(April 14, 2018) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share…

Titanic’ means of exceptional explosive strength, size or power. Such are the titanic ‘if onlys’ of life that can sink us! Today, April14, we recall another titanic… the RMS Titanic.

106 years ago – April 14 1912 – at approximately 11.39pm, on its maiden voyage the Titanic struck an iceberg. Three hours, one minute later, at 2.40am Monday morning the so-called unsinkable, luxury liner was gone in the calmest but coldest seas (28degrees under).

1523 souls perished, including John Harper, a brave young Baptist minister, who kept encouraging people to trust God and to accept the Lord Jesus… even as he too sank into the deep.

Only 750 were plucked from the frigid sea. It was a very sad time indeed, as the Walter Lord’s prolific 1955 book called it, A Night to Remember (Made a  movie in 1958).







The Titanic’s 12 ‘If onlys’… if only –

  • The British Board of Trade ruling had called for more lifeboats
  • The crow’s nest spotters binoculars hadn’t disappeared
  • The iceberg warnings had been taken more seriously
  • Bruce Ismay, the White Star Liner managing director on board, hadn’t pressed for a speedier (24k) transatlantic crossing to beat the current record.
  • First officer William Murdoch had simply reversed the port engine only as they neared the iceberg instead of reversing the main engines, thus handicapping the ship’s turning ability
  • The ship had had a double hull
  • The watertight doors had been higher than three metres
  • There had been more red flares on board
  • The mysterious unknown ship nearby had responded to the distress signals
  • The Carparthia hadn’t been so far away to steam to the rescue (took four hours)
  • Passengers hadn’t booked on that particular voyage
  • God hadn’t been mocked… (A White Star line employee is believed to have said that ‘Even God himself couldn’t sink this ship!’).

Life’s if onlys…
But dwelling on the sad discouraging ’if onlys’ of the Titanic disaster or on or own life’s misadventures can’t change the past. Whatever went wrong happened! We all need to be courageously moving on, heading boldly forward.

The reality is that life is life and bad things happen to the best Christians as well as bad people! Nothing can change history, but in Jesus Christ we can believe for a better future. But the truth is that if we really want to move on we must face the ‘if onlys’ in our own lives both past, current and any that arise in the future and deal with them!

And here we bring some brief encouragements to all who desire to trust Jesus for a great tomorrow. We all need to move on instead of dwelling on matters such as these ‘if only examples…

(i) ‘If only I hadn’t chosen the wrong…’

  • Marriage partner
  • Job or career move
  • School for my child
  • City or town
  • Street to live in.
  • Financial planner
  • Investment…

(ii) ‘If only I hadn’t made that…’

  • Ill-fated choice
  • Stupid decision
  • Crazy bet
  • Ludicrous deal
  • Wrong…

(iii) ‘If only I hadn’t…’ 

  • Listened to that obviously non-Bible based word
  • Become sick
  • Gone to that ungodly séance
  • Had that wrong attitude
  • Taken that one night stand
  • Thought that way about that person
  • Spoken those hurtful words
  • Driven the car that day
  • Criticised the boss
  • Criticised my pastor, my church, others
  • Done that to my loved one
  • Neglected my child…

Some classic Bible if onlys

  • Adam and Eve’s ‘Non-Woolworths’ fruit choice (Genesis 3: 6).Self before God’s commands!
  • Lot’s land option deal (Genesis 13: 8-13). Allured into not seeing the bigger picture!
  • Abraham’s Egyptian one night stand (Genesis 16:4). Start of today’s’ troubles!
  • Samson’s deceptive lover (Judges 16:4). Lost his strength and call of God!
  • David’s midnight stroll (2 Samuel 11:2). Affected his reputation.
  • Solomon’s heart trouble (1 Kings 11:6, 9). Attitude cost him the kingdom!
  • Hezekiah’s ‘$10 tour’ (2 Kings 20:12-17). Lost his investments!
  • All these relate to 1 John 2:16 KJV…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Some results of our if onlys

  • Life-affecting mistakes
  • Marriage troubles
  • Leads to great losses
  • Depression
  • Distress
  • Fear
  • Feeling stupid, inadequate and unsure of oneself
  • Uncertainty about future decision-making
  • Arguments (spousal, boss, friends…)
  • Sickness, physically, mentally and spiritually
  • Continually dwelling on the past
  • Uncertainty about discussing some matters
  • Tricks of the mind
  • Not able to fully trust certain people
  • Crushed dreams
  • Knocked down feeling…

Relating it all to you
Remember… you’re the lifeblood of your church…you’re the channel that good news flows out from here to the listening world, not just the pastor.

So shape up, deal with the above by asking forgiveness, start afresh and trust God to help. The Holy Spirit is your great friend, comforter, strengthener and helper.

