Never say “never say never.”
Never say never” is one of those catchphrases that drives me nuts. On the surface, the meaning seems innocent enough: we don’t know what the future holds, so it’s presumptuous of us to say we will “never” do this or that.
And it undoubtedly has an inspirational application, reminding Negative Nancy’s the world over to think positive because anything’s possible! Never say never! You can do it!
But there’s another side to this saying that irks me – when it’s used to shame or cast suspicion on someone’s resolute decision. Because resolute decision is the stuff breakthrough and life change are made of.
Sometimes, saying “never” – however presumptuous it may seem to some – is EXACTLY what is needed to move forward and make a better future. Sometimes closing the door completely is exactly what’s needed to disentangle us from one mode of living and turn us toward the better, healthier, more life-giving openings and possibilities God has placed before us.
And sometimes, shaming or casting suspicion on true decisiveness is the most destructive and detrimental force imaginable – heck, it can be downright diabolical.
Remember when Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem” because he had decided, resolutely, to embrace the death that awaited him there? To say “never” to the worldly success and well-being and influence of his present mode of life and instead submit to the cross? He was a popular rabbi and revolutionary – he was good and successful in this ministry, the best there ever was! Why mess that up by provoking the authorities at the center of power in Palestine? Why say “never again” to that life?
Remember when Peter rushed in to say, “Not so fast! Never say never! I’ll protect you so that our revolution can continue!” Jesus replied: “Get behind me, Satan.”
Recently, my wife and I made this kind of resolute decision, well-meaning doubters and devils be damned. And we’ve been experiencing breakthrough, or at least the beginnings of it, ever since.
We decided that we will never plant a church – or be part of planting a church – ever again.
It’s hard to say – even harder to type – because church planting has at least been a part of my ministry identity for the better part of the last decade. And it feels presumptuous – I mean, how can we know what the future holds? And yet, it feels 100% right, like one of the truest things we have ever believed. That mode of life is really, truly over. It’s time to close that door completely in order to pass through into something truly new – to tap into the power of “never.”
This decision is, really, to set our faces forward and put something to death. To die all the way. To say “no” to a mode of life that I could potentially “succeed” in, to eliminate the possibility of “good” lingering in the air and taking up space inside my head in order to clear a way for the “best” God has for us. Indeed, this kind of total dying is the only way to a brand new, resurrection kind of life.
I am certain that new ministry awaits on the other side, with the local church at the center of it. But it will be completely different. It will be resurrection-different.
And the breakthrough we are already experiencing assures me that we are never – ever, ever – going back.
I wonder – is there a door you need to completely close, a death you need to die all the way, in order to step into the future God has for you? If so, don’t let doubters, devils, or catchphrases hold you back from the power of saying “never.”