Thursday, January 12, 2017

Beyond the "No."

"...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong"
(2 Corinthians 12:7‭-‬10, NIV).

No one with half a brain with a quarter of sense would argue that the Apostle Paul was a weak man. He was a picture of strength in so many ways. As you read through the New Testament it becomes clear that he was beaten, flogged, tortured, imprisoned in inhumane conditions, yet he never buckled under the pressure. Paul maintained, in his dependence on Christ, a strength that was evident physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Don't get it twisted, however. Paul was not immune from the potential of doubt, discouragement, fatigue, and disappointment. Even in his own seemingly "super human" relationship with God, he had to learn much about what the power of God could do through the power of disappointment. 

Paul was afflicted, in what exact ways, Biblical scholars still debate, with something so great that it is noted that he pleaded with God three times for it to be removed. Paul, a great man of faith, was met with what could have been a catastrophic contradiction to the faith he proclaimed. How could he be a mighty man of God, when his own faith wasn't enough to see him find freedom in his own areas of breakthrough? Nevertheless, the story doesn't stop here. Paul's pleading was never ignored, nor was he given the answer he immediately wanted, yet he was given the exact answer that God knew he needed. 

Think about how the devil likes to try to twist and manipulate your emotions and how you view god's interactions or  the perceived "lack thereof"? He wants you to believe in the core of who you are that you are not going to succeed beyond the point where you are now. This is it. You've come as far as you are going to get. You have prayed and cried out to God for answers that you knew would be key to your coming through this present battle. Your prayers, if answered at all, seem to be done so with a 'no' with no explanation. The enemy of your soul wants you doubting the God who says He loves you, discouraged that you are all alone with the best you have to offer behind you, and disappointed because of failed expectations in a God who claims to be faithful.

"But he said to me..." THIS was how you hear Paul responding to his own potential disappointment. 'He didn't tell me what I immediately wanted to hear, but he said to me what I NEEDED to hear." When God said "no," He wasn't saying "no" to Paul personally, but saying "no" to him situationally. God knew Paul inside and out. He knew Paul beyond the circumstance he was asking to be delivered from. God knew that as Paul depended Him IN the predicament, he would have a greater understanding of God and His power than he would if God brought him out immediately. But Paul would never know this with mere human understanding and natural emotions. Hearing "no" would naturally cause someone to possible shut down, become defensive, and begin to assume every reason why "no" was the answer deployed. Paul kept his heart open and was able to hear God speak beyond the "no."

God will tell you "no" when He needs to. He knows where you are right now in this life, what you're going through, and how every answer He gives you connects to your responses and the effects of "what happens next." His answers to you reach far beyond the present. God never says "no" to who you are. He answers based on where you are, what you are going through, and how His answer connects to what He has for you beyond right now. He still speaks to you beyond the "no." Don't shut down. Don't become defensive. And don't begin to assume the negatives in regards to yourself or God for why He may have given you the answer you didn't want to hear. 

Trust that God still speaks what you need to hear beyond the "no" you didn't want to hear. He speaks beyond the "no," reminding you that His faithfulness has not and will not fail you, that what He has for you is greater than what you've asked for even though you can't understand that, and that He will never stop being there for you. In all things you face, remember this: the God you started loving never started loving you. He just always has! And HE will never stop!


Praise God said...

Great reminder. Thank you Pastor Chris,

Chris Gibbs said...

Thank you. It's definitely a reminder that I need in my own life! It's something that God has used in helping me to better understand His will and His ways.