Obedience, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ When God Says No

Originally published May 19, 2017

When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty…I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him…Somehow, it never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?¹

There’s much ado about dreaming big dreams for God in modern evangelicalism. Think of the biggest thing you want to do for God and then “step out on faith” and make it happen. Sometimes we’re even told God is offended if our dreams aren’t big enough. It means we don’t have enough faith. It means we don’t believe God – or love Him – enough.

Or does it?

If you study through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you’re going to get to know Saul and David pretty well. And as you observe and compare their words, their behavior, and their interactions with God, a major theme that jumps out is obedience to God’s word versus doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Saul was an “I did it my way,” kind of guy. Time and again, he looked out for number one. Tried to build up his own kingdom. Did what he thought was best.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

But Saul had big dreams. So, he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuables. He disobeyed God’s clear word in favor of what he wanted to do.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

By contrast, God says David was “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David sought the Lord and obeyed His words.

But David had a dream, too. He loved God deeply and wanted to do something big to honor Him.

“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,” David said, “but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” David wanted to build a grand and glorious house for God.

It was a good dream. A dream that stemmed from godly motives. A dream that was, in reality, part of God’s plan.

But God said, “No.” Because it wasn’t God’s plan for David.

Sometimes there are things we want to do for God in life or in ministry because our hearts are fairly bursting with love for Him. Nothing small or insignificant will suffice – we want to do great things for Him because He has done so many great things for us.

Can I just tell you – that heart is what is most precious to God, not whatever it is you can dream up to do for Him. Every parent who’s ever received a clay ashtray or a bedraggled dandelion from her five year old knows this. We love the heart of our child who wants to show her love for us, even if the gift itself isn’t quite right.

And just like you would have to tell your five year old no if she wanted to demonstrate her love for you by having the family skip church on Sunday so she could cook you a four course brunch, God sometimes has to say no to the things we want to do for Him because those things – even though motivated by love for Him – conflict with His word, are out of sync with His timing, or aren’t His specific plan for us, personally.

It might be your heart’s deepest desire to serve God as the perfect Proverbs 31 wife…and God says no by declining to provide you with a husband. Maybe it’s always been your dream to raise a house full of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…and God says no by preventing you from bearing or adopting children. “I’ve always loved to tell people about Jesus,” you think, “Surely He’s calling me to be a pastor.”…and God says no in His word because that’s not His plan for Christian women.

God said no to David, too. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t fit with what God was trying to accomplish in Israel at that moment. And David wasn’t the right man for the job. God had other things He wanted David to do.

How did David respond when God said no? Did he push forward with his own plans and build the temple anyway? Spend the rest of his life sulking or angry at God? Turn away from God all together?

No. David responded with humility that God would use him in any way, joy over God’s love and blessings, and thanksgiving for God’s plans and promises.

That’s what a heart that truly loves God does. It obeys Him. It finds joy in any task He might bring our way. It is thankful and humbled that God takes any notice of us whatsoever and lavishes His grace and mercy upon us by allowing us to do what He wants us to do.

God didn’t allow David to build the temple. God didn’t allow me to become a top Christian recording artist. Maybe there’s something God isn’t allowing you to do. Will you joyfully obey Him in the things He does have planned for you? Will you be thankful and humbled that He desires to use you as part of His good plans and purposes even if those plans and purposes don’t match your own?

May we all follow David’s example – and the Greater David’s example – by saying, meaning, and living out, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” even when God says no.


Additional Resources:

How do I move on after God says “no”?

Obedience, Sanctification

When God Says No

When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty…I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him…Somehow, it never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?¹

There’s much ado about dreaming big dreams for God in modern evangelicalism. Think of the biggest thing you want to do for God and then “step out on faith” and make it happen. Sometimes we’re even told God is offended if our dreams aren’t big enough. It means we don’t have enough faith. It means we don’t believe God – or love Him – enough.

Or does it?

