. And, it is in God – Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit – that we learn to “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). It is in God that find life, love, and refuge. IF.


Too often we overlook the IF in scripture. Take for example Psalm 91. As one of the most recognized refuge psalms in the Bible it is both powerful and encouraging. But there is an important IF that, in our rush to get to the "good" stuff, we too often rush by and ignore. And, if we ignore it, we do so at our own peril.


If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

    and you make the Most High your dwelling,

no harm will overtake you,

    no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent. – Psalm 91:9-13


Why do we so easily ignore the IF? There are primarily two reasons. First, because the promise and blessing that follows from this psalm is abundant. The promises comprise fifteen of the sixteen verses that comprise this psalm. The promises of God overflow scripture just as they will overflow our lives … IF. Notice that the IF is short and sweet, but the promise is abundant and overflowing. So much so that we often rush right on by the IF.


The second reason is that we just don’t like the IF. John Eldredge put it this way, “The idea of “if” is very irritating to human nature but it is very true to reality and true to the heart of God.” We want the abundance, but we also just want to live our lives the way we want. We are very stubborn creatures.


The theme of Psalm 91 is a simple one … lean into and trust God and you will be protected; no matter what. It is the same theme found in Proverbs 3:5-6:


Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.


Do you see the IF? If you trust with all your heart. IF you submit to God in everything. He will make your paths straight.


Another example is found in John 15. Jesus’ famous “I am the vine” passage (v 5-6).


“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”


Jesus himself delivers the IF. You will bear much fruit … IF. IF you remain in him. Align yourself with him. Follow him. Do what he says.


But why, if God is good, does he not just give us the promise outright. Why only IF?


Because God knows that we need him more than anything. And, because of his love for us, he will not force us to seek, trust, and love him. He wants our our full heart not simply our mental ascent to his existence. Our hearts are where our convictions are formed. Where we store up our treasure. And it is from our heart that we truly live and love. So, we must choose. And, if we want God, if we want the promise - the blessing, we must choose the IF.


You are not told IF as a form of coercion or punishment but because God knows what you need above all else. For you to flourish and grow, to be strong and secure, and to live life fully and abundantly, above all else you need Him. Since The Fall in the Garden of Eden, God has made it clear that, if we want full, abundant life we must turn to him. Aligning ourselves with his will and seeking union with him to do so as we listen to his voice. We must desire God above all else because everything we seek, everything we desire flows from him.


Life: The River of Life flowing from the throne of God providing abundance (Ezekiel 47:12).


Love: The Love of God as a shield and hedge of protection; as strength, joy, and hope - more abundance (Ephesians 3:16-19).


Healing and Renewal: The Creation Glory of God that created all that is, as originally designed and intended, and works today to restore what has been lost - more abundance still (Genesis 1-2; Luke 19:10 NIV 1984).


The Life, Love, and Glory of God in, over, and through you; bursting forth into more life, more love, and more glory. The glory God intended to release upon the world when he created you. A harvest thirty, sixty, a hundred times what was sown (Matthew 13:23). But only IF we choose God above all else. Above your pain and your ease. Above your sorrow and your joy. Above your fear and your love. Above your shame and your success. Above your guilt and your forgiveness. Everything you desire, love, and hope for flows from your union with God.



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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Well said!

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Thank you!

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