WORDS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
NOVEMBER 16, 1997
No. There is such a finality to it. It is a short, succinct and direct word. Some say it hesitantly while others say it strategically. The inability to articulate this two-letter word tyrannizes many of us in our relational and emotional worlds. The absence of it can cause us to bounce around on the bunny slopes of life missing out on the kind of advancement and progression that God has in store for us.
I guess that is why Jesus, who used this word regularly in his vocabulary, said in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes be yes and let your no be no.” In other words, say it intentionally, lovingly and firmly and it is a word that can change your life. I am in a series entitled just that, “Words That Can Change Your Life.” Last week it was “Yes”. We saw how to say yes to the right things, at the right time, in the right way. Today we are looking at its counterpart. It is impossible to truly say yes until first of all we have mastered the art of saying no.
If you have one hundred good things to do, and you can only do ten of them, you have got to say no ninety times. Our nos need to outnumber, outmaneuver and outscore our yeses. We need to say no, no, no, no, no to every yes. No, no, no, no, no to every yes. We have got to say no because of bigger yeses. Is that your life? Is it? That is the kind of life that the Lord wants you to live. He wants your no to be no. He wants you to say it intentionally, lovingly and firmly.
When we say no, we have got to say no because of a bigger yes. Let’s look at the necessity of no. Just for a second, sit back and relax as I kind of run through the rolodex of Biblical characters who said no because of a bigger yes.
In Exodus 3, Moses said no to one of the most powerful and lucrative positions on the planet when he refused the presidency of Egypt. He said no because he had a bigger yes in mind, leading God’s enslaved people out of bondage to the Promised Land. In Numbers 13, Joshua and Caleb said no to a bunch of fearful, faithless, nay-saying Israelites who had entered the moan zone by saying, “We can’t claim God’s tract of land. We can’t fight these people. They are bigger than Shaquille O’Neal. They are stronger than Chad Hennings. We can’t take them on. They are like WWF champions, too big and bad.” But Joshua and Caleb said no. They said no because of a bigger yes. The yes was claiming God’s real estate using His power and grace and energy to do so.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego looked at King Nebuchadnezzar and said, “King, no. We are not going to worship you or your golden images.” And old King Neb said, “Now, guys, think this through. If you say no, you are going into the fiery furnace.” They said no because of a bigger yes, following the Lord at any cost.
Jump over to the New Testament. In Mark 3, we have Matthew saying no to a lucrative accounting business because he said yes to Christ. He said the bigger yes to joining Christ’s management team. And then in Matthew 4, who can forget the series of nos that Jesus said to Satan’s temptation trifecta. Christ said no, no, no because of a bigger yes, living a sinless and perfect life as an example for you and for me. When you say no you have got to have a bigger yes behind it.
This plays out in our lives as well, doesn’t it? Maybe some here need to say no to that flirtatious conversation at work because there is a bigger yes behind it of marital sexual purity. Maybe others here need to say no to long lunches and padding those expense accounts because of a bigger yes, marketplace integrity. Maybe others need to say no to yet another hunting trip because of a bigger yes of spending time with your wife and your family. Maybe others need to say no to that spontaneous spend because of a bigger yes of living on a budget. Maybe others need to say no to watching yet another football game because you have said a bigger yes to having you and your family here at church. Wherever we turn, we have got to say those nos because of bigger yeses. Last week we defined the four big yeses. Please pick up the tape if you missed that sermon. We said very simply that we have got to say yes to a deep and dynamic relationship with God, yes to the most strategic people in our lives, yes to reaching our marketplace potential and, finally, yes to mindful money management. Those are the four big yeses behind all of our nos.
During the few moments that remain in this message, let’s look at the no necessities. That kind of reminds me of a song….”the no necessities, the no, no, no necessities, forget about your worries and your strife…” You can tell what I watch a lot. Didn’t that come from the Jungle Book? I am going to challenge you to say these three nos because God has been challenging me on this front. The first no we have got to say is a draining no. You can call it “Drano”. We are relational creatures, aren’t we? We are made in the image of our God and God has given us the desire to relate to people. Yet many of us find ourselves in relationships that suck emotional energy from us.
