if . . . then

if . . . then

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Genesis 28:10-22
If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if He will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God (Genesis 28:20-21).

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Read 1 Samuel 1:10-28. Hannah makes what at first glance appears to be an “if . . . then” promise. How can we see a demonstration of total surrender in her story?

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What “if . . . then” agreements have you brought before God? What would it look like to surrender totally to Him in covenant trust?

With our house on the market, my husband and I regularly spend time looking at online real-estate sites. Planting a church 35 miles away, we eagerly anticipate the day when we will be able to live in the community where we will be ministering. As we wait, we could easily fall prey to the temptation of “if . . . then.” If You promise us success, we will go; if You promise us a great house, we will move. But a commitment to “if . . . then” does not set a strong foundation for weathering seasons of uncertainty.

Running from his own deception (Genesis 27:5-34), Jacob was desperate to know that his future would still be intact. Like Jacob, we know in principle that God can be trusted to fulfill His promises and provide for our needs. But, like Jacob, we often live out an “if . . . then” existence in an attempt to make life safer and more predictable (Genesis 28:20-22). At Bethel, he said, “If God will . . .” and “if He will provide.”

We’ve all prayed something like this: “God, if you move on my behalf and fulfill my request, then I will give You more of me.” But when we make these types of promises, we are in some way questioning God’s plans. As if signing a contract with another person, we leave ourselves an exit clause. God, however, isn’t into contractual agreements. He’s the God of covenant relationship (Genesis 28:15), one that is exemplified by sacrificial love (John 3:16).

Accustomed to manipulating so that he might get ahead, Jacob didn’t yet understand that God wasn’t going to let the promise of a great nation (Genesis 15:5-7) rest on an “if . . . then” agreement. God wanted Jacob’s love. So He wrestled with Jacob, not to defeat him but that Jacob might become God’s glory revealed (Genesis 32:24-32).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 1:57-80

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6 Responses to “if . . . then”

  1. alli says:

    This is works. Ive tried it. if im good enough or holy enough God will give me what i want. The problem is when someone else isnt so holy or so good and God decides to give it to them and not you you feel slighted.Because God isnt necessarily dependent on you. God will do what He wills. My question is how much the if then has to do with obedience. He does if you do this this is what i will do then..but again God doesnt seem to operate based on your works souly His.

    • Dear Alli,

      I think about it this way: I don’t live in my marriage with my husband trying to “do” things to get him to love me or to prove my love for him. My actions stem from the covenant love I have for him–not as a means of securing the deal but acting upon what has already been secured. I think of my relationship with Christ in the same way–only what has been secured came not from an equal partnership in covenant but through His perfection.

  2. yemiks1 says:

    In the olden times, God lived with men on conditional covenant but now He lives with us based on His son’s Blood covenant.

    • Hi Yemiks,

      I think I understand the gist of what you are saying. We have to remember, though, that He is the same God of both the Old and New Testaments and that Christ’s sacrifice was in God’s plan from the beginning (Rev 13:8).

  3. daisymarygoldr says:

    You are right, Regina; in desperation, we could easily fall prey to the temptation of “if . . . then” while waiting on God. This is an attempt to make Him accomplish His will for us on our terms and time, instead of the other way around.

    All “if . . . then” prayers though are not wrong. Of course, we must avoid getting into such agreements. However, if anyone makes these types of promises, then be faithful to follow through and keep your words. A good example is Hannah (2 Samuel 15:8)

    Questioning God’s plans is to test Him. In some cases, God tells us to test Him (Malachi 3:10). And we are also told to not put the Lord to test (Matthew 4:7). Balancing this truth is a matter of motives and God knows and sees our hearts.

    Many from pagan backgrounds become believers when their “if…then” prayers are answered. But for a Christian to say, “If God heals my loved one, then I will believe Him and go to church” is plain manipulation for personal gain. Better to trust than to test the Lord.

    • Dear Daisymarygold,

      Good thoughts–God can work with us in places because He knows our hearts. While He may capture our attention with an if, then situation, we cannot remain in that place and grow in maturity. Love doesn’t manipulate.

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