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When the Answer is ‘No’

September 24, 2014

noWe pray when we or someone we care about is in trouble.  We pray when we really want something.  We pray when someone asks us to agree with them for something they need or want.  And in most cases, we pray expecting our prayers to be answered with a ‘Yes’ reply from our Father as if entitled.  The request is usually a good one, an honorable request, like asking for someone’s healing or for a financial blessing.

In the last post I discussed how we offer prayers like Popcorn Christianity.  We say the prayer as if placing popcorn in the microwave.  You wouldn’t put popcorn in the microwave and expect to open the door when the time is up and pull out a car tire.  No, you expect popcorn.  And our prayers are often like that.  We place our expectations into words that often sound more like a demand than a request and expect an answer — our expected answer — in very short time.  We treat God much like a short order cook.

“Here’s our order, make sure it’s cooked right, and make it snappy.”

Oh, we’d never want to admit that’s what we’re doing, but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s the truth.  However the truth is our motives are not always pure.  Our desires do not always match God’s.  We are still broken vessels and our spirit wars against our flesh.  Our requests are subject to the same frailty and brokenness our mind and body battle.  And because of that, we often ask amiss.

So how do we change that?  How do we get to the place where we know our request will be answered?  It’s a trick question, really.  Our requests are always answered, but we refuse to hear the word, “No,” or “Not yet.”  The reality is we have to come to a place of complete surrender.  It’s good and right to seek God’s help.  It’s good and right to desire the best for others and ourselves.  But it’s also good and right to be open to whatever the answer may be instead of only willing to hear the Father say, “here ya go!”

God tells us ‘no’ sometimes.  He needs to.  We can’t see the big picture, but He can.  Asking to win the lottery may seem like the right thing. “Lord, I’ll become a good tither, help out with charities, feed the homeless.”  Sure you can do all those things without winning the lottery, but let’s look at the request.  If  you did hit the lottery, you could be subject to many temptations you don’t have to face currently.

You may still find yourself getting into as much debt because you don’t know how to manage the funds God has already given you.  You may find yourself in an even deeper temptation to the vices in your life (food, alcohol, drugs, sex, pride).  You may be physically attacked by people simply because they know you have money.  While it’s easy to see the utopian response to the prayer, you really don’t know how things would be different if you hit the lottery, but God does.  And maybe Him telling you ‘no’ is actually His way of protecting you.  Or maybe He’s teaching you to be more dependent on Him … to grow your faith and trust.

Being open to hearing the ‘no’ can be one of the biggest challenges we face in our life.  It forces us to fully lean on Him for everything.  And in everything, what God is calling us to is obedience to Him.  You see when we do that, when we’re obedient to Him, we’re actually saying with our life, “I may not know or understand the answer, but I’m going to trust You anyway.”

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in deep anguish while praying.

Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (ESV)

Jesus knew what was coming.  He knew He was going to have to suffer and die.  His flesh wanted to run away from it all.  Rightfully so, who wouldn’t want to run from that kind of torture?  But His spirit was yielded to His Father’s will.

“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Hebrews repeats the scene and adds a bit more clarity on the prayer:

Hebrews 5:7-10 —  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.  And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, being designated by God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. (ESV)

The bible clearly teaches that Jesus’ prayer to His Father was heard.  Jesus was asking, “Is there any other way?  Do I have to suffer so?  Do I need to die?”  Here is God’s only begotten Son.  If anyone would have favor from the Father, it would be Him.  But the word says He learned obedience through His suffering and became the source of eternal salvation.  He had a desire.  He had a hope.  But He also had a heart of obedience to His Father.  Obedience trumped his fleshly desires to escape.

“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Isaiah 53:7 — He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (ESV)

It’s difficult to accept a ‘no’, but it may be required.  And the response wasn’t just in word, but in deed.  Jesus heard the answer and did not fight, kick, or scream at the unfairness of it all.  It was injustice towards Him, through whom all things were created.  He was taking upon Himself our judgment, our punishment, our penalty.

Whether the Father spoke the answer directly into His heart or whether the answer came in the form of the events is unclear.  But Jesus trusted His father and accepted the answer.

Philippians 2:8 — And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (ESV)

The following verses clearly explain why the Father said, “No.”

Philippians 2:9-11 — Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

Hearing ‘no’ isn’t always easy.  But it is part of growing up.  It is part of the maturing process.  For those moments when the answer isn’t what we hoped or expected, He will give us His grace and peace to stand.  In the end, it’s about our lives bringing Him glory and honor.

All that said, “Lord, help me to grow up in You.”

— Pastor Rick

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