Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What If The Answer Never Comes?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons - Bear Valley Center For Spiritual Enrichment

These are the notes to the CDG Tuesday Night Bible Study on 8-21-18.  This study is a follow up to last Tuesday's Study, "When Your World Has Been Turned Upside Down".  That study discussed how we Christians should respond when it feels like the world is closing in on us.  Nothing is going right and it feels like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and falling down to the floor.  Nobody hears our prayers but us.  The study encourages us to remember that although it appears that God isn't listening, or can't answer our prayers He still loves us and has left reminders of His love.   What we need to do is continue the trust Him and believe that He will come through on every promise.  However having waited and waited and waited what if the answer never comes? Can you dare to believe God will still keep his promise, even if you don’t get to see it during your time on earth? Is it possible that you might grow so intimate with God that you’re able to keep loving and serving him despite your disappointment?   

**This Study was based on my blog post of August 8, 2018 "What If The Answer Never Comes"**

The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us! — Mark Batterson

Last week we talked about what we should do when our world is turned upside down by the news of a serious, maybe terminal illness for you or a loved one; the death of a parent, child or spouse, loss of employment, a serious financial crises, a divorce, the collapse of a close friendship.  When any of those things happen, and sometimes more than one of them happens at once,  it feels as if everything is closing in on you and there's no way out.

At those times we begin to wonder if anybody other than us hears or really cares.  When it getss to that point we need to be reminded that God who promised to never leave or forsake us and to provide all our needs according to His riches  glory in Christ Jesus loves us.  Pastor talked about God being love on Sunday and that His love is what drives the relationship that Christians, those who believe in His Son Jesus, have with Him.

Because He loves us we can trust Him, and have faith in Him that He keeps all of the promises that He made to His people which are recorded in scripture.  So even when our world is turned upside down we can wait for Him to answer.

Psalm 27:14 (NKJV) Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

You may be praying for something that hasn't happened yet.  Maybe it’s for you, a friend, or family member to be healed of an illness, maybe it’s for a financial blessing, maybe it’s for a new job, maybe it’s for a spouse, whatever it is it hasn't happened and you are wondering if it will ever happen.

So you wait.  


Waiting doesn't mean just sitting around and doing nothing but waiting on God is active as we exercise faith in Him. While we wait we should never forget that God is with us as we wait.

Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

We wait because we we believe that God loves us and that He keeps His promises . 

Psalms 145:13 NLT For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.

Waiting teaches us patience which when we allow to grow will become perfection.

James 1:2-4 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

However when you've been praying and waiting for something, sometimes for years, for years and there's no answer there are times when your faith starts to falter.  Yes you know that God will either answer yes or no, but you also know that you may still have you to wait. It’s at these times, that you have to rely on the Holy Spirit to encourage you to be patient. 

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

We have been taught that while we wait for we should not abandon our our request but should continue to pursue it with God unless and until you know that His answer is No. 

How can you know if God has said “No” to your prayer? Begin by asking yourself why you’ve prayed this particular prayer. Are you honestly seeking God’s will in this situation or are you only concerned about yourself and what will please you? God hasn’t promised to answer every prayer we make; He’s only promised to answer those that are in line with His will. The Bible says,

1 John 5:14-15 NIV This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

So we should be persistent in prayer like the woman in Jesus’ parable about the widow and the judge.

Luke 18:1-8 NLT One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.  A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,  but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Or the man asking for bread so that he could feed a visiting friend.

Luke 11:5-13 NLT Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him,  ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’  But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Jesus Himself gave us an example of persistence was in prayer.

Matthew 26:36-44 NLT Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?  Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.

God didn't answer His prayer, so just like with our parents sometime, no answer means no, in this case it was not God’s will to spare Him.  God’s will was for Jesus to suffer for our sakes so that our sins could be forgiven.  So remember that sometimes when your prayer isn't answered it is to benefit somebody else.  We just have to trust that God will work it out for your good like He promised. 

Romans 8:26-30 NLT And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

We Should Be Persistent And We Should Be Specific When We Pray

Be specific like blind Bartimaeus.

Luke 18:35-43 NLT As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”  Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.

When Jesus taught his followers to pray, he could have said to pray, “bless us” or “help us.” But he didn’t. He said,

Matthew 6:11 NKJV Give us this day our daily bread.

That's specific.

What Does The Scripture Say?

The scriptures also tell us that if we are in Christ we are more than conquerors.

Romans 8:37-39 NIV No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;

There is scripture that tells us not to worry;

Matthew 6:31-34 NIV So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

There's scripture that tells us to pray about everything.

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

But What If The Answer Never Comes?

Okay you’ve been persistent, you’ve been specific, you’ve searched the scriptures and you're convinced that what you're praying for is in God’s will, but no answer.  No yes, no no, so the only thing left to do is wait and wait and wait. 

What if you’re living by faith and yet you don’t see God’s promise to you fulfilled in your lifetime? Can you dare to believe he will still keep his promise, even if you don’t get to see it during your time on earth? Is it possible that you might grow so intimate with God that you’re able to keep loving and serving him despite your disappointment?

There are many things that we will never know, or understand, this side of heaven... things like, why some people are healed and others aren't ...why some people are spared from tragedies and others aren't...

