WORDS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
NOVEMBER 9, 1997
It’s just a little word, one that rolls off our tongues dozens of times a day. In our commitment free culture, though, we basically have neutered this word, stripped it, gutted it and hollowed it out. The word I am referring to is the word, yes. Yes is a word of affirmation, agreement and acknowledgment. It is a word of decision and commitment. But sadly, in our litigation littered world, we have to be very careful when we say this word. There are such huge implications of using this tiny word that it takes clauses and clusters of attorneys just to protect us.
I think that since the dawn of human history but especially since the word yes has been birthed into our personal vocabulary, we have all struggled with its use. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes be yes.” In other words, say it and stick by it. This word has the ability and power to change your life. Let your yes be yes.
I am in a series of talks called “Words That Can Change Your Life”. Last week it was, I love you. Today it is yes. That kind of sounds like a country-western song, doesn’t it? “Last week I loved you, today its yes……twang, twang, twang.” Anyway, yes can transform or deform any life here. Most of us are far too familiar with the scar tissue of saying an inappropriate yes. A lot of us have said yes to the wrong things at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The Bible is packed full of people who said yes to the wrong things at the wrong time.
Cain said yes to the jolt of jealousy, which led to the first homicide. Moses said yes to that tug of anger, which thwarted his Promised Land pursuits. Esau said yes to the seductive call of selfishness, which resulted in him selling his own birthright for a bowl of gumbo. Who can forget Samson’s yes to the destructive relational patterns with Delilah? And King David’s yes to the lure of lust caused him to never be what God wanted him to be as a leader, as a man and a father. We can say yes to the wrong things at the wrong times.
We can also say yes in the wrong ways. We are pros in saying those empty yeses, for instance, that yes when we don’t really mean it. “Oh, yeah, I’ll be there”. We have no intention of showing up, but we say yes anyway. We love to articulate those empty, non-committal, hollowed out, gutted out, neutered yeses. Let your yes be yes.
I have got to ask you. Is your yes a yes? You see we serve a word-keeping God, a God who says something and stands behind it, a God who says yes and backs it up. And God simply says to you and to me to say yes to what He has said yes to. In other words we are to say yes to the right things, at the right time and in the right way. And if we say yes to what God says yes to, that is saying yes to God’s priorities. I love the word priority because prior is part of the word. There is no use debating or speculating what your priorities should or should not be. They were set forth prior to your birth. Before you were even a gleam in your father’s eye on a cold winter’s night, your priorities were set in stone. Before your mom even dealt with morning sickness during the first trimester, your priorities were set. God has said yes to certain areas of your life and my life and He wants us simply to agree with Him. He wants us to say yes, too.
Now some of you are saying that that is tough to do, that you don’t have the power within yourself, the strength, the intestinal fortitude to carry it out. Well, let me tell you how good God is. The moment we establish a personal relationship with Christ, and many here have made that commitment, He places the person of the Holy Spirit in the depth of our being. The Holy Spirit is committed, in fact it is His priority, to get us to say yes to what God says yes to. And that is exciting. So Christianity is not a solo sport, we have got some cosmic help. If you are a Christ-follower, you know what I am talking about. If you are not, listen because the moment you bow the knee and become a Christ-follower, you will feel this presence within your life.
During the few moments that remain, I want us to talk about four yesses, four big time yesses that God wants us to say. First, He wants us to say yes to developing a deep and dynamic relationship with Him. It is impossible to develop a great connection with Christ off the cuff, on the fly or on the run. We have got to be systematic. We have got to be intentional. It takes discipline. We have got to say yes the day before we actually meet with God. You see, God wants me to meet with Him every day. He wants you to meet with Him everyday. He has an agenda especially for me and especially for you. And if we don’t meet with Him, talk to Him, pray to Him, study His word, we are going to miss out on the abundant and adventurous life that we wants us to live.
