By Pastor Glenn Pease
Yes is only a three letter word, but its utterance can change your life. It happened to the poet Robert Robinson one Sunday morning in London. People everywhere were hurrying to church, but he was not. He had left the church, and he had lost the once passionate faith that made him a zealous witness for Christ. He was now dark and cold inside, and he was a very lonely man as he walked the streets. He heard the clip clop, clip clop of a horse drawn cab behind him. He turned and lifted his hand to hail the driver. But then he saw that the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed for church. He waved the driver on, but the woman ordered the carriage to be stopped.
The woman in the carriage said to him, "Sir, I'd be happy to share this carriage with you. Are you going to church?" He was about to decline when suddenly he was overcome by an urge to say yes. He did it. He said yes, and he got into the carriage. As it rolled forward he told her his name, and she said, "What a coincidence. I was just reading a verse by a poet with that name of Robert Robinson. She reached into her purse and pulled out the small book of inspirational verse. She handed it to him and he nodded and said, "Yes, I wrote these words years ago." She exclaimed, "Oh, how wonderful! Imagine! I'm sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines."
She was thrilled with God's providence in her life, but she had no idea of the profound work God was doing in his life. He opened his own book to his poem that became a famous hymn. He read these words:
Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
His eyes filled with tears as he read the bottom of the page.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it-
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
He was convicted and then revived by his own poem, and restored to fellowship with God. It was all because he said yes to an invitation to do something he knew was the will of God, and that was to go to church. The more we say yes to those things God wants in our lives, the more we will receive the yes of God's promises. e. e. cummings wrote,
Yes is a world
And in this world of
Yes live (skillfully curled)
The world of salvation begins with our own yes to the Gospel. Yes we say to God, I will receive your gift of eternal life in Christ. From then on every stage of growth is a stage we advance to by saying yes to God. Yes I will pray and read your word for guidance and wisdom. Yes I will give of my time, talent, and treasure to bless the body of Christ, and yes I will give and I will go to fulfill the Great Commission. Yes I will witness to my world, and yes I will love my neighbor as myself. Yes I will love and praise and serve my Savior, and I will follow the path He reveals for me to follow. The whole Christian life is a life of saying yes to God who has said yes to us in Jesus.
Paul in our text tells us that Jesus is never no, but always yes. He is God's yes, and all God's promises are yes in Christ. This is the greatest text in the Bible for the support of Christian optimism and biblical positive thinking.
1. Is there life after death? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
2. Is there hope for people who have messed their life up beyond human repair?
The answer of God in Christ is yes!
3. Is there a way out of the predicament men get into by their mere humanistic
schemes? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
4. Can sin be forgiven? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
5. Can the future still be a success? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
6. Can broken relationships be restored? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
7. Can impossible dreams still come true? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
8. Can I overcome the past? The answer of God in Christ is yes!
You can go on and on asking such hard questions, and the answer of God in Christ is always yes, yes, yes. God's answer in Christ is always yes, for Jesus is the yes of God. That is why the Christian can always celebrate even in fallen world filled with sin, sickness, and sorrow, for the final word will always be yes. James Angell could write,
In the midst of flashing neon darkness,
We dare this day to celebrate the light.
In the midst of blaring, shouting silence,
We dare this day to celebrate the word.
In the midst of bloated, gorged starvation,
We dare this day to celebrate the bread.
In the midst of bottled, bubbling thirst,
We dare this day to celebrate the water.
In the midst of smothered, gnawing doubt,
We dare to celebrate the affirmation.
In the midst of frantic, laughing death,
We dare this day to celebrate life.
How can we have the audacity to be positive and hopeful in such a negative world? It is because our Jesus is yes. The Christian who is negative, and who says no more often than yes to life is a captive of the world mentality. We all fall into the no mode from time to time, but it is to be a fall and not the ditch we choose to walk in. We are to get back to the highway of yes, for that is where a Christian should always be walking.
