Bread – But

January 27, 2012

Readings for Friday, January 27, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 17:15-27; Heb. 10:11-25; John 6:1-15; Psalms 40, 51, 54


“But, …” “But” is one of the most powerful words in the English language because it introduces reasons to think critically about what action is being proposed. “But” is also one of the weakest words in the English language because it brings in worry, distraction, diversion, and subtraction. “But” does not support; it negates. “But” is always our reason for not doing something or doing something only half-heartedly.

Where does the “but” come from? It comes from us, it comes from our knowledge and experience with the human condition and with life, it comes from our “education,” it comes from the world. “But” is human reason and wisdom run amuck. “But” is our contribution.

Trying to negotiate the “buts” of the world is what drives decision-making and achievement to mediocrity. It is because of the “buts” of the world that we become couch potatoes. It is because of the “buts” of the world that we retreat from engagement, we retreat from love, we retreat from truth, we retreat from conflict, we retreat from growth, and in the end we retreat from life. It is the ‘buts” of the world which ultimately imprison us in the “paralysis of analysis.”

Ask yourself, why do we not believe God? Why do we not believe in His promises? Why do we not believe He can and does deliver in small ways and large, every minute of every day, grace, love, power, purpose, strength, and life to us, through us, and into us? I daresay it is because, when we hear God’s promise, we are so ready to always add in our mind “but, ….”

Every one of today’s readings from Scripture has within it testimony about people who are diminishing God’s power in their lives by following each promise with a “but…”

In Psalm 40, David starts off with these strong words of faith – “I waited patiently for the Lord…He lifted me out of the slimy pit…” Ps. 40:1-2 In the middle of the Psalm, however, he says “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see…Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord come quickly to help me…” Ps. 40:12-13. Translation – “You help me in times of trouble, but [not today? not always? not in my present circumstances? not in these really tough times?]” You are, but …

In Genesis, God promises Abram that Sarai (now Sarah) will be the mother of nations. Gen. 16:16 Abraham says essentially to himself, laughing under his breath, “That’s nice, but ‘will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?’” Gen. 16:17 God promises and man says, “Yes, but …”

In Hebrews, the writer exhorts his readers, Christians, to “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Heb. 10:23 Why the need for this statement if we believe God? The need is obvious because then as now Christians are prone to insert their weaknesses into God’s promises, saying to themselves “I believe, but …” or “God’s promises are true, but …” or “I have hope, but …”

Finally, in John we have a tremendous illustration of “but” in operation. Christ is speaking to the crowd and it is late. Everyone needs dinner, so Jesus asks His disciples where can they get dinner. To us who are far off and have read the end of the story, the answer is obvious – “Well, you, O Lord can and do provide us everything we need. You give it to us.” However, to those people on the scene, who know Jesus personally and who have seen His miracles first hand – their immediate reaction is the same ours would have been – it is to say “but.” One disciple says, “but there is no money.” Another disciple says, a little more positive, says “well we have enough food here to feed a couple of folks but not so much to feed everyone” (asking “but how far will they go among so many?”) John 6:9 Jesus of course blesses what little there is, turns it into much, and feeds everyone there. What though do you think will happen the next time the disciples see the same situation? “Yeah, Jesus did it last time, but …”

We say we believe in an all-powerful God, but … We say we believe in miracles, but… We say we believe that God lives up to His promises, but … We say that Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient, but …. We say all kinds of things, but ….

In the statement, “I believe in X, but …,” which part of the statement comes closer to representing our true beliefs? Is it the statement which comes before the comma, “I believe in X,” or is it the statement which comes after the comma, “but …” I assert that it is the “but” part of the sentence which tells us what we really think, what we really believe.

Why do we have such weak faith? Why do Christians exhibit such weak love? Why are Christians almost indistinguishable in their habits from non-Christians? My suggestion is that it is partly, if not totally, because we live in the “but” part of the sentence and not in the “believe” part.

Want to begin recovering the strength of your faith, of your walk with Lord, of your growth in holiness and righteousness all of the days of your life? Stop the “but.” Cut it out of your vocabulary. Cut it out of your life. Kill the “but.”

And live in victory.


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