Is "No" An Answer? "Yes!"

When it comes to prayer, I have always been taught that there are three answers to prayers: yes, no, and wait. A "yes" answer hardly needs explaining. If we were honest, most of us would admit that we expect God's affirmatives to each of our petitions. We like getting what we want when we want it. That brings me to the third aforementioned answer of "wait." Wait feels like a no because of our impatience with God. I know that we have heard, "God is always on time and in time." But that's our problem... the matter of timing. If the wait was short in duration, then perhaps we would not have so much trouble receiving God's answer, "Wait, my child. It will come about in time, My time!" Our microwave mentality fusses about how long it takes to get what we want. We would rather push the "minute button" as we try to politely demand that God give it to us a lot sooner than later! Did you hear any contradictions in any of this prayerful posturing?!
Courtesy Glee Wiki Image

Well, there is only one other answer to consider and we surely want to avoid the discussion of it. What about the matter of the "no" answer. In an age of "second opinions" we want to interrupt God before He can get the word completely out of His mouth. We futilely suggest the need for another opinion. However, that is not a real option since God is "the giver of every good and perfect gift." It is from His hand that we request blessing. No other opinion of a human variety can quite measure up in these circumstances. Ultimately, it is only God's judgments that matter to us. So we try to grin and weakly bear the bad news of another negative answer. At least, that's what we think.

A pastor who befriended me years ago in a lonely city where I was trying to shepherd my own flock made this curious statement, "All my life God has been telling me 'no' so that He could later tell me 'yes!'" After considerable thought about the seeming irony and contradiction of that perspective, it began to resonate with me. At several decision times in my life and ministry, I could identify with no answers that eventually gave way to yes answers.

I used to blame my dilemma on the need to try to fix things. It was as if I was giving God a bye so that He could address weightier matters while I figured it out on my own. I thought I would get a teacher's degree, and God would use me in a bi-vocational ministry. He said no and sent me into the ministry full time. I thought I would stay closer to home to get my seminary education, but He said no and sent me off to Texas for 15 years.  I thought I would move my family to Fort Worth and get a part time church on the weekends, He said no and moved us to Granbury where we would live on the field during those seven years of schooling. I said I would pastor in Central Texas where I could identify with the culture, He said no and sent me to Houston for seven years of life-shaping experiences that would equip me for twenty-six and a half years of service in the Illinois capital!

I'd hear, "no," but then, often sometime later, a "yes" would follow that gave a greater blessing by far! When I was a teenage youth leader in my local church, my friends and volunteer leaders gave me a Bible with this Scripture verse written on the back of the presentation page: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV). Even though I memorized that passage years ago, I still need to be reminded daily of its truth. God directs and guides in life's decision times. We must trust in Him and stop trying to fix life ourselves! "Lean not" isn't a suggestion. Rather, it is imperative if we want to discover the "yes!" in our next chapter.

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

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