We need to know that when our prayers aren't answered, it doesn't mean it's because we are necessarily doing something wrong...sometimes we can be doing everything right... Paul and Jesus are examples.

Remember, when we are living a life that is pleasing to God, we are more of a target for the enemy. Job is a prime example of that. 

 Job 1:9-12 NLT Satan replied to the Lord , “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord's presence.

We know what happened, Job lost his children, all his stuff, and then his health.

We have to remember that we live in a fallen world and there is evil in this world. God created this world to be perfect, but sin entered in. God does not cause evil... God does not cause anyone to sin or do bad things, yet God gets blamed for a lot of things that are not His doing. God made a way for us through Jesus, and God does promise to work all things together for good for those who love Him.

We are told there will be suffering in this world and  that we will share in the suffering of Christ,

John 16:33 NIV “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 15:18-21 NIV “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

So we should not believe those who misconstrue scripture and say that say if we have enough faith, that we will never be sick, or that if we are sick, it's because there is sin in our lives... that we will only have financial prosperity, we just have to speak it and we'll get it, etc. The Bible is full of examples of people that followed God and were beloved by Him, yet faced every form of adversity here on earth.

The Apostle Paul, who was one of the most faith filled people who has walked this earth, prayed three times to be healed of an affliction and God told Him, "His grace was sufficient, for him.  We talked about Job and Jesus, not to mention Stephen who was stoned because he preached the gospel. 

Acts of the Apostles 7:57-60 NLT Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

We can pray, asking in faith and believing with all of our hearts that God can and will heal us, but at times, He doesn't choose to heal in this life because He has a greater plan and purpose for our illness or infirmity...what the enemy has meant for our harm...what the enemy hoped would be a stumbling block to our faith, God will turn around and redeem and use for our good and His glory.

Romans 8:28 NLT And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

So What If The Answer Never Comes In This Lifetime What Can You Do?

Psalms 73:26 NLT My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

Here are some suggestions.

     Let go of your need to know. You can cause yourself a lot of stress by insisting that you always know what's coming. Relax and enjoy the present. Trust that all things will work together for your good.

Romans 8:28-30 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Psalms 55:22 NLT Give your burdens to the Lord , and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

     Take a small step, and then notice what happens. If you are feeling torn about what direction to take, sometimes the best thing you can do is to pick a direction and move. Do you feel at peace? Are doors opening easily or is it a struggle without a purpose? Sometimes taking a small step gives you clarity about whether to continue on a particular path

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

     Make sure that you haven't been neglecting something.  Often, we can't have what we think we are ready for because it's time to address other matters. Until those are addressed, your answer will not come. What have you been avoiding? Consider your waiting period an opportunity to face the things you've been able to avoid for a while – nurturing a relationship, taking care of yourself, going back to school, taking control of your finances, or getting your career on track. You know what it is for you. Summon up the courage to address it.

James 2:14-17 NLT What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

     Connect with God by talking - and then listening.  We talked about that last week in the book of Habakkuk

Habakkuk questioned the apparent injustice of God.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 NIV How long, Lord , must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

Then he decided to stop, listen and take notes.

Habakkuk 1:5-11 NIV “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.  I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.  They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.  Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;  they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.  They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them.  Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Habakkuk 2:2-4 NKJV Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

The key is verse 4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

James 4:8 says,
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." As you contemplate a life change, make sure your decisions are rooted firmly in the divine guidance that is available to you when you get quiet to listen.

Habakkuk never lived to see the vision, which is in chapter 2:5-19 in the NKJV  that section of scripture is titled ”woe to the wicked” and it describes what is going to happen to the Babylonians who, although God used them to punish Judah, overdid it in addition to the overall evil of the nation. 

The point is that Habakkuk never saw the answer just as we may never see the answer.

Here's what Habakkuk said;

Habakkuk 3:16-18 NIV I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,  yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Remember Habakkuk never saw the fulfillment of his prophecy where God finally dealt with the injustice in Judah and then done by Babylon.  The prophecy was fulfilled and his prayer answer but he was long gone. 

The answer may come after you go to be with the Lord.  Even if that's the case, I want us to remember that God is still faithful.  Remember what I said last week, don't ever forget that God loves you and He is faithful.  He is a promise keeper.

2 Corinthians 1:18-22 NIV But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Habakkuk gives us three little words that we can cling to when it appears that God has not delivered on what he promised. No matter what you might be going through, never let go of these three words.

If you want to be able to grow closer to God—no matter what—then these are the three words you need to remember on your journey toward intimacy and ultimate trust and faith in him.

The three words are in Habakkuk 2:20 they are;

“But the Lord . . .” We hear people say “but God” when they are going through or had gone through and come out of something. 

The rest of the verse is ...is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him”.

Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

Today that temple is you.  God’s presence is with, in fact is in you.  You may never get an answer, the world may seem upside down, but the Lord is still there in His Holy Temple.

When you have nowhere else to turn, when your own ideas and resources have evaporated, when your control over a situation is in shambles, God is still there. When you don't know and can’t tell if he’s even listening, God is still there.

If the answer never comes but the Lord...is still there. 

Bible Study Audio

No comments:

Post a Comment