One of the things that God has really been teaching me lately is how to say “no”. I have to admit, that has never been an easy word for me speak. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Tommy Boy. In the movie, Tommy’s dad is an incredible salesman. When he is about to close a big sale, the line that Tommy’s dad uses on the potential client is, “Why say no, when it feels so good to say yes?” As funny as it was in the movie, I find it rather concerning how easily I can fall pray to that line every day.
Saying “no” is difficult. Saying “yes” to an opportunity is often met with excitement and acceptance. Saying “no” to an opportunity often coincides with rejection and sometimes hurt feelings. We are presented with numerous opportunities every single day to answer “yes” or “no”. Sometimes those opportunities are things we know are detrimental to our physical and spiritual health. For example, “Would you like a third helping of dinner?” Other times, those opportunities may seem like they are beneficial, but we want to answer “yes” for all of the wrong reasons. An example of this might be, “Would you like to lead another group this year?”
Matthew chapter 4 tells us that immediately after His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It is so interesting to me that the instant that Jesus is baptized, the very first thing that He teaches us is the power of restraint. Before Jesus starts His unparalleled ministry of saying “yes” to so many people asking for healing and forgiveness, He demonstrates His unparalleled ability to say “no” to the temptations of the world. The mortar that holds together the bricks of Jesus’ indestructible ministry is His hearts unchanging desire to say “no” anything that is opposition to God and, more importantly, say “yes” to whatever His father asks of Him.
I think what we can so easily miss about His temptation in the desert is why Jesus was able to say no, why He was able to exercise such restraint. The answer seems pretty simple to me. Jesus could say “no” to Satan because He had already firmly established a “yes” to His father. With each different temptation, Jesus emphasizes His “no” by means of a scripture. In other words, Jesus is saying, “No, because my father said so.” Anytime Satan offers Jesus anything that is contrary to His Father’s commands, Jesus can resist because He has already placed His full faith in His Father’s direction. This is exactly why Jesus can say “no” to all the kingdoms of the world when offered by the devil, but freely say “yes” to a cross on which He would be tortured, humiliated, and bear the sins of the entire world.
In this season of new beginnings, in which we all start to list out all the things we are going to say “no” to throughout the next year, I challenge you to shift your focus just slightly. Saying “no” to things like eating unhealthy foods, being a couch potato, or drinking too much alcohol is good. Saying “yes” to the one who gives you the grace to overcome those temptations is better. Simply telling ourselves to say “no” to temptation isn’t enough to overcome that temptation. We have to know what we are saying “yes” to. Friends, we are saying “yes” to our all knowing, all loving Father in heaven, who’s ways are higher than our ways, who’s desire is to prosper us and not to harm us, and who longs to see us walk in the unmatched fullness of His joy.