For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Gal. 1:10
I don’t like people to tell me what to do. Even unspoken expectations are often a problem. True story: I recently purchased one refrigerator over another simply because I didn’t like the words “Fruits and Vegetables” and “Meat Crisper” printed on the drawers. My inner voice rose up and said, “HEY LG, YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME!”
If we’re honest, I think most of us would say we have that same attitude about the expectations other people place on us. I’m not talking about the expectation to be a decent, respectful, kind-hearted, hard-working person. Those are no-brainers. I’m talking about the kind of expectations that sometimes come in the form of invitations to serve on a committee, donate money to charity, coach a Little League team, or teach a class of 5th graders at church.
And you shouldn’t do what other people want you to do, just because they expect it. People’s expectations of you and God’s call on your life are often in opposition. It’s important we know which is which, and go with the latter.
That said, I also believe it is true that many of us say “No” more than we should. Our resistance to other people’s expectations – and resentment of them, because we have so often said “yes” to the wrong things – leads us to reject opportunities we shouldn’t.
When I confuse being a slave to God with being a slave to people, I fail to fulfill the purposes God has for my life altogether.
Unless I have another commitment, I don’t say no when people ask me to speak at their church or event, teach a class, or when editors ask if I will write an article, devotion, or unit of Bible study curriculum. I just don’t. God has given me certain gifts, and I want to use them. There have been times when my initial thought was, “I’m way too busy; I don’t think I can do this right now.” But it has been my experience that, even when my calendar says I have none, God gives me the time I need to do those things and do them well. And, in the end, I’m always glad I did. It makes sense. After all, He is the giver of all our gifts and abilities, and He is also the giver of time. You can’t truly give God credit for the gifts without also believing He can also organize the means to use them.
God has given you certain gifts, too, and whether or not those gifts currently fit in with the ways other people want you to spend your time doesn’t change your responsibility to be a good steward of them (1 Pet. 4:10).
Give me a microphone any day, but I’m horrific at making small talk. So if believers with the gift of gab don’t come chat it up with people at the big outreach event, opportunities are lost. We each have an important role; that’s God’s design.
You don’t have to wait for someone to ask, either. There’s a reason begging is not in the list of spiritual gifts. The New Testament assumption is that ministers wouldn’t have to search the church roll for people to serve in various ministries, but that believers would already be doing that; willingly using the gifts God has given them because they understand the urgency of the gospel and the needs within the body of Christ.
It’s like the refrigerator. Turns out, the less bossy model I chose that day sounds like it’s launching missiles when it dumps ice into the bin and the bottom freezer drawer is squeaky. It seems my desire to be my own person and make my own decisions may have caused me to miss the better deal. That’s not a huge problem when you’re talking about a kitchen appliance, but when we do that same thing in life, the consequences can have great effect.
You can live your life teetering between the urge to please people and the one that says “You can’t tell me what to do!” But there is a much better deal where the desire to please God is always greatest – don’t miss it.