September 19, 2003

Some 'What Ifs' For Life
by Donald G. Mashburn

We said goodbye to Fred Clark today. A good man, and a longtime friend. A solid family man, a faithful Christian.

As the minister and others told about this quiet man’s great character and his concern and love for others, I recalled when Fred and I met more than 30 years ago. And how quickly we developed the mutual respect and warmth that became the basis of true friendship.

In between the songs, “I Can Only Imagine,” in the church, and “Amazing Grace,” at the cemetery, I thought on these things, and on some of the “What ifs” having to do with life, our journey through it, and the people we meet along the way.

What if, I wondered, Fred had not committed his life to Christ as a boy? Would his influence have been the same? No way! Because Jesus Christ was the firm foundation on which Fred built his life, as a Christian, a family man, and a man his associates liked and respected.

I wondered, too, what if I had not accepted Christ as Savior and Lord of my life? Would Fred and I have felt that easy acceptance that grew into friendship? Not likely. I thought of other “what ifs,” and how important God’s blessings are while we’re here, and how His grace is everything after we leave here.

What if God stopped looking after us, and giving us hope for tomorrow, because we were too busy to acknowledge His care and love for us today? What if God turned away from us because we refused His word and His grace?

What if God removed from us His word, the Bible, because we didn’t have time to read it today? What if not only the 10 Commandments were outlawed, but the entire word of God was made illegal, because we were afraid to be labeled part of the “religious right?”

What if God couldn't find time to bless us today because, day-by-day, we couldn’t find time to thank Him for past blessings?

What if we could not see the renewal of life in the spring, or see the flowers bloom because we grumble when the weather changes quickly, and when God replenishes the earth with rain?

What if we couldn’t see to read another book, poem or letter? What if we never saw another sunset, looked at a landscape, or saw the wonderment in a child’s face with each new discovery, because we were blind to God’s creation, and failed to thank Him for it?

One of my former grade school teachers, a once self-reliant, spirited lady, is now in a nursing home. She’s very weak and may die soon. Only months ago, she lived in her own home, went to church, and was an independent, sharp minded senior citizen.

Today, virtually blind and hearing-impaired, she depends on others for the simplest tasks: getting her to meals, dressing herself, moving about. Yet her faith in God is solid. How will we handle those problems when eyesight dims, muscles grow weak, and the mind loses its ability to track a straight course?

What if God allowed us to lose our health and material wealth, because we failed to feel the hurts of others, to see their needs, and to care for them?

Jesus’ teachings about what you do to “the least of these, you do to Me,” had no time limit. They were never rescinded or amended. They still mean what they did when Jesus spoke them.

What if God couldn’t find the time to meet our needs, because we sometimes can’t find time to worship Him and seek His will for our lives?

Finally, what if God ignored our prayers, because we ignored His call to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved?”

We’re all busy – too busy. But my friend Fred provided a great example of how we should order our priorities: God, family, others, self.

It’s a good formula for living in this world temporarily, but its benefits last for an eternity.