By Nate Beaird
I can’t remember who gave me this advice, but it’s served me well: “Don’t say no for someone else.” In life we say “no” for people all the time. We do it whenever we are so sure someone will say no to a request we might have that we don’t even bother to ask. We convince ourselves that the other person will refuse our request or maybe even be offended by it, so we never ask. As a result, that great idea, opportunity, event, or possibility never happens.
It won’t always work out for you, but I can’t even tell you how many times simply asking (or proposing an offer) has worked in my favor. In my last couple “real” jobs I would regularly suggest ideas to our team that would involve other people helping us achieve a goal. At first I was met with skepticism that other people (specifically professionals outside our non-profit organization) would oblige. I would say, “Don’t say no for them. This [proposal] is the best solution, so I will ask. If they say no, we’ll go to plan B.” More times than not, we were surprised at people’s willingness to help us.
As an example, when I worked in the national office for Open Bible Churches, we would schedule planning meetings for the upcoming issues of the Message of the Open Bible. High quality photos are key to a good user experience in the media, so we needed high resolution images to accompany articles. For one issue we needed a cover-worthy photo of a person from another city who was the subject of one of our articles, but we didn’t have the budget to fly a full-time photographer to the site and do a shoot. I floated the idea that we search online for a photographer located in that person’s city who we thought fit our style and needs, and then ask him or her if they would be interested in providing us our needed photo. They would get credit in print, a copy of the print magazine with their featured photo, and a charitable donation receipt for the value of their photo shoot.
On the surface this proposal seemed crazy. Even my coworkers, who were not closed-minded people by any means, weren’t sure it would work. I wasn’t either. However, I didn’t want to say no for an aspiring photographer that would love to have a cover photo, or a successful photographer that needed the tax write-off, or just another Christian that wanted to use his or her gifts for the Kingdom. We would still pay them our allotted budget even if it was just a token of appreciation, not nearly what the photo was worth.
We did it several more times. As we communicated with the photographers, it became clear that God had gone before us to prepare them for our request. He cultivated their hearts and minds before our crazy request was ever sent. As a result, more people outside our normal sphere of influence learned about Open Bible and what God was doing through our churches and people, and we obtained quality photography. Can it be true that God works on our behalf to gain favor with others? The answer is yes! Let us not forget that GOD IS FOR US! The Bible is packed with stories about God working in other people’s hearts to bless His people.
One great example is when Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes to grant him permission not only to take leave to journey home for months, but also to be granted safe passage with royal escort through all the neighboring territories. Then – this is my favorite – he requested that the keeper of the king’s forests would give him the necessary lumber to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Free building materials (Nehemiah 2:4-8)! In retrospect, my asking an Instagram photographer to do a short photoshoot doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Do you think the Lord had been softening the king’s heart toward Nehemiah? No doubt Nehemiah was a good worker and honorable man, but how many times have good workers and honorable men been overlooked? No, God cultivated the heart of the king for years to eventually honor Nehemiah’s request. Every time I feel the Lord leading me to do something different, seemingly crazy or intimidating, I remember that He has already gone before me. If He has genuinely called me, He’ll pick up my slack. Not only that, but (catch this part) He has gone before me to cultivate the hearts and minds of those I will encounter in this new scary thing He’s asked me to do. We’ve all been humbled along the way when we realize how silly we were to put God in a box. Every time I think of that advice I was given years ago, I remember that I have no idea what God has been doing in the background. He’s a master chess player, and He’s probably been setting me up for years without my knowledge. He probably even put that desire in my heart to ask in the first place. So I trust that He is for me, He’s gone ahead, and the doors are already open – not because of anything I’ve done, but because of His goodness and faithfulness. Thankfully for me, He factored in my stupidity. Shame on me for ever doubting the Creator of the Universe. So maybe there’s a permission-giver standing in the way of something you feel God is calling you to do. Here’s some advice we can learn from Nehemiah:
When Nehemiah learned of the wall’s condition, he repented and prayed. He repented for the Israelites’ actions and practiced humility. It was not until the very last line of the prayer that he asked for God to give him favor with the King, something God had been cultivating for years for this purpose without either the king’s or Nehemiah’s knowledge (Nehemiah 1:4-11).
2. Make a plan for the permission-giver.
Nehemiah considered how long his trip would take, the lands he would have to travel through safely, and how he would have to rebuild the wall once he got there. He crafted a plan BEFORE he ever had the chance to ask the king so that he was ready for the opportunity. No doubt the plan sounded crazy, but you would have to think that the king appreciated the forethought that formed the plan. The king liked Nehemiah, but the sound plan might have sealed the deal. In our photographer illustration, we presented the photographers with a plan that could be a win-win for both of us. We didn’t leave it up to them to come up with a solution for us. In your own situation, this could mean devising a plan for your employer so he or she could give you a more flexible schedule or allow you to work from home. Maybe your employer needs to make some changes and your plan is what they’re looking for.
3. Walk in the favor of the Lord!
After the king’s approval, Nehemiah walked in boldness to complete the task. Imagine moving forward with the permission-giver’s support at your back and God preparing the way in front of you. This is walking in favor with the Lord. No doubt you will hit snags. Watch what the Lord does to help in those times because He already knows about that snag. Do you think He has a plan for it? Checkmate.So, if you KNOW God is calling you to do something, pray about it, plan for it, and trust Him for the confidence to accomplish it. What are you missing out on by assuming the outcome of your request? Who knows what God wants to do through you! When you present a request there’s no way of knowing the chances that it will be granted, but when you say no for your permission-giver, you can be sure the chance will be zero. Don’t say no for them!
About the Author
Nate Beaird, founder and owner of Housewolf Projects, attends Journey Church of the Open Bible in Urbandale, Iowa. According to him, his greatest achievement in life is convincing the coolest chick on the planet to marry him! He and Niki are blessed with three amazing kids. Despite peaking early in life, Nate continues to try his best.