Book notes: If, by Mark Batterson
Here are my highlights from Mark Batterson’s If, which uses Romans 8 to empower and inspire us forward to live the life God intends for us.
Every moment, like our kiss atop the Eiffel Tower, is created by millions of ifs that combine in a million different ways to make that moment possible.
So all that stands between your current circumstances and your wildest dreams is one little if.
your greatest regret won’t be the things you did but wish you hadn’t. Your greatest regret will be the things you didn’t do but wish you had.
We fixate on sins of commission far too much. We practice holiness by subtraction—don’t do this, don’t do that, and you’re okay. The problem with that is this: you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right.
It’s not just resisting temptation—it’s going after God-ordained opportunities.
Jesus puts a hyphen in history. If you give Him complete editorial control, the Author and Finisher of our faith will write His-story through your life.
Theologian and pastor John Piper calls the eighth chapter of Romans the greatest chapter in the Bible.
If the Father is on our side, game on. If Christ is in our corner, the fight is fixed. And if the Holy Spirit is our tag team, Katy, bar the door!
Spiritually speaking, the tipping point is when you believe, without any reservation, that God is for you. It’s the revelation that God doesn’t just love you, He likes you.
There is now no condemnation. Romans 8: 1
Studies suggest that just 3 percent of life events are highly memorable. So over the course of an average year, approximately seventeen experiences will make it into long-term memory. The other 97 percent of life doesn’t make the cut. Most of life fades to black—the black hole called the subconscious.
Jesus came to put the past in its place—the past. We just need to leave it there.
When I was ten years old, I remember my older brother, Don, throwing away a board game that had become an unhealthy obsession in his life. He packed it up and threw it in the garbage. I remember wondering why he didn’t sell it, but that decision made a profound impression on me. It was a Gilgal moment. If you want to leave the past in the past, it helps if you bury it, burn it, flush it, or delete it. Isn’t that what Christ has done with our sin? He crucified our sin by nailing it to a cross. Don’t resurrect it!
Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to forgive you. His aim is much higher than that. He died to change you. And He didn’t die on the cross just to keep you safe. He died to make you dangerous—a threat to the enemy. He died so that you could make a difference for all eternity.
What if you started acting like an agent of grace—looking for opportunities to love people when they least expect it and least deserve it?
For those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8: 1
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two imposters just the same1
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
The way you overcome the adversary is by flipping the script, and the script is Scripture.
The enemy doesn’t have any unscouted looks.
He tries to remind us of everything we’ve done wrong over and over again like a broken record.
Why? So that all of our emotional energy is spent on past guilt. That way we have no emotional energy left over to dream God-sized dreams or pursue God-ordained passions.
Condemnation is feeling guilty over confessed sin. Conviction is feeling guilty over unconfessed sin.
Conviction is healthy and holy, and it comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s the way we get right with God and get on with our lives.
If you don’t listen to His convicting voice, you won’t hear His comforting voice, His wise voice, or His GPS voice either.
the next time the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. His failure is as certain as your forgiveness.
if we plead guilty as charged, we’re found innocent and we come under God’s protective custody.
The force of the no in “no condemnation” cannot be overstated. It’s an absolute negation that has no limit on time, scope, or cost. Once confessed, sins are forgiven once and for all. The sinless Son of God took the blame, took the hit, and took the fall for fallen sinners.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus set the gold standard. Peter answered his own question by saying seven, and I’m sure he thought he was being generous, but Jesus ups the ante to seventy times seven.
The split second we confess our sin, a miraculous transaction happens. All of our sin is transferred to Christ’s account and paid in full.
All of His righteousness is credited to our account. Then our gracious God says, “Let’s call it even!” To be in Christ means we stand in His righteousness.
It was weakened by the flesh. Romans 8: 3
“I was afraid of looking like a fool,” Tony told me. “I figured it might even cost me my seat in Congress.” But that’s what walking after the Spirit looks like, feels like. It felt like one man against the world, but Tony knew that if God was for it, nothing could stop it.
Of all the muscles, the most important, in my opinion, is the “no” muscle. It’s the muscle you have to flex anytime you say no to dessert because you’re on a diet or no to sex because it’s a sacred covenant between a husband and a wife or no to the snooze button because it’s time to get up and get into God’s Word. When you say no to temptation, you are flexing your “no” muscle.
Walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8: 4 KJV
You cannot break the law of sowing and reaping. It can only break you. Or make you, if you keep sowing the right seeds.
And by success, I simply mean stewardship. It’s doing the best you can with what you have where you are. Jack’s secret? Make decisions against yourself.
Do you know someone who has six-pack abs? That person made a decision against themselves. They went to the gym when the rest of us went back for seconds. Or how about the person who earned their JD, MD, or PhD? They went to the library when the rest of us turned on the TV! It was that decision against themselves, made day after day, that helped them earn that degree. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a world-class athlete or world-class musician; they got there by making decisions against themselves.
What decision do you need to make against yourself?
If you really want God’s best, you won’t just say no to what’s wrong. You’ll also say no to second best. Good isn’t good enough any more!
The next time you’re tempted to hit the snooze button, realize that you’re delaying your dream nine minutes at a time.
Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial.
This one little distinction between permissible and beneficial can take you from good to great.
Go after greatness, and by greatness I mean being great at the Great Commandment. It’s giving God everything you’ve got—my utmost for His highest. 7 It’s not just choosing what’s right; it’s choosing what’s best.
Making a decision against something is only half the battle. The other half is making a decision for something.
Righteousness isn’t just being right; it’s doing something right.
Jesus didn’t say you will build your church. It’s not yours; it’s His. And that goes for your business, your school, or your team too. It’s not yours; it’s His. So the pressure’s off you. If we are walking in obedience, He will fight our battles for us!
You are a new creation. Not new as in soft reset. New as in factory reset. It doesn’t mean like new. It means brand new! It’s new in time, new in nature. It means mint condition, right off the assembly line, latest and greatest. When you put your faith in Christ, it’s a hard reset
Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermons
One of our fundamental problems is living as if Christ is still nailed to the cross. He’s not. He’s seated at the right hand of the Father, in power and glory. The only thing nailed to the cross is our sin. And once your sin is nailed, it’s nailed.
God wants to do so much more than simply forgive your sin. He wants to leverage your past regrets for His eternal purposes!
While they wish they could go back and undo what they did, one after another has testified to the way God has turned the worst thing they’ve done into the best thing that ever happened to them.
What is real versus what is imagined—the brain does not distinguish between them. Therein lies the power of as if. Therein lies the power of faith. It sees the invisible. It believes the impossible. As if bridges the gap between if only and what if. It’s the way we defy our circumstances. It’s the way God’s promises become our reality.
Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8: 5 ESV
One surefire way to be filled with God’s Spirit is to be filled with God’s Word. It was the Spirit of God who inspired the original writers of Scripture, so when we read Scripture, we are inhaling what the Holy Spirit exhaled thousands of years ago.
the Holy Spirit brings to memory what we need to know, when we need to know it.
The Holy Spirit also reveals things that bypass the conscious
mind, things that are beyond the ability of our five senses to perceive. Ever had a thought come out of nowhere, a thought that is beyond your intellectual capacity? I call them God ideas. Those God ideas come from the Holy Spirit who both seals things in our memory and reveals things to our imagination.
the Holy Spirit quickens us in more ways than one. Sometimes it’s a God idea that fires across our synapses. Sometimes it’s a prompting to step up, step in, or step out in faith. Sometimes it’s a word of wisdom in a difficult situation. When the Holy Spirit quickens you in that way, don’t hesitate. Act on the idea, seize the opportunity, speak the word.
The quickening of the Holy Spirit is like a truth bomb that blows up in your spirit. It can be one word, one phrase, or one verse that jumps off the page and into your mind, into your heart, into your spirit.
I open my Bible to wherever I am in my reading plan and start reading. I continue until I come to any verse that may suggest pausing. It’s often something I need to think about or pray about. Sometimes it’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and I need to have a conversation with God before I continue.
Spiritually speaking, it’s our quick-twitch reactions that make us or break us at critical moments. The split second after someone insults you, offends you, or cuts you off in traffic, what’s your reaction? What’s your reaction time?
Or how about the promptings of the Holy Spirit? What’s your reaction time? Your reaction time is the time lapse between God’s command and your obedience. And it’s one of the best measures of spiritual maturity.
