Learning when to say “No”


I’ve been reading through the New Testament. The other day, I read the following passage from Acts. And I believe God spoke to me through this story of a church conflict from long ago.

(Acts 6) 1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the work of God in order to serve tables. 3Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The statement found approval with the whole congregation and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a prosetyte from Antioch. 6And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

7The word of God kept on spreading and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

In the first verse we get the summary of the problem. A subset of the Jewish widows were being neglected. This smacked of favoritism or maybe even prejudice. The apostles took this complaint seriously. Unity was of the utmost concern.

But in verse two, I observe that they apostles seem to feel themselves “above” serving tables. Anyone can serve tables, but we are the chosen ones. We will not stoop to this menial task.

That idea didn’t sit right with me. Especially when I observed the caliber of men chosen for this task. They were “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. Obviously these men were well qualified to lead, and, at least in the case of Stephen, equipped to teach. This serving of tables must not be considered a menial task after all.

So, why didn’t the apostles want to do it?

So that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. An equally important task (perhaps even more important).

So it is not that the serving of tables was beneath them, but that it was not what they were called to do! What wisdom they displayed in understanding the sphere that God had placed them in and being comfortable with the scope of their own calling.

So often I’m presented with a problem or request and I jump in and help. Serving all over the place without stopping to consider if it is really my calling. I see the apostles using the important skill of delegation when a situation presents itself that is outside their top calling and priorities.

And the result of all this? The focus on their God-given priorities and delegation to capable others for the tasks outside their calling? The result of their caring enough to resolve the problem in a way that unified, could be sustained, and did not pull them from their main tasks?

8The word of God kept on spreading and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

They were able to have a lasting impact on the world around them by being obedient to their calling, and by not getting distracted by all the other wonderful good ways they could be serving that were not Got’s plan for them.

So I ask myself, what am I called to do?

  • First and foremost: to Love God.
  • To love my husband.
  • To love my children.
  • To teach and train my children.
  • To manage my home.
  • To show hospitality.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:4-5

Those things can cover a lot of ground, and one can justify almost any “good” activity. But I asked myself, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this what God is calling me to do?

The good things in life are often the enemy of the best things.

It’s a time of reviewing commitments in my life. Of reevaluating priorities. Of letting things go that have crept in — things outside my calling.

And of learning to say “no” to other things.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

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