2Corinthians 5:17 Message reminds us that we’re a new creation: ‘…anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

Others have gone through (are going) similar bad times. What an incredible opportunity the new you now has to serve the Lord and reach others in trouble because of your experiences.

But how well you come across, how well you portray yourself, your Lord, his message (which is your message, your testimony) depends on you!

Paul gives good advice in Colossians 3: 17 Message: ‘Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever– be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.’ And in verses 23-24 he adds, ‘confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.’

The KJV says that ‘whatever you do, do it heartily.’ That is ergazomai …in a nutshell it speaks of ‘to toil out of your spirit.’ The Matthew Henry Commentary challenges ‘with diligence, not idly and slothfully. Do it cheerfully, not discontented at the providence of God which put you in that relation.’

For some of us the years ahead are limited but whatever our time on earth let’s not finish it stifled and hindered with ‘if onlys!’

Paul’s trinity response to a knock down feeling

  • Power! 2 Corinthians 4: 7-8, 16-18. Focus on Jesus’ inner power!
  • Prayer! Romans 8:26-28. Focus on the Spirit’s intercession for us!
  • Persuasion! Romans 8:37-39. Focus on God’s love!

The truth is that any ‘if only’ is not the end of the world… but you and other want to hear something more than that truth. We all need something that we can take on board. – so…

Dealing with the if onlys… some suggestions
We know from years of personal experience that life isn’t over when an if only raises its ugly head – but we still have to work it through. Here’s what we tell ourselves (Three simple ABCs).

A. The Rolling Stone Principle

  • It doesn’t gather any moss, yes, but think where’s it’s been! Every life experience, good or bad, can help us grow as individuals.
  • So after we have our personal pity session, we ask ourselves the big question: ‘What am I learning from this that I can grow from and become a wiser and stronger person?

B. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Principle

  • Yesterday is history
    We can’t change it, no matter how much we want. We’re not Captain Kirk, we can’t command, ‘Beam me down, Scotty’ to May 1995 the day before I made that stupid decision, remark, whatever… and I’ll change everything.’ No, we can’t change the past, but we can do something about the future!
  • Tomorrow is a mystery
    We don’t know what it’s going to bring. But one thing we do know…we’re going to be a better person from what we learned from our mistakes, from our if onlies. We’ll endeavour to think clearer, be kinder, speak more charitably and …whatever.
  • Today is a gift
    That’s why it’s called the present!
    Why should any of us wait until tomorrow to become a better person. Personally we take the gift of today and start right now and ask what did we learn from those things we can’t physically change that we can swing into practice right now?

C. The Refocus Principle

  • Experience tells us that if we keep dwelling on any if only, it will only get bigger in our minds and we’ll feel defeated. Therefore we need to refocus on something better or new ASAP!
  • So we make a conscious decision to move on and live our gift of life afresh. We personalise the line of an encouraging Frank Sinatra song: ‘So I take a deep breath, dust myself off, pick myself up, and I start all over again.’
  • We figure it this way: Why should we dwell on, and live in, the past? That’s where the darkness is, where death is, and we’re not going to dwell in the darkness. We prefer the light and we choose to live there.
  • So then the real secret is to focus on Jesus and what he has for our lives.

To quote that popular saying: ‘Works for us!’
But perhaps these ABCs seem all too simple.

Well, we can only say that it works for us as we trust our great and caring God! You see, we ourselves have discovered over many years that the simple solutions work so much better and quicker that involved, complicated and lengthy ones. And we encourage you to discover this truth too.

Yes, some solutions may have to be lengthy but let’s aim for the quickies. Right now our main point is this…Be encouraged to quickly find your own solution that works for you. Then you’ll be on top to help others find their way away from their crippling if onlys.

But remember…
We’re talking about wanting to change
and not sink like some human Titanic. And that’s something we need to fight for sometimes to win through. It means wanting to embrace change!

As Mark Twain said: ‘The only person that quickly embraces change is a wet baby!’ For you, for us, for others that we can help, change has got be a matter of ‘Fight or Flight.’

Let’s fight it not flight it! Let’s deal with those deceitful ‘if onlys’ today!


  1. As a resident of Belfast (born and bred as we say) the Titanic story is very close to my heart and I believe the Lord has spoken to many hearts through it. My grandmother, who is now with the Lord was an 8-year-old when the Titanic set sail. Thanks for the valuable and challenging insights into the ‘if onlys’ of life and faith and how we should seek to respond.

    1. Thanks, Brian, for your pithy comments. You’re one that has spotted and worked ‘If onlys’ of life – and church life for that matter. You’re quick to respond to the Lord’s guidance… you’re an overcomer, and have much wisdom gained from winning through.

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