Do you know what it's like to ask God for something and to keep receiving a "No"? I do. And it hurts. But I have learned through the years that God's "no" is often a gift greater than what I had originally asked for.
Whether I was trying to better myself, trying to land a new job, or trying to pray open a door of opportunity, every time I received a "no" I later learned what God was really saying was "Wait - I have something far better for you than you thought to ask for." Yet all I could see in front of me was a rejection letter. More waiting. Another closed door. Discouragement!
They I realized that God answers every single prayer. Now, He does not answer them the way you like it every time. But it's an answer. No is an answer. Wait is an answer. Grow up is an answer. In a little while is an answer. In my way is an answer. God never leaves a prayer unanswered. Every prayer is answered. Not every prayer God says yes to. And there are many, many reasons for that.
And there are a lot of examples in the Bible where God says no to great men and women of faith. Prayers that were prayed by Abraham, God says no. Moses, no. Daniel, no. Job, Jonah, no. Elijah, no. Peter, Paul, God said no to them too. Jesus, yes, even God's Son. There are prayers that were "unanswered", meaning they were not answered the way Jesus asked. Even His own Son, God said no to.
Now, that can be confusing. And I didn't want to close this series without dealing with when God says no. Because you are going to have many no's from God in your lifetime. That can be confusing. It can be, well, if God is truly loving and if God has the power to control everything, why is my request denied? Good question. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating. Why do some people get miracles and others don't? Why when we pray for people who are sick, some of them get well and some die? I've prayed for a lot of people who got well. I've prayed for a lot of people who didn't get well. That's frustrating.
Why do some people get relief from their pain and others don't? Why do some couples pray for a child and they get a child and others just as sincere, claiming the promises of God, they don't get a child? And their hearts are broken by that. In other words, why does God sometimes say yes and why does God sometimes say no?
Well, when you think about it, there are some mysteries but there are also some obvious things. For instance, one thing that's obvious is this: When two people are praying for the opposite thing, obviously God can't answer both. If a child is praying for it to snow so they don't have to go to school, and the parent is praying for it to be clear weather, so they can go to work, God is obviously gonna say no to one of them.
Several weeks ago, before the football season ended, all over America at football games people were praying for the opposing team. Half of them were disappointed. I don't really think God cares who wins the Super Bowl. I am not sure that He answers a prayer for a team. But even if He did, only 50 percent would get the answer they wanted. It's like I am praying for my candidate, you are praying for your candidate. Clearly, obviously, a lot of fervent people are praying for opposite things. That's not gonna work.
There is a great example in the Bible shown to us through a lady named Hannah. In her case she became so desperate to have a son that she poured out her heart to God in prayer, promising to give her son back to God if he were to finally give her one. It was then, after Hannah came to that place of complete surrender, that we read God's gracious, yet timely response: "And the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son..." (1 Samuel 1:19-20 NIV).
Hannah got her long-awaited son, but years later than she had anticipated. The apparent "no" from God was really "wait." And the wait turned out to be the best blessing of all. Hannah did not have just any baby. She had a son named Samuel who became one of Israel's greatest prophets and priests. He not only anointed Israel's first two kings, but he helped turn the nation's heart back toward God. Wow! Hannah simply asked God for a baby. But God wanted to give her - and a nation - so much more than she asked. So, He waited and did it in His timing, not hers.
Scripture tells us that God can do "all things. No plan of (His) can be thwarted" (Job 42:2 NIV). Scripture also tells us that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17, NIV). So, if every gift is from God, and you are praying for a "gift" and it's not arriving, God is the One who, for some reason, is deciding to withhold that gift. And, I have learned through the years that some of God's "gifts" to us are the very things He decides to withhold.
God's "gifts" sometimes take the form of difficulties, losses, frustrations and outright pain. We don't originally see them as gifts, but more like disappointments, aggravations, or even rejections. But they are gifts, nonetheless, that are given to us to grow us to a new level in our spiritual life or to prepare us for something better that God has in store for us, or perhaps to even help us see something extraordinary about God that we could not see before.
Make Every Day Count!
Come this Sunday, don’t stay home!