June 11, 2004
Encouragement for Today
No Buts About It
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6
A thought occurred to me one day as I heard a young lady share her pressing prayer request. She carefully explained the uncertainty of her circumstances and concluded by saying, "I know God is able, but I just don't see a way out." I'm sure we've all heard prayer requests like this at one time or another. In fact, we've probably all HAD prayer requests like that. Sometimes our lives seem totally out of control! "I know God is in control, but why hasn't he given me an answer by now?" or "I know God has a plan, but I just can't find a solution" or "I know God will use all things for my good, but it's just so hard right now." Amidst all those cries for help, did you notice the common denominator between them? It is the word "But."
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I end a majority of my prayer requests with "But" statements. I am obedient in coming to the Lord with my requests, and I even seem to trust that He'll take care of me, so why do I keep adding on these "but" statements, and what do they say about my relationship with God? To better understand how this little word functions, I decided to see what the dictionary said about it. Here are some of the definitions I found:
-Contrary to expectation
-On the contrary
-Used to indicate an exception
Basically, this three letter word undermines the phrase preceding it by either canceling out the meaning or destroying any absolute quality it may have had. In plain English, to use a "but" statement is to make a contradiction. When we ascribe power and honor and glory and strength and ability to God followed by a "but" statement, we contradict ourselves. We imply that we don't really believe all those attributes to be true of Him. At the very moment we ask God for something, we immediately undermine his ability to answer it.
I decided to take this word study a little further and see what the Bible says about "but" statements. I was struck by God's sense of humor. I came upon a verse in James, chapter 1 which reads, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. BUT when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I think God was probably laughing as He gently spoke to my heart, "You like to use "but" statements? So do I!"
You see, the "but" statement used in this verse is appropriate because it refers to the inconsistency of human nature. We are fickle. We have doubts. There is no telling when we'll change our minds or what we'll do. However, God is none of those things. He is constant. He is absolute. His promises are sure. Unlike the definitions I found in the dictionary, there is no exception to God's character.
My tendency to end a prayer request with a "but" statement is indicative of my mindset. The moment the word "but" escapes my lips is the very moment doubt creeps into my heart. I have a lot of knowledge about God in my head, but the heart is another matter. If we have the urge to end one of our prayers requests with a "but" statement, we have to ask why we are going to God in the first place. We must trust that God's ways are perfect and His promises absolute. That is, in fact, the only hope we have in this world. I encourage you to remember that truth today. You may have doubts and anxieties plaguing your heart, BUT God is faithful, and His triumph over them is sure.
My prayer for today:
Heavenly Father, you are powerful, sovereign, faithful and merciful. There is no exception to your character. Please teach me to trust you in all I say and do. Please mold my words and my actions to match the truth of who You are. I desire to believe your promises in my heart, and I want my life to be proof of your faithfulness to everyone around me. Thank you for your patient faithfulness to me! For Your name's sake, I pray all these things, Amen.
Pay careful attention to the words you use in prayer. Notice if you tend to repeat the same words or phrases each time you pray, and try to think of new ways to express yourself to God. It is easy to fall into patterns of thought, or to simply copy the way in which we hear others pray, so be intentional about the words you choose when you come before the Lord. Also, think about the things you pray for, and what that indicates about your views of God, as well as your relationship to Him.
Has God been faithful to you in the past? Think of some particular examples.
What, then, might cause you to doubt His faithfulness to you in your present situations?
What areas of your life may not indicate to others around you that you trust in God?
Can you think of a particular phrase or repetitious pattern that you have fallen into when praying?
What are some new, creative ways you can approach God in prayer? He has an infinite number of attributes, so be sure to ask yourself this question often!
"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Mark 11:23
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:76
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. Psalm 145:13
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
Prayer That Changes Lives (Tape Set) by Mary Southerland