From yesterday’s sermon:

William Ury, bestselling author and cofounder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, wrote about a relative of his who struggled with alcoholism. He had tried over and over again to quit drinking, but even a serious car accident that nearly took his life and endangered the lives of others, didn’t motivate him enough to maintain his resolve. Then, Ury says,

at the age of sixty, just when all hope seemed lost, he found in himself the will to say No and stop drinking. The secret? “When my first grandchild was born,” he says, “I wanted more than anything to live long enough to see him grow up. It was his birth that motivated me to get treatment and stop drinking. Since then, for over fifteen years now, I have not touched a drop.” His Yes to being present for his grandchildren—to be able to play with them and see them grow—motivated his powerful No to alcohol.

That story confirmed for Ury a “paradoxical truth” he had been observing: “the power of your No comes directly from the power of your Yes.”

If you’ve said a strong-tender “yes” to being present for and with your kids, to enjoying them and encouraging them, then you will say “no” to some of the things that would pull you away from them. And the “no” won’t feel like a loss but a liberation.

If you’ve said a thoughtful “yes” to financial freedom— to getting free from the dread that an avalanche of debt will sweep your security away and being free to give generously to causes you believe in and people in need—then “saying” no to impulse buying, therapy shopping, and credit card loans becomes more possible.

If you have said a clear-eyed “yes” to being healthy and energetic for your own sake, the sake of the people you love, and for the sake of your work, then saying “no” to jelly donuts or endless hours channel surfing or smoking gets at least a little easier.

“The power of your No comes directly from the power of your Yes.” That insight became Ury’s fine book, The Power of a Positive No. He says:

Perhaps the single biggest mistake we make when we say No is to start from No . . . Instead of starting from No, start from Yes. Root your No in a deeper Yes—a Yes to your core interests and to what truly matters. . . Your Yes is the underlying purpose for which you are saying No.

Jesus said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Far too often, when we hear this invitation to discipleship, we zero-in on the “no” in his words—“deny yourself, take up your cross, lose your life”—and fail to hear the deeper and more joyful “yes”: “become my follower; save your life.” The “no” for which Jesus calls is not negative and not arbitrary; it is a “no” which grows out of and serves the better and higher “yes.”