Every time you read the Word of God, a little resurrection happens. It’s the way the Holy Spirit brings our God-ordained dreams back to life. It revives faith, hope, and love. It resurrects what if.
The 55 percent difference is the result of something psychologists call the “anchoring effect.” 1 Simply put, we tend to rely too heavily on the first fact, first price, or first impression. Once we “anchor” to it, it becomes the baseline for decision making.
There is an old acronym for fear: False Expectations Appearing Real. Fear gives weight to things that don’t deserve it—and it weighs us down. Faith is the exact opposite—it’s being sure of what we hope for. 3 If gratitude is thanking God for things after they happen, then faith is thanking God for things before they happen.
But if you want to thrive, you need a positive feedback loop. Simply put: celebrate what you want to see more of. His studies have produced what is known as the Losada ratio: it’s the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback in a system. It doesn’t matter whether the system is a church, a family, or your workplace, there needs to be at least 2.9 positive feedbacks for every negative feedback.
cultivate the habit of writing Spirit-led, heartfelt thank-you notes to the people you appreciate. It’ll only take you two minutes, but it can make someone’s day, someone’s year!
Psychologists posit that 98 or 99 percent of our thoughts are habitual.
There are some things I refuse to say because it gives them power. I call it my “Say Not” list. What words need to go on your “Say Not” list?
I’m not just talking about four-letter words. Jesus said we’d give account for every idle word. The word idle means unemployed. An idle word is a useless, worthless word—a word that doesn’t accomplish anything.
What if you stopped gossiping and started bragging about people behind their backs?
If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8: 10 ESV
The Great Eight says we are “more than conquerors” 3—the problem is that I feel like a total failure half the time.
If you believe you are who God says you are, it’ll get you out of trouble and keep you out of trouble.
When you feel like you’ve lost your way, remember: He orders your footsteps.
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” 7
“Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”
We live for the applause of nail-scarred hands. We long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
It’s hard to get offended if you’re dead. It’s hard to get angry, get upset, or get depressed too. Why? Because you’re dead. The day you put your faith in Christ is the day your old self died. RIP. Your desires, your dreams, and your plans are dead in the water. And I mean that literally, as in baptism. The person who goes under the water is not the same as the person who comes up. You are a new creation in Christ.
you have to step into this identity on a daily basis.
First Corinthians 15: 31 has become a motto of mine: “I die daily”
There is great freedom in this daily death. When you wake up each morning, it’s like a little resurrection. And you know you’ll die to self once again, so it’s the first day and last day of your life.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. Romans 8:
he preached as if it were true. He said it like he believed it. And he was driven by a powerful therefore.
“the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary as if they were real, and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.”
What’s your therefore?
I believe the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet.
every ology is a branch of theology,
every revival begins with therefore. And by revival, I mean personal and societal. For Whitefield, it was a Great Awakening that swept America. For me, it was a moment that defines every other moment of my ministry. It was a dare to be different. Either way, therefore involves throwing down the gauntlet. It’s the point of no return.
There are 1,220 therefores in Scripture.
whenever you come across a therefore, find out what it’s there for.
The first therefore in the Great Eight is the most significant connective clause in Romans, but it’s not the only one. The first eleven verses are a chorus of what God has done for us. The next few verses are the refrain of what God expects from us, starting with verse 12: Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.
Don’t think of it as something you have to do; think of it as something you get to do.
The gospel demands that we give all of ourselves to God, but when we do, God gives all of Himself to us. I’ll make that trade seven days a week, and twice on Sundays! It’s a covenant of blessing, and every blessing belongs to you in Christ. Every promise is yes in Christ.
Here’s the deal the Barter King puts on the table: you trade all of your sin for all of My righteousness, and we’ll call it even. You’ll never get a better barter. And that’s why it’s called the Good News. Salvation is the trade up. The tradeoff is giving full veto power to the Holy Spirit. But once again, that’s a good obligation. He’ll take you places you can’t go. He’ll set up divine appointments with people you can’t meet. And He’ll do things in you and through you that are impossible.
pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. Each of those seven deadly sins is a dictator. They work in different ways, but they are trying to dictate your decisions.
