When I was in paralegal school we learned about the “but- for test”. To put it simply, when prosecuting a case, the attorney must show that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the defendant’s actions. In other words, “but-for” the defendant doing X this wouldn’t have happened.
For example, Bob runs a red light and hits Jane’s car. “But-for” Bob running the red light the accident wouldn’t have happened.
Actions have consequences. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.
I often think of this when reading the Bible-
- “But-for” Noah building a boat his family wouldn’t have been saved from the flood.
- “But-for” David falling to temptation with Bathsheba, Uriah wouldn’t have been on the front lines of battle. “But-for” Uriah being on the front lines of battle, he would not have been killed.
- “But-for” Abraham sleeping with Hagar, Ishmael wouldn’t have been conceived. I could take this one really far…. all the way up to the war in present day Israel!
The “but-for” principle is very applicable to present day Christians as well:
- “But-for” Jesus dying on that cross, our past, present, and future sins would not all be forgiven.
- “But-for” God’s mercy and grace, we would still be lost without hope.
The Bible uses a similar phrase “but God” over and over again to explain what often appeared to be hopeless situations.
- “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
- “When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.” Acts 13:29-30 (NIV)
- “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)
I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but if your situation looks bleak, just remember that our circumstances DO NOT get the last word.
The enemy DOES NOT get the last word.
Death and disease DO NOT get the last word.
Because there is always, always a BUT GOD!