Summary: If certain things are in our lives then some positive action should take place.
INTRO.- The word “if” is a big, little word. It’s a little word, but can carry a big meaning.
ILL.- After visiting with my 1962 classmate, Larry Roberts from Doniphan, MO, I thought, “If only I had worked for General Motors like he did, I could be retired now.”
I think most of us have said something like that. “If only I had taken that job instead of the other one. Just think how much better off I would be now. Think of the money I would have made, been more successful, etc.”
There are many “ifs” that enter the picture of our lives.
ILL.- After rolling my 1982 Plymouth Horizon in southern Missouri many years ago, I thought, “If I hadn’t bought this car this wouldn’t have happened to me!” Of course, others might have said, “If you hadn’t been driving so fast that wouldn’t have happened to you.”
I do tend to drive fast, but I really wasn’t driving fast that day. It was a bad road with bad conditions and a bad car, a top-heavy car that was susceptible to rolling. There was also gravel on that curve in the highway, which helped me to wreck and roll my car.
I’m sure we’ve all probably made some bad decisions when it came to buying cars or something else.
ILL.- Or there may have been times when we’ve said something like, “If I hadn’t run with that kid I would never have gotten into trouble.” And there’s some real Bible truth to that statement.
Prov. 13:20 “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
ILL.- Famed pianist Arthur Rubinstein, celebrating his 84th birthday, said: "As long as we have what we have inside, the capacity to love, to work, to hear music, to see a flower, to look at the world as it is, nothing can stop us from being happy....but one thing you must take seriously. You must get rid of the ‘ifs’ of life. Many people tell you, ’I would be happy -- if I had a certain job, or if I were better looking, or if a certain person would marry me.’ There isn’t any such thing. You must live your life unconditionally, without the ifs."
All of us have our lists of “ifs,” but with the Lord’s help anything negative can be overcome.
Eph. 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
We are promised that God’s Spirit will strengthen our inner being or our spirit in a powerful way. Greater is He who is in us that he who is in the world. Greater is God’s Spirit who lives within us. He is able to empower us in order to overcome any negative “ifs” in our lives.
In our text, Paul speaks of several positive “ifs.” In fact, four big ifs.
PROP.- These positive “ifs” come with a concluding thought. God says “if” certain positive things are in our lives then some positive actions must take place.
1- The big ifs
2- The big thens
I. THE BIG IFS
V. 1 “If you have any encouragement…if any comfort…if any fellowship…if any tenderness…”
1- If you have any encouragement in Christ
ILL.- Everyone needs recognition for their accomplishments (small or large), but few people make the need known as clearly as the little boy who said to his father: "Let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say ’Wonderful!’"
It is true that everybody needs encouragement in life, but we don’t always get it from people. Why not? I assume that we don’t get it because we don’t give it.
Encouragement is something everyone needs in order to function and function even better. Criticism makes some people work better and harder, but encouragement does more good in the long run.
ILL.- During quail season in Georgia, an Atlanta journalist met an old farmer hunting with an ancient pointer at his side. Twice the dog ran ahead and pointed. Twice his master fired into the open air.
When the journalist saw no birds rise, he asked the farmer for an explanation. "Shucks," grinned the old man, "I knew there weren’t no birds in that grass.
“Spot’s nose ain’t what it used to be but him and me have had some wonderful times together. He’s still doing the best he can -- and it’d be mighty mean of me to call him a liar at this stage of the game!"
Brothers and sisters, I think we all should try a lot harder to give encouragement to one another in life. We need to dish out the good stuff, the positive stuff rather than the negative. We need to start looking at the positive things people do and encourage them and/or commend them for it.