If you study through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you’re going to get to know Saul and David pretty well. And as you observe and compare their words, their behavior, and their interactions with God, a major theme that jumps out is obedience to God’s word versus doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Saul was an “I did it my way,” kind of guy. Time and again, he looked out for number one. Tried to build up his own kingdom. Did what he thought was best.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

But Saul had big dreams. So, he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuables. He disobeyed God’s clear word in favor of what he wanted to do.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

By contrast, God says David was “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David sought the Lord and obeyed His words.

But David had a dream, too. He loved God deeply and wanted to do something big to honor Him.

“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,” David said, “but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” David wanted to build a grand and glorious house for God.

It was a good dream. A dream that stemmed from godly motives. A dream that was, in reality, part of God’s plan.

But God said, “No.” Because it wasn’t God’s plan for David.

Sometimes there are things we want to do for God in life or in ministry because our hearts are fairly bursting with love for Him. Nothing small or insignificant will suffice – we want to do great things for Him because He has done so many great things for us.

Can I just tell you – that heart is what is most precious to God, not whatever it is you can dream up to do for Him. Every parent who’s ever received a clay ashtray or a bedraggled dandelion from her five year old knows this. We love the heart of our child who wants to show her love for us, even if the gift itself isn’t quite right.

And just like you would have to tell your five year old no if she wanted to demonstrate her love for you by having the family skip church on Sunday so she could cook you a four course brunch, God sometimes has to say no to the things we want to do for Him because those things – even though motivated by love for Him – conflict with His word, are out of sync with His timing, or aren’t His specific plan for us, personally.

It might be your heart’s deepest desire to serve God as the perfect Proverbs 31 wife…and God says no by declining to provide you with a husband. Maybe it’s always been your dream to raise a house full of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…and God says no by preventing you from bearing or adopting children. “I’ve always loved to tell people about Jesus,” you think, “Surely He’s calling me to be a pastor.”…and God says no in His word because that’s not His plan for Christian women.

God said no to David, too. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t fit with what God was trying to accomplish in Israel at that moment. And David wasn’t the right man for the job. God had other things He wanted David to do.

How did David respond when God said no? Did he push forward with his own plans and build the temple anyway? Spend the rest of his life sulking or angry at God? Turn away from God all together?

No. David responded with humility that God would use him in any way, joy over God’s love and blessings, and thanksgiving for God’s plans and promises.

That’s what a heart that truly loves God does. It obeys Him. It finds joy in any task He might bring our way. It is thankful and humbled that God takes any notice of us whatsoever and lavishes His grace and mercy upon us by allowing us to do what He wants us to do.

God didn’t allow David to build the temple. God didn’t allow me to become a top Christian recording artist. Maybe there’s something God isn’t allowing you to do. Will you joyfully obey Him in the things He does have planned for you? Will you be thankful and humbled that He desires to use you as part of His good plans and purposes even if those plans and purposes don’t match your own?

May we all follow David’s example – and the Greater David’s example – by saying, meaning, and living out, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” even when God says no.


Additional Resources:

How do I move on after God says “no”?

Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband.

 

My husband and I recently moved to a new state. After living here a few months, I ‘m not sure this is where God wants us. At the time of our move, my husband had another opportunity for us to go to a different state than the one we just moved to. In prayer and reading God’s word I think we should’ve gone to that state instead. That opportunity is still open, and I feel led to go. I’ve prayed and asked God and still feel led. I’m so confused. I am starting to feel like my husband is a hindrance in my following God’s will. He is supposed to be the leader of the family but he’s not a godly leader. I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.  My problem is I have a husband who isn’t in God’s word, nor trying to be, and he says no. 

One of the most stressful situations in a marriage is when your spouse is an unbeliever, one spouse is much more spiritually mature than the other, or there are major differences on theological issues between spouses. I know this is difficult, but I hope I’ll be able to point you in a helpful direction.

It’s good that you’re reading your Bible and praying as you seek God’s direction. I’m not sure (but am very curious) as to which Bible passage you might have read that leads you to believe you moved to the wrong state. I can’t think of one that addresses that issue because the Bible is not personally specific in that way. It gives us wisdom and godly instruction and principles which God wants us to use to make wise choices, but there aren’t any verses that say things like, “You should have moved to the other state,” “Marry Bob, not Fred,” or “Buy the minivan instead of the convertible.”

