When I was a young, single Christian woman, I was completely engulfed in ministry, living 1 Corinthians 7:34a to the fullest–"In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit." I split my time between evangelism outreach, gospel choir, tutoring, nonprofit chaplaincy, and other volunteer work.
This level of involvement worked great during that phase of my life. The problem is I didn't properly reassess my commitments after I got married. I ignored Part B of the verse: "…But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband." I ran on overdrive and felt it was my Christian duty to say yes whenever someone in the church requested something of me. I was on the way to burn-out, which is the inevitable result of over-commitment, lack of focus, and lack of wisdom.
God has created each of us to be uniquely gifted and talented. Nobody else can do what I do in the exact way that I do it, and the same applies to you. Likewise, none of us can exercise all of our skills effectively at the same time. In any season of life, God may call us to focus on specific areas of ministry or giftedness. If we are obedient to his leading, this may require that we say no to other areas of interest.
The problem is, no rarely makes the recipient happy. And yet Jesus instructs us, "Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,' or ‘No, I won't.' Anything beyond this is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37) Although it took some time to learn, I now trust in the power of a simple no. And now, once I've made the decision not to say yes to something, I decline the offer graciously, and I don't try to justify my answer. When I used to try to explain my no, it simply empowered the recipient to negotiate with me. So take authority of your no with love and confidence, and render it with compassion and respect.
Also, I realize now, when I say no to one thing, I'm saying yes to something else. When I take on tasks out of compulsion or because I think it's what I ought to be doing, I may be missing God's opportunity to make a unique contribution to his Kingdom, and I may be robbing someone else of the chance to serve him.
Here are some ways to discern if, when and how to let your yes be yes, and your no, no:
• Be willing to trim. Ask God about where you may need to prune or prioritize.
• Pay attention to timing. Know that just because he has gifted you in a particular area does not mean that you should always function in that capacity.
• Recognize that others may need training. Understand that just because someone asks you to do something does not mean that you have to do it. Oftentimes, the same people frequently get asked to serve because other leaders know that you are competent and will get the job done. On the other hand, you may simply be an escape to avoid their challenge of reaching out, taking a risk, and training others.
What are ways you've overcome a tendency to say yes to too many things? How have you learned to identify what to say yes to and what not?
Natasha Robinson is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (2002). She served six years active duty as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Currently, she serves as Co-Director of the Women's Mentoring Ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC. She is also a full-time student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and a wife and mother. Check out her blog, A Sista's Journey.