When God says No!
There’s a lot of preaching and a lot of sermons and all kinds of printed and published material nowadays that will lead you step by step to getting what you want out of life, and getting what you want out of God, … but what do you do when life does not give you what you want? What do you do when God says NO! Yes, it is a simple fact of life that God does have to say NO at times …but you don’t have to have a nervous breakdown, or throw a pity party, or suffer a panic attack when God says NO. You need to be taught how faith, confidence in God can steady and ready you when all hell breaks out in your circumstances. You don’t need to be taught how to get happy when all is going well, today I’m going to teach you how to get happy when all is not going well.
In our earlier reading from 2 Corinthians chapter 12 we have
a unique and a rare opportunity to hear the Apostle Paul talk about a personal experience, and although he is obviously not completely happy about the disclosure (for he speaks in the third person), nevertheless here is a moment of personal transparency from which we may take advantage.
Although beginning in the third person, he finally admits in verse 7 that “… there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan… to buffet me” – he admits that he has been talking about himself.
So in speaking today about Paul’s Thorn, the first thing that I want you to note is that – He was Overwhelmed.
In a prelude to this personal disclosure, Paul talks about the multitude of Revelations he had received, he says “I know a man”. He was not desiring to take any personal credit for this, so he speaks in the third person. Paul was abundantly blessed in all things. God had set him aside and used him in a supernatural way, incomparable to any of the other apostles – and yet in earlier days he had been groomed to hate Christians.
That is, until his Damascus Road experience when a brief encounter with God changed his life for ever. What we need to understand here is that the people who he needs fellowship with, the other apostles, the other believers, the new converts, – they are all afraid of him, they reject him, they ostracise him, we might say he is out of place with the ebb and flow of all that is going on around him, yet he has a special sense of Gods Glory and Revelation, and had seen things, he’s been privy to things which were not lawful, not allowed to be spoken about.
When people are mesmerised by your gifting, when people see you as chosen of God, anointed for ministry, impacting your world, what they often fail to realise is that the gifts and talents you possess cost and cause inner pains that go along with who you are. Don’t ever wish to have what I have. A young Filipino Pastor once said to me “Sir, I want to be like you” to which the whole assembly of Pastors shouted “Amen”. But from the Pulpit I said NO – you want to be like Jesus – and they got the message. A house always looks different from the driveway than it does from the hallway. I may seem different from the outside, than what I know I am on the inside. I am not always the “Minister” or the “Preacher” but I am always human!
Paul says ( and I paraphrase) “lest I be exalted beyond measure with the things that went right, God gave me balance in the things that went wrong“.
Its not about who they say you are its about who you really are.
Don’t you know that the rich are poor in some area, and that the poor are rich in some area. Its not always about just what you see.
Paul says “lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.”
In the Greek – the word buffet means to beat up my flesh. Let me speak for a moment to those of you who are feeling truly blessed today, truly favoured, truly free. You will know that before you could get intoxicated over the successes you had, you were punched sore in some other areas of your life. Somewhere in your life if you are really gifted, blessed and highly favoured, somewhere in your life you are being punched in the gut.
Now there has been a big debate over this subject of “Paul’s Thorn”. The sages of the ages have debated the point as to whether it was some kind of disability, some persistent sickness or infirmity, some person who was bugging him, or some weakness, a proclivity to temptation. Today I want to add to their voices and clear all that up, by simply saying
– I don’t know!
But, I do think that God leaves it opaque, (vague) so that we can fill in whatever we need to fill in – so that we can personally identify with Paul – each of us having something different that makes us groan in the night, or cry in our prayers, or get weary in the work. Whatever makes us say – “All of this stuff and no peace – or all of this peace and no stuff?”
Whatever it was, or whoever it was, it brought him down, to a place of humility, so we see not what it was, but what it did.
It was Painful privately, and Humiliating publicly.
But God balances life by teaching us that no matter how beautiful or how bold we may be – somewhere in our lives, sometime in our experiences, at some point in our journey – we will use those tear ducts, we will cry to God and cry to ourselves and long to be free from the pain.
So Paul prays about what is OVERWHELMING him.
“I cant take any more, Lord.” Have you ever prayed that prayer? Have you ever been overwhelmed by the pressures and problems that have fallen on your shoulders? What takes you out, shatters your world, dulls your vision, and changes your focus – this is praying about something big. “Its too much for me, Lord“. Everything that you can put up with you’ve put up with – but this overwhelms – what is the thing that overwhelms you today? What is it that you appear to drown in?
Paul says that he asked God to remove it 3 times, – Why would Paul have to pray 3 times? He did not have to pray three times when Eutychus fell out of the window to his death in Acts 20:9? How can God do so much for you when you pray about someone else, and not you? How can you be so wise about others dilemmas and such a fool about our own. How could Paul have the power to turn cities inside out and upside down and not fix his own problems. Yet he prays 3 times for God to take this curse away, so that he can serve who he wants to serve, and be who he wants to be. Have you ever prayed – “I could do it, if you just fix it Lord. I’d be better for you if I it was better for me!” Here was a man who like the Saviour himself, had raised the dead and healed the sick …here was the great Apostle on his knees and God was saying NO!
What do you do when God says NO?
So He was Overwhelmed, but notice next that
He was Overruled
Objection, your Honour – Overruled! You have the right to object but he has the right to overrule, you have the right to complain but he has the right to overrule. But I’m here to ask you today what do you do when God says NO? You have been overruled. Here’s a Great man of faith and power, overruled, and if God can say No to the apostle Paul, then he may say No to you! You’ve been Counselling other people, and yet your own home is a wreck. You’ve been praying for change and nothing changes, – your prayers are overruled. You have a loved one sick, and you prayed and fasted, you anointed them with oil, you are trying to read books and listen to the healing tapes but they are still sick – you’ve been overruled. You told the nurse or the doctor that you were healed, but you were overruled. Everybody prayed for the baby and you still had the still birth. What do you do when you are overruled?
