When “If Only” Becomes “I Have”

As a young man, I remember how the days seemed to take forever to pass. Now, time is racing past at an ever-increasing rate, and the number of days that lie ahead are considerably less than those than those that lie behind. This is the nature of life for all of us, if we are blessed to live long enough. As Moses said, “Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away” (Psa. 90:10).

Of course, it’s impossible for us to accomplish everything we want to do in the course of a life, as we can desire and imagine a lot more than we may have time to do. We can look back regretting what has been done, or left undone, or we can determine to do our best with the time we have left. While a New Year is often the time for resolutions, we can resolve to make changes, to do better, at any time. Stepping back to consider our lives now can help us make better choices for the year ahead, to get an early start on prioritizing our lives so we don’t look back later and wish we had made better choices. Sometimes the saddest words we can hear ourselves say are, “If only…”

Perhaps a bit of self-examination now will help us have a better perspective of the holiday season. The holidays, while touting peace on earth and goodwill toward men, all too often wind up being about selfishness, frustration, and anything but peace in one’s life and feelings of goodwill to others. Too many people miss out on life while trying to live life! Wanting everything, and wanting it one’s own way, only brings discouragement, because no one can have everything or always have it like one wants. We can’t see beyond this moment in time, and life often introduces issues that we are ill-equipped to handle. There is real value in changing life from a “me” perspective to a “God” perspective.

We should reaffirm the importance of spiritual living during this time, and the renewal it can bring to us in 2019. While living for the flesh seems only to stress one out, the Bible reminds us, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). When it seems nothing goes our way, Scripture tells us, “If God is for us, who is against us” (Rom. 8:31). If it seems others have more of this life, we can know we have an abundant life in Christ (John 10:10), and a real promise of eternal life (Phil. 3:20-21). We have less regrets in Christ, and more affirmation in living for what really matters, if we put the kingdom of God and His righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). 

While I can make plans in this New Year, in reality I have no clue what I will actually have to face. If we live on our own, only for ourselves, I do know there will be more regrets, more what ifs, more wishing that things had gone differently. Living for Christ, and allowing Him control of our lives, assures us that He who knows what the future holds can help us have a better life. Now is the time to rededicate ourselves to being more faithful in prayer, of studying the Word more, of being more devoted to worship and fellowship, of being more committed to Christian service, of not letting the world deceive us into thinking, “There will always be more time.” 

Someday there won’t be more time, and then we all will leave the here and now to enter eternity. Will there be more to your life then than just having lived for the temporal pleasures of life? Let’s start living, not from a lifestyle that leads to “if only,” but one that echoes the words of Paul; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Make a difference for tomorrow, for eternity, starting today. Let your “what ifs” become “I have.”

Robert Johnson

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