We are told clearly in the book of James to make sure our “yes” means “yes” and our “no” means “no” but I’m afraid that many times we waver in how our yes and no play out.
James 5:12 (ESV) — 12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
We have all done it! We’ve said, “Yes” to something we knew we shouldn’t because we didn’t have time, or it wasn’t the best use of our skills, or something way out of our bounds. As a result, we look for ways to get out of our commitment. Why is it that we just couldn’t say, “NO?” Or we have had times of just committing to too many things and we live from one excuse to another. Whatever the reason, if there was a scripture that is applicable for today it’s James 5:12 because with the instruction to watch ourselves making rash commitments comes the admonishment to make sure we are good for our word. That takes a commitment to be focused enough on our word to live up to it.
It has been said that very few people who have talent also have the single-minded commitment required to really achieve their goals. In fact, in a recent survey, it was found that most naturally gifted people lack the focus and follow through in the way that is necessary to take advantage of their potential. It makes you wonder how many times we are quick to put ourselves outside the ranks of the naturally gifted, when we may just be in the realm of the over-committed which means we lack the focus necessary to stay on the course to take us to our goals. Again, God says in James 5:12 that it begins by living by your word and living up to your word.
When we talk about focus and commitment, the words of Jesus Christ always come to the front, and rightly so. He is the epitome of someone who could have been easily distracted into over-committing, but He knew He had a job to do and focused on doing just that.
John 6:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Likewise, Jesus had the same admonishment to anyone who wants to be His follower:
Luke 9:23 (ESV) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Did you realize the same one who calls us to total commitment, also taught us by precept and example to avoid over-committing? In the midst of doing a great work of ministering to people, He actually called His disciples to come away and get some rest.
Mark 6:31-32 (ESV) 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
Jesus was not over-committed. He knew exactly what He came to do and did not fall into the trap of trying to do too much.
John 14:31 (ESV) But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
Stop and think about it – Jesus could have been distracted in a thousand different directions in healing, theological discussions, in teaching his disciples, in providing for the poor, etc. But He said, “But I do as the Father has commanded me.”
There’s the freedom!
God does not require us to be over-committed. So watch the trap. It’s easy to feel obligated to say “yes” to every good cause that comes along, but that is not necessarily the best use of our time.
Ephesians 5:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Consider then how Paul applied this principle of committing to being focused and living up to your word:
2 Corinthians 1:17–20 (ESV) — 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
Therefore, in applying the wisdom of God’s word to our lives we move first to looking over our schedules. Instead of allowing things to mount up, treat each day as a day over which He has made you a steward for which He expects you to be faithful. It’s not easy to say “no” to things, especially when they are presented as worthy activities or obligations. It takes discipline to focus on what God wants you to do and avoid over–commitment. No wonder Jesus compared it to taking up a cross daily. Discipline never is easy because it’s bringing yourself to do the things you don’t want to do in order to get the results that you really want.
Once we have made a commitment, God’s word is clear that our “yes” should mean “yes” so we live up to what we say. Likewise, once we’ve made a decision, be it “yes” or “no” we do not go back and forth. That only happens as we commit to taking the time to be proactive with our schedule and only add those things to which we’ll be committed.