Thursday, April 26, 2012

When God Says "No."

We all love it when God says yes when we ask Him for something.  Some like to think of Him as a spoiling Father giving us whatever toys we ask for and some even teach that kind of doctrine.  As for fathers, I am sure they love to say yes to their children.  It is easy to make children happy by giving them whatever they ask for, but would we count that as a responsible father?  I would say that most of us would not. Sometimes being a father means being the "bad guy."  Sometimes it means telling your child "No." no matter how much it will hurt them or upset them.  Fathers do that because they know better and know that whatever is being asked for is just not good for the child.  Sometimes our heavenly Father is in the same situation.  We ask for something and He has to say "No." 
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.  2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NKJV
Saying "No" must be one of God's most difficult jobs.  Creation began with just a word, miracles were merely by His will, and He sustains the universe with no effort at all.  But this is something different.  This is something that puts Him in the position to have to hurt one that He loves.  Yes, He knows that things will work out in the end, but He knows that person who prayed does not know that the way He knows that.  It would be so much easier to just say "Yes."  Just give the desired answer to each and every prayers and life would be peachy for everyone, right?  Well, not so much.  There was a movie out some years ago called "Bruce Almighty."  It was about giving a man the power and responsibility of God and it was a comedy.  It is not a movie to watch to learn anything about God, but there is a point in the movie that illustrates my point perfectly.  The lead character was receiving all the prayers in the world and he set it up to be received by email.   In the end, he just answered "yes" to everything.  One example was that everyone who prayed to win the lottery won and being that everyone won they each won some ridiculously low amount.  The point is that know who to say "yes" and "no" to is not an easy task.  God has to take into account the ramifications of how each answered prayer will affect the whole of human history.  It is an extreme real-life example of the Butterfly Effect where the tiniest thing done in your life can amplify to great implications to the lives of others who are not even born yet. 

Personally, I do not know how God does it.  How does He watch a teenage girl with a broken heart pleading for some comfort, any comfort, and knowing you have the power to do it and yet know it is better for her to go through this. How does He watch a child plead for the life of his young mother, dying of cancer, and not heal her?  How does he make that child understand that it had to be this way, and that he may not even be able to understand why until he is present with Him.  How does he let a person get attacked, assaulted, and even murdered, begging God the entire time to intervene yet not intervene?  For some of these we can never understand in this life why God chooses not to act at times.  In fact, for some, it turns them bitter against God. 

I am not even going to pretend to explain or understand why God sometimes intervenes and sometimes He does not.  Why He does what He does is so far above human comprehension it is pointless to even try.  I do believe it all has to do with God's desire that all should be saved, but of course these are things we can not begin to understand until we are out of this world.  I can say that I am pretty sure that many times this part of being God must break His heart.  It broke God's heart when He had to judge the world in the time of Noah.  It broke God's heart all of those times when He had to chastise Israel.  Again, I do not know how God does it.  I do not know how He holds back when he could smite the attacker, heal relationships and broken hearts, and cure diseases. 

This is where trust comes in.  We can approach this aspect of God in two ways.  We can take the way of some who use it against God. They say He is not there or that if He is, He is evil, heartless, and cruel.  I do not subscribe to that belief.  That is merely wishing foolish wishes that there is no God or projecting your own failures onto God.  It also represents a misunderstanding of God and how He sees things.  God does not see things in moments as we do.  God sees all of history at all times and knows how His actions today will affect someone else tomorrow.  The other approach is understanding that God knows better and trusting that whatever his action of lack thereof is for a greater purpose we can not see or understand at this time.  Sometimes I want to believe that to have hope that things will turn out in the end and sometimes I have to believe it when seeking comfort when some horrible thing has happened. 

Of course, that requires faith.  We must have faith that God is there and working things out even when they seem to be going in the wrong direction.  We have to have faith to believe that when God does not make things go our way that it is for a better purpose.  We have to believe that God knows best, not us.  I know we hear all this talk on how God will give us the desires of our hearts or that whatever we ask in His name, He will give us, but we need to take those Scriptures in their right context.  Yes, God will give the Christian the desire of his or her heart, but what is the desire of your heart?  Is the desire of your own heart for anything you want to somehow alter God's greater plan?  It is for whatever you want to harm your life even if you do not understand how?  Is the desire of your heart to get what you want even if it means another not receiving Jesus?  If you answer yes to any of those questions, then can you truly say those desires are of your heart?  I daresay that they are of your flesh that you are failing to crucify.  If they are of your heart, then you heart has not changed.  If your heart is not changed, you have never received Jesus.  Furthermore, if you answered any of those questions as yes, can you say then you are really asking in His name?  Think about that for a moment.  Can you ask God to change His better plan for the world in the name of the one who submitted to the will of God even as He prayed in the garden for the cup to be passed?  Can you ask in the name of Jesus something that would affect His Father's promise to complete the good work He began in you?  And, most importantly, can you ask for something that would affect someone else coming to Jesus in the name of the one who left His throne, lived as a man, and suffered and died as a criminal so that you might be saved? 

I think that puts things in perspective. Some may scoff at those times when God does not intervene, but I take comfort in knowing that He has something even better in mind, even if I can not see it yet and even if it is not in this life.  We may never understand why God does and does not act at times, but we can be sure that He knows what He is doing and that someday we will understand.  Before I close, I want to share a story that reflects this kind of trusting heart:

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read:
"Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.
What great hymn was penned?  It's title is "It is Well With My Soul" and it is one we all know.  May we all have that heart. 
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: "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." In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.  Job 1:20-22 NKJV

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