Sometimes saying “yes” to God’s will for our lives means saying “no” to good opportunities.
For the last two years my wife and I have served in a ministry to local high school students. I love being part of it—getting to know students, hearing their stories, and helping them process how Jesus relates to their lives.
And tonight I decided—I’m not going back.
Stepping Away from Ministry for the sake of Ministry
The early Church was booming. Day after day, their numbers grew (Acts 2:47). But as their numbers grew, so did their need for infrastructure. The open system of sharing had holes, and certain widows suffered.
Aware of their need, the twelve Apostles summoned the leaders of the early Church and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
I fully expected the Apostles to say, “We have to work together to get this fixed!”
But they realized something I’m only now learning: Saying yes to good opportunities at the expense of God’s call is just as bad as saying no to God.
Like Jonah, God isn’t satisfied with, “I’ll take Your message anywhere except where You call me.”
The Apostles understood that diverting their attention to feed the hungry would solve one problem but create many more. They knew their purpose; God had called them “to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (6:4).
Knowing Good from Great
I’m terrible at saying no to good opportunities (just ask my wife). I need her to help me see what I can (and more often, can’t) handle. Without her help, I would commit to too many good things and burn out.
And herein lies the principle: Knowing what you could do for God and what you should do for God is the difference between good and great.
This isn’t only a principle for following Jesus but for all of life. Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great, “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great…. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
The Apostles’ concrete sense of calling (God’s great for their lives) directed them to say yes and no to many good opportunities. Without realizing it, they were living out Paul’s later words to the Romans: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function” (Romans 12:4).
In the same way, we need to learn to say no to good opportunities that impede God’s great for our lives.
Knowing what you could do for God and what you should do for God is the difference between good and great.
Time to Quit to the Glory of God
I’ll be honest: I’m still wrestling with my decision to step away from high school ministry so I can pursue writing.
“Lord, is this right? Is this really Your will for my life?”
I want to be honest about the questions because I’m sure if God calls you to something similar, you’ll feel the same.
Growing up in the Church, I heard about the importance of self-denial. But I didn’t think until tonight, perhaps God calls us to deny good things for the sake of great things.
But this seems to be what Paul is saying:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Be intentional about your steps. Don’t waste time darting from thing to thing; understand what God has called you to do.
Or I think about Martha, preparing food for Jesus and twelve hungry men. We’re told Martha was “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40), and I wonder how many of us are, too.
Maybe for you, there’s a direction God is leading you, but you haven’t been able to pursue it because you’re distracted by good things. Serving God isn’t the problem; being distracted with serving is.
What can you give up—even a good thing—so you can more fully pursue God’s gifts in your life?
For others who are doing faithful work, I don’t want this post to discourage you. It took me two years of serving at my church to even realize that maybe God was calling me to something else. Your time spent serving God is not wasted. But, “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6).
Keep pursuing good until you get a sense of God’s great for your life. Seek wisdom from God and seek counsel from others. Then commit to quit to the glory of God.