I’ve been thinking and wondering lately about some of the exclusive things we think and say, even pray:
That was the best gift ever!
Lord, meet with us as never before.
That was the best Christmas program I’ve ever seen!
It was the best we’ve ever experienced.
That’s the best I’ve ever heard you!
Those are positive words. We need more positive words in our world. They’re high compliments. It’s an honorable prayer. But I wonder if we truly mean what we say, of if we should stop to consider what we’re saying at the time.
Exclusive phrases such as “best-ever” and “as never before” can inadvertently have a negative effect.
Several years ago my team of musicians and technical artists began the practice of praying intentionally for the Sunday services. Half an hour before the first service of the morning we stopped our level checks, rehearsing and anything else we were doing – to pray. The pastoral team, ushers, music & tech teams, and Sunday School teachers huddled at the front of the sanctuary to pray for that morning’s ministry. We prayed for the activities of the morning in the worship center and classrooms, in the foyer, corridors and aisles. We knew we wanted God to work among us and through us, and we knew prayer was the first resource we needed to draw upon. So we prayed. Every week. Gathering to pray for the day was top priority. God worked in our congregation, and we were thrilled! Before long we were asking Him to work as never before!
One morning the thought crossed my mind as my neighbor was praying along those lines, “As never before? God has a lot of history. More than anyone. Isn’t it a be presumptuous to pray that way? I mean the Almighty did some remarkable things for Moses and Gideon, David and Naaman, Solomon and Elisha, Mary and Joseph.” My mind began to wander, I admit, but … He brought three thousand people to Himself with one of Peter’s sermons. We wouldn’t know what to do first if He worked “as never before” in our town! Do we really think that God might do something for us or with us He hadn’t done elsewhere? The Welsh revival was pretty remarkable. D.L. Moody, Jonathan Edwards, the Wesleys, Spurgeon, Martin Luther, J. S. Bach, J. Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddel had noteworthy ministries. I decided that week I should ask God to move in mighty ways in our ministries but stop short of “as never before”.
I’m of the opinion that when we ask for or refer to that exclusive “best-ever”, we risk setting ourselves up for disappointment.
If that was the best gift ever, what does it say about all the Christmases and birthdays before?
If Sunday was the best-ever, if God worked last week as never before, what does that say about Mt. Sinai? Or Pentecost?
“That musical was the best we’ve ever done! Ever!” I know we mean well, but what are we saying about the 10, 25, 150 years prior?
I know we mean well, but wonder if hyperbole in compliments really say what we want to say?
Today’s post isn’t the best I’ve ever written -I hope not- but that doesn’t mean God can’t use it to spark some reflection, some thought about how we say the things we do, our hopes, our expectations.
In a few weeks we’ll learn who wins this year’s American Idol contest. Will that artist be the best ever? Probably not. Excellent, yes. Remarkable? Absolutely. I know who I’m pulling for, we’ll see if I’m right. The winner will be deserving of every accolade. We’ll look forward to seeing and hearing what they do as their musical career is catapulted into the spotlight. While it’s hard to imagine, perhaps, we’re probably not watching the best-ever.
If you don’t mind, let this one follow you around a couple hours, would you? Let it peek into today’s conversation. See if you hear exclusive language at work. You’ll probably see it a few times in commercials, if nowhere else. See how many times you use exclusive terms. Are they what you really mean?
Is “excellent” compliment enough? I hold that it is. It’s part of “let your yay be yay and your nay be nay” in away. Yes is yes, no is no. Good is good. God can do some remarkable things without it having to be “like never before”.
Something to think about –