Today, perhaps you find that you had much rather be saying yes to the many things that come your way than even contemplating the word no. Maybe you do so out of a well-intended desire to please others, or the thrill from successfully multitasking a multitude of tasks. And still, though your yes may result in a benefit for yourself, your family, friends, or community does not mean that it is still the answer that God may have intended for you to give.
This is not an easy message for us as Christians, who are trained to offer our time and talents to the service of those placed within our care. We take the Scripture urging us all to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) and neglect to heed the verses to follow:
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2; emphasis mine)
Discernment isn’t an add-on when we find ourselves confused as to what path to take. It is essential in every choice we make. Even those opportunities which are in themselves good and promise to be fruitful. Take a moment to consider, if you will, whether you are inviting God into each of your decision making moments or just some of them. If not, why not?
Ah, yes … that clever and insidious sin of pride. It creeps into even the smallest of places leaving us thinking foolishly that we are the only the only ones that can complete a task or the best one to do so.
For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. (Romans 12:3)
Thus, inevitably we must prayerfully discern why we feel that our yes is needed and be careful not to take on a project out of pride. But wait … you mean someone else might be called to take on a challenge, or be given gifts to fit the purpose?
For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. (Romans 12:4-5)
We are not being asked to do it all ourselves but, in fact, are to call forth the gifts in our brothers and sisters to build up the body of Christ. Those around us do not always see their own gifts and releasing our own prideful motivation allows God to move others into action. It also permits each one of us to glimpse God actively at work as the best human resource manager and project manager for this world in which we live in.
So, maybe we do not feel we are the best qualified, are already overcommitted or not really inclined to take on a task but do so because we would like to say yes to the person who has asked. This is not a good motivation either; yet admittedly is an easy trap for the kind-hearted Christian. In parish ministry, we often find the same people being called upon time and time again. They want to be helpful and usually are, but offer a yes when honestly it should be a no. Then later, burned out and tasked beyond reason, they leave serving because there simply is no more to give.
Recognizing your own need to renew and refill is a valid and essential reason to say no. While initially difficult to do, as well as an adjustment for the one asking, it may be the right answer. In making space for quality prayer time and detachment from the reaction or approval of others we can begin to see that God’s approval is the only one that matters.
Is there a decision in my day today that I might not be needed to say yes to? Have I invited God into the task? Would others be better served by my no?
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Reardon