Over the years, Lora and I have tried to give a greater percentage of our income back to God, and what we’ve found is that the more we give away, the more we enjoy what we keep. If you give 20 percent, you’ll enjoy the 80 percent you keep 20 percent more! We falsely assume that joy is found in the portion we keep, but it’s actually found in the portion we give.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Romans 8: 14
Are we not the most impatient people in the history of humankind?
Remember when Moses tried to expedite God’s plan by killing an Egyptian taskmaster? That little shortcut backfired into a forty-year delay!
No matter what stage of life you’re in—enjoy the journey! If you need what’s next to make you happy—no matter what next is—you suffer from destination disease.
Anything less than God-sized goals constitutes a lack of faith. You’ve got to be sure of what you hope for—well-defined what ifs. But the hidden danger of goal setting is getting so focused on the goal that you forget that the goal isn’t really the goal—it’s the habit that helped you get there.
I have a little maxim that I repeat to anyone who seems anxious about missing the will of God: God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go. And God is awfully good at getting us there! So take a deep breath and relax. He is ordering your footsteps, every single one of them.
Your job is simply this: “keep in step with the Spirit.”
Sometimes that’s what it feels like trying to do the two-step with the Holy Spirit. You feel like a fool, but that’s when God shows up and shows off. You are someone else’s miracle. Of that, I’m sure. All you have to do is let the Spirit lead and obey His promptings. Sometimes that means speaking a word of encouragement. Sometimes it means keeping your mouth shut. Sometimes it’s inviting a stranger to join you for a round of golf.
Wild Goose Chase. I can’t think of a better description of what it’s like to live a Spirit-led life. I have no idea where I’m going half the time, but God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time.
God is setting up divine appointments. All we need to do is follow His lead, exercise a little patience, and take it one step at a time.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8: 18 KJV
“Then something amazing happened,” Fred said. “I simply stopped doing everything that wasn’t essential, that didn’t matter.” 4 Important things became even more important. Unimportant things became even more unimportant.
Joy is not getting what you want; it’s appreciating what you have.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
For the creation waits in eager expectation. Romans 8: 19
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.
The Third If: What If?
The manifestation of the sons of God. Romans 8: 19 KJV
Every what if is created twice. The first creation is an idea that is conceived in the mind, the heart, the spirit. The second creation is the physical manifestation of that what if, whatever it is. Some what ifs take blueprints plus brick and mortar. Others require a keyboard, a camera, or a chef’s kitchen.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
And just as God created you, you are called to create.
we are most like Him when we exercise our creative capacity to serve His purposes on earth.
Ebenezer’s coffeehouse has had more than a million customers, but it was once a crazy idea that fired across my synapses: This crack house would make a great coffeehouse. I knew that idea was either a God idea or a bad idea. It’s often tough to discern the difference, but the only way to find out is to give it a go.
by definition, a God-ordained dream is beyond your ability to pull off.
I don’t type on the keyboard; I pray with it.
Your what if might be a who if.
The word manifestation means “full disclosure.” More specifically, it’s the disclosure of secrets.
That is part of the Holy Spirit’s portfolio—He’s the code breaker.
You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
if you ignore one-third of the Godhead, you function at two-thirds capacity.
After writing the first chapter, he felt a check in his spirit. He felt like he needed to get to know the Holy Spirit better before writing about Him. Then, and only then, he started writing about the One he’d spent ten years getting to know.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 4 Did you catch the last phrase? It’s full of promise, full of hope. What is to come equals what if. It comes with a guarantee, but we’ve got to take it to settlement.
we learned very quickly that launching new locations created a vacuum, and God fills those vacuums with new people.
The next time you have a need, try sowing a seed at your point of need. Then watch the way God supplies all of your needs, according to His riches in glory. 7
a vacuum was created. God wants to fill that vacuum with His Spirit. The same Spirit who hovered over the void is hovering over you. He can bring beautiful order out of utter chaos.
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8: 25
the longer you wait, the easier it is to wait a little longer.
Thomas Carlyle wrote: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” 3 Those words revolutionized Osler’s life.
“The load of tomorrow,” he said, “added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter.”
And it came to pass.
He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. Romans 8: 27
God doesn’t bless laziness, including intellectual laziness.
breakthrough ideas come from cross-pollination.
