These three words—if, then, and but—make a transformational difference in our lives. They are a part of conditional statements: If you do this. . .then this will happen. But, if you continue this way. . .then this will happen. The way we respond to conditional statements will be a part of our journey toward God or away from Him. It is our choice. In the words of Joshua, “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15).
Specifically, the little word, if, has a big impact throughout the Word of God. We see it appear in Scripture almost 1,600 times between the opening of the Old Testament Book of Genesis to the last New Testament Book of Revelation. Repeatedly in Scripture, we find God’s conditional if and then scenarios that lead to optional outcomes. I find encouragement to follow God’s ways in the book of Deuteronomy, and I make sure to read it at the beginning of every year. Moses is a straight shooter with the blessings and curses of God. However, I must preface this by saying, we serve a grace-filled God who’s offer of salvation is free and unconditional—”For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Throughout Deuteronomy, Moses, while giving the Israelites their final instruction in his last days on earth, shares the blessings and curses that come from their obedience or lack of it. Deuteronomy 28 gives a perfect example of God’s conditional blessings and curses. The first 14 verses outline His blessings for those who hear, obey, and follow Him. Moses says, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I am commanding you today, that the Lord your God will put you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings will come to you and reach you if you obey the Lord your God.” Blessings will come to them in their land, work, home, and offspring if they obey God’s ways, statutes, and commandments (see Deut. 28:3-14).
So are these conditional statements just for those of the Old Testament?
No! They are just as meaningful for us today as they were back then. We would be wise to heed the instruction from the early men and women of faith.
Although some blessings are specific for the Israelites, God also bestows blessing upon all of us. But, there are still conditions tied to the blessings.
If blessings from the New Testament
- Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life?”
- John 15:7 “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
- John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
- 1 John 2:3-6 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
- Revelation 14:9-10 “And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb…’”
There are times you and I have fallen short of the glory of God and have gone our own way. But thankfully we have a God who unconditionally loves us (see Romans 8:37-39) and provides second chances for us. God is for you (see Psalm 56:9b). Yes, how great it is to serve a God who gives salvation with no if’s, then’s or but’s—thankfully, eternal love is unconditional! However, the blessings He gives us throughout our time on earth are a direct correlation to the choices we make.
Whether experiencing God’s love through reward or His loving discipline, you can know that He wants the best for you and that, “He has come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
But ultimately it is your choice how you will live your day—walking in His ways or not. In some moments, you might take one step forward and two steps back. Or, maybe what others meant for harm really will benefit you for good. Keep moving. Keep seeking Him. Keep looking up. Allow Him to fill your thoughts and illuminate your path. He will make the way clearer. “In His presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
Yes, it’s your choice—will you choose life and obedience?
“But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow down to other gods and worship them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not live long in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Let this closing thought encourage you. Some years back, I found myself doubting my commitment to God, but then while reading 1 John 2, I found reassurance that what my heart desired was to know Him better, walk obedient to His ways, and abide in Him (see 1 John 2:3-6). After reading these verses, it was instant that I knew I was His and was able to stop doubting my allegiance. I might not always do it or get it right, but I keep striving to please Him and choose daily to live for Him. And so can you—one day at a time!
So what will your choice be for today? If you do ______, then what ________?
Journeying with Him,