It would be a lot easier if there were a definite “thou shalt serve in the church nursery and choir” or “Go on that short-term mission trip, thus sayeth the Lord” in Scripture. Instead, God calls us to be discerning, using the principles of His Word and His Spirit to guide us in our individual circumstances.
I can’t tell you what you should personally say yes or no to. There will be similar opportunities presented to us all where some of us would be right to say yes, while other of us would need to decline. There are many factors such as different seasons of life, spiritual maturity, physical limitations, other primary responsibilities, and so on that impact our availability and capability, especially when it comes to opportunities to help others or participate in ministry. Therefore, we ought not to compare ourselves with others or critique them. We can only answer for ourselves with the time, situation, and resources God has given to us.
Although our circumstances may differ, we can all make time for 3 key considerations that will aid us in discerning what God would have us do when presented with new opportunities.
1. Ask for time to pray and reflect before answering a request.
My husband and I have really worked to establish the habit of not answering right away when we’re asked to be involved or participate in something new. We want to take time to discuss it together and determine if it is something we can truly commit to before we say yes. We see this principle in the book of Luke, where Christ is telling a crowd the necessity of counting the cost of becoming His follower.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Luke 15:28-30
Here Jesus refers to the well-known and easily understood truth that before we commit to an endeavor, we need to give due consideration to what will be involved and required of us. It is always wise to ask for time to pray and think about a request or opportunity before you answer.
2. Do I have the time to give this my best?
This is why budgeting our time is so important. Just like a budget for our finances helps us know exactly where our money is going and how much surplus we have to use, a budget of our time helps us know if we are truly available to take on new projects or requests.
The other aspect we need to consider is whether we can give this opportunity our best. God calls us to do all things with excellence, not half-heartedly or distractedly.
3. What is my motivation for saying yes or saying no?
In all honesty, I have found that this question is a make or break for me. There can be a lot of layers to pull back when it comes to why we feel we should do or not do something. As I have examined my own heart, I’ve discovered two main factors that I have let impact both my yes and my no, and neither of them please the Lord.
People-pleasing is one of those deceptive sins because on the surface it doesn’t seem that bad. What’s wrong with wanting to make people happy? I have struggled with being a people-pleaser all of my life, but it was not until recent years that God exposed to me the dark side of my desire for the approval of others. I was working at a job where I found it very hard to please my superiors. I felt that no matter how hard I tried to meet their requirements, I always fell short.
One day, as I prayed and asked the Lord to help me to do my best to make my bosses happy, I felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart and say, “What about God? Is He pleased with how you work? Are you working for His approval or are these people all that matter?” It was a spiritual gut-punch moment for me. And it wasn’t over. As I dug deeper into my heart’s motivation for man’s approval, I discovered that the root of my people-pleasing is plain old ugly pride.
Deep down, pleasing people is really about pleasing myself because pleasing others makes me feel good about myself. Feeling good about myself became so important to me, that I craved it, and when I couldn’t attain it, I doubled down my efforts to get it. I would not settle for simply doing my best for God’s glory and approval; I was more concerned with looking good in the eyes of men in order to boost my pride and my feelings of self-worth.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain a good reputation or making people happy, there is definitely something amiss when those desires become our main motivation for what we do. When this happens, we dismiss God as the primary and ultimate one to please and honor, and place ourselves in the position reserved solely for Him.
When we find ourselves compelled to say yes to opportunities primarily because we want to please others or fear disappointing them, we need to stop and take steps to address this serious heart issue.
Author and teacher Jon Bloom explains it in this way:
If, whether out of anxiety, selfish ambition, narcissism, or some other sinful love, we are motivated by someone else’s approval over God’s approval, our service can become our destruction. We should ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and try our thoughts (Psalm 139:23). We should ask ourselves the hard question: who are we willing to disappoint? Or who are we unwilling to disappoint? Are we unwilling to disappoint God? Are we unwilling to disappoint others? Are we unwilling to disappoint our own selfish Preferences? ...Life is too short and God is too precious to give our years and our strength to the fear of man.”
Sometimes, other people will not understand why we make the decisions that we do. It may be hard, but we must learn to be satisfied that God knows our hearts and approves of our choices, even if that means others do not.
All these questions made my young heart and mind dizzy enough that I believed the easiest way of dealing with all these fears of an unknown experience would be to just say no. As that summer came and went I found myself feeling two conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was relieved to be “safe” in my usual little bubble. But, I also felt a nagging sorrow in my heart. I was sad because I knew that deep down, the only reason I had said no was out of fear. I knew my God was bigger than all my insecurities about finances, friends, and whatever circumstances I would face there, but I let my fear overrule my faith.
Sometimes, we are asked to do things that will push us out of our normal existence. God purposefully brings these opportunities into our lives because they will stretch us and put us in situations that will possibly be uncomfortable and beyond what we think we are capable of. But we shouldn’t let our fears of such things keep us from stepping out in faith, trusting God to enable us and strengthen us. Ease and comfort have never furthered the Gospel or made a Christian stronger. We must be willing to trust God in these opportunities because He is always faithful to provide what we need for whatever we face.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I was again given the chance to go on a volleyball missions trip. I was still fearful. But this time, I went anyway. I’m so grateful that I did! It wasn’t always easy, and I certainly faced some uncomfortable situations on that trip. But even more so, I had wonderful, faith-affirming experiences that grew me and changed me. I met and worked with people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise. I was able to be part of sharing the Gospel with the hundreds of people we came in contact with. But the most life-changing thing that happened for me was that my view of God was greatly expanded.
It’s because of that trip that God gave me the faith to step out and go on numerous other mission trips. That trip taught me that because of God’s faithfulness and strength, I could step out into an unknown future and take on tasks that are hard, intimidating, and seemingly impossible. In short, that trip prepared me for a life of exercising faith in the face of fear.
When we find ourselves constantly saying no because we are fearful, we become like Peter in Matthew 14, when he stepped out onto a stormy sea to walk to the Lord.
“Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:29-31
Peter had faith, but as soon as he moved his attention to the storm around him, he let his fear overrule his faith. When faced with fears that assault our hearts and minds, we, like Peter, believe God’s power is not enough. His grace is not enough. His faithfulness is not enough. Nothing could be further from the truth!
If the fear of what may or may not be is keeping you from opportunities to serve, take heart!
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
When God calls us to a task, He always enables us to see it through. If you’ve prayerfully considered a matter and fear is the only obstacle that stands in your way, then trust the Lord, step out in faith, and prepare your heart to be amazed at what He will do!
Making the most of the time God has given us is a never-ending task. As His stewards, we want to use what He has given us to bring Him honor. Learning when to say yes or when to say no means we must rely on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us wisdom.
There will always be the temptation to swing too far in one direction — we can easily become “yes-men” or those who hide behind saying no. But God calls us to be balanced and discerning. Sometimes that means we will say yes, and at other times, we will have to say no, even if the opportunities themselves are truly good.
Whatever our answer may be, let us keep our eyes fixed on God. Let us seek His approval more than anyone else. Let us have courage when we need to exercise faith in circumstances that will stretch us. Let us focus on the tasks He calls us to and not those that would distract or derail us. And most of all, let us work and long for the day we will see Christ and hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
How have you relied on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you wisdom as you discern when to say yes and when to say no?
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