I think that Jesus said it best in Matthew 6:33. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” So if I am going to truly soar in my relationship with God, I have got to spend quality moments with Him. I don’t know about you but when I miss two or three days of spending time with God, I experience a kind of free fall into the abyss of rebellion. I’m surprised at my depravity. Maybe you are not like me, but quite frankly, I don’t see how you survive in your relationship with God if you don’t meet with Him regularly and systematically. Now I don’t decide to meet with God when I wake up. I don’t say, “Well, OK, I’m up and today I am going to meet with God. Sometime I am going to meet with God. When it works out with my schedule, when everything is A-OK, then I will meet with God.” I have got to say yes the night before. That is a disciplined yes. “Yes, I am going to wake up a little bit earlier, yes I will bring my journal, yes I will begin to write down my prayers to Him.” Now if you are kind of new to studying the Bible or prayer, we have a class especially designed for you. We teach it once a month. It is called Starting Point. It is led by Pastor Owen Goff. It teaches you how to read the Bible, how to communicate with Christ. And if you want a more in-depth study on prayer, get the tapes “Praying For Keeps”, a sermon series which I did about a year ago. Learning more of these subjects will serve you well. You will see a deep and dynamic relationship begin to develop with the God of the universe. What an awesome thing to realize. God is saying yes every day to meeting with you and meeting with me. The question is, are we going to keep this appointment or are we going to say, “Yeah, God, I’ll be there.” even if we don’t mean it.
We also have to be committed to that which is most near and dear to the heart of God. If we are going to get to know Him, we have got to be committed; we have got to say yes to the church. Why should we say yes to the church? What are the benefits of the church? Here are just a couple of quick ones. The church enables me to join a community of fellow strugglers who can assist me and come along side me during the trials and troubles of life. I don’t know how I could have survived over the last seven years without many of you who have helped me, assisted me, encouraged me and challenged me through difficult times. Yes, you have been there for the good times too, but also for the tough moments. There is nothing like it. And if you don’t have this built into your life, I don’t know how you will “do life”. I really, really don’t.
Thursday, I called a young couple in our church who were walking through a terrible tragedy. I talked to the husband. His voice was breaking but the first words that he said to me were, “Ed, I cannot tell you how much our friends who we have met in the Fellowship have helped us. They prayed for us, have come here to the hospital to see us. It has been unbelievable.” That is what I am talking about. Is your yes a true yes?
One of the biggest frustrations that we as a leadership team deal with here at our church is trying to build the church and develop programs around people who say yes but don’t really back it up. People say “Yes, I will help in the Nursery.” “Yes, I will help with traffic control.” “Yes, I will get involved with the athletic ministry.” “Yes, I will become a part of the home teams.” “Yes, I will participate in a bible class.” “Yes, I will really get engaged in Women’s Ministry.” But rarely do they stand beside and behind the yesses. Usually there are empty chairs, empty spots, forms filled out but no one showing up. We have got to let our yes be yes.
Another benefit of being a part of the church is that it enables you and me to build a base of faith that will serve us now and help and encourage generations to come. It is sort of like an anchor. It anchors you and your family and you can build on it in the future. Show me a great family and more often then not, way back there generations ago you had someone who was really involved in a local church. Have you said yes to really committing to the church?
I know with the winter approaching and on rainy days it is so nice just to lie in the rack, wake up late and not make it to church. You may say to yourself that missing church will give you more time to spend with your family. Also, you may say you will be able to watch all the pre-game shows of the football contests. But don’t buy into that. Be here when we have services. Something supernatural takes place when we open God’s word en masse. Something supernatural takes place when we sing to Him. Something supernatural takes place when we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t miss it. Build your life around it and it will serve you well.
Another benefit of the church is that we can be a part of something that will last forever. We can be a part of something that will be here when we are gone. We can be a part of helping fragmented families, troubled teens and clueless children. We can help. Too many of us get involved in building mountains of nothingness. We think that it is really something until the years roll by and we look back and realize that we have spent all of our time on nothingness. We are talking about building stuff in the lives of people. Education is not the answer. Some of the most educated people I know are some of the wackiest I know. Legislation is not the answer. Look at Washington, DC. Only transformation is it. I sincerely believe that the church is the hope of the world. Have you said yes to Christ and yes to the church?
Eighteen months ago I had a spiritually intensive conversation with a man in a Mexican restaurant nearby. Over our meal I challenged him about Christ and the church. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Ed, I want to say yes to the Lord and yes to the Fellowship.” I talked to him about what his commitment meant and the benefits of the church that I just shared with you. Eighteen months have passed. And this guy is nowhere to be found. I’ll call him John. A couple of weeks ago I saw John at a gym where I work out. I walked up to him and said, “John, how is it going?” He answered, “Oh, its going pretty well.” I said, “John, do you remember the conversation that we had eighteen months ago? Remember your commitment to Christ and the church?” He said, “Yes.” I asked, “What is the deal? Where are you? John, you were talking about your struggles in marriage, parenting hurdles and career pressures. Yet, you are nowhere to be found. It is not going to come together for you until you stand behind your yes to Christ and your yes to the church.” As I walked off do you know what the last words he said to me were? “Ed, I have got to go out of town for a couple of weeks, but yes, I’m going to start coming. Yes, I am going to start doing what I know God wants me to do in my marriage, with my children and in my career.” I’ve not seen him and it breaks my heart. Let your yes be yes. Say yes to developing a deep and dynamic relationship with God.