The enemy says “Where is your God now”? This was Paul. If it happened to Paul, the man who wrote most of the Bible, what chance do you and I have? But consider this – we’ve seen this 3 fold prayer before, yes, in the Garden of Gethsemane and it was Jesus who prayed on that occasion “if it be possible pass this bitter cup from me” Matthew 26:42. Like Paul, THREE times he prayed. Now if Jesus could not change the Fathers mind, and if Paul could not change the Fathers mind, do you think that you or I can change the Fathers mind? When God says No, he means No! But when God says No, he does so for a reason?
“No Good thing does he withhold from them that walk uprightly“. Psalm 84:11
Corrie Ten Boom used to say “Man Proposes and God Disposes”
If God has said No, then it is because there is something better for you than what you ask. God said NO, because he also said; “my grace is sufficient” – God does not simply want you to enjoy your life, he wants you to enjoy his grace. Without Grace, we are without God. It is only when we understand Gods Amazing Grace, that we can walk in an Amazing life-style.
You may think that your plans are sufficient to see you through all the ups and downs of life, but consider this fact – that Gods Grace was measured out to you long before he allowed the enemy to attack you. If God did not give you enough grace for this trial, then God would not have given you this trial. God knows the strength you need to carry the weightiest load. Before God allowed or permitted any pain in your life, He gave you the ability to carry it, to bear it. I know that sometimes you feel like you are losing your mind – but you’re not.
You may be in turbulence but you’ve got grace for it. Grace will lift you above it! You may be in debt but you’ve got grace for it. You may be in pain but you’ve got grace to endure it . I may find you crying, but when you get through, you will have proved that there was grace in the tears. I have discovered that although I may not have money for it, friends for it, husband or wife for it, brains for it, yet whatever it was I got the grace for it!
The Bible reminds us that “As our days, so shall our strength be” Deut 33:25 – that means the tougher the day the greater the strength, the harder the test the greater the power. Whatever sort of day today will be, I will have the strength equal to it. We need to save this scripture for a bad day. We need to hide this one away in our hearts, and use it as a “band-aid” when we’re hurting sore. Let me say that God measured the day before he released the strength , and I am sure that he gave you the strength sufficient for today. Paul was about to learn that Grace was going to do something amazing in his life. Grace was going to empower him to live like he couldn’t imagine.
If God says No, then it is because God says “try my grace” instead.
So we have seen Paul, Overwhelmed, and Overruled,
Now we see him Overjoyed?
Paul says “Therefore I glory in tribulation” v9 The tribulation is an indication of the grace I have for the situation. He would not allow me to go through this trouble, this test, this trial – unless he had equipped me to do so.
Paul was Overjoyed?
He uses the words “most gladly” – so how did he get to this place from that place? How did he get to overjoyed from overruled and overwhelmed? I though I could only be overjoyed when I wasn’t overruled. It is true that the seasoned saint knows how to be overjoyed in the midst of tribulation, while the baby, the child of God knows how to be overjoyed when released out of the trouble. So I ask myself – How can I be happy with this as bad as it is, as traumatic as it is, as painful as it is, How can Joy spring up from Pain?
Obviously, this is clearly more than a “happy feeling” he is talking about being “Overjoyed” that means more joy than necessary, more joy than he needed?
It seems to me that GRACE not only changes the pressures, but more significantly changes the perceptions. Grace makes us see it all differently. We begin to see things as God sees them, we begin to see that there is a greater picture and that there is a greater God, in whose hand is the Canvas and the Brush, and in whose heart is the Design!
Grace enables us to understand that we’ve passed the test to get through to more glory, – more trial means more triumph, more test means more testimony. When all Hell brakes loose in our lives, we need to see and we need to understand that God is standing with us like never before. (He is a very present help in times of trouble) We have to trust God when he says NO, we have to trust God when we didn’t get the job, didn’t get the house, and the child didn’t come home. We have to trust him when we close the coffin, that the tougher the day, the greater the grace, the more traumatic the times, the more testimony of grace. We have to trust him that we will win if we do not quit, if we do not lose our confidence in God.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
As I said a moment ago, Grace changes our Perceptions, it changes the way we see our tests and our troubles. Do you know that if you look down you will see dirt, but if you look up you will see the stars. What do you see, and can you train yourself to see what others cannot see? I end today with a poem by —Viney Wilder entitled –The Cabbage and the Rose!
I hope it will help you see things a little differently from what they look like right now, and maybe you’ll see what they look like to God.
The Cabbage and the Rose
These were beginners, each had come to seek
Expression in a world outside their own,
Exciting world of colour and technique,
Of light and shadow, symmetry and tone.
The table held a cabbage, leafy green,
Whose inmost edges sparkled still with dew,
Some looked askance on such a common scene
And thought of still life they would like to do.
Still others pencilled outlines hurriedly,
More eager for the colour tube and brush,
Then mixing paints they worked determinedly
And with the quiet of cathedral hush.
But only one saw cabbage as a rose
Because she’d taught her heart to understand
That in each common thing some beauty glows,
That loveliness is always near at hand.
And on her finished canvas one could feel
The roughened outer leaves, the inner core,
The cool, sweet drops of dew were all but real
Because her heart had looked for something more.
God Bless You. Amen