Neil Eskelin wrote a fascinating book called Yes, Yes Living In A No, No World. He found Christians in large measure tend to be a drag on the body the of Christ because of their no, no spirit. They tend to be critical and resistant to a positive way of doing all things for the glory of God. He learned the power of being a yes, yes father in relating to a no, no son. His five year boy had the living room full of toys, and it was time to go to bed. When he asked him to pick them up he said he was too tired. His immediate response was to force him to clean up the room, but then he got a better idea. He decided to try a more positive approach. He took his son into the bedroom and laid down with his knees up, put his son up on them, and played Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. The boy loved the sudden fall to the bed and was having a great time. Over an over he asked to do it again. But after the third fall dad said you first have to go and pick up the toys. The son ran and finished the task and was quickly back to play some more.
Dad learned a valuable lesson. If you can find a way to get a child to say yes I want to, then life is so much easier than when you are trying to push them with a no spirit. No is an uphill job, but yes is a downhill slide. No creates friction, but yes creates freedom. That is why he wrote his book on yes, yes living. He gives a number of examples of how yes people are the ones who do what no people say can't be done.
Cyrus Field was convinced a cable could be laid on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to allow communication between the U. S. and Europe. He had a special cable laid and tried it, but it kept failing to work. The headlines read, "Field fails again." His friends and supporters were disheartened, and investors begin to pull out not wanting to risk anymore money. The no people were in control of the masses, but they could not stop Field from saying yes. He knew it could be done and he organized a new company and made it work. The first message sent on this cable under the ocean was, "Thank God the cable is laid and is in perfect order."
The history of progress is the story of people who can yes, yes when everyone else is saying no, no. Henry Ward Beecher, the great orator, recalled the day in school when he was demonstrating a problem in geometry. The teacher stopped him with a "No, No!" In a tone of total conviction. Beecher sat down in total confusion because he thought he was doing it right. The next boy went to the board and was stopped with the same loud "No!" But he went right ahead and completed the problem. Beecher raised his hand and said he was doing the exact same problem. The teacher replied, "Why didn't you say yes and stick to it? It's not good enough to know your lesson. You must know you know it."
This can be a powerful lesson that every parent should teach their children. They will confront a no, no world all of their lives, and if they do not have a yes, yes spirit they will be in bondage to the no. Humorous Sam Levenson knows what it means to look for the best. He is a short man, but he doesn't let it bother him. At a dinner he was surrounded by a group of rather tall businessmen. "Don't you feel quite small among these big men?" someone asked him. "Yes I do," was Levenson's reply. "I feel like a dime among a lot of pennies." That is a yes, yes way to look at it.
If we as Christians do not have a yes, yes spirit, we are part of the problem rather than part of the answer. Jesus is the yes of God, and if Jesus is in us, then we are to be yes people. This does not mean we are yes men and yes women in the negative sense that this terminology is used. When so used it means we go along with authority whether we really agree or not. The New Orleans man eased himself into the chair and called for a shave. The little barber was of a swarthy complexion that indicated that he might be of Latin-American blood. As he stropped his razor he opened the conversation with: "What's your opinion of this Mexican situation?" "Same as yours." "But how do you know what mine is?" "Don't matter. You've got the razor."
This is not the kind of yes people we are to be-saying yes out of fear. The Christian is to be a positive yes person out of the conviction that Paul had-I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Jesus is God's yes-he is the resource to give the energy and motivation to do whatever God wills you to do. The Christian can do whatever God wills, and so they are to be perpetually striving to do it with a yes mentality.
Paul says that by the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our hearts we can say amen to the glory of God. That is, we can say so be it, or yes to all God wills for us. Jesus never said no to God. He was tempted to say no, but He never did. He was always saying yes. Through Him Paul says we are to continue to say amen to the glory of God. Jesus is the everlasting yea and amen. 31 times in Matthew Jesus said amen; 14 times in Mark, 7 in Luke, 25 in John, for a total of 77 times in the Gospels. Jesus was single minded and so it was not sometimes yes and sometimes no. He was always yes. He said yes to God even when that yes took Him to the cross.