Destiny is not a mystery; it’s a decision. And how we make those decisions determines our what if possibilities. When it comes to decision making, we’ve got to do our due diligence. But even then, we need the help of the Holy Spirit.
One of the archenemies of what if is narrow framing. In their brilliant book Decisive, authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath identify narrow framing as one of four decision-making villains. 3 Simply put, it’s defining our choices too narrowly. It’s only considering two options when there might be a third.
Control is an illusion.
The reality is, we hardly control anyone or anything, let alone our own thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
indecision is a decision and inaction is an action.
If you aren’t careful, past experience can become a barrier to what if. You stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. That’s when you stop creating the future and start repeating the past.
The way you steward a miracle is by believing God for the next miracle—an even bigger and better miracle.
What got you here might not be what gets you to where God wants you to go next. You can’t just climb the learning curve; sometimes you have to jump the curve. No matter how much you’ve accomplished, you need a new anointing. No matter how old you are, God has new gifts He wants to give you. What if demands it.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to search, as in search engine.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
the Holy Spirit is searching for one primary reason: to reveal what we need to know, when we need to know it.
Sometimes it’s a prompting to do something, like Philip’s divine appointment with an Ethiopian eunuch. 11 Sometimes it’s the right word at the right time. 12 And sometimes it’s a God idea that seems to come out of nowhere. And it’s all one prayer, one click away.
If you think of a problem as being like a medieval walled city, then a lot of people will attack it head on, like a battering ram. They will storm the gates and try to smash through the defenses with sheer intellectual power and brilliance. I just camp outside the city. I wait. And I think. Until one day—maybe after I’ve turned to a completely different problem—the drawbridge comes down and the defenders say, “We surrender.” The answer to the problem comes all at once.
Art Fry was on the back nine of the Red course when a chemical engineer named Spence Silver mentioned a new adhesive he had developed in the lab—microscopic balls of acrylic that formed a weak bond, leaving no residue after being repositioned. Neither of them could think of a single use, until five years later. Art Fry was singing in his church’s choir when the piece of paper he was using as a bookmark fell out of the hymnal. It was Art Fry’s what if moment. I’m not sure what hymn they were singing, but it led to the invention of the Post-it note. 14 Here’s a counterfactual for you. What if Art Fry hadn’t joined his church’s choir? Well, who knows how many things you would have forgotten because the Post-it note wouldn’t be there to remind you! My point? Join the choir! What the heck, play a round of golf. And while you’re at it, keep an open mind to new ideas!
Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them.
The Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8: 27
“Sometimes all it takes is twenty seconds of insane courage.”
But don’t despise the day of small beginnings.
The Spirit of God isn’t just praying for us. He is praying through us. And it usually happens in moments when we’re asking for something that is way past our pay grade.
That’s what happened when we submitted our offer for the Blue Castle. After we got the contract, we discovered that the sellers had at first decided to award the contract to another bidder. I didn’t know it at the time, but on that very same day, I felt an incredible compulsion to pray. It was so strong that I couldn’t focus on anything else, so I spent the next couple of hours on the rooftop of Ebenezer’s, my favorite prayer perch, pacing and praying. I didn’t know exactly what to pray or how to pray. Then I felt this right-field impression that I needed to pray that the God who changed the mind of Pharaoh would change the minds of those making the decision. I prayed for the decision makers by name.
Who is out of your league? What is out of your depth? The answer is no one and nothing. Not when you have the Holy Spirit on your side, on the inside.
Our prayers are limited by our lack of knowledge—
God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
long before you woke up this morning and long after you go to sleep tonight, the Holy Spirit is interceding for you in accordance with God’s will.
You still have to do your due diligence because God doesn’t bless negligence.
God’s got everything under control. Even better, He’s got blessings for you in categories you don’t even know exist yet. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
What if everything in your past is God’s way of preparing you for something in your future?
All things work together for good. Romans 8: 28 NKJV
Those unforeseen consequences fall into three categories. On the positive side of the ledger, there are added bonuses called unexpected benefits. On the negative side, there are unexpected drawbacks, like the side effect of a medicine that cures a condition while causing complications. Finally, there are perverse results. This is when your original intention bites you in the back.
one of history’s greatest moral philosophers, Joseph. He expounded it this way in Genesis 50: 20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
I love the little phrase “but God.”
