Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

God says, “No” to me a lot

God Says “No” to Me a lot

Recently I ran across a book on prayer which made the following statement: “My personal prayers seemed to get a lot of ‘no’ answers… I have never met someone who would even declare they are consistently receiving ‘yes’ answers from God. But I have met who, when push comes to shove, and stark truth is being told, will admit that God seems to say ‘no’ a lot” (When God says “No”, Thomas R. Hauff, p. xv). That bothered the writer and it started me to think, “Is God often saying ‘no’ to me? Has that been my experience when it comes to prayer?”

What Might Seem Like a “No”

In reference to the above statement, the first thing that I thought of in terms of a perceived “no” answer from God, or specific examples of prayers that I have offered that have not been answered, would be my prayers for the lost, including lost friends, family members and Christians who have fallen away. Yet, I had to remind myself that such prayers do not fit into the “no” category from God, for God wants them saved, even more than I do:

  • “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:24).
  • “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God, Therefore, repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
  • “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30).
  • “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Therefore, when I am praying for lost family members, neighbors, former church members and friends, God’s response is a definite “Yes”!

So What Does That Mean?

  • In light of the truth that God does not show favoritism and God is impartial (Romans 2:11).  Coupled with the truth that Jesus died for all men (1 Timothy 2:6) and the gospel is to be preached to all (Mark 16:15). This means that I am not the only one who was given a wonderful opportunity to hear the truth and obey the gospel.  
  • I need to remind myself of this, because at times I am tempted to think when people are not responding to the gospel, that it must be because God is not giving them an opportunity to consider the gospel as good as the one He gave to me. Yet, this cannot be the case.
  • As I read the book of Acts, and take into consideration the above passages, I must conclude that God gives great, or could we say “ideal” opportunities to hear the gospel to all men. I say this because I truly consider the opportunity that was given to me in 1979 to have been ideal or perfect. Yet, when I compare my opportunity to the one given to those on Pentecost in Acts 2, to the Eunuch in Acts 8, or to Cornelius, Lydia or the Jailor, many would argue that they were given even greater opportunities. That when I compare my opportunity to theirs, it was not perfect.
  • So what this all means is that while I am praying for the lost and trying to do what I can, God is giving them amazing opportunities to evaluate their own lives, consider the truth, and see the fruits or benefits of the Christian life compared to the one they are presently living. That my experience in encountering the gospel was not unique.
  • And the more I hear about how others heard the gospel and the circumstances surrounding their conversion to Christ, the more I see the same pattern of answered prayers and God providing a wonderful venue or setting in which to hear and consider the truth.

Or, let me put it another way. Have you ever read in the Bible an account of conversion or listened to how someone became a Christian and said “That is a horrible way in which to encounter the gospel?”

“No” Answers in Relationships

Another category I thought of when people express, “God seems to saying ‘no’ to me a lot” might be where you are praying that you would see changes in your spouse. First, if they need to turn from sin, then we have already addressed that. God always wants people to repent (Acts 17:30). Yet if the changes we are praying and hoping for are more personal preferences and have nothing to do with sin, then we should honestly see them for what they are. Often such personal differences are better handled by communication with our spouse and equally working on adjusting the things in my life that they would like to see changed. Also, let’s remember that God is in the business of saving people, He is not really in the business of manipulating/adjusting the people around us to fit all our personal preferences. He is not a cosmic Chiropractor who is constantly adjusting people around us so that everyone fits in with our preferences.

Yet before we move on, instead of feeling frustrated that God is not listening to you, remember that if you are married, God has answered many of your prayers:

  • You actually found someone who would commit to you for life. And “you” are far from perfect. That is a huge answer to prayer. And if you don’t think it is, just ask either your parents or the people you grew up around you.
  • If you are still married after 10 or 20 years that is another huge answer.
  • So if there remains something about your mate that still frustrates you (it isn’t sinful) then do not lose sight of the fact that all sorts of prayers have been answered by the sheer fact that you found someone to marry and you are still married! Have you taken the time to look around you recently at either the number of marriages that fail or the number of people who are not married?

“No” Answers When It Comes to Work

We might feel that God is giving us a lot of “no” answers when it comes to finding a better paying job, getting financially ahead in life, moving into a better work environment, or getting in at ground level on some killer investment that is going to make me a millionaire by 35. 

  • Here again, perspective is vital. The Bible reminds us to pray according to His will (1 John 5:14). As of yet I have not found the passage that says if we become a Christian then God will make sure that we always have an amazing and high paying job. Or, that in obeying the gospel we are guaranteed to be able to retire at 50. In fact, a number of the early Christians had some very bad jobs (1 Peter 2:18).
  • Here is what I do find. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The Old Testament equivalent to this passage is Psalm 37:25 “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread”. Oh, and by the way, some very godly people in the past, whose prayers were definitely heard went around in sheepskins and goatskins and lived in caves in the ground (Hebrews 11:37-38). Just a heads up.  
  • So, I think it is unfair to be sitting in my spacious home, with central heat and air, indoor plumbing, two cars in the driveway, a pantry and frig full of food, and simply surrounded comforts that 99 percent of the people who have ever lived on the earth never experienced and then say that God “says no to be a lot”.
  • Again, it is so easy to lose sight of all the prayers that have been answered just to get you to your present place in life. You did not die in infancy. Nothing took you out years ago. You are still healthy. Yes, I know the feeling that it would be nice to have more or feel a little more secure, but a whole lot of prayers have been answered just to get you to the point that you have the luxury of feeling that a little more would be nice.

Prayers for Healing

In my short life I have seen many prayers answered in this category, especially in this congregation. One “yes” after another. Even 100 years ago, not to mention 1000, many of us would no longer be alive or would never have survived birth or childhood because of modern medications and procedures. 

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017