Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
There are two little words in the English language that we use every day: “And” & “But.” For those of us who aren’t English majors these particular two are known as conjunctions. They may be small but conjunctions are extremely important for constructing sentences. In fact, the original title of this blog was “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?” Yeah, now that song from the 70’s is stuck in some of your heads. But this isn’t an English lesson. It’s a piece about life, faith and living according to God’s vision. But what could these two little conjunctions possibly have to do with that?Think about it for a minute. First, let’s just ask the question, Which word would you rather hear in conversation, “but” or “and?” Most people would say, “and” because “and” seems positive. It seems like an “add on.” You get more with “and.”
- Your boss says, “John you’re getting a raise and a company car.” That sounds good. We like that.
- Your daughter says, “Daddy I really love Mommy…….and I love you too!” Awwwwww that feels right.
- Your mechanic says, “We called the warranty company and they cover the transmission.” Yes! So “and” is good. We like “and.”
In contrast, “but” can be a real downer. “But” can be so negative. “But” can be scary.
- The Hiring Manger says, “We really like your resume and you have a lot of good experience but…..
- She said, “I appreciate you asking me out and I really think you’re a nice guy but…..
- Your doctor says, “We really thought the cancer had not spread but…..
So “but” is a take away not an add on. That makes “and” better than “but.” Right? Not always. What got me thinking about this was reading through Chapter 18 of The Story when I came to the narrative where Daniel is called upon to identify and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The encounter is recorded on page 252 of The Story and Daniel 2 of your copy of the Scriptures.
If you remember the narrative, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and threatens all of the wise men of Babylon with death if they can’t both tell him his dream and interpret it. The wise men respond with disbelief in how impossible his demand is but they suffer his wrath anyway. Now before the executioners reach Daniel’s door he goes to the King. And there he stands before the most powerful ruler in the world. Nebuchadnezzar calls Daniel out. “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
Words matter in this moment. And the words Daniel speaks will mean either life or death.
Like the other wise men, Daniel responds to the incredulity of the King’s demand. But with deep humility and courageous faith he offers, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about……” Oh no, Daniel wrong answer! You’re a dead man! Suddenly an unlikely conjunction comes to the rescue. “But there is a God in heaven.” Daniel goes on to tell the king what God had revealed to him and the rest is history. What we learn here is that “but” is better than “and” whenever God get’s involved.
Life is full of circumstances and encounters that seem like they are going to turn out for the worse. But then God shows up and things move in a different direction. I recently watched a friend suffer a life threatening collapse. It was touch and go for several days. But God answered prayer and she survived and is recovering.
“But” is the Scriptures’ way of reminding us that we are not on our own, that what seems impossible to us is not impossible with God and that we are never truly without hope.
- The waters flooded the earth: “But God remembered Noah.” (Genesis 8:1)
- “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:16)
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
“But” is always an “add on” when God is involved. He can tip everything toward the good. So let’s look for the “but God’s” in our lives in the midst of a world that only wants to hear “and.” Our life and hope may depend on it.