Has God ever answered your prayer with a “No”? Have you ever prayed for fervently for something then sat back and waited for an answer? Nothing happens and you begin wondering “Is God listening” or “Why hasn’t God answered?”
In Acts 16:7 Luke records how Paul and his companions were travelling through the region of Phrygia and Galatia when they came to the border and tried to enter into Bithynia. “But,” Luke writes, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”
(On this map, the numbers refer to stops Paul made during this 2nd missionary journey.)
It doesn’t seem like a big deal but I am sure Paul felt crushed by being told not to go. He had a passion to reach the people in Bithynia and being willing do whatever it takes, he wanted to tell them about Jesus, but Jesus said “No”!
Personally I find it bewildering when things don’t work out like I’d like them to or thought they would. I can easily feel neglected or a failure, or that I am totally out of sync with God. However, this “No” from Jesus was a significant turning point in the life of Paul and in the story of the history of the church.
Despite his plan to go further across Asia, Paul was sent to Macedonia instead (check the map again); part of what we now call Greece. This was the beginning of the church in Europe, where it has been significant for 20 centuries. So God’s “No” was in fact a “Yes” to planting the first Church in Europe.
If you are discouraged or doubting and just holding on, remember God has his plans which are greater than ours . . .
Maybe you, like Paul, have expectations of the way God is leading you, and thought you were supposed to take a particular step of faith but nothing seems to be working out the way you planned.
Just remember you are in good company. Many of God’s people have experienced that before. And the reason that the answer could be a “No” is because something else more strategic and important lies beyond the “No.”
So if you are discouraged or doubting and just holding on, remember God has his plans which are greater than ours. Our task is to remain faithful and patient and not try to force our way and mess it all up, but wait. Many times the reason God says “No” is only because He is waiting to say “Yes” to something greater later.
I’d be keen to hear from any readers who have discovered this to be true . . . a devastating ‘No’, being an incredible ‘Yes’ to something else. What’s your experience?
Stephen L Baxter