As a pastor, it burdens my soul and breaks my heart to hear so many people tearfully say, “That was the one thing I thought I could never do!” Whether it was a season of gambling . . . a drinking binge . . . a descent into immorality . . . a time of wandering off into some far country . . . surrendering to the temptation of touch-of-a-button internet pornography . . . or countless other scenarios, the cry is universal: “I never believed I could do that!”
The Bible is full of examples of what happens to broken people living in a broken world with other broken people, especially when they thump their chests and utter the word never. Here is arguably the most memorable “never” in Scripture, where Jesus foretold Peter’s denial:
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “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.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:30-35)
Peter really did suffer from “foot-in-mouth” disease. In response to Jesus telling all the disciples that they would all fall away, Peter insisted, “I could never do that!” But Peter wasn’t content to contradict Jesus—as if that wasn’t bad enough! He went on to elevate himself and his commitment to Jesus above the other disciples, saying, “Though they all fall away . . . I will never!” And, of course, Matthew’s gospel shows us the slippery slope we all stand on when we boast loudly of our own strength and resolve. Peter went on to deny Jesus—not once, but three times . . . just as Jesus had warned him.
When we believe there is something we could never do, we begin to let out guard down. When we do that, we leave ourselves wide open to the attacks of the devil. We shift our focus away from Jesus and put in on ourselves. And when we do that, it’s just a matter of time before we find ourselves doing the very thing we loudly insisted we could never do.
Instead of making our hollow boast about what we will never do, we must cry out every day and ask God to give us grace to withstand the flaming arrows Satan sends our way. We are never more than one poor decision away from making an appalling mess of everything; the more we focus on what we could never do, we move that much closer to making that poor decision.
The only strength that will sustain us is His strength. The only commitment we can count on is His commitment to us. Let us never say “never,” apart from attaching our confidence to the grace and goodness of God, freely given to us in Jesus Christ. His power is made perfect in our weakness; when we admit that weakness, we are strong in Him! (If you have any doubts about that, read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)
Blessed be the Lord!
for he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:6-7)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!