|Why God Says No|
Lisa Barry: Have you ever been tempted to doubt God's love because of unanswered prayer? Maybe you concluded there must not be a God at all. How often do you think that answered prayer must always be a yes and never a no? Today on Gateway To Joy, Elisabeth Elliot continues talking about prayer and offers some practical and biblical reasons why God sometimes has to say no. Get paper and pencil ready, because you're going to want to write these down. And now, let's head back to Denton, Texas, where Elisabeth Elliot will continue speaking to an audience there. Here she is.
Elisabeth Elliot: I love C. S. Lewis' definition of so-called faith. He has it in quotation marks. He said, "Faith is the state of mind which desperate desire, working on a strong imagination, can manufacture. This is not faith in a Christian sense." A desperate desire working on a strong imagination. "It is a feat of psychological gymnastics. Faith must refer to a degree or kind of faith, which most believers never experience. A far inferior degree is, I hope, acceptable to God."
We don't have to be experts. We don't have to be the great ancient saints before our prayers are acceptable to God. Surely God knows how to sort out the legitimate prayers and the far-from-honest prayers.
I have just a little list here of some reasons why God says no. All of them are from the Scriptures. I will give you the references. Why God says no.
Number one, for the sake of others. If Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane had been answered with a yes, where would we be? Jesus prayed that God would deliver Him. He said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me." But then His next prayer was "If it is not possible; nevertheless, Thy will be done." If He hadn't said that, we would have all gone to hell, wouldn't we? Because it was His "Yes, Father" that took Him to the cross. So it is for the sake of others that God says no. It was for the sake of all of us that that loving Father said to His adored Son, "No."
Number two. Well, before we go to number two, let me also mention just so that you can have another scriptural illustration, which is very obvious. You remember Paul praying that God would remove the thorn. Paul had been through all sorts of horrible trials and tribulations, much worse, it would seem, than this tiny little thorn that he had, which is described in 2 Corinthians 12. He prayed three times that God would remove it. God's answer was no. He said, "My grace is all you need." You and I would have missed out on that magnificent principle of the spiritual life if God's answer to Paul had been yes.
So it was the thorn. So Paul was able to accept that. It was not removed. He said, "Most gladly, therefore, will I accept, will I suffer. Most gladly, in order that the power of Christ may rest upon me." What a marvelous testimony!
Then number two, for God's glory among His people. Numbers 20:12 tells us that Moses could not enter the land of Canaan; Deuteronomy 3 also. But it was because of Moses' disobedience that God's glory was stained, so he had to be punished. So God said no to his desperate plea to be allowed to go into the Promised Land.
And I think it's wonderful to realize that Moses didn't pout and sulk and say, "Well, if this is the way God treats me, then so much for God. I don't need to do anything more for Him." He kept on being just as faithful a leader of those miserable people as he had been all along, even though God had told him very clearly that he would not enter the Promised Land.
Number three, God says no because He has something better for us. Luke 11:12: "What father would give his son a scorpion instead of an egg?" Now what the child thinks he ought to have may be in God's sight a scorpion. The thing that you may be hammering away on God's door about and wondering, "Why doesn't God answer my prayer?" God has been answering your prayer. He has been saying, "No, no, no." "Well, but Lord, are You ever going to give me this? I don't know how I can live without it, Lord. Lord, please!" And you think it's the most wonderful thing in the world, but your Heavenly Father knows what things you have need of. It just might be that the thing you think is going to make your life wonderful is, in God's sight, a scorpion or a snake. God is going to give you whatever the thing is that He knows would be best for us. It may look like a scorpion but turn out to be an egg.
Number four, God says no because we are harboring sin. Psalm 66:18.
God says no, number five, because we are not asking in His name. In James 4 it's clear that we have to ask in faith, believing that God is going to give us the right thing at the right time. We might be praying something which is for our glory when it's got nothing to do with God's glory.
James 4:1-4: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something, but you don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people! Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."
Our consciences need to be ransacked, don't they, in order to see whether our praying is in tune with the will of God. Of course, God knows when we don't know. We may be asking in all honesty and all earnestness for something which God knows we don't realize isn't good for us, but in His time His own answer will come.
Number six, for reasons of His own which we need not know. Like Gladys Aylward, wishing that she were taller, wishing that she had beautiful golden hair-and she gets to China and she looks up and says, "Lord God, You know what You're doing."
I had the chance to sit on a sofa with Gladys Aylward and discuss what missionary life is like when you're single. I was single most of my missionary life. I've been single most of my life, period. But she had never been married. So she said to me-I can still see her with her bony little finger. She leaned across that sofa at me and she said, "Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer."
So she told me how when she saw an English couple come out and realize that here was this wonderful thing called marriage that she had really never given any thought to, and she thought, "How lovely! Wouldn't it be nice for God to give me a husband?" So she prayed that God would call a man from England, send him straight out there to China and have him propose. She was a no-nonsense kind of a woman. She said, "Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer. He called him, but he never came."
Now was that because God didn't like Gladys Aylward? No. She thought marriage would be wonderful, and I'm sure there are a whole lot of you in this room today that are saying exactly the same thing. "Why doesn't God want to give me a husband?" Well, how many times do you think people have said, "I don't understand why God gave you three of them"? I say, "Neither do I! How do I know?"
For reasons of His own which we need not know-that's number six. Deuteronomy 29:29 is your reference for that.
And then number seven: In order to lead us not into temptation. Some of our prayers would lead us straight into temptation, and so He commands us to pray. He is telling us what to tell Him to do for us. It's the constant two-way thing-this whole thing of prayer. So when He teaches His disciples to pray "Lead us not into temptation," it's not as though God is dying to lead you into temptation. But He wants us to be serious about doing the will of God.
Here, from a contemporary writer who shall be nameless-it's not I, so don't think you can guess. "Can our petitions alter the march of events, chance or God? If He is running things, He seems capricious at times. To believe, He obliges us to relinquish our equations and enter the darkness in faith. There are impenetrable questions. We are asking God to do what would seem to cut across the unrolling of events. Always there are wars and rumors of wars. When we pray, will the hospital beds be empty because we pray? Prayer is a mystery. In corporate prayer, the Body of Christ is drawn into the mystery of His priestly self-offering for the world." The Bible tells us that He made a perfect offering for sin, a perfect sacrifice.
"All suffering and sin are taken up in that offering of Jesus Christ to His Father." I wish I had time to read you the whole thing. It's wonderful, but I don't. "Our place is at the altar of Calvary where the offering is made. We have not been invited to the bench where judgment is given."
I'll read that again. "Our place is at the altar of Calvary where the offering is made. We have not been invited to the bench where judgment is given." So it is a daily discipline of prayer, thanksgiving, obedience and it's as simple as eating lunch or vacuuming a rug.
Lisa Barry: I hope you got a chance to write down those marvelous reasons. But if not, the next best thing is to get a copy of this series. I think I'm going to write these down on the back of my Bible, because I need their reminder every day. The title of this series is LEAVING SELF BEHIND. The cost is $5.
You can send that, along with your request, to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. If you're on the Internet, be sure and check out our Web site. You'll find our online product catalog, weekly program topics, transcripts and much more. That address is www.gatewaytojoy.org.Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible.
What should we do when others treat us poorly? Elisabeth Elliot has the answer tomorrow when we meet again for Gateway To Joy.