But as my new friend Brenda reminded me this week, Jesus himself used the "holy no" for reasons his disciples often failed to understand. Read on to feel the gravity of Jesus' refusal as portrayed in the gospel of Mark.
That night, Jesus had lovingly entered the home of Simon's mother-in-law, who was ill with fever. He healed her, and all the people who came after her, casting our their evil spirits. And after this late-night healing session and what must have been a short night of sleep...
"...rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35)
This was Jesus' normal modus of operandi, praying early in the morning in desolate places, and so his disciples went searching for him. His popularity was booming, so they notified him that "Everyone is looking for you."
And Jesus said "no." A "holy no" we find between the lines...in what he didn't actually say at all. He said "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out" (Mark 1:38).
Yes, that was his response. Leaving behind what were likely hundreds of people who desperately wanted a touch from him, he moved on. Why? I ask myself. Why did Jesus leave behind the hurting and the deluded, those who also desired healing and truth, those who desperately wanted to see him?
As Jesus prayed to the Father, he gained direction for his life. He knew his purpose, and fulfilling that purpose necessarily involved limits. It involved saying no to good things so he could say yes to God's plan being revealed through him.
So he could do the best things.
If you believe the Bible and want to live by it, you too must discover how to say the "holy no." Like you, I have been entrusted with spiritual gifts and opportunities in which to use them. But they will not be effectively used to advance God's Kingdom if those gifts are spread too thin...if I take them where I want to take them instead of where the Holy Spirit guides me to use them through prayer and meditation.
Let me be completely honest: I have been given the spiritual gifts of teaching/preaching, encouragement, and leadership. If an opportunity presents itself in which I am called to serve outside of these areas of giftedness or in which I will be stretched beyond my limits...I need to seriously consider whether that is God's will for me. If that is how I can best build up the body of Christ and draw others to know and love Jesus. I need to embrace God's unique calling on my life, or I will soon be derailed by saying an "unholy yes" and failing to contribute to advancing God's Kingdom in the ways in which he has asked me to.
I have been derailed before. But with God's help, and as I listen to the Spirit in prayer, I am learning to say the "holy no." I want, like Jesus, to look back at the end of my life and say honestly, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4 NIV).
No more. No less.
Do you struggle with saying no? What things are you currently saying "yes" to in your life? Do they align with your gifts and limits?