Secondly, we have to say yes, a resounding yes, to the most strategic relationships in our lives. Let’s talk about marriage. We have got to say yes to our mate through thick and thin, through sickness and health through poverty and wealth. We have got to say yes. I am tired of people giving God and others this line. “Well, I said yes years ago in the church, but I didn’t really mean it. I was kind of coerced and forced to say it.” Well, don’t throw that weak junk up to yourself, to others and to God. You are lying. Tell the truth about your condition. You backed out on the commitment. Your yes was not a yes. God will forgive you. God will restore you. But it is time to say yes and do life right. And when God brings that special someone into your life, say yes and stick with it. I know I have got to say yes regularly and routinely to a date night at least once a week with Lisa. I need to say yes to a once-a-year trip when just the two of us get away together. I have got to say yes to developing a deep relationship spiritually that goes beneath the surface. I have got to say yes to resolving conflicts and handling them that day. I have got to say yes and the Holy Spirit helps me. He elbows me sometimes.
Last week I said some hurtful things to Lisa in front of our four children. I was in the wrong. I was selfish. I said some things that I should not have said. When I said them, I knew I was wrong but it kind of felt good to say them. After awhile, the Holy Spirit began to let me know that I had messed up in front of the children and in front of the most important woman in my life. He urged me to say yes to settling the conflict.
I said to myself, “Well, I’ll do so. Once the kids go to bed, I’ll settle the score with Lisa.” But I felt Him saying, “Ed, you said the hurtful things in front of the kids, apologize to her in front of them.” Then I though about the fact that the twins are three, my son, five and my oldest daughter, eleven. But I felt nudge and when I couldn’t stand it any more, I said, “Lisa, I am sorry. I was totally wrong and I want to apologize to you Laurie, to you Landra, to you EJ, and to you Lee Beth. I said a hurtful thing to your Mom and I was wrong. These words were tough to say but I am glad that I said them. Because I sincerely believe that words like this mark our children more then anything that we could ever tell them or more than anything that we could ever give them. They saw commitment. They saw conflict resolution. They saw love. And they saw life lived on the rugged plains of reality.
Now don’t sit there an say, “Oh, I bet he is just a perfect husband. He is a pastor.” No, I am a fellow struggler like you. But I will tell you one thing. I have improved in this area by the grace of God, and because I spend time with Him daily, and am sensitive to the elbowing of the Holy Spirit. Are you saying yes to your spouse? Are you saying yes to your kids? How about it parents? Are you most concerned about setting sale records at work, and being a five handicap golfer or are you saying that you will spend quality time with your family and that you will show them that your yes means yes.
I read a while ago that the toughest problems children have to deal with are broken promises from their parents. “Someday I will take you fishing.” “Someday we will go outside and throw a football around.” “Someday I will take you camping.” Let your yes be yes.
People ask me a lot about my background, specifically about my parents. They may know that my middle brother, Ben, 34, is a pastor of the largest singles area in any church in the country and the only guy with a nationally syndicated Christian talk show just for singles. They may know that my youngest brother, Cliff, is the lead singer in one of the up and coming Christian alternative bands. Then they meet me and say that my parents did great with two out of three. Kidding. They ask what our parents did that influenced the three of us to end up in Christian work. Sometimes the questioner takes out a pen or pencil for the purpose of recording the great wisdom. But is it very simple. My parents said a couple of important yeses and they stood behind them. They said yes to developing a deep and dynamic relationship with God. That was their top priority. Secondly, they said yes to us. We were right behind their relationship. I knew it was God first, their marriage next and that we came in third. It meant the world to my brothers and I. I have found out that if we say yes to everything, that we become over-committed, over-scheduled and over-stimulated and we will blow a gasket. We have got to say a couple of calculated yeses in some of these areas that we are talking about today and then what God will do is just staggering.
