Recently (Blog No. 302) we reflected that, using a new, clean lens, we could see the ten commandments in the Old Testament as a mighty manifesto, saying a gigantic ‘Yes’ to God’s very best for happy, healthy lives for us. We discovered afresh that saying ‘No’ to things that have negative effects on us is a huge ‘Yes’ to life in all its fullness. Remember Jesus said He came to bring abundant life or life in all its fullness, John 10:10.
I recently read in an article* this quote from Warren Bufffet (a humanly very successful financier) “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything” Wow, that is something to think about isn’t it? Stops you in your tracks a bit! Even if his comment was mainly aimed at investments and business sense, it has much wider merit. I suggest it can apply to many aspects of spiritual, emotional and quality of life ‘success’. After years of doing counselling and stress management in various forms I think that I would say that, if I was asked for a ‘ten commandments’ for mental and emotional health, one of my ten would be for us to learn to say ‘No’ more often , and secondly to learn to say ‘No’ without guilt. Neither are easy for me, and I am still on a journey with both, thankfully I believe that the Holy Spirit is in there helping me to move forward on this.
Well we may ask did Jesus say ‘No’ like that, surely He was always saying ‘Yes’? Well if you mean that His arms were wide open in invitation and compassion to people. Yes. But how about Mark 1:32-39? Massive healing and deliverance with the whole city of Capernaum at His door (wouldn’t you love to be seeing that – I would). Next day, after early morning prayer in a solitary place, Simon Peter finds Him. “Everyone is looking for you” (i.e. let’s get building on this revival here). Jesus’ reply is effectively ‘No’. “Let us go to the next town that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” And He did. Remember every ‘Yes’ carries a ‘No’. Yes to a longer mission in Capernaum, Yes to pleasing the people there, ‘Yes’ to the very visible success in healing and deliverance there, Yes to peer pressure from Peter, all look attractive, maybe spiritual. But all would be a ‘No’ to all the other towns and people throughout Galilee who needed Him, His message and His power. It would be a ‘No’ to the purpose for which He had come (v38), perhaps even a ‘No’ to what His Father had been talking to Him about in their prayer time conversation that morning. See John 5:19 and 14:10.
That is just one example in Jesus’ ministry that speak to me, there are others in the Gospels, worth meditating on. I was interested, reading the article on successful people saying ‘No’, that some of the ideas it brought to me resonated with Jesus in the gospels. For example (from my perspective): saying ‘No’ to things that don’t speak to your values or mission in life. Jesus did that. Saying no to doing it all yourself –Yes to delegation – Jesus did that, even though the disciples initially seemed a rough and ready lot! Saying ‘No’ to people pleasing and letting other people set the agenda for my life – Jesus did that too. Saying ‘No’ to superficial networking or spending alot of time in critical, negative atmospheres but rather ‘Yes’ to building relationships and working and growing with people who are hungry for better things. We don’t always have a free choice with that last one in life or work circumstances, but it still seems an important pointer for my life compass.
So where does thanksgiving come into this equation? Well first let’s note again that Jesus’ ‘No’ to Peter, the revival and all the people in Capernaum came after time spent in prayer with His Father. I think it very likely that there was thanksgiving in that mix of loving, intimate communion. In our very busy lives, with demands calling for us to say ‘Yes’ flying at us many times a day, stopping to give thanks and tune back in with our Lord is so vital. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God did, I think that means that I definitely, definitely need to.
Giving thanks will calm my fevered brain and emotions, maybe driven by people’s need, ‘people pleasing’, the ‘right thing to do’, or guilt, and bring me back to a more balanced, godly perspective on my life and its priorities. Thanksgiving is likely to reconnect my busy brain with the will of God, 1 Thessalonians 5:18. And thanksgiving, having re-orientated my spirit, heart and mind to the Lord, and His word, His purposes and His priorities for my life, becomes louder than some of the noisy shouts of demands all around me to say ‘Yes’. Thanksgiving is likely to not only inform my Yes/No choices but also to strengthen my confidence to say ‘No’ when I need to, without guilt, because I am learning from my Lord, Matthew 11:29, bringing rest to my soul. And I am recognising afresh that it is as I abide in Him that I will bear much fruit. Saying ‘No’ may sometimes be a very practical way of discovering that ‘apart from You I can do nothing’. John 15:5, but in harmony with you Lord there will be fruit, much fruit.
*Warren Buffett says this 1 simple habit separates successful people from everyone else. Marcel Schwantes on getpocket on line downloaded 2.10.21