Every ‘No’ Has a Deeper ‘Yes’
Restraint is never as powerful as pursuit.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say ‘no,’ resist sin, or, as Jesus said, “deny ourselves” (Matt. 16:24). But it does mean that the discipline to say ‘no’ when it’s needed is fueled by the desire of a deeper ‘yes.’
Paul proclaimed exactly this in Philippians 3:10 when he so passionately declared his spiritual aim: “that I may know Christ!” This was his primary pursuit, and it empowered him to resist the pull of things that would have detoured him from God’s will. In fact, he alludes to this earlier in the chapter when he writes that he willingly counted all of his pre-Christ success as “rubbish” in order to “gain Christ” (3:8). Essentially, Paul said ‘no’ to the appeal of worldly approval because of his deeper desire to say ‘yes’ to a divine relationship.
This principle applies across the board. There’s no area where positive pursuit isn’t stronger than negative restraint; where a deep ‘yes’ isn’t fueling the necessary ‘no.’ It’s why the overweight person loses the extra pounds—they desire better health more than bigger portions. It’s why the distant couple decides to move towards one another, not further away—they want intimacy, not adultery. It’s why the father prioritizes his schedule so that family comes before work—he values presence more than presents, a legacy more than regret. Whether it’s the student at school, supervisor at work, parent at home, or Christian in the culture, external progress actually stems from an internal pursuit, a decision to value what is truly important, not just what is temporarily appealing. Saying ‘no’ to those lesser things comes from saying ‘yes’ to greater things.
Since it applies in all arenas, it is wise to make sure we aren’t unintentionally living a spiritual life built only on saying ‘no.’ At some point that ground will give way; you’ll lose your grip and let go of your pseudo-faith out of sheer moral and psychological fatigue.
How much more biblical to build on the foundation of saying ‘yes’ to God; to pursuing him who is our single greatest treasure and weightiest source of joy and happiness. How much more deeply satisfying to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). Pursuing God is where endurance is discovered, perseverance prized, obedience fueled, discipline formed, and conforming to Christ experienced.
Today, let us pursue Christ first so that we resist sin effectively, “counting everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”(3:8).