Recently studying the temptations of Christ, I’ve been pondering a tiny word – IF.
3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: (Luke 4:3-13)
Such a small word that is so meaningful in our lives. IF can be a powerful driver or a damming stumbling block.
When I served in the England Bristol Mission in the 70s, I was often taught the “AS IF” principle. The idea was IF you act AS IF you were something, you will become. So, for example, IF you want to become a better missionary act AS IF you are a good missionary, and you will become one. In this case, IF becomes a driver for self-improvement.
Another way IF can be a driver is by coupling it with THEN. You can use IF THEN statements as a springboard. For example, IF I can run five miles, THEN I can run a ½ marathon in time. Or, IF I play the tuba, THEN I can play with practice another instrument. Or, IF I write articles and a blog, I can write a book with a bit more effort. (This one is a personal favorite). Finally, IF the Book of Mormon is true, THEN Joseph Smith is a prophet, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s only true church.
Damming stumbling block
Satan is good at taking something positive and using it against us. Another way to say it is that Satan weaponized IF by using it to sow seeds of doubt which leads to discouragement.
Satan used this questioning aspect of IF with Jesus, but it didn’t work. Jesus knew the scriptures. He knew Satan. Most importantly, He knew who he was. However, the questioning aspect of IF works well in our lives.
“IF you are such a good Latter-day Saint, why are you struggling?
“IF you are an adult, do you want?”
“IF you are a good priesthood holder, why do you lose your temper?”.
“IF you are a child of God, why are you in pain?”
“IF there is a God, why is so much suffering in the world?”
The list can be very long, but you get the idea. Satan efficiently uses IF in our lives. When doubt about sacred truths enters our lives, we can be stuck or become discouraged.
There is an old story about Satan.
“There’s an old fable that one day the devil was having a sale, hawking his many diabolical tools of the trade. Each of the devil’s tools was on display with its price tag attached—tools such as the arrow of jealousy, the hammer of anger, and the dagger of worry. His tools also included the slingshot of doubt and the axe of hatred, along with numerous others.
But one tool was displayed prominently on a pedestal high above the others. It was dented and worn with use. A curious shopper inquired about the price and why such an old and worn tool was displayed so visibly.
“Ah, yes,” said the devil, “THAT’S THE WEDGE OF DISCOURAGEMENT. It is my favorite tool of all. It’s so easy to use and hardly takes any effort. All I have to do is get the very tip of the wedge into my victim and the rest is easy. Once the wedge is in, I just tap it ever so slightly, and it slides in deeper and deeper. Sometimes I don’t have to do anything—my victims drive the wedge in all by themselves!”
“A small opening soon becomes a gaping crack, making room for the rest of my tools. Before you know it, my wedge has completely split a person’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations in two. That’s why the wedge of discouragement commands such a high price—because it’s my most effective tool. It has opened more doors for me than all my other tools combined.” (ThePreachersWord.com)
I suggest IF is written on the wedge of discouragement.
“IF I am really converted, I wouldn’t make so many mistakes. So I should just give up.”
“IF I was more converted, I wouldn’t need to repent so much. But, I guess I never will be converted.”
Satan helps us paint a dark picture of ourselves. A picture that implies we are so deep that change is impossible. An image that is so dark that we feel we are never worthy of reaching for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and through it pull us up to a higher, holier, and happy life. However, we can!
Call to action!
Recognize the power of IF in your life. IF it is a damming stumbling block, look up and see God. IF it is a power driver, use it to find joy and peace today, tomorrow, and in eternity.