The Way I See It, A Pastor’s Perspective “The Power In Saying NO”

Southaven,MS

The power in saying NO…

Of all the lessons the Lord has taught me over the years, the one of saying no has had the most positive results. Now I don’t mean saying no to others, I am talking about saying no to myself! Saying no to the flesh when desires surface that could be detrimental or damaging to my walk with Him! Desires that, if acted upon, would separate me from Him. You may have had a ‘duh’ moment just then, thinking “everyone knows they need to say no”, but apparently I was a little denser than most! That lesson certainly transformed my life.

The ‘teachable moment’ that day, now over 37 years ago, was necessary because of habits that existed in me from years of having it my way. In truth, I always caved to whatever the flesh wanted. And it took a conversation with the Lord to alert me to that fact. That conversation came about because of my smoking cigarettes.

I started smoking when I was 15. The guys that I were hanging with in Whitehaven in the late sixties, a pretty rough group, all smoked. In fact, when we were all together, I felt like an outcast! I wanted to be like them. In my thinking it was expected of me that I smoke as well so I caved, but I didn’t let my parents know. Even though my Dad also smoked I knew they wouldn’t approve, as I wasn’t even old enough to drive.

So, I sneaked around and smoked that summer. I was so tough. So cool. Then came that day in the kitchen with my parents when my Dad tossed me a pack of Kools. Sternly and to the point, he said “if you’re gonna smoke, you might as well smoke around us!” How did he know?? Then a few days later my Mom, who didn’t smoke, slapped a cigarette out of my mouth with a sterner warning, “Don’t you talk to me with that thing in your mouth!” Good grief! What’s a fella’ to do? But I digress…

I was a full fledged pack-a-day smoker by the age of 16. Then I got wondrously saved at the tender age of 19 on a Sunday night in a small Church in Whitehaven. That’s another story for yet another day. I was introduced to Jesus that night as my Savior, yet I continued to smoke. As I grew in the Lord and became more involved in Church, I assumed various duties. I sang in the Choir; I taught 3rd grade boys in Sunday School; I was Vice President of my Youth Group. I fully devoted myself to church activities and to Bible Study. Yet, still I smoked. I know, right?? How does a Christian serve God and smoke?? The same way a Christian judges, drinks, curses, overeats, has premarital sex, and does any number of other things contrary to our walk with Jesus, I suppose. We ignore the gentle convicting of the Holy Spirit and plod along in our self-absorbed ways!

I continued to smoke for the next several years, all the while faithfully serving Churches in whatever capacity I could. Sure I wanted to quit, but just never could. I knew it was affecting my witness. I knew it was harming my health. I knew I smelled like Hell, literally, but still I couldn’t stop! I enjoyed it! I would repeatedly ask the Lord to deliver me. I would hear others tell of how they were supernaturally delivered from smoking. I would hear some say that the desire left the day they got saved. I would beg and plead in my quiet time with God to take away the desire. Crickets would be all that I would ever hear. No response from Him at all, and the silence was deafening.

Then, after years of my whining and demanding that He do something, He finally spoke to me regarding the subject. After the 11 thousandth time of my pleading with Him to deliver me from cigarettes, He very matter-of-factly responded.
He said “Michael, you have no self discipline. You don’t know how to say no to your flesh. You have no self control.” Now I was the one with crickets in the background.
Wowsers! He had summed me up in one short conversation! Whatever the flesh had wanted it had gotten. I never said no! He continued on that day, “When you learn to say no to your flesh and it’s desires, then I will deliver you.” Wow! Game changer! LIFE changer! I needed to learn that simple word “no” and exercise it against myself! How profound! (I told you I was dense). My life would be different in so many ways if I could master that one word!

Finally learning to say no to little ol’ me took me in new directions. To begin with, I stopped smoking immediately. I told myself that day, and every day after that for two weeks straight, that no matter what the flesh did, it could NOT have a cigarette. It could shake, cry, get sick, lay on the floor and have a tantrum, but it wasn’t getting even a wrinkled butt to smoke. Finally, the spirit man in me was in charge and was beginning to rule the flesh man! At the end of those two weeks of walking in my new found discipline, the Lord graciously delivered me from smoking. And I haven’t wanted a cigarette in almost 40 years!

That discipline, the power to say no, would produce a new will in me. The will to better myself in other areas as well! That summer I dropped about 25 pounds of excess weight. I found the will to work even harder when I didn’t think I could go on. I disciplined myself in the study of the Word too. I’ve now been through the Bible several times. I became a better person in so many ways because I learned to say no to ME.

That is perhaps the single greatest teaching I can pass on to others who may be struggling with habits. Learn to say no to your flesh and let the spirit man take over.
I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching concerning having two dogs in your yard. Whichever dog you feed the most will become the strongest, obviously. And it’s certainly true in the spiritual realm. Whichever one you feed or satisfy, whether it be the flesh or the spirit, that one will become the strongest!

It is not rocket science folks…..if you desire to succeed in your Christian walk and you desire to overcome things that are hindering you in your relationship with the Lord, then the spirit MUST rule over the flesh! You must say NO to YOU!

And that’s the way I see it!

Pastor Mike