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Finish the Sentence


And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of the wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together in Christ (by grace you have been saved)…"
Ephesians 2:1-5

A generation ago the George Arliss film, House of Rothschild, made major use of an incident that is said to have occurred at the end of the Napoleonic wars. In the dots and dashes of powerful light beams, a message was flashed across the English Channel that brought the dire news, "Wellington defeated." Among other consequences, a disastrous financial panic swept the British Board of Trade. No error or duplicity had been involved in the sending of the news, and yet the communication as received was wrong. As actually transmitted it said, "Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo." A proper communication had been sent, but fog sweeping in had obliterated all but the first two words, leaving a tragic hiatus.

Reflecting upon this story I am reminded of another tragic hiatus, and that is our failure many times to add "but God" to the end of our sentences. That glorious little phrase which reoccurs throughout Scripture has the ability to pivot us away from despair towards hope, away from weakness towards strength, and away from sin towards grace. "But" is a small word, yet its impact is large and sweeping. It has the power to sweep away everything that has gone before it. It introduces a stark contrast to the first half of the sentence. It can change everything for the good. Think about these sentences and the positive effect of the word "but" within them. "The helicopter went down, but no one was injured." "You have cancer, but it is easily treated." "Your daughter was in a car accident, but she's fine." This is a word that brings relief, hope, perspective, and glorious transformation. From a biblical perspective a classic case in point is Ephesians 2:1-5. Note the pivotal contrast in these selected phrases from this passage: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath . . . But God who is rich in mercy . . . made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."

Given that reality we must do a better job at adding this conjunction to our conversation. We must train ourselves to finish our sentences with the phrase "but God." Scripture does, and we must. The next time we are physically drained and emotionally discouraged we must remember, "but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psa. 73:26). The next time we find ourselves in the crosshairs of temptation, and satanic targeting we must remember "but the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3). The next time we feel the pressure to produce or are disconsolate at the lack of results from our efforts we must remember, "so then neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (1 Cor. 3:5-7). The next time we don't feel up to the job that has been assigned us we must remember, "but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5-6). The next time we find ourselves being chased by a posse of critics out to destroy us we must remember, "but you, O Lord, are a shield for me" (Psa. 3:3). Remember our joy, peace, and hope will always be incomplete if we do not finish our sentences with God.