I have a confession to make.
As a people-pleaser, I can have a really hard time saying no to people looking for my yes. When well-meaning family, friends, roommates or coworkers ask me to do something, how can I possibly say no?
“Can you come help out at this social event where you will undoubtedly feel awkward and weird?” YES
“Can you take on this extra work assignment that stresses you out and that you have zero time for?” OF COURSE.
“Can you do this last-minute thing for me that you actually have no idea how to do?” ABSOLUTELY.
But even if you’re a greater rebel than me (or just have a little more balance in your life), it can be even harder to say no to ministry… what feels like saying no to Jesus.
“Can you serve in the nursery even though you don’t like kids?” OK.
“Can you set up at church? And tear down? And run sound? And lead worship?” YES. YES. YES.
But even if we’re always saying yes, is it out of joy to love and serve Jesus and His people? Or is it out of guilt, a feeling of obligation? Is it from fear that if we say no, we’ll get on God’s “bad side,” that He won’t love us anymore?
I desire to live a life pleasing to God, to live like Jesus… I even give Him my yes, but I often struggle to give Him my yes from a place of love—loving Him and knowing He’ll STILL love me even if I sometimes say no.
Recently, I was taking an afternoon run around my neighborhood when Jesus asked for my yes.
A half block ahead of me, I noticed a man with a walker in the distance. I ran into the street to give Him more room, and I smiled at him as we passed. His face lit up and he even paused his shuffle down the sidewalk to smile at me.
But I kept running.
This was inconvenient. Seeing a “lame man” when you’re filled with God’s Spirit and His power to pray for people to be healed can really get in the way of your workout. I didn’t say this to God, but what I did next communicated the same message.
“Lord, touch him and heal him,” I sent up a little prayer, just something to check “praying for the sick” off my good Christian girl to-do list for the day.
With each breath and stride I took though, the man’s face continued to fill my mind, along with a string of what if’s. What if God wanted to use me to heal him? What if I ignored the feeling? What if the man wasn’t healed because I didn’t say yes to God calling me back to pray?
Of course, God could heal Him without any help from me, I reasoned. He’s God! A true statement—but another truth is that God gives us a heart and soul, in addition to a rational mind, to guide our actions.
Pause. Pray. Love. This was the Father’s invitation.
I turned around, starting a slow and hesitant jog back in the man’s direction. By now, he was in the middle of the street, slowly hobbling to the other side. Another inconvenience. “NO. I can’t stop him THERE!” I reasoned with the Lord. So I waited till he was safely back on the sidewalk. Then I ran. I didn’t actually know what I’d say when I faced him.
“Excuse me,” I said. He didn’t hear me at first. “Excuse me!” I said, a little louder. He hustled to the side, thinking I wanted to pass, and I felt bad for startling him.
Now I was REALLY feeling uncomfortable. “I hope this isn’t weird,” I began, huffing and sweating from sprinting toward him.“Do you believe in prayer for healing?”
“Well, yeah!” the man replied. Wow. Was this really going to be THAT easy?
I asked him what had happened, gesturing to the brace on his back and the walker before him. He shared about old football injuries, a collapsed disc, twenty years of chronic pain. As I listened, he shared even more—how he felt stuck at home, unable to work… struggling to be patient and hopeful. His doctor had told him it could take 9 months to a year for him to be totally healed.
I listened. And by listening, I loved. Then, I asked if I could pray. God’s grace saturated that sidewalk, and the man was so open and willing.
I prayed for his healing, for peace and patience, for the Lord’s presence to be with him during his recovery. “In Jesus’ name,” I said, and we shook hands. I buzzed with the exhilaration of saying yes to God. But I thought that was it.
Then the man asked, “Can I… can I have a hug?”
Without hesitation, I said YES.
As I hugged him, I felt the Lord filling me with an even greater measure of love for this man, using me as the arms of Jesus to embrace my neighbor with the Father’s love. All along I’d felt a sense of duty to pray for him, when really the Lord just asked me to say yes to love.
Then the man said something surprising. “You know, I’ve been thinking about God a lot lately… and then you came along.”
God delights in our obedience, but it isn’t His end goal. It’s our love. Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21). Saying yes to God shows we trust Him. Obedience is the evidence of our love.
Knowing He loves us, we’re empowered to love Him right back, even when obedience demands our all. Secure in the Father’s love, Jesus gave the hardest yes to give. The Father asked His Son to give up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. Jesus’ response? “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus’ loving obedience—a love that loves to the point of death—is a demonstration and declaration that His Father is a good Father we can trust and follow.
Saying yes becomes a whole lot easier when we know we’re loved. We say yes, not because of what it will do for us, but because of what Love Himself has already done. Love is a verb.