Learning to Say, “No” October 23, 2014

As a young man beginning in the ministry I heard my pastor say that one of the most difficult things to discern was what to eliminate.  At the time, I was so busy adding things to my life that I did not fully appreciate the truth that he expressed.  Through the years I have found that one of the most challenging things to do is simply say, “no.”  Yet saying no is often just as spiritual as saying yes.  No man can do everything.  Few men can do many things well.  Wise men say with Paul, “This one thing I do.”

Try this exercise.  List the key areas, assignments, relationships, interests, and hobbies of your life.  Now place all of them in one of three categories:

1.  There are things in which to engage.  These are the necessities of life.

The mundane and ordinary aspects of life cannot be ignored.  Daily tasks are part of the divine purpose.  Disillusionment comes when life begins to revolve around simply “getting things done” or meeting material needs.  Remember that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he posseseth” (Luke 12:15).  Good things are often the enemy of the best.  Keep the necessities of life in perspective.

2.  There are things to emphasize.  These are the priorities of life.

A spiritual man works a job, not to make money, but to provide for his family and support the Lord’s work.  It is the priority that gives fulfillment to the necessity.  As we give our thoughts, energy, and time to what matters to God, we will discover the most important things in life.  If it matters most for eternity, it should matter most today.

3.  There are things to eliminate.  These are the distractions of life.

To emphasize everything is to emphasize nothing.  Some things have to go.  For example, overuse of media steals precious time away.  Life truly is a vapor; it will soon fade.  Eliminating a few minutes a day of technology will allow quiet time for prayer and God’s Word.  Eliminating the habitual radio noise in your morning commute can provide time to reflect and plan for the day.  Eliminating undue attention to a personal hobby can carve out precious moments each week to spend with your family.  The hardest person to say no to is yourself.

Eliminating is the key to emphasizing.  Saying no to lesser things is the key to saying yes to greater things.

This process must be done at every season of life.  In some sense the wise person examines his life each week regarding what matters, what matters little, and what should not matter at all.  I believe this is one of the reasons that God ordained the principle of the sabbath.  Men need margin.  Without it, life becomes one run-on sentence with little meaning.  All of us need room to reflect.  Only as we turn our attention from earth to heaven does earth make any sense.  It is the conscious presence of God and eternal realities that gives purpose to the rest of life.

There are also key times during the year that beg for such examination.  The upcoming holidays may provide that opportunity for you.  At every transition in life, stop and look at the path you are on.  Check your direction.  Don’t miss the divine crossroads.

Sometimes the greatest lesson is just learning to say, “No.”

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  1. Annetta on October 29, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Excellent thoughts; very practical and helpful.

  2. David on July 20, 2023 at 11:10 AM

    Thank you! Needed right now for this season of life I am going through.

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