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.
Although Paul’s letter was written specifically to both Jewish and Gentile believers in Ephesus, it is pretty easy for me to read it as though I am the intended recipient. It’s not a stretch for me to assume that when Paul writes “you” he is referring specifically to me. When I do so, I can acknowledge that I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once lived. I did indeed follow the course of this world, seeking to carry out the desires of my body and mind. And consequently, I was a child of wrath. “But God…”.
But God is a common theme throughout all of scripture – from beginning to end.
In the beginning, the earth was void and without form but God spoke creation into existence. After they sinned, Adam and Eve hid in shame but God pursued them, called them to Himself, and provided for their need. After Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb it looked like all hope was lost but God raised Him on the third day. After revealing Himself to many and giving final instructions to His disciples, Jesus ascended into Heaven but God sent the promised Holy Spirit to lead and guide His people into all truth and to empower them to build His church and to proclaim the good news and bring Him glory on the earth.
But God. What a beautiful and unexpected transition; both in Paul’s letter and in my own life. I was a child of wrath but God, in His rich mercy, greatly loved me first. I was living my life in opposition to Him but God humbled me and softened my heart. I was blind but God, in His mercy, drew me to Himself and gave me eyes to see and ears to hear. I was dead in my trespasses but God extended His grace and forgiveness to me and raised me up and made me alive.
It’s easy to think that “the story” is about us. It’s really not. It’s all about Him. It’s all about the things that happen after “but God”.
I encourage you to think about all of the “but God” promises and truths that are appropriate for your particular context. For example, perhaps you feel as though you are all alone or that God has forgotten about you in your present circumstances. But God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Or, maybe you are in a situation where you are being tempted and you are worried that you will not be able to resist much longer. But God has promised that you shall never be tempted beyond your ability and will always provide a way of escape and the strength to endure it.
But God. It’s not the words themselves that are powerful. It’s the God of whom they speak that is so very powerful. I encourage you this week that every time you are tempted to focus on your circumstances or think about your own fears or weakness, consider appending a final thought that begins with the words, “but God…”.