The sovereignty of God overrides our intentions, good or bad. He can take the cruelty of Joseph’s selfish brothers and leverage it to save two nations from famine! Only God.
God wants us to get where God wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go.
Even when we make a wrong turn, He reroutes.
My point? You don’t want your plan to succeed if God has a better one!
the Great Eight? It promises unexpected benefits, even in the worst of circumstances. Romans 8: 28 is the New Testament version of Genesis 50: 20.
anyone can count the number of seeds in a watermelon. Only God can count the number of watermelons in a seed.
We waste way too much worry on consequences we cannot control. Quit focusing on the outcome—the increase is God’s responsibility. Our job is planting and watering seeds of faith. And if we sow mustard seeds of faith, God will turn those what ifs into a thousand unexpected benefits.
What if you sowed a seed at your point of need?
To those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8: 28
Few things are more comforting or more exhilarating than knowing that God is the One putting together the jigsaw puzzle of your life.
Romans 8: 28, promises that God will make every piece fit in the most efficient, effective, and beautiful way possible!
She would sometimes work on a needlepoint while speaking and use it as an illustration when she finished. Holding up the back side, which was a jumble of threads with no discernible pattern, Corrie would say, “This is how we see our lives.” Then she’d turn it over to reveal the design, saying, “This is how God views your life, and someday we will have the privilege of viewing it from His point of view.”
Every salvation story starts with the agony Christ endured at Calvary. The cross is history’s greatest injustice—the Creator nailed to a tree by His creation.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness—you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation—you are better off than five hundred million people in the world. If you can attend a church meeting, or not attend one, without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death—you are more blessed than three billion people in the world. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep—you are richer
than 75 percent of this world. If you have money in the bank or in your wallet, or spare change in a dish someplace—you rank among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy.
When you believe that all things work together for good, it redefines the bad things that happen in your life. The worst day of your life can turn into the best day. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud, and every downside has a potential upside. When you interpret life through the prism of 8: 28, it gives you a quiet confidence that everything is going to be all right. In fact, it reassures you that the best is yet to come.
The key is making a distinction between immediate good and ultimate good. I don’t believe 8: 28 promises immediate good all the time. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” 6 The 8: 28 guarantee is this: God will use even the worst things that happen for your ultimate good—and His eternal glory.
What if you let God leverage your greatest failures and deepest disappointments?
legends are born of bold predictions, and it’s those bold predictions that change the course of history.
If history turns on a dime, the dime is bold predictions.
I felt called to write as a twenty-two-year-old seminary student, but I didn’t self-publish my first book until thirteen years later. Dreams without deadlines usually turn into if only regrets.
I made a bold prediction forty days before my thirty-fifth birthday, vowing that I wouldn’t turn thirty-five without a book to show for it.
What bold prediction do you need to make? Maybe it’s time to throw down the gauntlet. Pray a bold prayer! Dream a God-sized dream. After all, if you are big enough for your dream, your dream isn’t big enough for God.
if you do little things like they’re big things, then God will do big things like they are little things!
I want an A for effort. God is setting up divine appointments, but you have to keep them. God is the gift giver, but you have to fan them into flame. God is calling, but you have to answer. God is ordering your footsteps, but you have to keep in step with the Spirit. And God is preparing good works in advance, but you need to carpe diem.
bold predictions backed up by bold actions that change history.
It’s Never Too Late It’s never too late to become who you might have been.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion. 5
What if you quit making excuses, quit playing it safe, and quit hedging your bets?
it’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one. Reactions are conditioned reflexes, and they must be reconditioned by the grace of God. In my experience, they are often the hardest thing and last thing to get sanctified.
When I picked it back up, I wasn’t all the way back at twenty-five—my new baseline was fifty. Spiritual growth is a lot like that. Today’s faith ceiling will become tomorrow’s faith floor. It won’t happen in a day, but it will happen someday if you keep working out your salvation.
Don’t use your predisposition as an excuse.
You are not a victim. You are more than a conqueror.
And with Christ’s help, there is nothing you cannot do, nothing you cannot become. Will it take hard work? Harder than you can imagine! But if you keep working out your salvation, you’ll fulfill your destiny—to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Our destiny has far less to do with what we do than it does with who we become.
