Monday, May 19, 2014

Learning to Say "No" Even to Good Things

     A few days ago, I ran across a random article in a magazine that asked what advice would you want to pass on to your family and friends that you wish you had been better at yourself.  I had to stop and think about that for a minute, and then, I knew.  I have always had trouble saying "No" to activities even though I was currently stretched to the max.  What was I afraid of?  Would the earth crumble and disappear if I was honest with myself and others?  Fortunately with time and maturity, I learned that I needed to say "no" to some things that appeared to be so good.  I also have learned my limits physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Not everything we are presented with in life is necessarily the best choice for us, and we cannot do it all.  Something always suffers like our health or even our relationships with others when we over extend ourselves.
     Paul wrote  a short letter to Titus to offer him guidance as he continued missionary work in Crete. One area that Paul stressed to him was the need for sound doctrine and careful behavior in the Christian walk.  Chapter 2:11-13 reads:  "For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ..."  In these verses, renounce means to deny or say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions.  Another translation of this verse reads:  "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"( King James Version).  I love the word "soberly" because it is a word that means we think things through before making a commitment.  If life gave me some do overs, it would be in this area. Often, I would commit myself to something before I really thought through the ramifications.  Ultimately, out of a sense of duty, I would fulfill my commitment, but deep inside, I felt upset at myself for saying "yes" too easily.
     Good things can become ungodly things when they take us away from worshipping and serving our Lord.  In fact, good things can become an idol in our life.  There are many good men who worship their job more than the Lord.  We call it workaholism, but even an important thing such as our work can become ungodly when it steals our time with God, our family and destroys our health.  Likewise, worldly passions can get us off track as well.  Our desire to please others, perform so we will be rewarded or liked and a hunger for fame can all be signs of worldly passions.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to please others, but our first priority is to please God.  Living to please others or perform so they will think highly of us is also out of balance.  Again, we are to do all things as unto the Lord for His glory.  We were not sent here to impress others or even to work towards fame. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  This is why the verse in Titus tells us to live a self-controlled, upright and godly life because our focus should be on Him and His second coming which is our blessed hope.
     This world offers us many glittering opportunities for a busy life, and even in church, there are many activities with which we can become involved.  However, we must ask for God's wisdom and discernment as we approach each one.  Satan would love to sidetrack us with busyness...even good busyness so that we will lose our effectiveness or our health.  We must learn to say "no" for the sake of God's glory and the Gospel.
     Growing older has helped me say "no" much more firmly since my "earth suit" is getting frayed around the edges with some aches I didn't have before.  However, I wish I had learned to say "no" earlier in my life.  This is what I would want to pass along.  Being stretched too thin takes away our time to be refreshed in prayer with God and read His Word.  It also takes a toll on our family as well. Our goal is to live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" as Titus tells us.  Maybe it's time to evaluate and examine our lives to see if we are doing just that.  After all, good things can sometimes turn out to be bad when they keep us from looking to the Lord.  Selah!

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