Knowing When to Say “No.”

Yesterday we talked about not hesitating when God calls us to something, lest we lose His support. An equally bad mistake is doing something when He has advised us against it. We see this type of scenario all of the time in the movies. For instance, one character’s friends advise him not to do something. Yet he does it anyway. And then they are there to help him pick up the pieces. At least, the first few times they are. However, if the guy keeps making the same mistake, over the course of the movie his friends become less and less likely to help out, until he is left to face the consequences all by himself. The problem is, that’s often not the way God works.

When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised.”

But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the LORD, when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD will not be with you.”

But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.
– Numbers 14:39-45, NASB

This set of passages comes after the Israelite spies had returned from Canaan. All but Joshua and Caleb were afraid at the inhabitants of the land and advised against going in. Joshua and Caleb tried to argue to trust God, but they were overruled. Things began to look bad for Moses and Aaron, for the people were upset at them. God became angry with His people because they weren’t trusting in Him. So He said, “Don’t bother trying to go in. You’re going to wander in the desert. The unbelieving adults will see their death in that desert.” You would think that after displeasing God once they would heed Him and do as He said. But clearly they did not. They decided to invade. Moses tried to counsel them against such an action, but once again, they didn’t want to listen to him. As a result, the Israelites were beaten back.

The catch is God said, “No.” When God says that, we must say, “No,” as well. It is obvious that Moses and the Levites did exactly that because the verses tell us that neither Moses nor the Ark of the Covenant left the camp. In other words, those who went up to fight against the inhabitants of Canaan were on there own. They could not expect any help from God. And sure enough, they were beaten. The same is true for us. If God says for us not to do something, we had better not expect His help in it. God isn’t like the friends in those movies. He can say, “No,” and mean it from the very start. And when He does, we had better heed His answer. Because if we don’t, we put ourselves in a bad situation. It wasn’t God that caused the issues we’ll face. It is by our own hand that we have brought them upon ourselves by not listening to Him.

So just as we must be prepared to act when God calls us to do so, we must also be prepared to refrain from acting when God cautions us not to do so. Otherwise, we’re likely to find ourselves alone in a struggle, with no help coming. While God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, He didn’t promise that He would help us out when we are being disobedient. In fact, His Word says otherwise. Knowing this can give us great strength to say, “No,” to others, too. If we know God isn’t in something, and we’re being asked to be a part of it, we can fall back on, “I know God doesn’t want me to be a part of this. I’m going to have to say, ‘No.'” If the person or people we’re interacting with don’t like it, ultimately their argument isn’t against us; it is against God. They may choose to be upset at us, but we must do what our faith calls us to do, even if it’s to decline to do something for someone we care about. Ultimately, if they refuse to understand or accept our reasons, those folks are asking us to make a choice: them or God. And the Scripture is clear: God. It may not be easy to do, but in the end, that’s part of the price of following Christ. He never said life was going to be easy. In fact, He said quite the opposite. But we can make life a lot worse if we say, “Yes,” when He says, “No.” So as Christians, we must know when to say, “No,” and stick to it.


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