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The Nine Rules of “No”

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There are times in all of our lives when we need to say “no” to something asked of us. Some things may seem obvious and yet many of us want to be pleasers and take on the burden of doing, allowing or saying something that is contradictory to what would be healthiest for our lives.

Pleasing other people is a good thing . . . up to a point. But you must never allow your “willingness to please” interfere with your own good judgment or with God’s priorities. God gave you a conscience for a reason; to inform you about the things you need to do as well as the things you don’t need to do. It’s up to you to make the best decision, even if it means making an unpopular one. Your job is to be popular with God, not people.

The ability to say “no” draws strength from the proper view of us as partners with God. We are not adequate to meet every need, which is something only God can do. Our sense of value is vested in God and his image within us, not in the weight of our achievements. Having an awareness of our need to overcome insecurity and the deep desire to be liked and say “no” with certainty will free us from the bondage of the need to always say “yes.”

However, there are also certain times in our lives when everything within our being wants to shout “NO!” from the rooftop, but our answer should actually be “yes,” because the resulting efforts will stretch us, help us grow and help keep others from potential harm.

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, he writes, "We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God … it is part of the discipline of humility … that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God."

Bonhoeffer’s message was that we should be willing to say “yes” to things when God ordains it, and “no” to things that would hold us back from His call on our lives. When we adhere to that call, we allow ourselves to be stretched and molded into the vessel that delivers God’s grace to the world.

Here are nine proven rules to help determine when to say “no” and also help open your eyes to new possibilities that God has for you if you say “yes.”

When to say “No” …

  1. When saying “yes” would enable evil or encourage it
  2. When our health or welfare is being needlessly jeopardized by a controlling or manipulative person
  3. When saying “yes” to something good would rob us of something amazing that God would have us doing instead
  4. When we are tempted to do the same stuff over and over that has failed to deliver on helping us to take our lives back
  5. When we would use “yes” just to avoid conflict or exert energy we are lazily wanting to avoid

When NOT to say “No” …

  1. When we are called upon to be courageous and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, no matter the consequences
  2. When it is punitive, vengeful, mean and manipulative of another person
  3. When “yes” would open the door to opportunity for healing and wholeness
  4. When the risk of “yes” will allow us to experience Him in our lives in all of his fullness

Copyright © 2017 Stephen Arterburn. Used by permission.

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About The Author


Stephen Arterburn M. Ed. is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries, a teaching pastor at Northview Church, and host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! radio program. Stephen Arterburn's books on Amazon