Do you have a hard time saying no? If you do, then you are not alone.
I never thought saying no to various requests was difficult for me until I tried it. I soon discovered that the reason I do not have a hard time saying no is because I seldom say it. Like most followers of Jesus, my “yes” was put on the table the day I was saved. I want to say yes to every good work God has ordained for me.
Why do pastors and ministry leaders often have a hard time saying no?
- Because of our calling: We are called by God to serve people. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, taught us that the greatest among us would be the one who serves. We live to serve and therefore want to say yes to as many opportunities as we are able.
- Because of unmet needs: I only need to look out my front window and I can see snow built up on driveways and sidewalks, neighbors who need Christ, and friends who may need to talk to someone. A trip down any city street or country road will reveal multiplied service opportunities. While most of us know that we cannot respond to every opportunity, we do desire to meet some of them.
- Because of our fulfillment: It feels good to do good for others. To visit a nursing home, or help a neighbor, or minister to the sick is not only good for them, but it is also satisfying for us. We gain by giving and many of us find our greatest fulfillment when we are serving others.
- Because of fear: For some of us, due to an unhealthy desire to be a people pleaser, saying yes and gaining approval is easier than saying no and possibly damaging a relationship. Many are held captive by a fear of man.
Your list will be different from mine, but the truth remains that many of us have a hard time saying no.
How can we learn to say no and know that no is the right answer? We can do what Jesus did as recorded in Mark chapter 1.
Mark chapter 1 shows our Lord after a full day of ministry including calling His disciples, casting out a demon, healing the sick, and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Jesus deserved a break.
In Mark 1:35-38 Jesus has slipped away early in the morning for time alone with the Father. His disciples found Him, interrupted His quiet time, and made it clear that He was needed immediately for more ministry to more people. Here is how the story unfolds:
35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. 38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. 39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. (Mark 1:35-39 KJV)
Instead of readjusting His plan for the day, Jesus said “no”.
Here are three observations from Jesus’ “no” that may be helpful to us:
1. Jesus said no to legitimate needs: The disciples said to Him, “All men seek thee” (Mark 1:37). Those seeking our Lord probably included the sick, the lame, the blind, the poor, and those who wanted to hear more of His incredible and authoritative teaching.
2. Jesus said no, and His closest associates heard him: Jesus was not unduly concerned with His reputation among His followers. The disciples must have been shocked that Christ did not immediately jump to their plan for His life.
3. Jesus said no so that He could say yes to something else: Jesus had a clear focus on why He was here. He said no to the immediate opportunity to serve others so He could say yes to His larger mission of seeking and saving that which was lost.
We cannot do everything that needs to be done. There are things, however, that you and I are specifically called to do. We must pray and seek our guidance from the Heavenly Father so that we are always saying yes to every good work he has laid out for us. Our yes to His plan will always require saying no to other opportunities.
How might you learn to say no this week?