You can say no to Jesus and reject His love and sacrifice for you, but you can never change His yes to no. He will not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, for He is the everlasting yes. People came to Jesus in great crowds because He never said no. He had life to give and light, and He had healing and salvation. He gave freely and did not turn anyone away. His was a yes, yes life in a no, no world.
President Thomas Jefferson was riding horseback with some companions, and they came to a swollen stream. A foot traveler was there by the stream, waiting to ask someone on horseback to give him a ride across the rushing water. Jefferson responded and pulled the man up on his horse and took him to the other side. "Tell me," asked one of the men, "why did you ask the President to help you across?" The man answered, "I didn't know he was the President. All I know is that on some faces is written the answer "no," and on some is written the answer "yes." He had a yes face."
Jesus had just such a face, and Paul says this yes from the face of Christ is to shine yet in this world through us. In II Cor. 4:6 we read, "For God who said let light shine out of darkness made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." God sent His Son into the world to give light, hope, and salvation. The Gospel is good news, for it says that no matter what a mess life is, there is an answer, and it is a good one, and a positive answer in Christ.
Ilion T. Jones says that Paul is saying here, "That Christ is God's clear-cut, positive answer to all our human questions, to all our human needs, to all our human hopes and dreams." He is God's yes, yes, yes, and this makes Christianity a positive faith. The Old Testament was so much on a no, no, no level. Thou shall not was the theme. But the New Testament rises to a higher level and says we are to grow up and stop living on the child's level of no, no. Sink your teeth into the meat of maturity. Get off the bottle and start saying yes to life. Say yes to God, not because He will hurt you if you don't, but because you love Him as He loves you, and you desire to please Him and not the world, the flesh, and the devil. You don't spend all your energy saying no to sin and folly because you are to busy saying yes to love, service, and ministry.
Many have suggested that if David had said yes to his duties as king of Israel, and not been idle with nothing to do but lust after Bathsheba, he may never have fallen. All we know for sure is that he had opened the door for Satan to entice him to say no to God, and that no lead to all the negatives of his life that blotted one of the greatest careers in history. Every sin in history from the first one in Eden until now has been very simply a saying no to God. Every virtue, victory, and act of righteousness in history has been simply a saying yes to God. Jesus was the only perfect man because He is the only person to never say no, but always say yes to God. Jesus lived the only completely yes, yes life in a no, no world.
To be Christ like is to be one who is always saying yes to God. All of the battles of life can be seen in this ultimate simplicity of what the poet has God say at creation. "I will leave man to make the fateful guess: Will leave him torn between the no and yes." These are the only two choices we have in our relationship to God. To make it easier to say yes, God gave us Jesus who is the yes to all His provisions. This becomes the foundation on which we build the yes life. William Green put it, "Christ is God's ultimate yes to man, and when we find that God has said yes to us we are able to affirm ourselves and our world in spite of everything which drives us toward negation."
When we are negative about life it is because we have taken our eyes off Jesus. The Corinthians were negative toward Paul, and he is saying they ought not to criticize him for being inconsistent, for he always says yes to Christ and never no, and so he is being consistently positive in his decisions. If his plans sound like an no to them, it is not so, and they need to see his plans as a yes to Christ. He urges them to stop their negative thinking which in inconsistent with a Christ like spirit.
If you believe that God always says yes in Christ, you will not be so critical and complaining about my change of plans, is what Paul is saying. God who gave His Son for you has proven His love beyond any doubt. You can count on it that He will do everything else necessary to keep His promises to you. So he urges them to stop saying no and start responding to God's yes with a yes, yes spirit. Dag Hammerskjold, the Secretary General of the U. N. from 1953 to 1961, and a dedicated Christian, said, "When everything has a meaning, how can you live anything but a yes."
