When God Says No

sunset-229335_640I want to start by taking us back to March 4, 2000. It was 4:30 in the morning when we were awakened to an insistent knock on the door and flashing police lights in front of our house. Our 22 year old son, driving through Montana on his way home from college with his fiancé, had been hit head on by a drunk driver driving on the wrong side of the freeway. Amy was dead at the scene; Paul was airlifted to Missoula with massive head and chest injuries. The family gathered at his bedside and, along with our pastor, spent the next 3 days and nights in continuous prayer. The evening of March 6th Paul was declared brain dead. We contacted friends back home, Paul’s classmates at Trinity Bible College and others across the country and around the world. At 10:00 AM on March 7th, we began corporate prayer to raise Paul to life. United we sought God and at the end of 30 minutes, God said…no.

I am not negating the reality of miracles, those divine interventions into the progress of life. I have personally experienced a miraculous healing of migraine headaches. There were too many “coincidences” in starting Your Personalized Bible to not see the hand of God in its creation.  I have been in driving situations where I look back and say, “There is no way I could have made it through that.” Yet here I am. I remember stopping at a rest area one winter, getting out of the car and landed on my butt. Without realizing it I had driven the last 50 miles on black ice. Why wasn’t I in a ditch or wrapped around a tree?

But there will be times when, no matter how hard we pray or how strongly we believe, loved ones die, friends go to prison, marriages end. What do we do when God says no? Do people 20 years in a wheel chair get up and walk? Are dead raised to life? Are prison sentences suddenly commuted? Yes! But there are times too when God says no. When that happens, will my faith be destroyed? Will I walk away in a temper tantrum and say, “I’m through with You, God.”? What do I do when God says no?

Some would say if I live righteously, I will never be attacked by Satan. Some would say if I don’t see an answer, I must be praying wrong, I’ve opened the door to the devil or there is unrepented sin in my life. The fact is there will be times when there is an unexplainable no. God fully see, fully knows and fully understands. Will I trust Him through the good and the bad? Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NLT) says “I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.” And sometimes the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let’s look at some Biblical examples of when God said no:

  • In one day, Job lost all of his property, his family and his health. For the next 30 some chapters we listen to his friends accuse him of lack of faith and unrepented sin. Finally God speaks and asks, “Who are you to question what I do?”
  • Abraham, at 70, was promised he would be the “Father of Many Nations” (the meaning of his name). That was followed by 25 years of no. Can you image for 25 years introducing himself as “Father of Many Nations”. “Oh, how many children do you have?” “Well, we are childless.”
  • Moses asked God to heal his sister, Miriam, of leprosy. God said no, she had to live outside the camp for a week before she was healed.
  • David prayed and fasted for seven days for the life of his son by Bathsheba, but still the baby died.
  • In 2Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV), Paul “was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” Three times Paul prayed for deliverance, yet God said no. His conclusion was, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  • Do you think Jesus was exempt? In Mark 26:36-44 (NIV) Jesus faced the agony of the cross, taking on the sin of mankind and abandonment by His Father. Three times He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” And God said no.

In each case, God heard the petition but they were overruled. We have the right to object but He has the right to overrule. When God says no, what do I do? I say yes to His grace, His empowerment and I choose to surrender. Surrender easy to sing about but will I live it when His answer is no? This isn’t for a good day. This is for when all hell is breaking loose.

The prophet Habakkuk encountered a time like that. In Habakkuk 3:17&18, he said, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” When life sucks, what ya gonna do?

What overwhelms me? You see, obstacles define who I am. They separate the men from the boys. When I hit a wall, it is time to exercise faith. It is not the time to quit. Going back can’t be an option. This is part of God’s training. God bought a fixer upper when He got me. He is working on me. A promise is for when something is in doubt. We don’t need a promise for the obvious. Know this: God is with you as He is with me. Have you had storms in your life? Did you die from them? I rest my case.

Don’t take the presence of the storm to indicate the absence of God. We will face storms: financial, emotional, health, relationships. Isaiah 43:2 (NLT) promises, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” You are not alone. Let the light of God shine into the darkness of that pain, shine into the fear, the despair, the hopelessness, the loneliness, the emptiness.

I can get self-help books from the bookstore but there are times when self can’t help. I need God. I need His grace. Psalm 46:1 (NKJV) says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV) tells us, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God is doing a divine exchange: beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3). That’s a good deal.

In making a sword, the steel is heated, hammered, folded, heated, hammered, folded again and again until it’s very microscopic structure is transformed. What fire, what hammering do I need to go through to become the weapon in the hand of God He desires? Ephesians 6:13 encourages us that having done all to stand then stand. Growing in faith and trust will help us to stand.

What is the will of God for my life? 1Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The will of God for my life is to give thanks in everything. Not for everything, but in everything. Anyone can be thankful for good things. We all have an excuse to be bitter. The devil will try to push my buttons so that I lose my joy, but a wall of thanksgiving will frustrate him. Trust says, “God, You know what is best for me.” There is the key word: Trust.

Faith must go beyond belief in facts and step into trust. James 2:19 (NLT) says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” I read of a daredevil who was about to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He turned to the crowd and said, “Do you believe I can do this?” “YES” they screamed back. “To make it more difficult, I am going to push a wheelbarrow across with me. Do you still believe I can do it?” “YES” “OK, who wants to ride in the wheelbarrow? Silence.

Faith is not a feeling, it is not goose bumps: “Oh, I feel the presence of God today!” Faith takes hope, mixes in past experience and the product is trust when I don’t feel His presence. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In court if my defense is based on evidence that can’t be seen, I’m in trouble. In life it is called faith.

Hebrews 13:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. How do I build my faith? Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We read the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The seed on rocky soil died off because it did not have roots that went down deep. We must sink our roots deep. Jesus didn’t say, “I’ve come so that you might have religion.” Or rules, or regulations, or rituals. He said, “I’ve come that you might have life.” (John 10:10) Life comes through the Word. John 1:4 says, “In Him (the Word, Jesus) was life.”

As we sat together in a restaurant after leaving the hospital for the last time, our pastor warned us, “Don’t ever ask why.” That is the essence of trust. A few days later we tucked our little boy in for the last time. Closing that casket is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But my trust in God is not shaken. Paul’s tombstone quotes 2 Corinthians 15:54: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”