In an earlier post, we talked about being on the receiving end of “no.” What about the other way around-do you feel bad saying “no”? Very few of us have learned the art of not only “neglecting” an unnecessary but also appreciating its epic implications. In my own life, this is a constant struggle in which God has recently been providing greater clarity and conviction. Here a few thoughts that may help you who must navigate the incessant demands in the home, community, workplace, and ministry…
According to Randy Alcorn, “The key to a productive and contented life is ‘planned neglect’— knowing what not to do and being content with saying no to truly good, sometimes fantastic, opportunities. This happens only when you realize how truly limited you are, that you must steward your little life, and that of all the best things to do on the planet, God wants you to do only a minuscule number.”
You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission. There are many good things in this world that will go undone or that will have to be done by someone else. It is not until you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter!
Tim Challies, in his book Do More Better, advises the overwhelmed to return to each one of our areas of responsibility, examine that list of roles and projects, and ask questions like these:
- Are these the right and best things for me to be doing?
- Do these things fit my mission?
- Are there things I can do in this area that no one else can do?
- Am I especially gifted or talented in this area?
- Do I bring unique value to this?
- Is there someone else who could do this better than I can?
The Apostle Paul regularly practiced these questions and mindset:
Ga 6:14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Php 3:7 “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Challies goes on to state, “You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.” Wow! That is convicting. Isn’t it?
Ultimately it is not about just greater efficiency but greater relationship with our persevering Savior who practiced this principle better than anyone:
Heb 12:1-3 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Would join me in a more “planned neglect” that is the result of, as one author put it, “a slow yes and a quick no”?