No. What an impact that small word has. No by itself is a complete sentence. It is one of the first words a child learns to say when they begin talking, and it seems to be one of their favorite words from then on. Multimillion-dollar contracts have been voided at its use, and thousands upon thousands of people don’t have to eat brussels sprouts because we can say no.
Major life changes happen when we take seriously our ability to say no. When age, and the doctors, tell us we need to be more concerned about our health, it requires us to say no to some things. We may have to say no to fried foods, or a second piece of pie, or ice cream at bedtime, to take better care of ourselves. It may also mean we have to say no to our recliner and yes to walking a mile or so a day.
The ability to say no to some things allows us to say yes to others. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn is that in all honesty, we control our own calendar. And I have yet to discover how to be two places at once. What we allow on our calendar takes the place of something else that could go there. Our career takes a huge chunk of our time, and there is little wiggle room there. But what goes in those other times is, for the most part, our own doing. One of the reasons I coached our son’s soccer team was so I could make sure I could be at practice. When you are coaching you get some control to set the practice schedule.
I live by my calendar, ask me if I can do something. The first thing I am going to do is check my calendar, and that is a lot easier to do with a smartphone, and all of my calendars are synced to one app. There have been times that I have had to calendar family time. So, when I look to see if some specific time is available it shows up as busy on my calendar. Saying no to some things allows us the opportunity to say yes to others.
No also helps us in our spiritual growth. Paul, in Ephesians 4:22-24 says it this way: “ to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” In essence, say no to some things so you can say yes to others. Truth is that two things can’t occupy the same space. Paul is saying, as we grow in Christ, we need to say no to things that make us less like Jesus, so we can say yes to things that make us more like him. Need to spend more time reading scripture? Maybe you need to put that time on your calendar and block out time every day for that to happen.
Growing in our Christian faith is measured by how much we are being transformed to be like Christ. Sanctification is the big churchy word we use to describe that process. The ability to use the word no helps us to say yes to the things that make us more like Christ.
What do you need to say no to today?
Joe Ball is the Pastor at First Baptist Church -Sixth and Main Streets in Russellville.