In times past, we have had an opportunities to learn wonderful lessons from the off-hand comments of our children and now our grandchildren. Simple words that drive a theological truth home so strongly yet so innocently. Those moments seem to always happen when it is unscripted. It happened again just a few days ago.
As I sat in my study, surrounded by work, without any particular agenda or even focus; I was visited by my oldest grandson, Aaron. Not only is Aaron my oldest grandson, he is my first grandchild. Now in 2nd grade, Aaron has gotten to a point where he is thinking through some of the most complex concerns for adults by seeing them with the innocence and simplicity of a young boy. President Ronald Reagan once said, “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”1 Perhaps it is due to Aaron’s young age that his outlook is simple because there is no real question about whether or not one should do what is morally right.
Aaron made his way into my study and quietly took a seat in the leather chair just across from the corner of my desk. Without saying a thing he sat. I could see him from the corner of my eye; he was watching me work, waiting patiently for me to acknowledge him so he could say what obviously was on his mind. When I finally turned my attention his way, he looked at me and matter-of-factly asked, “Is it true that sometimes when you pray to God that sometimes God says ‘No’?” I affirmed for him that his thought was right on the mark. His look was one of satisfaction that what he thought to be true was true. At least, in his eyes, if his grandfather said it was true, it must be. I considered digging a little deeper to find the source of his question; but I know my grandson pretty well and I know his expressions. If there was another concern there, he wasn’t giving away a ‘tell’. I was fairly certain this was one of ‘inquiring minds want to know’ moments.
I could not help but remember an episode of M*A*S*H, the iconic television series of the 70’s and 80’s which continues on in syndication. In the episode Quo Vadis Captain Chandler, a young bomber suffers a head wound and believes he is Jesus Christ. The staff of the hospital, certain that he is simply Captain Chandler with a mental issue, still cannot help but be drawn to his simple, peaceful, way. The camp chaplain is particularly engrossed in theological discussions with him. The psychiatrist, a Jewish major approaches him and Christ, as presented by Chandler, notes that he and Sydney Freeman have not met yet. Major Freeman asks, “Is it true that God answers all prayers?” Chandler, a look of sad resignation on his face, as a tear trickles down his cheek… he replies, very quietly,, “Yes, sometimes the answer is ‘No.’”2
In chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark, the story is told of a man who had been out of his mind, living naked among the tombs; the villagers terrified of him. When the demon possessed man saw Jesus the demons immediate bowed before Him and begged not to be destroyed. In an apparent act of compassion even toward the demons Christ sent them into a herd of swine which then ran headlong into the sea. The villagers immediately pleaded with Jesus to leave them alone and to go away; which Jesus did. We should be careful for what we ask of God. As Christ was entering his boat to leave, the man freed of the demons asked to go along with Him but the Bible informs us that Jesus’ answer was ‘No.’ Jesus had something else for this man to do. Jesus said to him, “`Go away to thy house, unto thine own [friends], and tell them how great things the Lord did to thee, and dealt kindly with thee; and he went away, and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how great things Jesus did to him, and all were wondering.”3
The Bible never tells us what eventually happened in Decapolis. It was clear that when Jesus said, ‘No’ it was because He had something else of importance for the Kingdom to be done. There was a role and place for that one man that only he could fill. Has God said ‘No’ to you lately? Look closely at your request. Is it blocking something else that God might have for you?
In a theological discussion the priest and Captain Chandler were considering Judas Iscariot. Chandler (as Christ) said, “Being Judas, he could do nothing else.” Sadly, it seems Judas was born into this world for the horrid purpose of betraying Christ. Every person born into this world have been molded by the Potter as God explains to Jeremiah the prophet as recorded in Jeremiah 18. “I go down [to] the potter’s house, and lo, he is doing a work on the stones, and marred is the vessel that he is making, as clay in the hand of the potter, and he hath turned and he maketh it another vessel, as it was right in the eyes of the potter to make.”4
Paul writing his letter to the Romans recorded in chapter 9, declares “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”5
From 1954 to 1960 Americans were educated in the life and times of the manager of the General Insurance Company, Jim Anderson and his family, wife Margaret and their children, Betty, Bud and Kathy. Jim Anderson was played by veteran actor, Robert Young who went on some years later to play the role of Marcus Welby, M.D. In this 1950’s view of the ‘typical American life’ viewers came to understand that the title of the show was in fact the premise upon which every episode was built, “Father Knows Best.”6
Without being trite or giving more due to the writers of a 1950’s sitcom than they deserve; Christians have come to realize that when it comes to matters of everything of any consequence (and for all those with little or no consequence in the grand scheme of things) our Heavenly Father knows best. And… sometimes, our Heavenly Father says, “No.”
1 Kristol, William and Michel Makovsky “The Obama Complex” The Weekly Standard February 10, 2014 p 10