When God Says NO!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Ephesians 6:1-3: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth."
Why is teaching our children to obey their parents so important? This should be obvious; we as parents have lived much longer, and know much more about the dangers of this world than our children. Accordingly, we try to guide our children with our accumulated wisdom for their own good, which means we often find ourselves having to say "NO" to our children's desires and requests.
Any parent who fulfills their child's every desire (afraid to say no) is simply not being a good parent by trying to become their child's friend. All too often we see parents trying to become friends to their children in order to gain their children's approval instead of being a parent -- a guiding force in their children's lives. The times you have to say no to your children for their own good may indeed cause your children to become angry for a season; but that comes with the job of being a good parent. The child becomes angry because he or she, in their limited knowledge and foresight, only understand that they cannot have their own way.
Why does this commandment come with a promise of a long life for our children? For the same reason you teach your dog to obey your commands. Is it not to save your dog's life someday if your dog decides to suddenly run into the street? Do we love our children any less? When children have parents who are excessively concerned with their child liking them, those parents are also more likely to give their children anything they ask. Therefore, it is self-evident that any parent who allows their child to fulfill the desires of their flesh simply does not have the best interest of their child as a priority. How can parents who truly love their children allow their children every wish and desire without the loving direction of their accumulated wisdom and knowledge filtering their child's requests?
We as God's children (no matter how old or smart we think we are) must realize God has much more wisdom and foresight than we do. If we realize this, then why are we so amazed that God would actually say "NO" sometimes to our requests made to Him in prayer. If you would like a father who says "YES" to your every demand, and/or desire, there is one who is ready to say yes -- Satan! Satan doesn't care if we run into the street to meet our death. God is a good God -- this is true, but somehow we have lost the perspective of what makes God such a good Father to us -- He knows how to tell us "NO".
In Deuteronomy 8:3, God allowed His people Israel to go hungry. Now, if that was all we read and knew, would we not question God's love for Israel? However, as we read on we discover that God allowed them to go hungry so the people of Israel would learn, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Sound familiar? It should! That was the Scripture Jesus used when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness when He was exceedingly hungry. In other words, Israel had to learn to obey God and not the desires of their flesh in order that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Yes, Israel was led into the wilderness by God to learn this very important lesson, or in Jesus' case, Satan just tried to get Jesus to stumble.
When some of the spies came back from the promised land and had reported seeing giants, God had to say "no" to their desire to enter into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Was God being a bad Father to withhold this from Israel, or did God know because of their lack of faith and obedience that Israel would have been destroyed if they had gone in? Therefore, God (being a good God) had to say "no" to their request in order to save their lives, even though saying "no" did not make God very popular with His children Israel. Because of God's love for Israel, He was more concerned for His children's lives than His own popularity.
The story of Jesus' friend Lazarus is a good example for us to look at to understand this concept. In John chapter 11, we find that Jesus purposely delayed His coming and allowed His friend Lazarus to literally die. Then Jesus had the audacity to say it was good that Lazarus died. Don't you think that statement -- that "NO" from Jesus -- was extremely hard to understand? You know it was! Jesus' popularity was definitely not at its peak. However, later on we discovered God had a better plan. Through the experience of Lazarus' death and resurrection it would help the faith of many to believe, and therefore, be saved.
This brings us to yet another reason God will say "no" to our requests. And once again this is based on God's goodness, wisdom, and foresight. God's will and plans for us are not always centered on our immediate happiness, or fulfillment, but rather on His desire to serve others through us. Matthew 20:25-28: "But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'" Are we not supposed to follow Jesus' example?
Are you saying it may be in God's plan to say "no" to our desires in order that we may serve others? Yes, and amen! This may be hard for us to believe at times, but our selfish plans just may not be God's plans. As with Lazarus' death and resurrection, our pain just may be used to bring life to many. Maybe now we can begin to understand what the Apostle Paul was trying to say in Colossians 1:24, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions."
