There’s little question that everyone of us face situations from time to time where we believe that God is leading us in a certain way but when we move in that direction, the doors close, and it seems that we must have missed the leading of God.
Over the past number of months I’ve been involved in a specific situation where no matter what steps I took to bring what I thought was God’s desired outcome, at the end of every process the answer seemed to be “no.”
These can be very difficult moments, especially when we believe that what we’re seeking to do would honor God and also serve to promote the health of the church and the growth of the gospel.
However, these same kinds of trials have to do with personal challenges. Recall when Paul was afflicted with the thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and despite three impassioned pleas that the Lord would remove the thorn, His answer each time was “no.”
What is your personal “thorn” that you believe God would want to remove so that you might be more effective for Him, or more fulfilled in what you’re doing, or more fruitful as a follower of Christ?
What we too easily fail to see when we hear those “nos” from the Lord is that God has something else, in fact something better for us on the other side of His “no.” For Paul’s thorn in the flesh it was the fact that His grace was sufficient and that something more life-changing and powerful than the removal of the thorn would be experienced by Paul’s awareness of God’s empowering grace.
In a wonderful story in Acts 16 we see Paul on a mission to visit churches that had been established in his previous missionary journey and for some inexplicable reason Acts 16:6 says that “they were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. And when they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”
As a consequence of those two apparent “nos” Paul ended up in the city of Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of the district of Macedonia (Acts 16:12).
What Paul could not have known is that the “no” from the Lord about his desire to preach in Asia and Bithynia, resulted in him bringing the gospel to the first city in the Western World. If we want to think about it in these terms, perhaps we are sharing these truths today because Paul did not give up when God said “no” but knew that God had something better if he simply obeyed.
When we experience a “no” from God about our plans, it’s because God has a greater purpose for us when He says yes!