Thirdly, we have got to say yes to reaching our marketplace potential. Work is a gift from God. We were created in the image of a God who works and we have a desire for work and work is good. Work is not sin. Work is not judgment. Adam and Eve worked before sin came into the picture. They did yard work in the garden. Well the Bible comes along and says this in Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than men.” In other words, whatever you do in the marketplace, do it for God. We have people who are part of this church who throw passes, others perform surgeries, others close deals, others install air conditioning units, others preach sermons, others sell medical supplies, others teach students. Whatever you do, do your work as for the Lord.
Are you setting the morality standards around the office? Are you leading out in working diligently? Are you truly concerned about the people you rub elbows with daily? Do you share Christ when He gives you the opportunity to do so? I know how it is. After you have worked in a job for awhile, you know how to get by with the least work possible. You know how to perform those subtle forms of self-promotion in front of your superior. You know how to involve yourself in office chatter to kind of tear apart the boss. Is your yes a true yes in the market place? Are you the one leading out to the best of your ability on any given project? Do you say yes to working for God in the project? Say yes to reaching your marketplace potential. God rewards diligent workers.
Fourthly, we have got to say yes to mindful money management. Our money matters to God. Now some of you are thinking that you don’t make that much, that you don’t have to worry about money management. At the end of the month, there is nothing left. So who cares, you’ll just spend it, it’s gone, no worry. If you make a little bit you should be more strategic and more intentional and more mindful of money management. The Bible says that our giving patterns, our saving patterns and our spending patterns should be acts of worship to God.
Now others here have been blessed financially. You have so many resources that you don’t worry about money management. You buy what you want to. You travel where you want to. Money is just kind of flowing for you. You also have to be intentional and mindful about your money. We have to steward our resources very, very carefully. The Bible says that we should say yes to what God says yes to financially speaking. The priorities concerning money are threefold. First, we are to make money to give. Second, we are to make money to save. Third, we are to make money to spend. But we reverse that, don’t we? We first make it to spend, then we make it to save and if we have enough left over, we kind of tip God now and then.
Let’s talk about giving because God wants the purposes of this church to move out and to become what He wants them to be. The only way it will happen is when people who love Him given generously to kingdom causes, to the local church.
Last week Lisa and I were doing one of our date nights and I had forgotten to go to the bank. I had no cash. I knew that our eleven year old, Lee Beth, had some cash in her wallet. I said, “Lee Beth, we are going to the movies and it starts at five. Can I please borrow some money from you? I need about $30.” Do you know what she told me? She said, “Dad, I don’t like to lend money.” I said, “Lee Beth, please, I did not have time to go to the bank. I need the money.” She said, “Dad…” But then reluctantly she walked into her room and got her wallet, which she had hidden well. She began to count the money. She asked again if I couldn’t get to the bank. But I told her I couldn’t and that I would pay her back really quickly. She gave it to me. Actually I had to kind of pull it from her grasp. LeeBeth didn’t understand two basic things. First, if I wanted to, I am strong enough to take the wallet from her and all the money in it. Secondly, she didn’t understand that I was the one who gave her the money in the first place.
Then I thought about how we treat our Heavenly Father. God says that He wants us to give some money, that He will bless us for it. But we say no to God, that we don’t lend money. We tell Him that we have made it, we can spend it, and we can save it. It is ours. Who are you trying to kid? If God wanted to, He could take it all at once. We fail to understand that. We also, like LeeBeth, don’t understand that God is the one who gave it to us anyway. All we are doing is giving back what is His. Have you said yes to giving? I have heard a lot of people say that they will say yes to giving when the deal comes through, when everything is A-OK, next year when they begin to really make it.
How about saving? If you want to read a great book on money management, read the book of Proverbs. We are to save our money. Our saving goal should be at least 10% of what we make in order to get our money working for us. I meet people all the time who say that one day they will start saving. One day.
Then I meet others who say that they are going to quit their drive-by spending. Have you been by Grapevine Mills Mall yet? I walked in there the other day. It was incredible. It is not an outlet mall. Let me tell you that. The whole place is calling for you to spend. The stores are saying spend money…..spend money…..spend money. A lot of us are overextended and we are drowning in the seas of debt. We float with interest on this credit card and that credit card. Credit cards make poor flotation devices, don’t they? Start now. Say, “God, I will say yes to mindful, strategic money management.” Say yes to what God says yes to. Let your yes be yes.