Google often gives us answers and going to God can seem like a downgrade for most of us. This struck me when one of the pastors at my church Tim asked me to share my testimony at our staff chapel. You see, Google always gives us an answer when we ask. Alexa always tries to find Baby shark to play when it's requested.
But God says No.
I didn't want to go to church as a kid. It was boring and there were no snacks. But God said no, and had my Mother and Oma drag me there every Sunday to hear his word. despite my protest and regardless of my intentions for the weekend. Oma had snacks in her purse so I was content to be good while sitting in the pews. I learned to enjoy sermons at a very young age because they gave room for snacks and the bibles that were stocked there had the art deco pictures in the middle of them. Pictures of the tabernacle and maps of old Jerusalem. I was enamoured and mom thought it was weird but at least I was quiet.
Later on in middle school. I fancied my self a witch at one point. I liked the idea of having rocks and spells form my spirituality. They were collectable and as real as anything else in my spiritual life. But God said no. And sent a pretty girl into my life that convinced me to try this youth group thing out at the Baptist Church. It's a dirty trick but it worked. Long story short she ended up dating my twin brother and I ended up learning about God and grace from a kind-hearted pastor from Tennessee. I learn I had a Christian background and now a Christian community to be a part of.
I wanted to be a good Christian then. My friends who kept asking me questions about faith because I was honestly trying to live a faithful life, needed answers. I liked helping and being a sort of social hub for my fledgling faith and even less developed disciples. But God said no. And sent me to New Brunswick to live as far away from my friends I had ever been. 15 hours away from my friends from Ontario and half an hour from any friends I would make in New Brunswick. We were an hour away from the nearest stoplight. We were in the sticks.
We moved to New Brunswick so I could meet my father. Mom and Dad never married and Dad left before I was born. He met Jesus somewhere in between and wanted to make amends. I hoped that maybe, just maybe I could have a normal family with a mom and a dad like other normal kids. But God said no. And sent me to a spirit-filled church where I met my stepmother. who would later be affectionately referred to as my wicked stepmother? She speaks my love language, food. And where later I would see my stepfather marry my mother. I wanted 2 parents and I got 4.
I wanted to go to bible school, there were nice ones out in the Maritime's. I was an unknowing Arminian at the time and thought free will was pre-eminent in Gods plan. I liked the east coast. it was snowy if not temperate during the winter for the most part. But God said no. He then sent me Caronport Saskatchewan and taught me about Calvin and Luther and most importantly what cold really felt like.
I thought if I'm going to go to college I should stay single and focus on my education. And God said no, and might have laughed at that point. He sent me a wife who is almost my complete opposite. She tempers me like cold water to hot steel and like the Puritan's I learned about in Bible college, softens me like that same water does to a potato.
Thought I wanted to be in youth ministry and God said no and I didn't listen. I volunteered everywhere I could and ignored that No. I saw God move and avoid me in that moving because he said no and I didn't listen. It would be years before I listened to this no.
My wife and I had our first child and we thought we would like to help her brother with his first youth ministry. I became a youth sponsor and tried to do small church youth min. God said no. And sent me to a skate park on a whim to begin speaking truth into the lives of kids who knew who Tony Hawk was but had never heard Jesus Christ outside of a cuss word. I was an evangelist, not a youth pastor and would have known that had I listened when God said no.
I was resigned to waiting on God and thought hey why not settle down. I was learning job skills and doing alright. We wanted a bigger family, we had one son and tried for another. But God said no.
Our second son was pronounced dead two days before he was supposed to be born.
Satan would have had me despair. Had me forsake God and all he had said no to but through God's grace and power I never once blamed God. Never once stopped asking him the whys and how and what do I do now's. Satan would have had me leave God for his absent yes. But I knew he was there because he said no.
Many people want to believe in a sovereign God in their good days. On palm swept beaches reading a Max Lucado books. I met him in the mire of my worst, reading Milton and Spurgeon.
There are hundreds of people around you that have lost children like this that you probably don't know about. Understanding is the price we pay when God says no. But it is also the balm he sends us with to those who have also heard that answer. This healing gift is expensive and costly. Like the myrrh used to anoint our Saviour's body before he rose. He is the currency of our economy of grace as He gives and takes away.
I double downed on my want for a ministry position. I didn't like the work I was in. I was good at it but it took all my time away from me. 24h emergency restoration companies don't leave you much free time at the end of the day. So after 53 applications, I got a job at a church. We took our third son 15 days old at the time and moved. I took aim at the small towns only high school and tried to bring the gospel to where it's still not welcome, after 10 months I was asked to leave for focusing on the wrong kids in the youth ministry. nicely wrapped up in the phrase, Philosophical differences.
We moved to Lethbridge and I tried my hand at sales and God said no and I really wished he didn't. The only other job skills I had were in property restoration. I said no and God didn't care. I couldn't sell to save my life and took a job as a flood tech as soon as it was posted.
I spent the next 4 years on a spiteful upward arc. Inside of a year, I was the lead tech in a company I did not want to work for. I was the operations manager inside 2. I could not deny the tangible blessing my life was receiving from God but I hated working where I did and with who I worked.
My first partner was a bonafide Satanist. My boss was an ex-catholic drunk. My peers in management were a radical atheist feminist and an unscrupulous low bidding tyrant. I was a Jesus fish out of water and tried for 4 years to share the Gospel and be a Christian influence with no fruit and no progress.
This is where my alone time with God began. maybe it started again and maybe it was finally enough life to force me to my knees in search of him.
My alone time is long walks where humans can't find you. It's time weekly where I would find a place where I could not be found and plead with God, to move me to provide a way out and for 4 years God said no everywhere, every time I asked.
Then I applied for a job almost robotic-ly and I got an interview. And a second interview and everyone At the church got to meet Mike. The drywaller painter, flood tech with a theological background. One who loves youth ministry and can't wait to renovate this space they're in for more teens to find Jesus in. One with kids he can't wait to see go through the kid's ministry. One he's currently fixing after a massive flood, with the skills and expertise he found in the darkest places.
The church got to meet Mike because God said no thousands of times.
Only a sovereign all-powerful God can love through rejection. Can heal through refusal, Can equip through the act of doing nothing and being still and can empower by taking away. Only a sovereign God can have you say yes and amen after he says no. Because only an all-powerful God can say no and mean it.
Sinners like you and me can be tempted and everyone has a price. We can be bought and bribed for a change of mind. But God, God says no. For he is God and he actually can.
What I've learned is that we should pensively wait for His fatherly no's as we do for his permissive yes's. And seek his face because he is God and not just our heavenly pinata of wants and needs. That we should cherish a no more than our search results and summaries from google. or a capitulating yes's from a questionable source.
I'll end with a quote from J.I. Packer. another theologian I picked up in Caronport.
"To know that nothing happens in God's world apart from God's will might frighten the godless, but it stabilizes the saints."
May we see that a no from a God who cannot be bought, bribed, bandied or bullied. Means more than any yes we might wrestle for the hands of lesser beings in life.
Least of all ourselves.