Yesterday was Easter. Last night I saw the Easter story portrayed in the History Channel series ‘The Bible’. It was not a family friendly show to watch. In fact it was brutal to watch it as an adult who has lived through decades of Easters. As I sat there trying to watch, my mind was racing with the ‘why’ questions. I’m sure you’ve thought of them too. In fact all through the series, I found myself asking ‘why’ a lot. Why did God choose that situation, that path, that relationship, that method … I could have thought of easier ways; you could have thought of easier ways; but God is God. Look what Psalm 18:30 says “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”
I was listening to our Easter cantata at church yesterday a truth that I have heard countless times struck me. Matthew 26:39 “[Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” Did you catch that? Jesus asks God to find another way, spare him the agony that he knew was coming. We all know God’s answer. God said no. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus went to live in heaven. Jesus rose from the grave after 3 days and got to come back to Earth and be with his followers for 40 days. He promised the Holy Spirit to come and be with all of his believers during their life on Earth. God said no to Jesus request, but it was because He had something better planned.
Do you remember Paul? He wrote the majority of the New Testament. He was an amazing source of faith with immense knowledge of the scriptures. He didn’t start out as a man of deep faith in Christ, but his proved that he ended his life as a man of devout faith. There are times in Paul’s life that God said no. I’m sure he prayed for a ‘get out of jail free card’ when he was slammed into prison behind a solidly bolted door. He might have prayed that he wouldn’t get thrown into prison at all. In that case God said wait – then said yes. What about the times when Paul came before God asking him to ‘Remove the thorn in his side” but God said no. Look what Paul says about that in 2 Corinthians 12:7 “in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” Are you kidding me? Paul wants the thorn removed, but God says no – then Paul figures it out. He needs that constant reminder to keep him from becoming conceited. If anyone had reason to be conceited, it was Paul. He was an amazing man of God.
Life back in Bible times was tough; life today is tough. In Bible times God’s children strayed and they came back to worship God. They took refuge in Him. Today, God’s children stray and when they come back, God has not changed. His words are no less true today than they were back in the day when dwelling places were tents, semi haulers were donkeys, and written communication was done on tree bark with berry juice for ink. Jeremiah 31:3 reminds us clearly that ““I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Back to life in the 21st century. Sometimes God says no. When God says no, when we feel desperate to have his say yes, it’s hard to accept. In those times we have to sharpen resolve and strengthen our faith and let God be God. He is in control and he gets to decide. Nobody wants to work Plan B when Plan A was their first choice. Remember that God is working out all the details for the good to those who love him and put their trust in him. In the new testament, he promises again to oversee our lives, direct our path and look what he says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Let’s go back to the Old Testament to bring encouragement to our days. Isaiah 48:17 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”