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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”—Matthew 1:24-25 (NKJV)
“If only . . .” These two simple and unassuming words can have a crippling effect on a person. In fact, they can grind their progress in God’s will for their lives to a painful halt. “If only . . .” represents a person’s belief that they don’t have what it takes to overcome life’s challenges and fulfill the calling God has given them.
“If only I had this . . . If only I had that . . . If only I were born there . . . If only I lived over here . . . If only I were more like . . .” Once this mindset takes hold of someone’s self-image, there’s literally no end to it. It spins endlessly like a merry-go-round gone wrong!
Again, these two little words have done more to delay the forward progress of God’s work than we can ever imagine, and it doesn’t have to. Because “If only . . .” is trumped by another pair of words, “But God.” No matter how inadequate or inept someone may feel about themselves, when the Lord calls them to a certain task, He will see to it that it’s carried out to completion!
We get a graphic illustration of this spiritual truth by way of the lives of Joseph and Mary. In hindsight, it’s all too easy for us to breeze over their story. “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . let’s get past the preliminary preparations and right to the climactic birth of Baby Jesus.” In all honestly, I’ve had that very attitude when reading through their accounts . . . you probably have too!
Yet in doing so, we also look past the sense of inadequacy that these two must have wrestled with. Imagine being entrusted with the care and upbringing of the Savior of the world! That’s a serious assignment that must have, in their natural minds, brought some serious pressure. Don’t you think they felt inadequate or inept at any point along the way?
Remember, this was a simple Jewish couple of meager means. They didn’t have much margin in life for themselves, much less another little life. On top of all this, their calling as Christ’s parents would require them to travel a great distance and navigate many added challenges other first-time parents would never have to deal with. If we can’t hear the “If only . . .” softly echoing in the innermost thoughts of their souls then we’re not listening.
“But God,” knowing all things and being all powerful, would take this couple of humble means and use them to flip human history head over heels! Everything, literally everything, was a result of their participation in what the Lord determined to do through them. He would make them adequate to the unprecedented calling placed upon their lives. They didn’t have to become someone else, they had only to obey the directions they were given, and they did!
The application for our lives couldn’t be clearer. Joseph and Mary remind us that God wants to use our lives in ways that are beyond our own sense of adequacy. When He calls us, our human nature can camp on “If only . . .” and allow that to become an excuse as to why we don’t have what it takes to obey and fulfill His commission.
But that’s also when Joseph and Mary remind us of the truth that it isn’t a matter of “If only . . .,” but “But God!” When we trade our natural default of inadequacy for trust in the Lord’s sufficiency, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish through Him. We are able to fulfill whatever God calls us to . . . just ask Joseph and Mary!
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.