“I was reading in the Book of the prophet Isaiah the other morning,” Stan commented one morning, “and I saw two words that have a huge impact on my faith walk.”
“What two words?” I asked.
“If only,” Stan replied.
“If only what?”
“That’s the open question,” Stan said. “And Isaiah the prophet set forth that God made a statement to the people of Israel that He clearly says to me all of the time, by saying ‘If only you had paid attention to my commandments!’”
“If only I had paid attention,” I repeated. “Not only to God’s commandments, but to His word and to His voice on a consistent basis. What a difference would that make!”
“It sure would have for me,” Stan said. “If only I would have listened earlier, if only I had come to faith sooner, if only I would have paid attention to the process of discipleship, if only such-and-such. The list could go on and on, but that’s not the point.”
“If that’s not the point, what is?” I asked.
“It seems to me,” Stan replied, “that I am to learn from each ‘If only’ that the Holy Spirit brings to my attention. I am to see each missed ‘If only’ opportunity as a time for confession and repentance so that each ‘If only’ the Holy Spirit brings to mind is an opportunity for growing ever closer to God.”
“Not as a regret, but as an opportunity,” I replied. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“You got it, my friend,” Stan said. “I can’t do anything about the past, so why live in regret? But I can do something about today and all of the todays yet to come.”
Bible verses to consider:
If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Acts of the Apostles 2:4.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the opportunity to confess and repent from every “If only” I have missed. Thank you, too, for showing me that each such miss is an opportunity to draw closer to you in a deepening personal relationship and not an opportunity to draw away from you in self-focused regret. Please help me in following every step of your lead so that the times of hearing you say, “If only” such and such are not part of your vocabulary towards me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you ever heard God say, “If only” to you about a missed opportunity to obey or to be involved with what He had for you? If so, what was that all about and what did you learn from it? If you know someone who is stuck in regret over having missed something God had for them to do or not do, how can you help that person see the missed “If only” as an opportunity to grow closer to God through confession and repentance? How can that make a difference with that person?
Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing before Going, by S. Tory Teller, Foreword by Josh McDowell, is a 100-day devotional available from amazon.com and from the publisher at s-toryteller.com.