Some buts we hardly notice. Some are the size of an 800-pound gorilla in the room. Others remain the same size no matter what we do. Some buts change from time to time. Many of our buts never go away.
In his book, The Rest of the Gospel, author Dan Stone writes a chapter called, “The Holy But”. Stone writes that the Holy But originated in the Garden of Gasthemene, “Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, ΒUT as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus was suffering and grieving about what He was about to do. His circumstances were leading Him to the cross to die a painful, bloody, lonely death. He was in agony because for the first time in eternity, Christ would be separated from God long enough to become sin for us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In spite of the horrible agony He was facing, and despite grief that caused Him to sweat drops of blood, Jesus lived behind the Holy But. “Yet not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus put His life in the hands of His Heavenly Father. He focused on His Father, not His circumstances. Jesus chose God’s will over His own.
How about you? How big is the but you live behind? Here’s some statements from some folks who live behind their buts:
- I sure do like our minister, but his sermons are too long.
- I’d like to volunteer in the nursery, but Sunday’s my only day off.
- My neighbor wants to start going to church, but I’m afraid to talk to him about Jesus.
- We’d like to tithe, but we barely make enough money to pay the bills.
For the folks who don’t know their true identity in Christ, some of them live behind buts like these:
- I know Jesus loves me, but you don’t know what I’ve done.
- The Bible says I’m a new creation, but I don’t feel like one.
- The Bible says Jesus freed me from sin, but I still sin sometimes.
- I believe in Jesus, but I don’t have to go to church to prove it.
- I know I need to forgive my sister, but I just can’t.
- I know I need to spend time each day in prayer, but I just don’t have the time.
- The Bible tells me I’m fully accepted by God, but I don’t feel accepted.
- All that forgiveness and grace stuff may work for some people, but not for me.
The Apostle Paul lived after his but as well. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 Paul says,
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.”
The prophet Habakkuk lived behind his own but in his Old Testament book:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet (but) I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Both Paul and Habakkuk faced horrible, seemingly hopeless circumstances, but they chose to live behind their buts and above their circumstances.
“Paul was living after the but. He put the trouble in front of the but and God, or God’s perspective, after the but. Did that change the fact that he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down? Not at all. He continued to experience those things. But where was he now taking his life from? ‘..the life of Jesus…’ He shifted within himself.
Just because we know the truth and live from the truth doesn’t mean the external situation is going to change. But we are changed! The holy but moves us from the circumstance to the solution, and that solution is a Person. It moves you from without (from the flesh and our own wills) to within (to trust God and the Holy Spirit to lead us), the outer to the inner, the temporal to the eternal.”¹
Let’s mention just a few of the things the Bible says about us if we’re born-from-above believers: The Bible says:
- we are free from the law of sin and death
- we are sanctified and made fully acceptable by God
- we are righteous and holy in Christ
- we are a new creation
- we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ
- we are adopted as children of God
- God is our Everlasting Father
- we are totally forgiven of our past sins, current sins and all the sins we will ever commit
- we are God’s workmanship
- we can come before the throne of God in complete freedom and confidence
- we have eternal life in Christ
- God will never leave us or forsake us (yes, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been)
- No one will ever snatch you out of God’s loving arms
- we are justified (declared “not guilt” of sin through Jesus Christ)
Let me ask you: Are you going to believe what the Bible says about you? Or are you going to throw your but in that list somewhere?
I say this in the most loving way I know how: get off your buts.
Isn’t it time we (I’m writing to myself here to) started living the lives God intended, as totally loved, totally accepted, children of the eternal God? Let’s start putting our circumstances before our “buts” and our faith (and God’s truth about us) behind them.
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¹The Rests of the Gospel, by Dan Stone and Greg Smith; © 2000 by One Press, Richardson, Texas; pg.186. Parentheses in this blog are mine.