Often, as believers and followers of Jesus, we can feel defeated. We pray, we stand in faith, we believe, and then victory seems to be no where in sight. You may pray for and share the gospel with someone countless times, and it may look as though they will never, ever give their heart to Jesus. It may be tempting to throw in the towel. To give up hope.
No, that’s not a typo.
Repeat after me, “But God.”
Oftentimes in the Bible we see these two short words preceding a great victory. This little phrase, “but God,” occurs 60 times in the New International Version of the Bible. The late pastor and tremendous Bible teacher Ray C. Stedman once wrote regarding this. He said,
“If you want a wonderful experience, take your New Testament and use a concordance to look up the two little words. “but God.” See how many times human resources have been brought to an utter end; despair has gripped the heart and pessimism and gloom has settled upon a people; and there is nothing that can be done. Then see how the Spirit of God writes in luminous letters, but God, and the whole situation changes into victory.”
So, one of the instances of this phrase is in Psalm 74:8-13. The psalmist spoke of a terrible time in Israel’s history where their enemies were seemingly victorious over them. He wrote that these enemies of God burned His sanctuary to the ground – in fact, “every place where God was worshipped in the land” was burned, according to verse 8. Sadly, God’s people were given no signs from Him, and there were no prophets left. No one knew how long this trial would last, how how long their foes would mock and revile God.
“But God is my King from long ago; He brings salvation on the earth.” (Psalm 74:12)
The psalmist then told of God’s awesome power to save. However powerful their foes may have seemed, the psalmist acknowledged that God was the One who split the sea and crushed the head of Leviathan (a monstrous sea creature) and opened up streams and rivers. The day and night belong to Him. He “set all the boundaries of the earth” (verse 17). The psalmist asked God to remember His covenant and appealed to His great mercy, and we know from reading the Old Testament that the Lord was merciful to His people and showed up mightily on their behalf time and time again.
Another place that “but God” appears in the Bible is in Acts 2:22-24. At the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon a group of believers who were gathered in Jerusalem. As a result, they began speaking in tongues, and some of the God-fearing Jews among them thought they were drunk. Then Peter stood up with the other eleven disciples and addressed the crowd. He said,
Acts 2:22-24 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (NIV)
Light came into the world (John 3:19), and people tried to stomp out that Light. It almost looked as though they were successful, but God had a different plan. But God stepped in. But God raised Jesus from the dead, and through that extraordinary miracle, He made a way for everyone who believes in His Son to also be raised from the dead and have everlasting life.
That same power brings salvation to the world. Even in the most hopeless situations, the Lord God Almighty can make a way when there seems to be no way.
Remember the two words that change everything in an instant: “but God.”