As believers, we are commanded to pray unceasingly. We pray for so many reasons, praising God for His blessings and mercy and asking for provision, health, and protection for ourselves and others. This week, I prayed a prayer for guidance. I asked God what He wanted me to do in a certain situation, and my mind was filled with possibilities. None of them, however, involved the actual answer I received. I guess I just assumed that He would pick one of the many options I had come up with in my mind, kind of like multiple choice. They were plans that didn’t cost me anything. They were all of benefit to me. But His idea was a painful one, at least for my flesh. It made me think of the many characters in the Bible who started by saying “no” but ended up saying “yes” to God.
Moses Didn’t Want To Go to Pharaoh
When God met Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, He laid out His plan for the mass departure of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. Moses never actually said “no,” but he sure had a lot of questions. “Who am I to do this?” “What should I tell them?” “What if they won’t believe me?” God had firm, logical answers for all of his questions, but that didn’t stop Moses from trying two more times to get God to change his mind. “But I’m not a good speaker,” he tried. And then came his final plea: “Please. Just send somebody else!” (Exodus 4:13).
The Lesson From Moses
Sometimes God asks us to do things that we don’t feel qualified to do. From the natural, we don’t have the talent or the strength. There are lots of “what ifs” that can crowd our minds, but the lesson here is that God has everything under control. He has chosen each of us for the work we are here to do and will give us the tools to do it. There’s the old saying that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” God gave Moses everything he needed to complete the job before him. He was patient with Moses in his questions and his fears, but at the end of the conversation in Exodus 4, the matter was settled, and Moses was on his way to Egypt.
Jonah Didn’t Want to Go to Nineveh
Unlike the questioning, pleading Moses, Jonah didn’t stick around long enough to have a discussion with God. He actually tried to run away by getting on a ship traveling the other direction. See, God was telling him to make a long, arduous journey to warn a city full of Assyrian sinners of their impending judgement. These were enemies of the Israelites and a threat to their nation. They were a wicked and idolatrous people and deserved to be judged by God. But Jonah knew that God is merciful. If the people repented, He would turn away His wrath. So Jonah ran from God in a ridiculous attempt to escape his responsibility to the God who had called him into service. One big fish and three days later, and Jonah had his attitude adjusted. Then he was on his way to Nineveh.
The Lesson From Jonah
How many people are running from their God-given calling in life? They know exactly what God is asking them to do, but for whatever reason they are delaying the inevitable. Silent watchmen, homebound missionaries, and blind-eyed evangelists dig in their heels in their determination to avoid the things they are meant to do. Jonah learned his lesson of futility the hard way, and for some, it will take a calamity to throw them back to their knees.
But even in his disobedience, God took the time to teach Jonah one more lesson in Jonah 4. He made a gourd to grow by day that gave Jonah shade. Then overnight, a worm destroyed the sheltering plant, and the sun beat down on his head so much that he wished he would die. But God reminded him that Jonah’s concern for one little plant that grew in a day was nothing to the compassion God felt for the city full of people in Nineveh. Our worlds can be very small when we focus on the things we want that are in front of our eyes. God has the world in His sights. His desire that none should perish requires his servants’ obedience to His purpose. Like Jonah, we belong to God. We are not our own and must remember compassion for others.
Naaman Didn’t Want to Wash
Naaman’s story in 2 Kings 5 is a little different. He was a commander in the Syrian army, a brave soldier who had favor with God and the king. Unfortunately, he also had a terrible disease called leprosy. He heard through an Israelite captive that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him, so he told the king. Immediately, King Aram sent a letter to the king of Israel, and Naaman was on his way to see Elisha with money and supplies. When he got there, Elisha sent a servant to give him the command: “Wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River, and you will be healed.”
But Naaman was expecting Elisha himself to come to say great prayers to his God, waving his hands and making him whole. He flatly refused to touch the dirty river water and went away angry. But his servants came to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” (2 Kings 5:13). So Naaman washed and was cleansed.
The Lesson From Naaman
The great lesson of this story is that sometimes the things God tells us to do may not make sense to us in the natural. When that happens, we are not to lean our own understanding. God works in mysterious ways, but He does work. We see through a glass darkly and only have a tiny fraction of the information in any given situation. Not only that, God has shown Himself to be faithful time and time again. What small thing it is for us to trust our great God who has his glory and our good in mind.
The First Son Didn’t Want to Go to the Vineyard
In Matthew 21, we hear the parable of the two sons. In it, a father comes to his two sons and tells them to work in the vineyard. The first son says, “I will not,” but later he regrets his decision and goes. Jesus explains clearly that the first son is like the harlots and publicans who committed great sins but repented at the preaching of John the Baptist. The second says, “I go, sir,” but he never actually went. He was like the scribes and Pharisees who appeared outwardly righteous but did not believe and turn away from their sins. Jesus asks which one did the will of the father, and it was clear to even his audience that it was the first son, the one who actually went.
The Lesson From the First Son
I totally relate to the first son. His father told him to do something, and he just didn’t want to do it. Maybe he had other plans, or maybe it was going to be too hot or cold that day. So without thinking, his first words out of his mouth were a definite “no.” But on more careful thought, he changed his mind. Maybe he thought of everything his father had done for him. Maybe he realized that it was his responsibility or would have caused hardship to others without him there. Whatever the reason, his ultimate answer was “yes.” Did he stomp the whole way to the vineyard? Was he still grumbling when he grabbed the tools he needed to do his work? Was he angry at his father for even asking in the first place? The parable doesn’t say.
I Didn’t Want to Do The Thing
This week when God told me what He wanted me to do, I didn’t want to do it. It was a big thing, and it involved sacrifice in the place where I thought I would find a reward. I’m just going to go ahead and say that I did some stomping and grumbling. On hindsight, I realized that I was even angry with God for asking, if only for a very short time. The flesh is powerful and must be crucified daily. Sanctification doesn’t happen overnight, and even when it is our very deepest desire to please God and do His will, it can be downright painful as we, again and again, find ourselves in the position of having to choose between ourselves and God. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Of course, when my hissy fit was done, I found myself flat on my face in front of my God. I repented of my bad behavior and asked for strength and wisdom to do the thing He was asking me to do. I still don’t understand it, but I trust Him.
When God Asks Us For Something
In between the thousands, or maybe millions, of requests we make of God in our lifetimes, sometimes He will ask things from us. Some will be small and cost us little. Some will be big and require us really work hard to bring our own wants and desires into submission. Whether we don’t feel qualified, have too little compassion, don’t understand, or just plain don’t want to do it, at the end of the day, saying “yes” to God is really the only option.
Speaking of saying “yes” to God, here is one of my favorite songs we sing at church. It’s called Yes, Lord, Yes. It’s part of a list of songs on my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah. Check it out and subscribe for new songs each week.
Enjoy articles about obedience? Check out When Obedience Is the Sacrifice in which God shows me that it is better to obey than to regret. Or, try God Answered the Prayer I Didn’t Pray. In that one, I learn the importance of leaning on God for strength. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. at the upper right of your screen.