Bible Study Series: 'But God Bible Verses'
But God in the storms of life
by I Gordon
I recently finished the ‘big picture’ series on Genesis and Revelation and before taking on another larger series, I felt to do a few messages on a favourite little biblical phrase of mine. And it’s not just a favourite phrase of mine… no-siree! It is one that has been loved by countless saints over many millennia. It is the phrase ‘But God!’ Little did I know in the preparation of this study that I would have another ‘but God’ moment myself!... But more on that later!
This short series will explore this phrase through the real life experiences of various men and women in the Bible that had a ‘but God’ encounter. We’ll explore the context and different situations in which these saints encountered God and I am hopeful that you will be able to relate to one or more of these. I also want to include personal stories from my own life and those in my wider family as each family member has a ‘but God’ story, as I’m sure you will as well.
So what's in this study?
Well, we could call this ‘The What, When, Why, Who of But God experiences’. We’ll look at:
- What? What is a ‘but God’ experience? What does ‘but God’ actually mean?
- When? When do they occur?
- Why? Why, in our day, is it important to focus on and remember this?
- We might as well also add a Who… Who in the Bible experienced a ‘but God’ moment and who was the first? What does this ‘law of first mention’ teach us concerning our own life?
So this will be an introduction and overview. In the studies to come we will zero in on more specific cases throughout the Bible.
What is a 'But God' experience?
To answer this question it is probably best to see some people in the Bible who have experienced a ‘but God’ moment. We'll just look at some examples but it gives an overview which will help understand this phrase.
|Who experienced a 'But God' moment?
|Abraham and Sarah
Gen 20:1-3 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev... and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."
Act 7:9-10 Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles.
1Sa 23:14 David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
Act 3:14-15 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
|Paul & Epaphroditus
Php 2:25-27 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier... Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
Rom 5:6-8 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So what is a 'but God' moment? It is a time when God steps in and intervenes on our behalf. And if He didn't... well, let's just say that things probably wouldn't end well. They are the times when we say 'but for the grace of God, there go I!' 'I didn't see any way out... but God, praise His name, intervened.'
So when do 'but God' moments occur?
We see from the brief examples above that they generally occur in times of great difficulty. They are times when the Lord needs to step in. When Abraham, through fear, put his own wife Sarah in harms way... God stepped in and protected her (even if Abraham didn't!). After Joseph was rejected and sold as a slave by his own brothers, he experienced many but God moments. When David was at his wits end running and hiding in caves from a mad king with a spear and evil intent, he experienced many 'but God' moments. The Lord of life Himself was killed and placed in a grave... but God raised Him from the dead! In all of life's challenges we need to remember that
Christians aren’t kept from storms but they are kept in and through them.
So when do 'But God' moments occur? Well... let's just say you don’t normally experience a ‘but God’ moment when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and all is well with your world. ‘But God’ moments are those that require the Lord to step in. They come in the times when we have normally run out of options. Our cleverness has failed us. Our resources are depleted. Our health may be struggling. Our ability to wriggle out of a tight spot has let us down.
So think about it for a moment... Have you experienced some ‘but God’ moments in your life? When did they occur for you? Does the memory of what God did give you in the past give you strength for today and the future? If He showed His kindness and been faithful to you, will He not continue to do so?
Why, in our day, is it important to focus on and remember this?
Before looking at the first mention of 'but God' in the Bible, I briefly want to mention the 'why'. Why is it important to remember this?
If you are listening to the news (which is not always recommended!) you can't help but hear the phrase 'unprecedented'. You'll hear we are living in unprecedented times. We are living in trying times. Many churches around the world are currently closed and told that they are not allowed to meet. At the same time, mental health, depression and even suicide cases are increasing. Whether it is the lock-down steps countries are taking for this so-called pandemic (which isn't) or the lawlessness that is arising, or the natural disasters... or unemployment and financial pressures... it hasn't from a natural point of view been a good year! The Bible says that in the last days people's hearts will fail them for fear of what they see coming upon the earth (Luke 21:26) Now we aren't in those days yet but we do see the birth pains and signs increasing. And know for sure that there is a direct correlation between fear and what you are focused on. So what do we need?
We need hope. We need eyes that lock on our Lord. We need to dwell on the things which bring faith and hope... and that is the 'why' for this series on 'But God'. So that in increasingly trying times, our hope and light may increase and shine all the more.
Rom 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Heb 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
Who in the Bible first experienced a ‘But God’ moment
So given what we have seen about 'But God' moments, that they come during trying times that require God's action on our behalf, who and what would be a good candidate for the first 'but God' reference? What do you think?
You are on-to-it! Yes! How about Noah and the crazy days of the flood. Think on this verse for it is the first 'but God' in the Bible:
Gen 7:17-8:1 Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. (18) The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water... Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.
Wow! What a time that would have been! It seems fitting that the first 'But God' mentioned in the Bible comes in the face of a great storm and trial over the whole earth. Yet one where God and God alone brings the righteous through. But can you imagine what it would have been like watching from the ark? Waters pour down from above. At the same time the fountains of the great deep beneath the earth burst open (Gen 7:11). A storm above, chaos and floods below. And there you are getting rocked every which way in the ark by the winds and waves. Can you imagine looking out when every piece of land is covered and all that remains is sea for as far as the eye can see. Being human you start to think to yourself that we have no hope! But being a believer, you think 'but God! God has promised and He will look after me!'
