Saying “No” to God

The President Didn’t

A story is told of Thomas Jefferson that during his days as president, he and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback.  They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour.

The swollen river had washed the bridge away.  Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents.  The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch.  

After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river.  The president agreed without hesitation.  The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.

As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, “Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?”  The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him.  “All I know,” he said, “Is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No,’ and on some of them was the answer ‘yes.’  His was a ‘Yes’ face.”

Two Kinds of People

I like this story because it speaks about two major categories of people in this world:  “Yes” people and “No” people.  Some people look at life without becoming daunted by challenges and obstacles.  That doesn’t mean they don’t acknowledge the existence of problems, but instead of allowing problems to overwhelm them, they become energized by the opportunities they see.  They’re able to identify needs and embrace the possibility of meeting those needs.  These are the “Yes” people.

Others recognize the opportunities that exist, but instead of finding excitement in the chance to provide solutions to problems, they focus on the challenges, the obstacles, and the reasons why meeting a particular need would simply be too difficult.  These are the “No” people.

Three Questions 

1. What kind of person are you?  Are you the kind of person who sees needs and looks for ways to creatively meet them?  Or are you the kind of person who sees those same needs and says, “Solving that problem would just be too tough.”

2. Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?  Do you believe that everything that enters our lives—whether pleasant or unpleasant—does so at the direction of our good and loving Creator? 

Most Bible believing Christians would answer that question with an unreserved “Yes.”  But I wonder if we understand the implications of that answer.

If God is sovereign, then nothing happens by accident.  It’s not a mistake or a coincidence when we learn of a need.  God intends for us to think about the needs we encounter and to prayerfully consider the ways in which we might play a part in meeting those needs. 

There’s a very real sense in which our response to these needs is a direct response to the God who placed them before us.  Often times, saying “Yes” to the need means saying “Yes” to God. And just as often, saying “No” to the need of means saying “No” to God.

3. What would your life be like if God responded to your needs in the same way that you respond to the needs of others?  For many of us, the results would be devastating.  Most of us would be hungry and homeless, without any hope for this life or for the life to come.

God’s Response to Us

A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Viars spoke to our church family about his concern that far too many Christians have gotten into the habit of saying “No” to God.  That’s a significant concern because God, so often, says “Yes” to us.

When you recognized your need for a Savior, did the Lord turn you away, or did He offer you His Son?  When you needed forgiveness for that sin you’ve committed way to many times, did the Lord reject you, or did He offer you cleansing yet again?  When you needed direction and purpose for your life, did God ignore your pleas, or did He provide you with the truth of His Word?  To these and a thousand other needs in your life, God has answered, “Yes, yes, a million times yes.”

If we are going to be the kind of people whose lives are characterized by gratitude and appreciation for the love, mercy, and blessing of God…if we’re going to be the kind of people who value the opportunities God places in our lives to become more like our Savior…if we’re going to be the kind of people in whom the Lord delights…if we’re going to be the kind of people that is able to give a good account at the judgment seat of Christ, then we need to begin looking for ways to say “Yes” to God.

While it would be impossible to address every need, I believe God wants us to respond to a far greater number of needs than most of us presently do.  I believe that we should view every need that comes across our path as a divine appointment from God. 

A Timely Opportunity

As I was composing this blog post, our church received a call from another church group whose bus had broken down on I-65 a couple of miles away from Faith.  It was 15 degrees outside, and they were trying to figure out how their group of 31 people would make it to its destination in Kentucky. 

I already had a lot on my plate for the day.  I came in to work with an agenda of my own and a number of additional responsibilities were added to that agenda once I arrived.  I wasn’t looking for an additional task, but the Lord presented me with a need. 

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to say “Yes.”  I wanted to find some excuse to say “No” so that I could finish up this post and move on to the next item on my agenda.  I had to decide if I really believed what I was writing…if I really believed that God was Sovereign…if I was truly interested in becoming more like my Savior…if I actually cared about the fact that God had graciously met my needs.

Despite my reluctance to be used by Him and my tendency to focus on obstacles, the Lord helped me to say “Yes.”  And I’m so glad that He did. 

I was able to pick up their bus driver from the interstate, bring him back to our church, and lend their group the use of one of our buses while their bus received repairs.  This allowed these dear brothers and sisters in Christ to get back to the ministry purpose for which they were traveling.

This opportunity reminded me that saying “Yes” isn’t easy.  It takes effort.  It’s much easier to say “No;” and there may be a number of seemingly good reasons for doing so.  However, when we say “No” to such opportunities without soberly and prayerfully considering our answer, we forfeit both the grace and growth that could have been ours.

What About You?

Have you been approached about a service opportunity recently?  Have you learned of a need within your church?  Your community?  Your neighborhood?  Have you thoughtfully considered how the Lord might want to use you in meeting that need?  The Lord is looking for people who will say, “Yes.”  You can count on Him.  Can He count on you?

Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.