It’s Pronounced /yes/

Before I became the Youth Director at High Point Church, one of my dreams was to someday be an English professor at a private university. I adore words — how they sound, how they change meaning within varied settings, and how linguistics across cultures affect our understanding of the world around us. Helping people understand words is my passion, from ironing out their pronunciation to conveying their consequences across contexts.

Amidst words like Worcestershire, colonel, and defibrillator, I find that one of the hardest words to say in the English language is one of the shortest. Similar to war, forgive, love, and mercy this word bears considerable consequences:

Y – E – S

So short yet often so far from our first response. Challenging yes, there is an even shorter word in English that is very easy to say:

N – O

Physically, NO is much easier to say than YES. The soft consonant /n/ literally requires less work than the the palatal /y/ and hard consonant /s/. This is the reason why no finds its way into the most-frequently-used-words list of many toddlers’ vocabularies, even before other simple words like dog and ball. No is simply easier.

There are plenty of instances in the Bible where people found no easier to say than yes. After studying several of these instances, I narrowed down three approaches that we take to the word no, some of which are quite subtle:

  • No (Jonah 1:3)
  • I’ll do it later (Luke 9:61)
  • I’ll do it, but in my own way (Numbers 20:7-12)

Note that the 2nd and 3rd phrases do not include the word no — at least not spelled out. Without the direct word no, we can fool ourselves into thinking that later or yes, but in a different way are actually variations of the word yes. “Well, I told God that I would do it, just not now” or “just not the way he suggested.” It’s not a suggestion. God does not need your advice on timing or style. He knows what he asks for, when and how it needs to be done, and why.

Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted people will influence over 10,000 people in their lifetime. That’s likely around 9,000 more people than each of us know by name. The reason we can each influence so many people is chain reactions. What you say or do to one person influences how they act towards the next person, and how that person acts towards the next, on and on through a seemingly endless chain of people.

Who could possibly track all of the changes your present actions will have on the last person on the chain? I could maybe guess how what I say and do will influence the person next to me, but only God can comprehend the whole picture. That is why it is vital that we respond obediently to God’s direction.

Unlike the word no, with its manifold methods of delivery, there is only one way to say “yes” to God. Y-E-S. There is no qualifier, excuse, or adjustment. He knows the timing, the style, and the effects. All you need to know is how the word is pronounced.

If you ever feel an urge to do something beyond your comfort zone, and you are confident that the urge is from God (and consistent with His Biblical standards), remember Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Don’t let your limited vision for the outcome prevent you from obedience. There is a PLAN in His request, for your good and for the good of those you will influence.

If saying “yes” is ever so difficult for you that you cannot get it past your lips, here are some Bible verses that you can study to help get the words out. I encourage you to dig into the testimonies behind them and the outcomes of each instance of submission to see what kinds of incredible things happened as a result of YES.

  • I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands (Psalm 119:60 NIV)
  • Then Mary said, “I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38 NLV)
  • Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42 NIV)

-Catherine Lexvold 


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