I mentioned at the start that during the preparation of this study I had my own 'but God' moment. My brother and I were mountain biking at a nearby, world renowned bike park at the Redwoods, Rotorua. We had been riding for a few hours and were getting ready to start heading back to the car as we rode a downhill track in the outback. About half-way down the track Fraser (my brother) yelled out that it was hard to see. Literally about 2 seconds later, as I went around a corner, my front wheel hit something on the track which turned it sharply sideways. Physics took over. Going fast around a corner with handle bars at a right angle to the bike, the back wheel reared up and catapulted me off over the front. Flying through the air, with my body sideways, I hit the trunk of a large solid pine tree on my upper back. I literally just fell to the ground wondering if this was the end. My brother, who saw it all, rushed over asking if I could feel my toes as I lay motionless on the ground yelling in pain and shock. He would later say that the only way he could describe the force would have been if someone had swung a sledge hammer into my back.
Could I feel my toes? As I did a quick survey, yes, I had feeling there. And I knew I had feeling in my back because it was crying out at me. To cut a long story short, being out in the whops I had to walk out of the forest (very slowly) for about 30-40 minutes before reaching a rescue emergency vehicle that had been called. At hospital the xray established that I had three broken ribs... 1 in the back and 2 in the front. I have since learned how every movement puts pressure on broken ribs! Getting in and out of bed is hard. Whatever position I first lie down in bed in is how I remain for the whole night cos I can't move! Putting socks on is hard. Even brushing my teeth can bring pain! But at the time of writing it is now two weeks on and things are definitely getting better which I am very grateful to God for!
So why is this a but God experience you ask? Every time I go mountain biking I pray before hand asking for protection for there are always inherent risks, especially in downhill riding. So no, this is not the full 'Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego' story where not a hair of their head was singed by the fire (Dan 3:27). Nope. I've got three broken ribs and pain for a few weeks. Yet if you had seen the crash you would know how blessed I have been. I feel very thankful. Anything, but God, literally could have happened. If I had flown and hit head first it would have been really bad. If I had struck my neck, or directly on the spine the force would have been enough to paralyze... or worse. At the crash my brother actually lifted up my shirt expecting to see bones sticking out... yet there was nothing. And to this day, strangely enough, I haven't even had a bruise or mark on my back. But yes, I've got three broken bones inside that let me know about it at regular intervals throughout the day and night. But all of that will mend. I believe that God overrules and has the last say in all the events of His children's lives. I also believe, though we go through difficult trials at times, when we get to be with Him and see all the things that He saved us from and prevented from happening, we will be amazed! 'But God'!
A wee detour on the storms of life
So going back to the first 'But God' moment in the Bible, we see it occurred in the life of Noah during the biggest storm this world has ever seen. There was the flood and devastation... but God remembered Noah! Looking at some of the scriptures surrounding storms in the Bible we can grasp some of the reasons for and outcomes from the storms that God allows in our lives. We also see the 'but God' times as well. Check out the following:
Job 37:9-13 "Out of the south comes the storm, And out of the north the cold. (10) "From the breath of God ice is made, And the expanse of the waters is frozen. (11) "Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning. (12) "It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, That it may do whatever He commands it On the face of the inhabited earth. (13) "Whether for correction, or for His world, Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.
|God's control and use of storms
God guides the storms as Elihu said to Job. This is both natural and spiritual storms. He has a purpose for them and they follow His command. The natural storms were a perfect illustration for the storm Job was facing in His day. Some are for correction and some lovingkindess. For His own there are blessings in storms!
Job 40:6 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said...
|God often speaks in the storm
The second point is a simple one. God spoke to Job out of the storm. God often speaks to us in the storm. That has been my experience. Have you experienced that?
Isa 54:11-12 "O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. (12) "Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones.
|Storms can solidify our foundation
A solid foundation is established through storms. It causes trees to establish stronger root systems and it causes men to make sure they are building on the right foundation. And note that this scripture speaks of precious jewels that come out of storms. This reminds us of the eternal rewards that are ours when His life is established and seen in ours (1 Cor 3:12-13)
Mat 8:24-26 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" He *said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.
|Our response? Resting in the storm
Jesus could rest in the midst of the storm and asks us to do the same! How? Because He has control over the storms and can calm the waters and wind. Remember that!
Act 27:18-19 The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; (19) and on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.
|An outcome - Storms lead to unneeded cargo being jettisoned!
We all have things that weigh us down in this Christian race but there is nothing like a storm to get us to reconsider that which is important in life! And if that means throwing some unneeded 'stuff' overboard then great!
Psa 107:23-31 Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; (24) They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. (25) For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. (26) They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. (27) They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits' end. (28) Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. (29) He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. (30) Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men!
|The overall purpose for storms
This is a wonderful passage packed with insight. It speaks of those who see the storms of God, the wind and the waves roaring and how coming to their wits end, leading them to call out to God. This is obviously the main purpose for each storm. And what do they find? They experience a 'but God' moment where He stills the storm and brings them through, leading them to the desired haven. God has a desired haven for us but often it's location is through a storm. And the haven is all that much better having passed through a storm! Don't fear that. Trust and gives thanks.
Well, that is enough for an intro to this topic. We've seen that God is in control and we need to remember that He not only has a purpose in allowing storms, but that He is the One that can calm them. Also remember, as you look upon the strange things happening on this planet, that there is a bigger picture 'but God' happening here too! As Noah looked out initially from the Ark he saw the devastation of the earth and all the destruction that the judgement brought. All looked lost. But God remembered Noah and through it all, as the waters rolled back, a new world appeared. As the waters rolled back and the sun shone again over dry land, the thought of a new life once again rose in the heart of Noah.
So shall it be for the believer. The difficulties and birth pains occurring on this world point to a coming far greater 'but God' reality - the birth of a new world ruled by the King of kings. So take heart. Be encouraged. Thank God in all things as I do right now.