When God Says “NO”
Mark L. Lastimoso
Charles R. Swindoll sometime ago wrote that, “God is the Lord of good days and bad days. Hope makes a dismal today bearable because it promises a brighter tomorrow.”
I would like to talk about prayer and the response to God. S. Joseph Kidder explains, “why God does not answer some prayers . . . When the request is wrong, God says, ‘No.’ When the timing is wrong, God says, ‘Slow.’ When you are wrong, ‘Grow.’ When everything’s right, God says, ‘Let’s go!’”
The Bible tells us that God is a good God who answers our prayers. Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Jesus was giving the lesson of faith and not doubt to His disciples when He said this. It was Sabbath, I was fasting and praying for my mom, who was diagnosed of ovarian cancer when she was 37 years old. That Sabbath I bargained and made a promise with the Lord that if she will be healed I will give my life to Him and serve Him. So I pleaded earnestly for His intervention.
The Holy Bible also teaches us that God is sovereign.
Isaiah 45:21 persuades us on this note, “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.” Jeremiah 10:6 echoes this thought, “No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power.”
Before I finish my story I would like us to consider some stories from the Scriptures when God says “No” to prayers. Let’s turn our Bibles in the book of 2 Samuel 12:15-16, “Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.”
The prophet’s rebuke touched the heart of David. David confessed his grievous sins, toward both Uriah and Bathsheba and greater was his sin against God. Though God had forgiven his sins but justice must be maintained.
“The sentence of death was transferred from David to the [innocent] child of his sin.”
Why so severe a punishment? “Because by this deed thou has given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.”
So David fasted and prayed in intercession to spare the life of his child.
There are three answers to his prayer, 1) yes 2) no 3) wait. As David prayed the grace of God was present by sending people to comfort him. 2 Samuel 12:17, “So the elders of his home arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground.” God is gracious in times of crisis. If we only open our eyes, God’s care is present even in the midst of adversities. He cares by sending others to care for David. “Often when judgments had been pronounced upon persons or cities, humiliation and repentance had turned aside the blow, and the Ever Merciful, swift to pardon, had sent messengers of peace.”
Therefore David persevered in prayer. “Then on the seventh-day it came to pass that the child died.” (2 Samuel 12:18) When God says, “NO” to our prayers, God is interested in our response to His sovereign power. He is the Creator. He is the righteous Judge. He is in control. Let’s see how David responded.
“Upon learning that it was dead, he quietly submitted to the decree of God.”
“So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate.” (2 Samuel 12:20). David responded with the right attitude towards God. He submitted to God. This attitude made the difference.
Charles R. Swindoll shares a story about maintaining a positive attitude. “American soldiers during the Korean war. As was common among GIs, they had a rented a house and hired a local boy to do housekeeping and cooking. the little Korean fellow they hired had an unbelievable positive attitude-he was always smiling. So they played one trick after another on him. They nailed his shoes to the floor. He’d get up in the morning, pull those nails out with pliers, slip on the shoes and maintain his excellent spirit. They put grease on the stove handles, and he would wipe each one off, smiling and singing his way through the day. Finally, they became ashamed of themselves that they called him one day and said, ‘We want you to know that we’re never going to play tricks on you again. Your attitude had been outstanding.‘ He asked, ‘You mean no more nailed shoes to floor?‘ ‘No more.‘ ‘You mean no more grease on stove knobs?‘ ‘No more.‘ ‘Okay then, no more spit in soup,‘ he responded with a smile and a shrug. Do you suppose we can keep an optimistic attitude without spitting in the soup.”
In Job 1-2, the enemy of God attacked the character of Job whom God declared “blameless and upright.” Satan also destroyed his property and killed his children. Then Satan inflict Job with terrible boils from head to toe.
Finally, Satan used Job’s wife to discourage and depress him. But Job has an excellent about God. He says in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Also he said in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” The Scriptures reported, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Job submitted to God and later on God blessed and restored his property and his children. When God says “No” He expects us to have a deeper faith in Him. Andrew Murray says, “When the Lord wants to lead someone to great faith, he leaves his prayers unheard.”
Victor Parachin further states, “When prayer is unanswered , we must not demean ourselves, doubt our faith, or deny God’s goodness. Rather, we can model ourselves after Job.
He gives three reasons on how to make sense of unanswered prayers. First, “No” can be a right answer from God. Second, it can be a great gift more than what we ask for. Thirdly, “No”, can deepen our faith and trust in God.
Trusting God is like a bumblebee. “According to the theory of aerodynamics, repeatedly demonstrated through wind tunnel experiments, the bumblebee is unable to fly. This is because the size, weight, and shape of his body in relation to the total wingspread make flying impossible. But the bumblebee never read the report. Being ignorant of these scientific truths he just goes ahead and flies anyway!”
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When God says “No” to alleviating Paul’s pain, Paul submitted to God and carry on preaching even with great pain.
Our example is Jesus. He was in the garden of Gethsemane, agonizing and deeply distressed. Matthew 26:39, “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Friends, when God says “No” have faith in Him because His will is best for us. Stay in faith because God is a rewarder of people who stay faithful.
The next Sabbath my mother succumbed to cancer. She was only 37 years old. I cried and thanked God for allowing my mother to rest from pain. I went to church and worshipped with the church members. As I look back to God seemingly not hearing my plea, I was amazed how He deepened my faith in Him. Surely, I could say His will is essential for my life. And besides, God promised that there will be resurrection.
I believe in His promise.