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"Say Never to Never"

In this age of political correctness we say that you can never say “this” or never say “that.” I would argue that we should consider never use the word “never” with respect to our lives. How often do we say, "I will never do that" or "I will never say that"? I am sure you’ve heard some man say something like, "Hell will freeze over before I let that woman tell me what to do! That will never happen!” Or a woman who said something like "He'll never bring that ugly old recliner in my house!" And what about our response to something we think is outrageous: "He did what? I would never do that!" Such ironclad stances expose a deluded worldview. We think we’re the masters of our own destiny, the captains of our souls! However, of bit of reflection should help us see that we’re not really in charge. And, therefore, in the name of accuracy perhaps we should remove "I will never..." from our vocabulary.

In America we pride ourselves on being "rugged individuals" (as Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying). During the American Revolution our motto was "Don't tread on me." I think the modern day equivalent is "Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it." We are so self-reliant and, by golly, if we say we don't want to do something, we mean it! However, God has a way of wiping the smug look off our arrogant little faces. Remember mighty King Nebuchadnezzar? He learned this lesson the hard way. He haughtily sang his own praises. He proclaimed that he was the one who built the mighty Babylonian empire and how, by his own might, he brought about the subjugation of the known world. But before this prideful king could finish his sentence, the Lord turned him into a crazy man. He lived as an animal for seven years. At the end of the seven years Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven and his sanity was restored. He finally realized it was the Lord who gave him all that he had. While Nebuchadnezzar didn’t necessarily say he would never do something, like all of us are tempted to do, he thought he determined his fate.

Like many others, I too have learned this lesson the hardway. When my lovely wife were first married, we heard of several people who had to move in with their parents. And, of course, being the prideful, puffed up man that I was I blurted out, "I'll never do that!" We had lived with my Mother in Law for the first few months of our marriage but we had finally gotten to the point where we were financially self-sufficient. We moved into our very own rent house. Yeah, that’s right … we were living the dream! I thought those who moved back in with their parents were poor, pitiful souls that couldn’t take care of themselves. However, over the next few months several events took place that finally culminated in the loss of my job (i.e., my independence). We then had no choice but to move in with my parents. Since then I have had to go through things that I thought I would never have to experience.

In my life, I’ve often said I would not do something. But many times the Lord has humbled me and I ended up having to do that very thing. James 4:13-15 provides excellent insight in regards to this very issue.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)

We’re constantly tempted to live our lives as if we are completely in control. Too often we act if we determine what or will not occur in the future. Wouldn’t it be wise to replace "never" with "if the Lord wills"?

I believe the Apostle Peter is himself a good object lesson for why you should probably ban the “n” word from your vocabulary. Peter was the most confident of the Apostles. He went as far as to say, “Hey Jesus, maybe these other bozos may leave you high and dry, but not me!” (my own paraphrase). But what doomed him is his bold insistence that he would never leave Jesus. The Lord replied, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” Peter, even more emphatically than before exclaimed “never!” He added that he was ready to die with Jesus if necessary.

Well we all know what happened. At first it seemed as if he would make good on his promise. However, after acting like a foolish macho man and chopping off a man’s ear, Jesus rebuked him. He ran off like a coward. He deserted Jesus despite his insistence that he would never do such a thing. While this was bad enough, Jesus wasn’t through teaching Peter this lesson. Peter, being the curious fellow that he was, followed the mob that apprehended Jesus to see what they were going to do with his Master. As he stood outside in the courtyard, a young girl identified him as a follower of Jesus. He adamantly denied it. Then, another girl made the same claim. Once again, Peter denied knowing Jesus. Finally, some men approached and told him that his Galilean accent gave him away and that he must be a follower of Jesus. Here Peter made his most emphatic denial. He cursed and said something like, “May God strike me dead if I am lying, I don’t know the man!” Suddenly the rooster crowed. At that very moment, Jesus, being in a room visible from the courtyard, looked straight at him. Peter left and began to weep bitterly. May it not take that kind of lesson for us to learn

God not only can but also will conform us to the image of Christ; even if it means taking everything from us or making us do what we said we would never do. So take it from Peter and me, learn your lesson the easy way, that is, if the Lord wills!

- Jordan McGehee