Why don’t I say “no” more often? A lot of my troubles come about because I say “yes” too frequently and “no” not nearly enough.
To my sons I hesitate to say “no” so that I will not disappoint them (even though I know that “no” is often in their best interests); I don’t say “no” to things I am tempted to do, think or say (that I am certain are wrong) because I am simply weak or lazy; I don’t say “no” when cravings or appetites come upon me because I reason that I “deserve” to indulge a little—-though I later regret it.
But my heroes had no problem with saying no. These are the men and women I have known or come across in history that really did not care what others thought of them! They had enemies precisely because they stood up for something and spoke frankly and courageously that offensive little two-letter word: “NO”.
Paul had no issue with saying no—even to the “super apostles” of his time. But something happened to him those three years that followed his conversion: the man “fell in love” with Jesus Christ and had an unwavering loyalty. He prized Jesus approval over all else. Period. Sadly, I have personally not come across many saints like this, nor have I arrived at that level of devotion/loyalty.
So I’ve been wondering what happened to Paul during those three years? He had that dramatic confrontation with Jesus on the road to Damascus; he was blinded and then healed a few days later; but then he spent three years alone —-somewhere sequestered from everyone else—-and came back a lion of Jesus. What allowed during those three years that brought about this incredible conversion in his life —-something not at all common to other Christians?
So much of our preaching and teaching appears to focus upon what God could/should do for me, but the early followers spoke about what He had already done on the cross and the overwhelming peace, joy and love that followed as the entered from being condemned to redeemed. How have we lost that? Paul and other giants within Christendom never lost sight of this.
That’s the big difference I think. Paul maintained this incredible focus not only on the Christ that saved him, but he also saw in Jesus the only Being that truly was the lover of His soul. For Paul, and others after him, it was a mystical “Jesus, the very thought of thee…” that caused them to endure or withstand separation, humiliation and suffering most of us will never witness.
May such a thought invade my mind today and never leave me….