Yesterday we were looking at how pausing to give thanks to the Lord regularly throughout our day can help us to keep in step with the Lord and to accomplish all that the day holds at His pace. Nevertheless I am sure that we are all aware how easy it is to overload the system, to agree to too many things, even good things, and find ourselves living with ‘hurry sickness’ because there are just not enough hours in the day, even if we do keep thanking the Lord for His presence and help.
One reason why we find it difficult to walk through our days in peace, at the Lord’s pace is, I think, because sometimes we find it difficult to say ‘No’. We find ourselves saying yes to things are not part of the Lord’s plan for us, and then we find ourselves overstretched and having to rush things that are important to Him, even down to simple things like that conversation with a neighbour. We can find ourselves like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, too busy to live out the life that we would want to for the Lord. So today we are going to consider how thanksgiving can actually help us to say ‘No’.
“Wow”, I hear someone ask, “are Christians allowed to say ‘No’?” Well yes! of course we are allowed. We’re even supposed to say ‘no’ to the devil, to temptation, to breaking the law etc. The main biblical command is that we are not to accompany our our ‘no’, (or our ‘yes’), with an oath or swearing. Sometimes we can feel bad about saying ‘no’, and feel that it is not what Jesus would want, because we hear His teaching, ‘If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well …… give to the one who asks and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ Matthew 5:37-42, and we wrongly draw the conclusion that He always wants us to say ‘Yes’.
The point is that every ‘yes’ has a cost that will be translated into a ‘no’ for something else. So effectively, even if I don’t like saying ‘no’, I am going to be saying ‘no’ to things all the time. The problem for me is that if I find it hard to say ‘no’, the result will be that I will say ‘yes’ to the things and people that shout at me the loudest, and I may well end up saying a tacit ‘no’ to other things that are more important, that do not shout at me quite so loudly.
If I want to spend an hour at the gym, that time is no longer available to decorate my house. Or for us as Christians, spending that time helping my neighbor, will mean that I will be unavailable to my family for that time. There is a cost to every ‘yes’. A good friend of mine once pointed out to me that if I agree to do someone a favour, even a small one, I need to reckon that there will be a cost, and not just assume that I can absorb it into the day. My ‘yes’ needs to be realistically informed.
If I can pause and give thanks to the Lord when I am faced with a decision about how I spend some time, and thereby begin a conversation with Him, then I will give myself some time to consider. Instead of reacting with a fast ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I say “Lord I thank you for this request”, or “Lord I thank you for this opportunity”, or even “Lord I thank you for this decision that I have to make, I invite you Holy Spirit to lead and guide me now”, I am more likely to hear the Holy Spirit’s whisper or nudge. If I’m not sure, taking some time can be a great help. Saying ‘I will think about it’ is OK and can be said in various ways. Let thanksgiving be your ‘pause button’ and stay connected to the Holy Spirit.
So what if with hindsight I’ve committed myself to too much? Well the Lord does care, and He will take care, but He also wants us to learn. So if pausing and giving thanks for a demand or a request, before we say yes, can really help us to slow the pace of life and reduce ‘overload’, giving thanks can also help us to walk through over busy days with the Lord, even when we feel that it is our own fault that we have agreed to too much. Giving thanks helps me to stay in harmony with the Lord and therefore in peace. Then I can feel free to cancel things, to ask for help, to slim down a task or leave a conversation earlier than I normally would.
Giving thanks enables me to walk in peace even in the busiest of times, and how about giving the Holy Spirit your ‘to do list’ one week, and see how He leads and guides and it all gets worked out as He shows you His priorities for your life? It could be fun, and certainly it will be a faith building exercise!