When God’s Answer is “No”

Three young men stood together before a king.  They had not been summoned to receive honors for mighty acts of valor.  They had not been summoned to receive praise for faithful service to the kingdom.  Rather, they had been called before the king to receive sentences of death.  The three men had no hope of escape, unless the king were to mercifully give them a second chance—or so the king thought.

The men had disobeyed the king, and rightfully so.  The arrogant monarch had decreed that all his subjects were to bow down to worship a golden statue that bore his image.  When the court musicians played, the people were commanded to kneel.  It was an awe-inspiring sight to see the rippling effect of hundreds, if not thousands, of  men and women falling to their knees and bowing their faces to the ground.  As the king looked over the humbled masses, pride filled his chest, and he lifted his chin a little higher.

Suddenly, his moment of glory was spoiled.  In the distance, were there really three men standing upright—tall, resolute, and steadfast?

Yes, there were.  Enraged, the king demanded that the three men be arrested.  As they were brought before him, the king was surprised to recognize them as three of his most trusted and loyal servants.  “What?  Why hadn’t they bowed down?  Didn’t they understand what I can do to them?” he wondered.  “Surely, they can be brought to their senses!”

Willing to give these men a second chance, the king declared, “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound . . . of music, fall down and worship the image that I have made.  But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire, and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15)

At this point, the three men, named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, responded to the king with what I have personally found to be one of the most inspiring and strengthening declarations of God’s people in Scripture.  They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

“Even if He does not . . . “  I love that.  I love the resolve, steadfastness, and faith.  I love the confidence, conviction, and complete abandon to the will of God.  I love the looking at opposition in the face, and the knowing that there is Someone greater with Whom to reckon and in Whom to find refuge.  Imagine all the praying that Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego did that day!  They prayed expecting God to answer positively, and they were committed to serve and worship the one true and living God . . . even if His answer was “no” to their prayers for deliverance.

Years ago while in graduate school, I placed Daniel 3:16-18 on a card and taped it to my bathroom mirror.  My husband and I were praying for financial stability and a second child.  The answers were repeatedly, “No.”  The fear and discouragement were sometimes overwhelming for me.  But, the Lord used these verses to strengthen my faith in Him regardless of my circumstances.  Like the men in Daniel 3, I believed that God was able to deliver us and favorably answer our prayers.  But even if He did not, was I going to continue to trust and obey Him?

And now, here I am again with a request I have been repeatedly bringing before the Lord.  For some time, the answer has been “no.”  Maybe God’s answer is actually “wait,”  but I don’t know that for sure, do I?  For now, His answer appears to be simply “no.”

Have you received a “no” answer to a prayer?  You and I are not alone.  We find ourselves in the company of Job, a man who suffered much before God delivered Him, and for a long time he wondered where God was in his situation.  Nevertheless Job declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), and “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

Is that your declaration?  I desire it to be mine.  Even when God’s answer is “no” to our prayers, by the enabling of God’s grace let us submit our desires to the Lord, praise and hope in our Savior, and be resolutely steadfast in our devotion to Him alone.

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