Summary: I want us to look at what happens when God says no. Does that mean that God doesn’t care for us? Does it mean that He’s being cruel? Let’s take a look at a couple different times in scripture when God said no to his children’s prayers.
WHEN GOD SAYS NO
Barbara Kerby has written a humorous reflection about her first experience of driving. Barbara’s father took her to the high school parking lot for driving lessons. For this particular lesson, Barbara’s three-year-old sister rode along in the backseat. While trying to negotiate a turn, Barbara hit the curb. From the backseat she heard a small voice say, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” Barbara slammed on the brakes, turned around to the backseat and yelled, “What are you talking about?” Her little sister replied, “Your driving is scaring me, and that’s the only prayer I know.”
There are times when we start to pray, and we have no idea what to pray for. There are times when we just don’t know what to say to God. But, we can rest assured that God understands us, and understands what we need. We can be sure that He is going to answer our prayers. I believe that there are too many people out there who believe that there are times when God doesn’t answer their prayers. We need to realize that there’s no such thing as “unanswered prayers.” We all can see very clearly when a prayer is answered “yes” by God. But, there are also times when God replies by saying “wait,” because we need to wait for the answer. And, there are times when God says “no.” This morning, I want us to look at what happens when God says no. Does that mean that God doesn’t care for us? Does it mean that He’s being cruel? Let’s take a look at a couple different times in scripture when God said no to his children’s prayers.
I. Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
A. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 à God very clearly said no to Paul. It seems that this thorn in the flesh, which has been speculated to be numerous different things, stayed with him possibly until his death. Now, why would God want someone to suffer from some ailment? Why would God intentionally allow someone to endure pain the way Paul was? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” I think there are a couple things that we can learn from the Lord in this statement.
B. First of all, God says “my grace is sufficient for you.” Now what if you called West KY Electric because your power had gone out, and got an answer like that. Would you be confused? What is that supposed to mean? God is telling Paul that he doesn’t need to worry about this thorn in the flesh, because God’s grace has freed his soul. God reminds Paul that while there are going to be things on this earth that will cause us a great deal of physical pain, we can still know that God has given us His Son to take away our spiritual punishment. God says, “No, I’m not going to remove this physical ailment, because life isn’t supposed to be free of pain. But, you can rely on me to relieve your spiritual pain.”
C. Secondly, God says “power is perfected in weakness.” Now, I’m not a very physically strong person. That should be pretty obvious just by looking at me. So, is God saying that I have more power than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Not exactly. What kind of power are we to suppose God is concerned with here? He has just reminded Paul that he should be more concerned with his spiritual health than his physical well-being. So, clearly we can see that God is focused on spiritual power. So, how is spiritual power perfected in weakness? Think about it for a moment. When do we pray the most? Do we pray a lot more when we’re happy, and things are going our way, and the sun is shining, and we’ve got no worries? We don’t, do we? We pray more when we’re suffering; when we’ve got major problems; when we don’t know what to do. God is telling Paul, and us today, that when we are weakened by this life, that’s when we are our strongest, because that’s when we begin to rely more on the Lord. That’s when we begin to pray earnestly to Him.
How many stories have you heard people tell of a time in their life when things were going great, and they just decided to start praying more, and everything just got even better? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story like that. But, I have heard countless stories of people whose lives were in shambles, and they decided to turn to the Lord, and when they did, everything changed. It doesn’t mean that they were miraculously healed, or completely freed of their circumstances, but they knew that God was in control, and they began to rely on Him.