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Learn to Say No


Mark 1:35-39
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight,
He went out and departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.

A man unpacked his lunch in the factory cafeteria, and complained to his fellow worker, "I don't believe it, bologna again! This is the fourth straight day I have had this!" His fellow worker responded, "Well, why don't you tell your wife you're tired of bologna?" "You don't understand," the man said. "I'm single. I pack my own lunches." We laugh, but the joke is on us. We complain about our schedule being too full, but the truth is we packed much of it ourselves. We find it hard to say no to good opportunities, and good causes. We find it hard to strike a balance between work, rest, and play. We find it hard to distinguish between what God wants us to do, and what others think we should be doing. As parents, as employees or employers, as servants of God, and as members of society, we think we should be doing it all. We try to divide ourselves equally among all these things until there is nothing left of us. Our busyness has lead to barrenness. Our families are fractured, our walk with God lifeless, our relationships with friends and neighbors is shallow, and our health is taking a hit. The fact is that a book without margins is unreadable, and a life without margins is unlivable.

We need to create margins, and that begins by learning to say no. We have got to slow down the snowball effect of doing more things with less time and energy. But saying yes to saying no is not easy for us. After all, time is short, eternity is long, and the needs are great. All those things are true, but it is also true that we can end up doing a lot of things that are not wrong in themselves, but they are just not right for us, and it would be wrong to give time to them. Remember, if the devil cannot make us bad he will make us busy. We have got to learn to say no.

Let me give you several incentives in learning to say no. First, learn to say no because Jesus did. Jesus didn't meet every need (Mark 1:35-39). People went unhealed. He left one town to preach in another. He spent thirty years in training and only three in ministry. He did not try to do it all. But He did finish the work the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). Second, learn to say no because redeeming the time is not the same as doing more. Redeeming the time is all about learning what the will of God is for our lives, and doing it (Eph. 5:15-17). Redeeming the time is about what we do, not how much we do. Doing one more thing is not the same as living wisely. Third, learn to say no because we all have different gifts, and callings (1 Cor. 12:12-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Each person is like a perfectly formed jigsaw piece within God's plan. Our individual roles are unique, not universal. God hasn't called us to do it all, He has called us to do certain things alongside others who are doing other things. Spurgeon said, "Learn to say no, it will be of more use to you than being able to read Latin."