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From What If to What Is

In life and the kingdom of God, there are two equal realities, the reality of "what is" and the reality of "what if." We are all familiar with the "what is." It is what we know, what we are comfortable with, and the tangible reality we experience now. We are less familiar with "what if,"… the potential for what could be, and the hope for what will be. Because the gospel is about transformation, we should always be people moving from the "what is" to the "what if." Life following Jesus is a constant challenge, with the power of heaven behind us, to live abundantly in the "what if." No matter where we are in our faith journey, there is always a "what if." I believe that because in heaven, God is perpetually making things new, even when we are in heaven, we will still be thinking creatively and innovatively as we move to greater levels of "what if."

I want to ask how we move from "what is" to "what if"? While to fully move requires carrying the Holy Spirit, I believe there are some steps we can take responsibility for in getting there. Perhaps the story that demonstrates this movement the most in scripture is the story of the 5000. The "what is" is that there are well over 5,000 people who, after being with Jesus all day, were very hungry. The "what is" reality is that there was no food to feed them. The "what if" challenge was how on earth enough food would be given to these hungry people. As we read through the story in John 6, we see five different movements take us from "what is" to "what if."

1) Want "What If"! (Matthew 14:15)

While it would seem that it goes without saying, the fact that many of us are so stayed means it is worth saying. If we want to move towards the dreams of God, we have to want them! In Matthew's telling of this story (14:15,) we read that the disciples desire to send the hungry away so they can take care of themselves. They didn't want the responsibility and didn't want to spend the energy it would take to meet their needs. If they had sent the crowds away, millions of people would have missed out on experiencing and hearing this miracle-working story over the years. So, what about you? Do you want all that Jesus has for you? Are you content with where you are, or do you want the abundance God offers to you?

2) Ask Difficult Questions.

In seeing the need, Jesus asks a problematic question of Phillip, "How are we going to feed them." Phillip doesn't have an answer, but there is something significant in asking the question. We can never answer a question unless it is first requested. When questions are asked, our thinking is stimulated, creativity can be released, and innovation can come forth. Let me ask you… who asks you challenging questions that you don't have an answer to? We all need to be asked tough questions, even if we don't have the answers initially.

3) See what you've got and surrender it to Jesus.

The young boy didn't have much in terms of quantity and quality! (Josephus said Barley Bread was "too vile for human consumption"!) But the power of the miracle doesn't rest in what the boy had; it begins with his willingness to surrender it. When Jesus shared the story of the poor widow whose little gift was so valuable to God because it was all she had told is that a lot of a little is worth far more than a little of a lot within the kingdom. It we want "what if," there is always something we need to surrender.

4) Ask God to bless what you give to Him

In this story, before Jesus distributed the food, he asked God to bless it. At this stage in the process, God exponentially intervenes and accomplishes what we could never do in our natural power. The reality is that we cannot attain God-sized' what if's on our own. To get there, we need to have the ability of God to do something. When investing in the Kingdom of God, God will always take care of our needs for his glory.

5) Prepare to celebrate the "New What is."

Notice how, at the story's end, Jesus sends the disciples to fill baskets with the leftovers! Can you imagine the joy on the disciple's faces as they pick up basket after basket of scrapes? It would have been a defining moment that heralded the beginning of a new "what is."

We need to let "What Is" become "What was" as we move towards "What if."

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