You say, “I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.” That’s great! That’s always the attitude of heart we should have. And the first thing we need to understand is that God leads us through His sufficient and authoritative Word. That means, when we have a decision to make, we don’t go by subjective feelings and impressions, we go to God’s written word and make sure we’re obeying everything it says about our situation.

The good news about your situation is that God spells out His will for you very clearly in Scripture. If you really mean what you say about wanting to do God’s will and follow what He’s leading you to do rather than doing what you want to do and calling that God’s will, here it is:

God is leading you to submit to your husband:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Unless your husband is abusing¹ you or encouraging you to do something sinful, God’s will is for you to graciously submit to his decisions. Denying your request to move to another state may not make you happy, but it does not qualify as abuse or sin. Notice, this passage says wives are to submit “in everything,” not just the decisions we agree with. The remainder of this passage goes on to instruct men about how they’re to treat their wives in a godly way, but it does not say that wives only have to submit to their husbands if their husbands are godly or “in the Word.”

God is leading you to conduct yourself respectfully:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 1 Peter 3:1-5 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes when we ladies want something from our husbands, we can be like a dog with a bone, talking them to death about it (Dare I say, nagging?). While husbands and wives should talk through major issues and decisions together, if you’ve calmly, lovingly, and respectfully offered your husband your input and he has made his decision, you need to stop trying to convince him to do it your way. Let it go, Elsa. Behave and speak with love, grace, and kindness toward your husband as you move on with life in your marriage. You may not win him over to your opinion, but that’s not your ultimate goal. Your goal – as you mentioned in your e-mail – is for him to be godly and in the Word. Your behavior and demeanor can help win him to godliness.

God is leading you to be content:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11b-13

If anyone knew what it was like to bear up under unpleasant circumstances and find his contentment in Christ rather than in temporal happiness, it was Paul. Paul had learned the secret to maintaining his contentment no matter what: the strength only Christ can provide. Christ can enable you to be content in this circumstance of your life, too. Just keep your focus on Him and ask Him to strengthen you.

God is leading you to pray for His will to be done and to trust Him for the outcome.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (emphasis mine)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (emphasis mine)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” At Gethsemane, He demonstrated it for us. God did not change Jesus’ circumstances, because it was His will for Jesus to be crucified. But Jesus trusted God to do what was right and best, and He obeyed and glorified His Father to His last breath.

Are you praying for God’s will to be done in your situation, or your will? Keep in mind that God is sovereign. If it were His will for you to be in another state right now, that’s where you would be. Nobody can thwart God’s will. Have you ever considered the possibility that it’s not that your husband is a “hindrance in following God’s will” but that it was God’s will for you to be living in this state and that He caused or allowed your husband to move you there because that’s what He wants? Ask God to do His will in your situation, obey Him no matter the cost, and trust Him for the outcome.

Finally, I’d like to address something you mentioned in your e-mail that you didn’t seem to think was connected to your main question. Actually, it is. You said that you found my blog while searching for one of the false teachers I warn against. If you’ve been sitting under the teaching of the woman you mentioned, or these teachers, or any other teachers who don’t properly handle and teach God’s word, that is a large part of your confusion about your situation. These teachers do not correctly teach people how to study, understand, and apply God’s word to their lives.

You’ve been taught to “feel led” to do things that are in conflict with God’s word. God leads us and speaks to us through Scripture, and it is Scripture alone that we are to go to and depend on to live a godly life and make wise decisions, not our feelings, opinions, and experiences. Unfortunately, teachers like the one you mentioned often lead their hearers to attempt to interpret subjective feelings, ideas, impressions, and circumstances as “God’s will” rather than seeking what God has already revealed to be His will in His written Word. I would encourage you to put away the pre-packaged “Bible” studies, simply pick up your Bible, study it, and obey it.


¹Physical abuse. A husband’s decision not to bow to his wife’s wishes in a situation like this does not constitute abuse. Any wife who is being physically abused should get to safety and get help.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.