Simply put, our destiny is to be conformed to the image of Christ. And God can use any circumstance, good or bad, to accomplish that objective.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in this crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe. 5
Paul likens us to shining stars, and the word shine means to reflect.
The planet Venus, for example, has the highest albedo at .65. In other words, 65 percent of the light that hits Venus is reflected.
In a similar sense, each of us has a spiritual albedo. The goal? One hundred percent reflectivity.
You cannot produce light. You can only reflect it.
And that’s what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ. We become a mirror image of the Invisible One. We think like, talk like, feel like, and act like Him. Our reflexes become conditioned by His grace.
Destiny is not an accomplishment; it’s a reflection.
We pray as if the will of God is primarily geographical, occupational, or relational. It’s not. The will of God has already been revealed—that you be conformed to the image of Christ.
Too often our prayers revolve around changing our circumstances, when sometimes those circumstances are the very thing God is using to change us.
The ultimate what if is who. Who can you become in Christ?
And those he predestined, he also called. Romans 8: 30
“I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.” Her superiors said, “You can’t build an orphanage with three pennies. With three pennies you can’t do anything.” Mother Teresa smiled and said, “I know. But with God and three pennies I can do anything.”
And if you don’t despise the day of small beginnings, the God who began a good work will carry it to completion. Why? Because it’s not your vision; it’s His. It’s not your business; it’s His. It’s not your job; it’s His. It’s not your cause; it’s His.
Erica Symonette is a self-proclaimed fashionista. She has leveraged her passion for fashion into an online store called Pulchritude. “The world doesn’t need another boutique,” Erica admitted. “But it does need more kingdom businesses.” Her store is a manifestation of Isaiah 61: 10: “he has clothed you with garments of salvation.” Erica uses net profits to help victims of sex trafficking.
I have a few convictions when it comes to calling. They are keys to unlocking what if. 1. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. There is a high likelihood that God will call you to do something you’re not smart enough, good enough, or strong enough to pull off. By definition, a God-ordained dream will always be beyond your ability and beyond your resources. Why? So that you have to rely on God every single day!
Criticize by creating. In my opinion, criticism is a cop-out for those who are too lazy to solve the problem they are complaining about. Instead of criticizing movies or music, produce a film or an album that is better than whatever it is you’re complaining about. The most constructive criticism is called creativity.
we should be more known for what we’re for than what we’re against.
3. The anointing is for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or a barista. From the top of the organization chart to the bottom, God wants to anoint you to do whatever it is you’re called to do.
4. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands. Whatever it is that you feel called to do, do it as if your life depended on it. That’s 1 Corinthians 10: 31 in a nutshell: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Taking mundane tasks and figuring out how to transfigure them. That’s what calling is all about.
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
What if money weren’t an object and you knew you couldn’t fail—what passion would you pursue?
If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31
Every dream has a genesis moment—a moment when possibility pulls off a coup d’état and overthrows impossibility.
We’re more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes.
“Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf.”
It tells me everything I need to know about Jonathan. It’s his one-sentence mission statement; his default setting; his OS; his MO. Perhaps is Jonathan’s why not, Jonathan’s what if.
What if you were more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes?
But I wasn’t just grateful for forty pounds of pork. I nuanced it. I’m grateful for each and every cut of meat—pork chops, pork loins, sausage links, and last but not least, thick-cut slices of bacon. I stewarded that gift the same day by putting some in a frying pan and setting off our smoke detector! The more nuanced you become in offering gratitude, the more joy is multiplied. It becomes a gratitude game. How can I thank God in a new way for something I’ve tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard a thousand times?
Don’t settle for generic gratitude. Nuance it in new ways.
“All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.”
Like every promise, this one comes with the conditional clause: if. You have to meet the condition, which in this case is to “diligently obey the voice of the LORD.” 6 But if you meet the condition, it comes with a what if warranty, and there is no expiration date!
Where have you been blessed? That’s where you need to flip the blessing. Where has God shown you favor? That’s where you need to return the favor.
when God gives a vision, He makes provision!
That’s the way you steward them. If you don’t share them, the blessings can actually become curses.