God said "no" to Jesus when he wanted to avoid the cross. Why? To serve us -- to save us! When in the garden Jesus prayed to take this cup of suffering from him (Mark 14:36). Jesus prayed knowing that all things were possible for God. However, Jesus also prayed, "Let your will (plan) be done, not mine." God did answer Jesus' prayer; not as Jesus wanted as He peered deep into His cup of sufferings, but God answered Jesus' prayer filtered through His love, wisdom, and foresight. God's answer to Jesus' prayer is found in Luke 22:43, "Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him."
We see the same kind of answer to prayer in Acts 4:24-31 when the disciples were threatened. Instead of removing the threat, God's answer to their prayer was, ". . . they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness." Although God did not deliver them from their sufferings, God did give them the strength, not only to endure, but gave them the courage to speak the word with boldness in the face of threats. 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to ENDURE it."
Ask yourself, what would have happened if Jesus refused God's plan for Him to suffer an agonizing death on the cross? Jesus could have refused to take God's "NO" for an answer and deliver Himself from the pain of the cross (Matthew 26: 53-54). And again, what would have happened if the disciples turned away from God's provision to their prayer, BOLDNESS, and taken the easy way out by staying silent in order to avoid their cup of suffering? The answer to both questions is the same. You and I would still be dead in our sins and looking at an eternity in hell!
Remember Satan's temptation to Jesus in Matthew 16:22, "And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.'" Satan was tempting Jesus by saying through Peter, and I paraphrase, "Have it your way Jesus; God forbid that you should suffer. How could God love you and allow you to suffer?" Jesus' answer was Matthew 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests but man's." God's ways will always be higher than our ways, and His thoughts will always be higher than our thoughts.
All too often we present our prayers based solely on our desires with no consideration of God's love, wisdom, or foresight. At times we act just as rebellious children would act, who have no respect for their parent's love, wisdom, or foresight -- we kick our feet, scream, and storm off (move away from God) in a huff if we don't get our own way. The rebellious children (we) may even accuse their parents (God) of not being loving toward them.
In the pride of our childish rebellious heart do we refuse to take "NO" for an answer, saying, "I do not want your way, Lord -- my way is right in my eyes, and best for me"? We must always remember God resists the proud, but loves the humble. Jesus said in John 5:30, "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." You mean Jesus spent His time in prayer seeking God's will and not His own? Yes! What a novel idea! Ask yourself this question: "Do I pray for God to follow me and my desires, my wants, or do I pray to hear God's voice, and desire His ways, His will, and His plans?"
Sometimes during our prayer times do we feel like the heavens are like brass and God is not listening? On the contrary, it is written that God's ears are always attentive to His children's prayers. Perhaps the times we think God isn't listening to our prayers are the times we may not be getting the answer we think we should, or times when the answer is not as quick as we think it should be. Or perhaps, we think God is not listening because we're being taught nowadays that a good God cannot say "NO" to our precocious prayer requests.
We must always remember, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (James 1:17). Remember also that a God who loves us enough to send His only Son to suffer the cross to save us, even when we were yet sinners, can be trusted when He gives us a "NO" as an answer to our prayers. We should know that a God who loves us enough to give us His only Son has only good in mind for us, even if we cannot understand it in our limited wisdom and foresight. Yes, even in the death of a loved one, God's love is perfect. Isaiah 57:1-2: "The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, he enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way"
As Jesus did, we also must resist Satan, the accuser, when he tries to divide us from God by falsely accusing God of being unloving, uncaring, or powerless to help us. Ephesians 6:11-17: "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Do not ever be afraid to quote, and believe in your heart, Romans 8:28-31, "God works all things together for good to those who love Him, . . . according to His purpose. And if God be for us who can be against us?" It is written that God loves us and will answer our prayers. But do we love, respect, and trust God enough to submit to His will when His answer is "NO" to our wants and desires? Can we be like Jesus when He prayed, ". . . nevertheless not as I will, but as You will."?
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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