Questions I've Wanted To Ask GOD: 3 of 5

Friday, April 15, 2005

In our series we call "Questions I've wanted to ask God". The third most asked question is: "Why hasn't God answered my prayers?" Job asked it many years ago. Job 30:20 (NIV) "I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up but you merely look at me." (GN) "I call to you O God, but you never answer; and when I pray, you pay no attention."

Have you ever felt like Job? You pray to God but seemingly, there's no answer? Some people think of prayer as an Aladdin's lamp. Prayer is what rubs the lamp to cause God to pop out like a genie. Some people think prayer is a First Aid Kit to be used in case of emergency.

The fact is God wants to answer your prayer. That's why the Bible tells us to pray "anytime, about anything, anywhere." So, what's the problem? Is it false advertising? Is God teasing? He says to ask anything, yet we don't get everything we ask for. What is the problem?

In Jeremiah 33:3, God says "Call to Me and I will answer you." God answers prayers three ways. Sometimes He says "Yes". Sometimes He says "Wait. Sometimes God says "No." The fact is God doesn't give us everything we ask for. The Bible is full of examples where God said No to the people. Abraham said, "Make Ishmael the son of the promise." God said no. David prayed, "Save the life of y son with Bathsheba." God said no. Johan said, "I want to take a Mediterranean cruise." God said no. A denied request is on of the most baffling things a Christian has to deal with. Why does God say no?

Three Reasons Why God says "No".

We are using the life of Paul as an example.

GOD says no when he has a bigger perspective.

God can see the whole picture, we can't. Hebrews 4:13 "He knows about everyone, everywhere. Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God; nothing can be hidden from him..."

Life is unpredictable. We can't predict the future. If we could we would solve most of our problems. We'd never run out of gas, We'd never have care trouble on the interstate, We'd get A's on every test because We'd know the questions in advance, We'd never be late to anything because we could always predict last minute interruptions. Life would be so much more simpler if we could see into the future. But unfortunately we can't. We can't see the consequences, or the effects. But God does. He can see ahead and He can predict the effects.

Proverbs 2:8 "God guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones." Sometimes God say No to protect us from unforeseen problems. A good example of this is Paul in Acts 16 He tried to go into Asia Minor and God protected Paul by saying No. Acts 16:6-8 "They passed through the Phrygia and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

There are times in my life that I am grateful that God said No to my request. In New York, when I prayed for a job with another record company, my friend was set to hire me, but over the week-end a deal was finalized to purchase another record company. In so doing, they had to make room for some of the new employees. That meant that my job opportunity was closed. God said no. A couple of weeks later, I discovered a job opening in Chattanooga at a Christian radio station. God says No to protect us from unforeseen problems He has a bigger perspective.

God says no when he has a better plan

Often God want to fulfill our desires but He wants to do it in a different way than we have in mind. Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. My ways are higher than your ways." The living Bible says, "This plan of mine is not the way you would work it out." Notice it doesn't say, My way, but my ways. God has more than one way of doing things. He's not limited in His options. He's never forced into one answer. He has many alternatives. Our problem is that we get a preconceived idea and want "God do what we want our way." We always pick the least painful way of having God answer prayers.

Hebrews 11:39-40 "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, God had planed something better." He's talking about the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Many prayed and their answers were not the way they prayed.

Suppose Daniel said, "Lord keep me out of the lion's den." God would answer "My plan is to put you in the lion's den and shut the mouth of the lions. "Suppose the three Hebrew boys said, "Lord, keep us out of the fiery furnace." God would answer, "No, I'm going to put you through the furnace; but, I'm going to walk with you, burn off the cords and you'll be safe." God says No sometimes because He's got a better plan. He's going to fulfill your desire but He's going to do it His way. He says no to your preconceived idea.

I remember praying for God to give us the church building that New Monumental now occupies. God said no. I'm glad He did, because we have more land and greater visibility on Moore Road.

A Biblical example is Paul's desire to preach in Rome. He wanted more than anything else to impact the Roman empire with the Gospel. The natural thing to do was to go to Rome. In the book of Romans he says, Romans 1:11-15 "For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Romans 15:22-24 "For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain--for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while--

Acts tells us that Paul eventually did get to Rome, but not the way he had planned. Paul's idea, I'm obviously being facetious, was to cruise to Rome, rent the Colosseum, pass out flyers and have a great miracle tent rally. God's plan was: Go to Rome by being shipwrecked, be taken in chains and put in prison. Acts 28:16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. In prison, Paul wrote the book of Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 2Timothy. God had a bigger perspective and a better plan to fulfill Paul's desires.