My ability to write is a curse—if I don’t share it and use it to advance God’s kingdom. Instead, it becomes a point of sadness and regret.
What if you increased your standard of giving instead of your standard of living?
God-ordained opportunities are all around you, all the time. Of course, many of them come disguised as problems.
don’t seek opportunity first and foremost. Seek God. If you do, opportunity will seek you.
Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8: 34
A. W. Tozer more than most. I read his classics, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy,
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
How you see God will dictate how you see yourself, see your future, see your life. It’s your trademark, your watermark.
And any astigmatism in how you see God will distort your vision of everything else.
The Advocate is interceding for you. Now consider the implications—you don’t just have one member of the Godhead interceding for you. You have two! It’s a divine double-team.
God isn’t 100 percent for you; He’s 200 percent for you.
you belong to Him twice. Once by virtue of creation, twice by virtue of redemption. That means you don’t owe God one life; you owe Him two. That’s why 110 percent effort isn’t enough.
So maybe we should quit begging like a pauper with no power, no plea. Christ Himself is pleading your case! Christ is in your corner, on your side. That makes every what if possible.
What if you approached every person, every situation, every challenge as if Christ were in your corner?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8: 35
That day is coming when we will see our Savior face-to-face. The first thing we’ll notice, I think, will be the scars spanning His forehead. Like a barbed wire tattoo, the crown of thorns left its hallmark. It also erased any question mark about His love for us. Jesus wore that crown of injustice so that we could be crowned with righteousness.
We’ll also see fire in those eyes, the same fire that drove the moneychangers out of the temple with His homemade whip.
God is love.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 4
Paul is the patron saint of run-on sentences.
if the universe isn’t big enough to circumscribe the love of God, that love certainly won’t fit within the confines of your logical left-brain. So how do we get it in our hearts, in our minds? God uses the side entrance, the secret entrance called revelation. And much like a black hole, revelation is all but impossible to explain.
It’s easy to love someone when they’re at their best. When they’re at their worst? Not so much. But that’s the test of true love.
when Paul really wants to make a point, he doesn’t just use run-on sentences. He often employs a question mark as his exclamation point.
Like a fine wine or fine cheese, love goes through an aging process. And that’s why aging should be embraced as one of God’s greatest gifts.
When I worship, I don’t just sing in the present tense. I sing out of my past-tense memories and future-tense dreams.
We look back on challenges with a touch of nostalgic pride.
According to one poll of Londoners, 60 percent of those who survived Germany’s blitzkrieg during World War II remembered it as the happiest time of their lives. It’s the tough times—trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword—that test our love. But that’s also how it’s proved.
What if you fully surrendered your life to Christ, right here, right now?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8: 37
it takes time to take on a new identity. Like a new pair of shoes, you’ve got to break it in. When I first started pastoring, I didn’t feel like a pastor, and I didn’t look like one either.
The same is true with this identifier. But even if you’re losing more battles than you’re winning, you’re still more than a conqueror. Why? Because the battle isn’t yours to win or lose. The battle belongs to the Lord. And Christ has already conquered. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
You might even call it hupernikao. The three-word phrase “more than conquerors” comes from that one Greek word. It’s a rare compound that means to hyper-conquer, over-conquer, or conquer with success to spare. 3 It’s more than a W; it’s a defining W that demoralizes your opponent.
But biblically speaking, I can’t think of a better answer than hupernikao.
That’s who you are in Christ. It’s your truest identity, your surest destiny.
God is preparing good works in advance. God is ordering your footsteps. God is working all things together for good. All of those promises translate into one moniker: more than a conqueror.
Read the box score in the book of Revelation. We win! Do we still have to fight the good fight? Absolutely! And we might get knocked down a time or two, but the fight is fixed. It’s no contest.
No one likes a setback, but how else can you experience a comeback? And the bigger the setback, the greater the comeback!
When you experience a setback, you may take a step back, but God is already preparing your comeback.
It’s no coincidence that the word testimony begins with test. Pass the test, get a testimony.
The Lamb Has Conquered. Follow the Lamb.
You are more than a conqueror, and to think of yourself as anything less is false humility. And false humility is worse than pride! Pride is believing something about yourself that isn’t true. False humility is not believing something about yourself that is true. Here’s the truth: you are more than a conqueror.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38–39