You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. Genesis 50:20 (NCV)
One of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater was the “Sound of Music.” In that movie, Julie Andrews sang the song “My Favorite Things.” The favorite things enumerated in the song are not extravagant, lofty, or expensive items but relatively simple things like “raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens,” and so on.
Likewise, my favorite words may not be the great words of the Bible like faith, hope, or love, but instead, I am fascinated by the small words. These words are conjunctions or transitions which alter the course of lives, along with their hopes and dreams. Words like “but,” “nevertheless,” or “therefore” are words of such great magnitude and significance yet easily overlooked.
For example, think about all the times in Scripture the phrase “but God” is found. In Genesis, Joseph’s brothers feared retribution after Jacob died because of what they had done to him. Joseph reassured them that even though they had intended evil, God intervened, saving the lives of many people.
Of course, words with great theological and spiritual significance are essential, but we must not overlook the “little words” because they have the power to alter the course of history.
We should have suffered God’s anger because we were sinful by nature. We were the same as all other people. But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Ephesians 2:3–4 (NCV)
It is such a small, even seemingly insignificant word, yet this 3-letter word can change our course and trajectory. Before coming to Christ, our path was away from God, and we were destined for destruction. The phrase “but God” changes everything. However, this phrase can have both positive and negative applications.
It is much better when Scripture says, “But God,” because it often sounds like an excuse when a man says it. For example, when called by God, Moses said: “But God, I don’t speak very well.” Or Jeremiah pleading, “But God, I am just a child.” I’m sure that each one of us has at times uttered, “But God,” followed by an excuse, but when we fully understand that when God appears on the scene, he changes the direction and course of our lives and, in turn, history, even of entire nations.
One of my favorite interventions and change of trajectories is recorded in John 10:10: “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” On our own and in our own strength, we are no match for the enemy’s power, but Jesus came with the purpose of giving us life in abundance. We were on a path to destruction, but for us, Jesus changed everything.
A Golden Hinge
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
An extraordinary time in my life was when my grandfather, Ted Lanes, led weekly family Bible studies at my mom and dad’s house. At the time, our children were between 3 and 12 years of age, and sometimes 25 or 30 family members were present. It is a memory I cherish, but I believe it will continue to yield fruit in the years ahead.
The format of these Bible studies was not always the same. Sometimes we would go through a book of the Bible or a topical study on the Holy Spirit, but it was always centered on God’s word. When we would come across a word like “but,” “nevertheless,” but most often, the word “therefore,” grandfather would pause and say something like this, “When you see the word therefore, you should ask yourself why it is there for?” While grammatically awkward, he made a powerful point.
He referred to words like this as “Golden Hinges.” He taught us to pay close attention to these little words. When reading through the book of Hebrews during these Bible studies, the word “therefore” occurs 28 times In the NJKV. If grandpa didn’t bring attention to each one, eventually someone would say, “What is it there for, great grandpa?” For me, these are precious memories, and I believe the seeds that were planted will bring a complete harvest.
A Few of My Favorite Words
Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. John 6:63 (MSG)
The context of Jesus’s words followed some challenging teaching that caused many of his followers to depart. The words of the Bible may, at times, comfort us, but they can also challenge us. God’s words can guide us, but they will also correct us.
The theologically impressive words may garner a lot of attention, but the conjunctions are important as well. We could make an analogy between seemingly important and less significant words with Paul’s illustration of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 1 Corinthians 12:22 (NLT)
Although the words that God speaks to us may at times be challenging to receive, let us take our stand in agreement with Peter when he said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68–69 (NIV)
Photo by icon0.com: