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Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier.

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can’t get “peace” about saying “yes” it usually means I need to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with opportunities in front of me, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer is to say no.

And, this one is often seasonal. In the initial days of a new job I have less time than when I actually figure out what I’m doing. (I’m there again right now.) When my boys were young and at home I couldn’t do some of the traveling I can do now. But, the key is knowing who God has called me to be and what He has called me to do – in this season of my life.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache. My hope now is it will save you some.

What “good things” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Alex says:

    Great post Ron. I've always believed that just because something it's a "good thing" does not necessarily mean it's a "God thing." Number three on your post is one that I've always gone by… well, all of them, but it's easy to get involved with a "worthy cause" and still get distracted from what God has called you to.

    A few years ago I was offered a job that would pay well over the 6 figures. I took it as a great opportunity and a blessings. Yet, when I learned that it would keep me 75% of my time on the road-on other States, I realized that this was going to hinder my ministry and most importantly, my young family. So I turned it down. The head-hunter was a Christian and agreed with me.

    I can't afford to offer 10% of my efforts to something God has required 100%. So those things that will distract me will not be part of my agenda.

    Thanks for posting and for the reminders.

  • Wow. I just had the same moment as Kevin. For two days I have been struggling. I don't want to quit something I may feel God really wants me to persevere in it, yet I seem to struggle. Am entering that praying and seeking phase to decide. Then this post shows up on my bookmarks which I never remember saving. Thats for the post

  • @kevin_flora says:

    It's so strange how your post from 2 years ago shows up on a day that I am struggling with the exact issue. God's Divine Intervention is so amazing. Thanks for listening to Him!

  • Judy says:

    Do you have some thoughts on how to say no to church members who say “God laid on their heart this ministry idea” when it does not fit into our mission & vision? It may be a great idea but would take resources, time, and staff to pull it off.

    • ronedmondson says:

      We encourage them to go for it…explaining that it doesn't mesh with our vision, but if God is laying in on their heart, He may want them to do it on their own. We've seen several new ministries launch in our community as a result.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Judy, doing a repost of this and just saw your comment from 28 weeks ago. Sorry. I encourage people to pursue their God-given dream, but tell them I don't sense that for the church at this time. Sometimes God calls people to start something new. I encourage that. If they want the church to publicize it without resources or leadership and it doesn't conflict with our vision, then I'm willing to do that.

  • Dionna says:

    Great post. I'm not wrestling with any decisions at the moment, but rather wrestling with the "dream." Wanting MY dream to be a God-dream too. 🙂

    Very sound advice you gave.

  • Jeanie R says:

    Sound advice! Wish I had read this about thirty years ago. The most difficult scenario for me to deal with has been to listen to someone in pain (emotional and/or spiritual) and then listen to the Lord about whether I was part of the solution or not. My heart is always to respond to hurting people. It's taken much time to realize that God has others, besides me, to do His work.

  • Shannon says:

    "A Good Thing vs. A GOD Thing" is an almost daily battle for me as a small Christian book publisher. The tug of war between profitability and what God has specifically set our company aside to do, has meant that on some occasions, we've turned down really good manuscripts because they didn't line up with God's will for our particular company. This is hard to do when bottom lines are our reality and author's feelings are at stake. Because of this challenge, we've made prayer an integral part of the company's daily activities. We want to make sure that all of our decisions are God honoring. I learned this difficult but valuable lesson early on in my publishing career. Going outside of God's will (even for the good stuff l) can cause a lot more harm than good. Hearing Him clearly can still be a challenge, but I think we've become a better company because of our attentiveness to His leadings.

  • It was difficult for me, at an young age with the professional qualification, when I left the corporate sector shunning promising career & good money and entered the NGO sector. All of my friends and peers made fun of me over my decision in this regard. Yet, I am happy with what I am doing now. I believe God has greater plans for me and will use me in special and unique ways.