Years ago I was traipsing around in a marsh area with lilly pads and water moccasins and alligators. I was with a couple of friends of mine. One was a former Marine who had served in Vietnam. He was with his wife who was a pretty tough gal herself. As the sun began to set I started to get a little bit frightened so I said, “Hey, Bib, let’s go back to the car. I am ready to go.” Great name, right? Bib is from Pecos, Texas. We got back to the car and I took off my muddy shoes. When I removed one sock I noticed some slimy stuff on my ankle. There was a long thing, several inches that would not come off my ankle. Then I saw it move a little. It was a leach. Just like from the pages of the X Files. I thought I could feel the blood being drained out of my life. I had visions of dying on the way back home. And being the tough outdoorsman that I am, I shouted, “Bib, I’ve got a leach on me. Help.” His wife used to be a nurse, and that comforted me somewhat. He answered, “Oh, Ed, don’t worry about that. Back in Vietnam we would take a cigarette and burn those suckers off.” But Bib wasn’t smoking any more so he decided to use the car lighter. They held me down. Bib told me, “It will just hurt a little bit, Ed.” Finally that leach released its suction on my ankle and I am here today preaching!
Now a lot of us have relational leaches in our lives, don’t we? We have people who suck the energy and the vitality right out of us. They just drain us. They want to be your friend and mine maybe just for the benefits, because we will listen to them, pray with them, talk to them. I firmly believe that the evil one puts five relational leaches in every Christ-follower’s life. The evil one wants us to spend so much time with these leaches that we will be drained, spent, toasted when it comes to dealing with our spouses and children. We will give those important people just the leftovers because we are so wasted. We have got to have some leaches in our life. But most of us have too many. Here is your homework for next week. I am going to challenge you from this stage to live a leach-free life for the next seven days. Just get rid of the leaches and watch your tanks refill emotionally, spiritually and even physically. You will be able to invest deeper in those relationships that really matter.
The first no is a drain no. The second no is a technology no. You can call it a “techno” in keeping with the theme today. We love technology. We are plugged in, wired up and glued to television, CD players, fax machines, cell phones and beepers. And we love it. The main culprit in technology that robs us from being what God wants us to be is television. We need to say no to television. I talk to many people. Those in Generation X and Baby Boomers love to say, “I’m so busy. My calendar is jammed. You will not believe what I have got going on next week. I am swamped. I have got so many calls to return.” You know why they are saying that? Because it makes them sound important. Most of us aren’t that busy because most of us spend too much time hooked up, plugged in and wired to technology. I read a statistic this past week that waylaid me. It felt like an Evander Holyfield upper cut. Do you realize, adults, if you are average, you would gain 30 hours a week if you turned off the television? “Well, Ed, I don’t watch much TV. I spend a lot of time with my family.” Hey, take out a pencil and a little scrap sheet of paper and just begin to time how many hours you spend watching television. Can you say no to technology? Can you?
A couple of years ago Lisa and I made a decision not to have a television in our bedroom. We found that we were watching television too much and we weren’t talking and allowing our relationship to develop. And now our communication and our intimacy have increased. It works. I talked to a young bride recently. She said, “Ed, during the courtship phase my husband was the Sultan of suave. He was Lance Romance. He was unbelievable. And when we walked down the wedding runner I thought that our romance would really explode and be like a romance novel for the next 50 years. But now that we are married, all my husband does is come home from work, park himself on the couch and just watch ESPN.” Guys, many of you know more about the emotional needs of Chris Berman than you do about the emotional needs of your wife. Now, women, don’t elbow him too much. Multitudes of you talk on the phone so much that you are not giving him TLC and you are giving MCI and AT&T a lot of business. That is why the Bible says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” There is a correlation, a direct one, between being still and knowing. If you always have the radio, the CD player, the television on, you never, ever will become the kind of person that God wants you to be. You will continually bounce around on the bunny slopes of life, missing the advancement and progression that God has planned for you.
