I teach a lot of DVD-based small group curriculum in our adult Sunday school class; one of my favorite presenters is Craig Groeschel of Lifechurch.tv. He’s a younger guy with energy and is very real about the topics on which he teaches.

During one of his discussions he landed on a problem all busy people seem to have: being asked to do too many things and not having the discipline to say no. I thought it was a great lesson in leadership, discernment, and focus, but unfortunately when it came time for me to apply this lesson recently I failed.

I want to take a few minutes today to go over what Craig taught and why it’s so important to have the discipline to say no.

Busy people are busy because they’re good at what they do and are in high demand for their talents. That’s actually a good thing. But Craig rightly taught that busy people often say yes to good things at the expense of great things, including the ministry God has set before them. This is the trap I fell into recently.

There are lots of different types of people in the world and I happen to fall into the category I call “Finisher.” This is a person who can take a project from inception to implementation – he can finish the job! Because I’m fairly skilled at this, many people want me to help with projects because they know I will see them to their successful conclusion. And honestly I am happy to do it; I really enjoy working on good projects.

And therein lies my problem! Because I’m good at this and I like it, I am always saying yes to people who ask me to help. God has blessed me with a very large bandwidth for work and I find myself always saying yes because I know that I can do the work and do it well.

So why is that a problem? Well, my focus of my life now is my healing ministry that includes writing, counseling, teaching, and pouring myself into people so they know that God has something better for them in their lives. What I’ve been spending most of my time on during the past few months has nothing to do with that ministry.

It’s not that what I’ve been doing has been a bad thing; quite the opposite! It was an outstanding project. But Craig taught a really important lesson in his study: You can’t allow yourself to say yes to the good at the expense of your call.

Of course, I knew this. A good friend of mine once told me, “The need is not the call.” In other words, there is always going to be need but we all need to focus on God’s call for us and not be distracted by the enormity of needs that demand our time and resources. That may sound harsh, but think of it this way: If every Christian were focused on their own call all the needs would be addressed, right?

During the past three months I’ve not mailed out one book; I’ve done almost no counseling; my speaking engagements have not been on the topic of God’s healing; and I feel I’ve made very little impact for God in people’s lives. In fact, this is the first blog I’ve written in weeks. Yes, I did rock the projects I worked and that’s great, but I wasn’t doing what God has called me to do.

Luckily in the big picture my lack of focus these past few months has not been fatal. While I still have three small speaking engagements coming up that have nothing to do with my ministry, the major projects have been completed and I am spending my time today regrouping so I can refocus on what God would have me do. But going forward I have to learn to follow Craig’s advice and say no to things that don’t fall into my ministry focus.

I’ll admit, it’s going to be hard. Most the people who ask me for help are friends or people who my friends have recommended to me. I’m a guy that doesn’t like to let people down, so telling people no is not necessarily my strength. But it became crystal clear to me these past couple months that I was off track – not on a bad track, just not on my track – and I need to make sure I stay focused even if it means saying no to some worthy projects.

How about you? Do you find yourself distracted from your call because you are in such high demand? Do you describe your life as busy? If so you may want to do the hard soul-searching that I’ve had to do and come to the same conclusion – sometimes we have to give up the good to do the great.

Why don’t we agree to pray for each other that God will give us the discernment to know when to say no and the courage to do it in a loving and gentle way as we take all of our energy and put it into the ministries God has ordained us to do!