I recall having a conversation with a twenty-something leader a few years ago. He had an opinion on almost everything and felt a strong compulsion to express those opinions. I was thinking (and I may have told him but don’t recall) that at such a young age he should be learning and growing and not forming strong opinions on most everything–at least not at his young age. He should be saying things like, “This is where I am currently standing on such and such an issue, but I am open to hearing other ideas and am also open to the possibility of being wrong.”
Well, suffice it to say, I’m a bit older than a twenty-something and am still growing and learning new things all the time. Along the way, I have also learned what I would call “Universal Principles;” and, after years of experience, have come to believe that they are true in most contexts which is why I would call them universal.
Here Are Three That I Am Currently Thinking About:
1. THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING CONCERNED ABOUT SOMETHING AND BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR IT.
Because I am finite, I can only be responsible for so much. However I can have concerns about a lot of things. It takes a lot of wisdom and grace from the Lord to know the difference. Concerns may lead me to pray, but not to act. I simply cannot take responsibility for everything I’m concerned about. There are not enough hours in a day or capacity in me to respond to everything. I must make choices as to what i say yes or no to without feeling guilty that I’m letting people down.
2. THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT OF SMALL THINGS OVER AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME.
This works in almost any area of life–both positively and negatively. In finances, in eating, in reading and in relationships (with the Lord and others). It’s being consistent with a few things over a long period of time. It’s what Eugene Peterson calls long obedience in the same direction.
3. THE NEEDS WILL ALMOST ALWAYS EXCEED THE RESOURCES.
Number three is closely related to number one.
In my 53 years of vocational Christian ministry, I have never seen this not be true–that the needs will almost always exceed the resources.
There are more needs than there is money, time and people to address those needs. Invariably when you start out trying to meet a need, you will run out of resources before the need is fully and genuinely met.
There are more hurting people than there are resources to help them. There are more leadership positions to fill than there are leaders to fill them. There are more pressing financial needs than there are finances to meet them. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. For me this means at least two things:
- Because there is a need doesn’t necessarily mean I am the one to meet it. Oswald Chambers said, “The need is not the call.” Over the years I have come to deeply believe that this is true.
- I need to pray about the limited finances, time and gifts I have and make wise decisions as to where they are invested.
Saying yes to one set of needs obviously means saying no to other needs. We need to make critical choices in what we say yes and no to. We will never be able to meet all the needs that we are aware of or that come our way, because, the needs will pretty much always exceed the resources…always!
We will want to have increasing clarity as to our purpose, values and vision in order to make such decisions: who are we in Jesus, and what he has called and gifted us to be able to do. We need to be careful, for the good can become the enemy of the best.
Our goal is not to keep everybody happy by saying yes to every request and every needy person, but to be true to our gifts, calling and passion.
My favorite quote in recent months is by Eric Geiger,
“If your goal in life is to keep everybody happy, don’t become a leader, sell ice cream.”
We will have to get comfortable and not feel guilty in saying no. Saying yes all the time, will soon lead to exhaustion, burnout and even physical illness and then we will be in no shape to meet any legitimate needs.