Many of my readers may be too young to remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. But, right off the bat, I want to make sure that y’all know I am not encouraging experimentation with drugs.
What I do intend to share is a choice, a basic philosophy change, that is key to faith and spiritual growth for those who share my personality type. If you are one of those confident types who go charging headlong into everything, this might not be the blog post for you.
Anyhow, most of my life has been defined by my cautious restraint and some deep feelings of inadequacy. I have been reluctant to start off in a direction without knowing that I will stay committed, fearful of failure, etc. Who wants to waste time and effort on something not your true ‘calling’ in life, right?
Well, this is an approach, taken to an extreme, is completely faithless and ultimately results in endlessly spinning your mental wheels trying to decide what is yours to do or not to do. Which is ironic, because this effort to be focused and directed can actually be the thing that keeps many from finding a greater vision.
But I decided recently, within the past few years, that my last excuse for waiting to be ready (passing the age when Jesus started his ministry) was gone. Now was do or die time—time to stop making excuses. I needed to step out more boldly in faith. The first part of that has been for me to start using a word difficult to use: Yes.
That three letter word “yes” or rather my newly minted use of it has been transformative. No, I don’t use it for everything (sorry, Kevin, maybe some other time) and I’m not advocating going across to the other extreme of over-commitment either. But generally I have decided that “yes” will be my answer when asked.
What I am referring to in particular is my participation in my local church body, but to pursue things beyond that and find the spiritual vision out there waiting for me. I have, despite my feeling unqualified, begun to say “yes” when asked to teach, to give devotionals, or otherwise step outside of my comfort zone.
I must admit, this is not easy for me, public speaking is not my forte and that might surprise those who know I’m quite capable of speaking when there’s a small and safe audience. Running your mouth is quite a bit different from trying to find something substantive and worthwhile for a congregation of those who might not be impressed.
However, the experience has been rewarding. First, I have proved that I am marginally capable despite my reservations. Second, I have been encouraged by positive feedback, I am learning something new every time about how to prepare and am starting to find my voice. Overall my fears were overstated. Nobody picked up stones to kill me yet.
I’m also in good company for my feelings that long held me back. Moses didn’t feel he was able to speak. Jonah ran from the prophetic duty God had given to him. And even Jesus struggled “take this cup away from me” before he submitted to God’s will and started a painful journey. It is that willingness to say “yes” that leads to the greater vision of our life to be fulfilled.
So, for those fearful, for those cautious to a fault, to all you over-thinking people and analytical types. To you folks I encourage saying “yes” and, not just once or twice, make it a new habit. Make it your philosophy of faith and see what happens. May you find the same blessings I have in my deliberate choice to be more available.
Perhaps vision is not something decided in advance, but something that intersects our path when we start off walking. As a friend recently told me “it is easier to steer a ship that’s moving.” And, at very least, doing something rather than nothing might give us helpful experience for when we do find *that* something.
Now, for those of you on the extreme other end and full of big ideas, for those of you who are routinely over-commitmented and sometimes frustrated, I recommend something else. Have you ever considered that you are so full of yourself that you are like Martha, too busy in your religious duty and missing out on really hearing God?
It seems the key to success in ministry is not having your own ability, your own ambition or you own agenda. It is depending on God as your strength, stepping out in courage despite fears and being available when asked. It is saying faithfully “yes” when your mind has a million reasons for saying no.
The church could do with far fewer self-described visionaries and self-important missionaries. The arrogant should stay home where they do less damage. Instead what is needed is humble and ‘incapable’ men who earnestly seek to do God’s will despite their known weakness, present fears or past failures.
The church needs more faithful examples like Isaiah who, seeing God’s glory, exclaimed, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” But later answered the call soon after and said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Or leaders like Paul…
“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)
God doesn’t need the qualified. It is not about our being extraordinary or special in the eyes of our religious peers. It is about being humble, generally available to others and ready to accept an opportunity to serve. God wants those who simply say ‘yes’ when asked.
Willingness to serve is a habit and a good habit. It starts with our learning to use a three letter word when called upon. So, take courage my timid friends, put your faith in the one who asks, and just say yes!