Monday, January 29, 2018

What Might Have Been?

One of the most interesting questions to ponder is "What might have been?" Numerous stories have been told and movies made about the question. It's a Wonderful Life explores what might have been if George Bailey had never been born. The Family Man explores what might have been if a corporate CEO had made a priority of the woman he loved rather than his career. Numerous science fiction shows experiment with time travel to the past and attempt to picture what might have been if just one little thing had been different in the course of human events.

One of the reasons this theme has been so prevalent in popular fiction is the fact that people are constantly wondering "What might have been if…?" What might have been if I had majored in something different in college? What might have been if I had taken that risk rather than banking on the sure thing? What might have been if I had married someone different? What might have been if I had gotten that promotion? What might have been if I had said something when I had the chance?

Acts 25 gives us a biblical example of a "What might have been different" story.  Paul had been speaking in his own defense before Festus because he had been accused of a number of crimes against the temple and against Rome. His primary accusers had requested that Paul be sent back to Jerusalem to face the charges and Festus had asked Paul about the request. Paul, knowing that a conspiracy to kill him was probably underway, declared that he was under no obligation to go back to Jerusalem and then, as was his right as a Roman citizen, Paul appealed to Caesar, ensuring that he would be taken to Rome and not back to Jerusalem.

Festus, later, discussed Paul's case with king Agrippa, seeking his advice on writing his report to Caesar and Paul was given the chance to share his story with Agrippa. Once Agrippa heard Paul's defense, Agrippa declared, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:32, NIV). In the following years of imprisonment waiting for his appeal to be heard and the many hardships that accompanied those years, I am sure Paul must have wondered, "What might have been different if I had not appealed to Caesar?" Would he have been sent back to Jerusalem and killed? Would Agrippa have simply freed him, allowing him to resume his missionary work?  Would he have spent so much time in prison cells or under house arrest? How many things would have been different?

In Philippians 1:12, however, Paul discussed not what might have been but what had been, He wrote, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (NIV).  Paul went on to describe how his continuing imprisonment had led many of his guards to Christ and how other believers had been encouraged by his example. I'm sure Paul wondered what might have been, but his questions did not keep him from seeing what was. Paul didn't allow the missed possibilities to blind him to the ways God was moving in the present.

Have you been stuck, wondering what might have been different or what could have been better? There is nothing necessarily wrong with those questions. But don't allow them to sidetrack you from what God is doing in your life right now. Don't miss the blessings that are right in front of you because you are distracted by uncertain possibilities of what might have been. We are not given the knowledge of what might have been. All we can do is make the most of what is.

Insulting Your Dinner Host

Suggested Reading: Ephesians 3 One of the things that drove me crazy when my children were younger was how they had no shame in asking p...