God can say a lot in a few words.
“In the beginning ….”
“Pray without ceasing.”
Of course, you understand that when I say God said these words, I mean He conveyed them through humans by divine inspiration and recorded them in the Bible. But still, it’s God speaking.
Another small unit of words that merits attention is one often mentioned by our minister.
It appears in Acts 10 when a hungry Peter has a vision of a large sheet being lowered that is full of animals the Hebrews considered unclean. A voice then tells Peter to kill and eat. This was near the time that God was opening the church’s eyes to welcome Gentiles, and the vision, obviously, was symbolic.
But instead of immediately obeying God’s command, Peter responded, “No, Lord!” In all his years, Peter had never eaten anything that was ceremoniously unclean, and he clearly thought this wasn’t the place to start. Before the vision ended, God gave the command three times, and each time Peter reiterated, “No, Lord!”
Two little words, yet they say so much.
In fact, when joined together, they’re totally incongruous. You can’t realistically call someone “Lord” and in the same breath tell him “no.” If someone is Lord, then “yes” should be the only response.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Nevertheless, we know that Moses said “no” – multiple times – when God asked him to go to Egypt to rescue the Israelites. Thankfully, Moses eventually reconsidered, and although his brother, Aaron, was supposed to be Moses’ mouthpiece to Pharaoh, ultimately it was Moses himself who did all the talking.
So it seems that God is the God of second – or third, or fourth, or even fifth – chances.
We can learn the same from Peter. His “no” at the time of his vision wasn’t his first negative response to Jesus. Remember, when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet to show them how to serve each other, after addressing Jesus as “Lord,” impulsive Peter exclaimed, “No, you shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus then explained, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Still impetuous, Peter replied, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
And don’t forget Peter’s response when Jesus was explaining to the apostles that He would be delivered up and killed, only to be raised to life again: “Never, Lord!”
But think about this. Only weeks later, after a subsequent denial of Jesus altogether, Peter preached the first gospel sermon.
Yes, God is the God of second chances. He always knows and wants what’s best for us, and He’s willing to wait for us to accept His offer. “He is patient with us, not wanting any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9).
So while it seems that a Christian’s saying “no” to God would be an impossibility, like Moses and Peter, we are all fallible. Sometimes it’s easier to just deactivate our hearts regarding obedience than to grapple with God about things we don’t want to do.
But God prefers grappling to unresponsiveness because that struggling maintains our connection with Him. He loves us – He loves you – absolutely and doesn’t want separation. That’s why Christ went to the cross – to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).
As an article on prayer-coach.com says, “If there is an area you want to say ‘no’ to God about, tell Him about it. Tell Him why you are afraid or what you think may happen. Whatever you do, don’t allow it to turn off your connection with God. Allow Him to pour in His kindness and love.”
And then, it’s quite probable that our answer will turn into the final one of Moses and Peter:
Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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