A wise person told me to avoid using the words “never” and “always” in negative ways when talking to family members. That worthy advice has served me well. Those damaging words “never” and “always” if used in the heat of a word-tussle can inflict harm because they leave no wiggle room for exceptions.
An angry mom might address a tweener’s failure to put away her wet towels, “You never pick up your towels.” The almost teen has probably put them on the towel rack a few times. If the exception had occurred, that daughter may think poorly of her mom’s word choice. A dad might correct a son’s bad table manners and exaggerate, “You always chew with your mouth open.” You get the drift. If the son had even ONCE chewed with his mouth closed, he’d remember and feel hurt by the overall labeling of him as an open-mouthed muncher.
Conversely, I read three excellent uses of “never” in the Bible. They astounded me. I’d read them before, but here I am at a different time in life, and they mean more. I love the absolutes that these “nevers” represent: Jesus declared himself the bread of life, and whoever comes to him will “never go hungry,” “never be thirsty,” and he “will never drive them away” (John 6: 35-37).
The feeding of the 5,000 preceded Jesus speaking these unconditional “nevers.” A miracle outlined in John 6 (and the three Gospels) reveals the power behind Jesus’ “never” promises: The setting was when Jesus fed 5,000 people (that count didn’t include the women or children). The late afternoon sun glowed. Suppertime neared. Stomachs rumbled and yet, there were too many mouths and not enough food.
Then, Jesus asked Phillip “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip didn’t have deep pockets, and replied, “Eight months’ wages would not even buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (v 5-7). He clearly saw that needs far outreached the resources.
That’s when the Creator of wheat and all the little fishes in the deep blue sea speeded up processes to bypass the usual seasons of growing and harvesting and baking. God sidestepped around fishing, cleaning, smoking, and drying of seafood. The disciples had found a lad with five meager barley loaves and two small fish, and when Jesus prayed over the skimpy meal, he created fast food that was good for them.
What a fish story! If kids today eat alphabet soup, the kids that day ate a numerical meal. How can five plus two add up to over 5,000 meals? Pay attention to the crowning glory of that story found in Matthew’s closing remarks, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish” (Matthew 14:20). After those leftovers were stored away is when Jesus spoke three “nevers.”
The supernatural growth of bread and fish displayed God’s power that backed up all of Jesus’ claims and promises. Imagine yourself in that crowd with a family of eight to feed. Remember, family chefs, your entire family had eaten supper, and you did no shopping, no cooking, no dishes, no cleanup. Besides that, no whines were uttered, “I don’t like miracle bread and fish,” because “all ate and were satisfied.”
Then Jesus spoke three breath-taking promises: never hungry, never thirsty, or never driven away. The temporary gift of bread fed the hungry for that day. However, Jesus offered more than casual dining; he offered to feed them for an entire lifetime. He could become to each a lifelong feast instead of a supplement. He wanted the position of chef and life-healer to individuals and nations.
Needs often stretch beyond resources. That’s when humble people look to gracious Jesus because he takes care of physical needs and offers soul-deep sustenance. We can’t do it on our own, no matter how much we stress, worry, or try to make things happen. He alone nurtures nations and souls as they trust in his power-backed three “nevers”: never hunger, never thirst, and never driven away (John 6:35-37).
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Hunger for Humility (22): “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).