Billy Graham has been deeply influenced by yes people. They have been people who had to deal with the no's of life, but they did not accept the no. They rejected it, and chose the yes. One he writes about in his book Storm Warning is former President Dwight Eisenhower. Graham says that he had a strong impact on his thinking, for though he was a general and fought great battles, he was not in favor of war. War is a no, and he fought for peace which was a yes approach to life. Graham quotes him saying in 1953, "Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired signifies-in a final sense-a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children....this is not a way of life at all in true sense. Under the threatening cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."
These words motivated Graham to take an interest in the third world countries, and take a tour of them to see first hand the poverty and hunger. He learned that it was a moral obligation for every Christian to get involved in the world suffering and be a part of the answer. Saying yes to God and yes to life means being Christ like in relation to a hurting world. In that same book he tells of his meeting with one of the great yes people.
"One of the people most identified with Christian compassion in our day
is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. There are thousands of unknown servants
of Christ who quietly and without fanfare invest their lives in feeding,
clothing, and caring for the poor. But Mother Teresa has become a kind
of representative of them all. I remember the first time I met this tiny,
wrinkled, radiant lady. An American consul in Calcutta offered to drive
me to Mother Teresa's compound in the heart of that sprawling city,
when I was introduced to her, she was ministering to a dying person,
holding him in her arms. I waited while she helped him face death.
When he died, she prayed quietly, gently lowered him to his bed, and
turned to greet me. We talked till dusk that day. I was surprised to
learn how much she knew about me and about our crusades. In her
lilting, broken English she asked if I would like to hear some of her
experiences with the hungry and dying."
He listened and was touched, for in the midst of a terrible no, no world here was a child of God letting the world hear the yes of God in Christ. E. Stanley Jones, the great missionary and author of numerous books, called his last book, which was written when he was 89, was titled The Divine Yes. This text was the basis for the book, and he wrote, "Jesus took the worse thing that could happen to Him, namely, the Cross, and turned it into the healing of sin. The Cross was hate, and Jesus turned it into a revelation of love. Jesus took everything that spoke against the love of God and, though it, showed the love of God. It is a Yes, a Yes over the very worst. Yes, about the nature of God. Yes, yes, yes!"
Jones gives many illustrations, but let me share one that shows just how close Christians can get to saying yes to every no of life. "There is a Lee Memorial Home in Calcutta, India. The Lees had 6 children in school in Darjeeling, a hill station in India. One night during the monsoon rains the whole mountain side, upon which their home was built, slipped and buried all 6 children at once! Instead of the Lee's saying, "Why did that happen to us when we were serving God in Calcutta?" They said, "Well, since our home has been broken up we will just set up a larger home for the waif children from the streets of Calcutta." For over 70 years that home has been filled with an average of about 500 homeless children a year. The family of 6 now became a family of thousands. On the monument set up to commemorate the memory of these children there are these words: "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The whole point of Paul is to get the Corinthian Christians to stop being no people and become yes people. This is the point of all we do as a church. Worship, Bible study, fellowship, and service are all designed to help us be like Jesus, and to be ever saying yes to God. This has practical implications for all human relationships. We express our love for one another and our neighbor, and even our foes, by being yes minded rather than no minded.
Judieth Viorst, a popular writer, has this advice to married couples: "The answer to-do you love me isn't, I married you didn't I? Or, can't we discuss this after the ballgame is through? It isn't, well that all depends on what you mean by "love." Or even, come to bed and I'll prove that I do. The answer isn't, how can I talk about love when the bacon is burned and the house is an absolute mess and the children are screaming their heads off and I'm going to miss the bus? The answer is yes. The answer is yes. The answer is yes."
If we really believe that Jesus is the yes of God, we should be able to respond to every negative in life with a positive. We should be able to counteract each no with a yes, and so be yes, yes people in a no, no world.