READ: Genesis 46-48, Psalm 16, Matthew 16, Acts 16
The Divine “No”
David blesses the Lord who has given him counsel…in the night seasons (Ps. 16:7). God is so faithful to lead us, guide us, and to give us advice even when the decision is not a straightforward one. In Acts 16 the divine “no” was just as much a part of God’s guidance as the heavenly “yes.” Paul and Timothy try to go preach in Asia and are forbidden to do so by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6). They next attempt to minister in Bithynia (16:7), but there, too, the Spirit does not permit.
God is just as good to us in His denials as He is in His approvals. The denials of God are immeasurable mercies. If God answered all our prayers, how miserable we would be. Thank heaven that heaven says “no”! Negations, restrictions, refusals, denials, and rejections are all divine mercies. May we be as thankful for when God says “no” as when He says “yes.”
When we learn to allow Jesus to choose for us, we enter into a new plane of joy and safety. David writes, “You will show me the path of life: In your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). Submitting to God’s restrictions keeps us in life. Staying in the life of Jesus grants us the joy of Jesus. Let us rejoice when the divine Jesus mercies us with a denial of a heartfelt request. He knows best how to keep us in joyful life.
A fruitful pastor keeps an 8-page job description from God in his desk. The job description is eight pages long – every page completely blank. He has signed it on the bottom of the last page. He periodically pulls it out and reminds himself that God has the authority and absolute right to fill in those pages as He wills.
God can sustain us in a hostile environment, shielding us from abuse. God can also lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. It is His choice. God can exalt us before humanity. God can also invite us into His humility and shame. God gets to write the story. When we accept His divine denials as well as His divine grants, we embrace His authorship of our lives. When we let Jesus write our story, we can be assured of His ongoing joy-filled presence. Joy in the presence of Jesus is far better than the bitterness of getting our way as a result of wayward prayers.