God says no when he has a greater purpose

Isaiah 40:10 "God says My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please." God isn't obligated to explain to us everything He does. He doesn't need our approval. Everything God does in your life He has a purpose for it--including problems and including saying No to some of your prayers. There's a purpose in it.

Cor. 4 "Therefore we do not lose heart for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" Behind every problem there is a purpose. That purpose is an eternal purpose that you don't even see right now. If you'll get your eyes off the temporary situation and look beyond it you will see the eternal purpose that God wants to do in your life. Don't always look at the circumstance you're in right now. Circumstances are like a feather mattress -- you get on top and you'll rest easy, you get under and you'll suffocate! It depends on where you are. God says No to your request because it involves the temporary and because there is a greater purpose that involves the future. I think of Joni Ericson Tada, the paraplegic. I'm sure she's prayed that God would heal her. Yet God has said No. Instead He has a greater purpose for her life. I think Paul had to learn this in 2 Cor. 12:7-11 where Paul prayed to be healed. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul had to learn that God is sufficient in every situation.

One of the marks of maturity and one of the marks of faith is the ability to accept a No. Immature people cannot accept a No for an answer. Ask your kids. As we grow we learn to accept No as a legitimate answer. Even Jesus had to learn what it meant to submit to God's will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, right before the cross, Jesus prayed, "Father, I don't want to go to the cross. If it's possible, let this cup pass from me. Let me not have to go through this suffering." The Father said, "No I'm not going to spare you from the cross." God let Jesus Christ go to the cross because of a greater purpose -- our salvation.

When God says no it's because He has a bigger perspective. Maybe He's protecting you from an unforeseen problem you don't even know about. Maybe it's because of a better plan. He's not limited to just one way; He has many ways. God has a greater purpose in your life that is greater than the problem you're going through.

What do you do? Two things to remember when GOD says no to your prayers

Everything God does, He does out of love. Everything God does in your life he's working for good and not for bad. Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God." When God says No, Satan immediately steps in to try and cause us to doubt: " I told you. God doesn't care about you. God doesn't love you. I told you so. He's undependable." Psalm 25:10 " All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful." If we got everything we asked for in prayer, prayer would become a tool of destruction. None of us would be here because somebody would have prayed against you by now. If every whim wee answered, we'd be the most selfish, spoiled people in the world. God loves you too much to answer all your prayers the way you want them answered. He has a better plan and a bigger purpose and a bigger perspective. Just like as a parent, you don't answer every request your children ask. All of their requests aren't good for them.

God always give us grace when He says No. Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh, his problem, his weakness. 2 Cor. 12:8-9a " 8. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Grace is the power to do what is right. Whenever God says No to a request He always gives you more power, more grace. Some of you are going through a storm right now, a difficult time. You've been praying, "God remove the storm, remove the problem." God says, "No, I'm not going to remove it. I'm going to take you through the storm. I'm going to give you My power to make it. My grace, My strength. You're going to come out a stronger person."

How do you and I respond when GOD says "no"?

You can resist God. Fight back, get mad, "If you're not going to do things my way, forget it!"

You can resent God. To say "Why is this happening?" is a legitimate question--you're trying to figure out the causes. To ask "Why is this happening to me?" is a step of pride. "Do I deserve this?" As if you're some favored person over everybody else. Everybody has a problem.

You can rejoice in the Lord. Philip. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice! I Peter 1:6 "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." God has your best interest at heart, He loves you, He has a bigger perspective, a better plan, a bigger purpose. What is it you've been praying for and God has said No? A new job? Meet a nice Christian and get married? Your spouse wouldn't leave? A loved one wouldn't die? -- and they did. How do you know it would have been better for them to stay anyway? God has a bigger perspective. We have limited knowledge, He doesn't. We don't see the consequences of every choice we make, He does. We don't see the future, He does. We live in an imperfect world where people make choices that have wrong implications. And sometimes we're the innocent victims of those wrong choices. Sometimes we pray for a certain thing and He's protecting us from an even greater problem. Maybe He said No because He has a better plan. Have you been telling God what to do? Have you been telling God how to answer your prayer instead of saying "Lord, anyway You want to answer it."

God has a greater purpose! And His purpose is that He wants to build character and He wants to make you like Jesus Christ.

2 Cor. 2:4-16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

In the above passage it say there is an eternal glory. You won't be in heaven five minutes until you say, "It was worth it!" The problem I prayed for so long for God to remove, I didn't see what He was doing. But now that I look back, I see the changes He made in my because of that problem! It was worth it! Thank you God that You did not answer every one of my requests."