We begin with the beginning, with Jesus Christ. After the Last Supper, Jesus went to Gethsemane, the Garden of Olives, and prayed to his Father. He said, “My Father, if it is possible [that is, consistent with Your will], let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will,” (Matthew 26:39, AMP). You see, Jesus’ answer was “no” but His “no” benefited all of humanity. Even Jesus’ disciples, those men who walked with him and ministered in His name could not understand the fullness of the “no” that Jesus received after His prayer. Has anyone ever wondered why Jesus asked for His “cup” to be taken? In the Old Testament, a “cup” was figurative for wrath. Jesus, with His humanity, was asking God to take away the hardship that He would have to endure, but God answered Jesus with a “no.”
The first part of the answer to our question is answered through the actions of Jesus Christ. After Jesus received His “no,” He turned around and faced His trails head-on. Jesus endured humiliation, He endured beatings, and He endured the cross. What allowed him to do this was understanding that the “no” God gave him was not because God did not love His son, but because He had a better plan for his life. Jesus had to endure His “no” so that all of humanity could be saved, and to teach anyone from that point forward that they must always trust and obey God. Whether they are dealing with a time of abundance or a time of suffering, God is to be revered and obeyed. Jesus knew that just because the reply of His prayers was no did not change how good our God is. He was able to endure because of the faith and love that was in Him.
Now, moving forward a few decades, we find Paul dealing with his hardships. He, like Jesus, prayed three times for the Lord to take his pain and suffering. Paul was praying for the removal of a thorn in his flesh. Paul pleaded with God three times and God also told him “no” (2 Corinthians 12:8). However, the second part of the answer to our question is found right after God told Paul no. God tells Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Corinthians 12:9). What God was illuminating for Paul was that His loving kindness and mercy was more than whatever situation that he was in. God was telling Paul that regardless of his situation that He was enough for him. This reply struck Paul to the very bone because he came to understand that in his weakness, the power of Christ was made full. Paul came to accept and understand that all the insults, all the distresses, all the persecutions and any difficulty in his life was for the sake of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10). It was an opportunity to show others that regardless of our condition, Christ is enough.
To conclude and answer the question first proposed in fullness, I must highlight both the actions of Jesus Christ and the actions of the Apostle Paul. Through Jesus, we see that regardless of who we are, sometimes the answer is “no.” Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah. He never sinned and He was the embodiment of God, however, even his prayer was answered with a “no.” We learn that through Jesus’ “no”, all of humanity was able to benefit. What is to say that your “no” will not benefit the greater good of the church? Through Paul’s experience, we learn that God’s mercy and grace are always “enough” for us regardless of our condition. It is through our weakness and suffering that we can truly grow closer to Christ. Who of you have grown closer to Jesus during the good times? Is it not through the darkness that we hang on to the love of Christ to endure and get us through it? This is as true to us as it was for Paul then!
Ultimately, our answer does not matter. The answer of “no” is not what matters. What we do with our “no” does. Do we learn from Jesus’ example and hold our heads up and stay obedient to God even through our darkest of times, or do we fall away in disobedience? Do we show Christ when we are beaten, discouraged, and at our lowest? You see, our “no” is not for us but those watching us. Our “no” is for those seeking our example. People need to know what to do when they receive their “no” and we need to show them through our actions. The answer to our no is to walk with our heads up in faith and obedience and to allow Christ to be our strength when we are weak. It is only when we can do this that Christ is glorified and that we can walk with the humility in knowing that God is enough. He is always the answer!