You have got to say a drain no. You have got to say a tech no. And the third no is an overload no. Or you could say an “oh no”. Have you noticed how fast we move around these days? Everything is fast. We eat fast. We exercise fast. We work fast and we say we are sorry that we have got to go because we are in a hurry. We are over-committed, over-stimulated, over-soccered, over-footballed, over-bored and over the edge. Our calendars are slowly choking us. Do you say no regularly to the good things that occur in your life, those good opportunities, those good events, those good nights on the town? We have got to say no regularly and routinely to the good things so that we will discover the best. If you have got people in your life who really love you, they will love your nos as much as your yeses. If you have got people who don’t love your nos, they are not really your true friends. They are leaches. They have got to love your nos and love your yeses.
So what do you need to do concerning your calendar? What do you need to say no to strategically, intentionally, lovingly and firmly? Can you say no without any caveats, contingencies or clauses? Can you do that? Jesus said to let your no be no. Just say it.
About three years ago I was having a problem saying no. I would have a verbal meltdown just saying no. I was teaching regularly on the weekends, teaching Wednesday nights, visiting in people’s homes two nights a week. A man who really loves me came along side me and said, “Ed, you are doing too much. You have got to say no. You have got to say no because of God, because of your spouse, because of your children. God wants you to be a healthy leader of a healthy church doing healthy kingdom work.” And I began to say no, without guilt, without apologies, without excuses. It was so freeing. I delegated a lot of stuff, backed away from a lot of stuff and began to concentrate on those three or four big yeses. I have learned to say no many times to every yes and it has served me, my relationship with God, my wife, my children and this church well. I challenge you to boldly do the same thing. For the next couple of weeks just regularly say no to some good opportunities. Just say no. It is so freeing.
And, parents, need I remind you of the importance of saying no to your children. If you don’t say oh no to them, one day you will be saying, Oh, No. Our kids are begging for us to say no, to draw the line in the sand saying, “Here are the boundaries. If you cross these boundaries, there will be consequences.” I run into so many parents today who can’t say no. Here is what happened in my life Friday. You won’t believe this. EJ celebrated his sixth birthday but inviting six of his male kindergarten classmates to our house for a pirate party. The party was supposed to be outside but it was frigid. We had it indoors in the den. My wife is super creative and she had patches, bandanas and swords for the kids. She had two cement blocks in the den with a plank connecting them for the kids to walk across. The kids filed in, all six. I have visited EJ’s class several times and the kids are very well behaved. They have a great teacher. A couple of parents showed up with their kids. One was the parent of a boy we shall call John. She came to our home with a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I thought that was rather strange. We had not planned to serve lunch, but she had brought the chicken. We were there in den watching the children play the games. This woman kept feeding her son pieces of chicken. He was kind of greasy around his mouth. I thought that was OK. I am not a big chicken eater. Fried chicken can kill you at an early age, but I didn’t mind that he was having fried chicken. I did mind that this little boy, John, was going ballistic. He was bouncing off the wall, throwing stuff from our coffee table around, jumping on the plank until finally the plank fell. She couldn’t say no. She couldn’t say it. Then John would come up to me and say “Mr. Young, could I go to EJ’s room?” I said, “No, John, we are going to stay up here.” Five minutes later, “Can I go to EJ’s room?” Again, “Can I go to EJ’s room?” His mother was right behind me. His mother couldn’t say no. Hey, that little man runs the show. At school he doesn’t because the teacher is in charge. But the Mom is so scared of no, so frightened of hurting his feelings, so freaked out about the boundaries that this child’s future is up for grabs.
I have spoken to thousands of junior high and high school students. I have seen what happens because of parent’s inability to say no. And parents, a lot of your kids are doing this stuff just so they will get your attention. Do you say no regularly, firmly, lovingly? Do you draw the boundaries or are you sitting there eating that chicken saying, “Boys will be boys.”
The reason I am so passionate about this subject is because it is the essence of our salvation. Do you remember when Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, His flesh being torn by the nails, bleeding to death, suffocating? All hell and all the demonic forces screamed in His ear, “Hey, Jesus, jump down, its not worth it.” Do you know what Jesus said? No. He said no because of a bigger yes, paying for your sins and mine on the cross. If that is not the motivation that we need to say no because of a bigger yes, I don’t know what is. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. They are itty, bitty words that can change your life.