No However

The story goes that a British pastor was invited to preach this side of the Atlantic. His text was 2 Kings 5:1: “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” The British pastor announced that he was going to preach on just one word from the verse—the word “but.” “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.”

The pastor wanted to communicate that all of us have things that holds us back; that all of us have weaknesses and limitations to overcome. As he began, he announced he had four points. It became clear that in England, the word “but” is strictly a conjunction and not anatomy (“butt”).

He announced his four points from the pulpit. The giggles revealed the congregation was hearing a double “t” and not the single “t” the pastor was thinking: (1) “Each of us has our own ‘butt’; (2) Each of our ‘butts’ is different; (3) We can’t see our ‘butt’ but others can; and (4) What are you going to do about your ‘butt’?”

I remembered this story and the significance one word can have when I was reading 1 Kings; in particular, the beginning chapters concerning the accession of King Solomon. Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, and rule were legendary: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (4:29). And then chapters follow about the construction of the temple and the palace; their beauty and splendor such that even our modern eyes would be amazed. Solomon’s prayer of dedication in chapter 8 is a model prayer and God favorably responds in chapter 9 with the same promise He gave David years before: “You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.” Chapter 10 captures Solomon’s life to this point: “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart” (10:23-24). Truly an amazing, blessed, and godly man!

But then a single word is introduced in the next chapter (11:1) that changes everything. “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women…” Spiritual tragedy results: “As King Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (11:4).

Solomon got so much right, but there was a “however” that changed his story. He won’t finish well and his throne will not pass smoothly to his heir—there will be a divided kingdom. He leaves us wondering what could have been; his life and ministry so different had there been no “however.”

What about us? There always is danger of a “however.” And lest we forget, Solomon wasn’t blindsided. God had told His people for centuries: “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods” (11:2). Likewise, we know the commands; we also know where we are vulnerable.

How important is it that no “however” be in our story? Borrowing from the pastor across the sea: “What are you going to do about you’re ‘however’?” Let’s not have one.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

February 14, 2013

3 comments

  1. Thank you for posting.

    I am reminded about one ‘but’ being one of my favorite conjunctions from Ephesians 2:

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, 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 — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [ESV]

    Praise God for his grace. And may he keep us from a selfish, foolish ‘however’ in the story of our life of faith.

  2. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5.

  3. Wow, this one is hitting close to home, Pastor. This reminds me, again, to watch my spiritual walk, closely. I want to “finish well”!! It would be sooooo good to hear the Lord some day say, “well done good and faithful servant”. It will take much focus and good teaching, which I am blessed to have.

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