“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” James 5:12
As I pray and thank Jesus for a great year in 2015, I think of the hardest lesson that has continued to rear its ugly head in my life: allowing my yes to be a yes, and my no to be a no.
So often as believers we find ourselves overtaken by “stuff.” We are a people of program after program. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am constantly wrapped up in the flow of church life.
Yes is and will always be easy to say.
For most of my life, I would aim to do whatever I could. There is a sense of adventure to having to rush from one event to the next. Not to mention, when you get to say yes to everything, you never miss out and you have the opportunity to make everyone happy. This thought process has been the fanfare of my life. But, I learned an empowering word this past year that completely changed the game: No.
Imagine for a moment if Eve would have recognized the power of no in the garden. I mean, I bet if she had a do-over she would have said no to the serpent. The power of that no has the potential to rewrite our history as a people.
For so much of my life, the word no felt so rejecting and uninviting. It felt like a word of exclusion. This past year however, I recognized what the word no really does. It makes your yes more important and encourages you to think about your limits and boundaries. Saying no has allowed me to gain a value for taking care of myself.
“If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17
The truth is, up until now, I had a poor understanding of how important it is to take care of myself. I figured that by serving others, all of my needs would be met. And then I recognized that without being cared for myself, I was constantly unprotected from the invasive nature of the enemy. And that is when self-doubt takes over. The enemy takes over our thought processes and destroys any good thing we have to say about ourselves. Time after time, instead of looking in, I went out and just wore myself out trying to be all things to all people.
Don’t get me wrong, that is a beautiful place to be. Jesus calls us to be self-sacrificing and serving people. However, the only one who will successfully be all things to all people is the Lord himself. I am to support the kingdom of God. In order to do that, I have to look at the fact that this all comes fumbling down a long line of false humility. Taking on the burden of others without loving yourself and NOT allowing Jesus to care for you leads to burning out, cynicism, turning from the Church and ultimately death. We aren’t made to sustain a life apart from our Maker that is fruitful.
Now that I am well into year 24, I am here to declare that I am worth my time. And because I am worth my time, I have an opportunity to say no to look out for myself. “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17. Without relationship with Jesus, a constant intimate connect with our Father and dependance on Holy Spirit, we become old wineskins. That is not what we were created to be. We are to be new wineskins, made to hold the new wine.
It is challenging to say no to people that I love. I continue to find myself pausing to think over easy no’s and most times, still even apologizing for saying no. If there is an apology attached to a no, you can most likely trace that back to seeking an individual’s approval. We are not made to be unhealthly yoked to people. Jesus even goes as far as to tell us “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. That hatred is contextually more about valuing the boundaries of the individual and recognizing the importance of turning from sin in all forms. That is healthy breaking off. In order to gain Jesus, we need a healthy no to separate us from our sin.
So, how long has it been since you said no? How long has it been since you have rejected a loved one something they desired? Can you say no to little things? Can you say no to big things? Please don’t hear me wrong and go maliciously throw out no’s at things you should have said yes to. Ask the Father. Discern through the truth of scripture. Seek out wise counsel on decisions. But, when the conviction to say no arrives, say it and mean it. Let your no be a no, so that your yes can be a powerful yes!