Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Ever Say "Never"

 I remember our daughter's baby shower quite well.  She had instructed me and others that she did not want any pink items or lots of ruffles for her little girl.  We followed those instructions, but something happened as time went on.  After her daughter Rilyn was born, we began to see her wearing pink with lots of ruffles, bows, and adorable shoes to match.  This little girl was quite feminine.  What happened to all the anti-pink, ruffles and bows talk we heard?  I think it went the way so many things do when we make an absolute statement about what we will NEVER do.
     When I consider my own life, I remember a number of statements I made with an air of certainty like:  "I never want to marry someone from Defiance, Ohio "(they were our football rivals in high school).   "I never want to move away from my hometown of Napoleon, Ohio" or "I will never eat tomatoes and enjoy it."  To make a long story short - I married a wonderful man from Defiance, Ohio, we moved to Florida 35 years ago, and I enjoy eating tomatoes!  See what I mean?  We put ourselves out on a limb every time we make a vow that we will never do this thing or that.  This is one reason the Bible tells us not to swear by heaven or earth concerning any matter in James 5:12:  "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."  This verse tells us what the danger is in making absolute statements.  If we violate what we make an oath on, we are being hypocritical and possibly even sinning.
     Unfortunately Peter fell into this trap.  Of course, Peter was always saying something dramatic, and often missing the mark.  However, on this one occasion, he really over estimated his ability to avoid temptation and fell into a trap of his own making.
     Following the "Last Supper" with his disciples, Jesus told them what would happen.  In Matthew 26:31, Jesus said:  "...You will all fall away because of me this night.  For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'"  Then, in verse 33, we read Peter's absolute statement:  "Peter answered Him, 'Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away.'"  To this pronouncement, Jesus answered:  "....Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times" (verse 34b).  Still, Peter continued to push his statement of loyalty by saying once more:  "'...Even if I must die with You, I will not deny you!' And all the disciples said the same" (verse 35).
     Without a doubt, Peter and the other disciples desired to stay loyal to their Lord.  However, they
did not realize the weakness of their flesh.  Indeed, they scattered after the arrest of Jesus.  Peter went to the courtyard to follow the Lord and see what would happen.  When some recognized him as one of the disciples, they asked him if he had been with Jesus.  Three times he denied knowing Jesus.  Then, he remembered what the Lord had told him and in verse 75b, we read:  "And he went out and wept bitterly."  Peter realized his sin.  At a later time, we know that the Lord restored him as He can also restore us when we fall into sin.  However, the lesson for us is that we must be careful what kinds of statements we make in life.  Will we be prideful like Peter and promise something we cannot deliver or will we be humble and acknowledge  that we will remain faithful with God's help?
     Certainly vowing that we are never going to eat something or dress in a certain way do not rise to the level of Peter's denial, but looking at this story serves an important purpose to warn us against making an absolute statement that we, in our own strength, cannot keep.  Instead of making a rash vow, we would be better off to say we prefer one thing over another and leave it at that.  Or as James says  "let your yes be yes and your no be no".
     Our daughter now delights in all the pretty dresses and frills that come with being the mother of a pretty little girl even as I did when she was little.  Lets face it, we all can change our minds given time and experience.  Likewise, we live under God's sovereign purpose and will for our lives.  We live to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  That's why we need to simply say "yes" or "no" rather than making those "I will never".... statements.   Today, my prayer is that God will help us follow His lead wherever it may take us.  Selah!

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