Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia… (Acts 16:6,7).
God says, “No!” more often than we probably realize.
We quickly think of his commands that say no to lying, stealing, cursing, and the rest of his laws. We accept that these are given for our good, as well as to glorify him. Seldom, however, do we give thought to the way the Lord controls the flow of our lives by other means. Yet, sometimes it can be downright disturbing to realize how little control we actually have over what happens in our lives.
So what if we decide never to have cancer, and never to be in an auto accident, and always to be successful? What power do we have over such things? Very little. The best plans and efforts are often overridden by forces we cannot control. This doesn’t mean we have no say in how our life unfolds. We can make all sorts of decisions—and we should. We can even decide to defy God’s laws—and we should not. Still, despite all the freedom in our decision-making, it remains clear that Someone much greater can step in at any time to change our plans and override our decisions. That Someone is the Savior who loves us. As children of the heavenly Father, we even invite this interference when we pray: “Deliver us from evil” and “Thy will be done.”
These petitions are granted even when we are planning to do good. Even then, the answer may be, “No!” We learn this from the life of the Apostle Paul. The command of Jesus to his followers was: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
Thus, it may strike us as strange that he prevented his faithful apostle from trying to do just that on some occasions, in some places. The Apostle Paul was in modern Turkey, where he had established congregations at places like Galatia and the city of Ephesus. It was only natural for him to expand the work in the nearby places of Asia and Bithynia near the Black Sea. He planned to do that.
But God said, “No!”
Why would that be? We can only guess. But soon afterward, he used a vision to instead call this missionary across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, where he founded the famous congregations at Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea Athens, and Corinth. Jesus wasn’t forbidding mission work. He just had a different plan for the spread of the gospel. That’s the way it is in our lives. Often God has a different plan. Our plans may not be bad ones, but his are always better. Always.
By looking back over our lives, we probably are able to see how an unexpected turn of events accomplished something good. At the time, we might have felt frustrated or frightened. Only from a distance can we better see how good it was to be guided by heavenly hands. After all, we must admit that his Plan of Salvation was perfect, and exactly what we needed. So are all of his plans for us. Even when he says, “No!”
We pray: Lord Jesus, sometimes we pray, “Lead thou on.” It is good for us to do that. It is good for you to lead us. When the things of our lives seem out of our hands, remind us that they are still in yours. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military