When God Says No

Bible Book: Luke  8 : 26-39
Subject: Prayer; Discouragement; Disappointment; Evangelism
Introduction

We look today at a very interesting passage of scripture. If I gave this sermon a sub-title, it would be "The Prayer Meeting in a Graveyard." We will learn something important today about prayer and how we are to deal with God's answers when facing life's most difficult circumstances..

There is one thing that humans want more than anything else – we want to be in control. We like to do what we want, when we want to do it. I read recently about a young man who was 28 years of age, extremely handsome and single. He was a Christian but he had not been able to meet the right woman to marry. He got on a plane and was in one of those down and out moments when he wondered if he would ever meet the right person. He sat in the window seat, with the aisle seat next to him unoccupied. He began to pray, “Lord, if you could just send the woman who is to be my wife and cause her to sit right here in this empty seat today, that would be such a blessing.”

People continued to board the plane but no one sat in the seat next to him. They were about ready to close the door of the plane when a beautiful young woman walked on the plane. She had long hair, perfect features and lovely eyes. The man began to pray even harder, “O Lord, let her sit next to me.” She walked back, looked at her ticket, and sat down in the seat next to him.

Soon he engaged her in conversation, trying not to be too forward in the process. Actually, his heart was pounding with the sense that God might be up to something wonderful by placing this lovely lady next to him on the plane. Finally, he asked, “Are you married?” She responded, “No, I just haven’t met the right man.” He asked, “Well, what kind of man are you looking for?” She said, “I like Native American men, you know - Indians with dark skin and dark hair. But, I also like Jewish men. They have dark skin but are also often rich. To be honest, however, the men I like the most are the rugged outdoor type – you know, driving a pickup truck with a gun rack in the back.” Then she asked him, “I’m sorry, I don't think I've asked you for your name?” He responded, “My name is Geronimo Goldberg, but my friends call me ‘Bubba'.”

Needless to say, that man was trying to control the situation. He was praying for God’s will but was doing all he could to make his own will come true. That often happens with us, doesn't? We pray as if we are going to wait on God, but then we try to make our will come true by forcing things to happen the way we want them to occur.

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will but thine be done." He went forth to do His Father's will and never tried to manipulate the circumstances. That is what it really means to pray and trust God with the results. Of course, God wants us to do our part in the process, but we must never manipulate the circumstances.

I want you to look with me today at a time when God said "no" to a prayer, but only after He said "yes" to two other prayers. This is shown to us in an passage of scripture concerning an amazing incident in the life of Jesus. In fact, I read this text and preached it a number of times through the years, but then, one day not too long ago, I was reading this text and saw something I’d never seen before. Isn’t it interesting how the Lord can do that? He can open our eyes to something within a scripture passage that we have missed time and time again. When I saw the truth deep down within this scripture, I was stunned. I was disappointed that I had never seen it before. I want to share it with you today.

Look with me at Luke 8:26-39:

And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned. When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (NKJV)

You note here that a series of prayers took place during this incident and it all started in a graveyard. I want you to see three things today and I ask for your special attention. The truths here can help you pray better, live better, serve better and most of all have peace when things don’t go your way.

I. The Pig Prayer

First, I want you to notice a prayer offered up to Jesus from demons – yes, a prayer from demons. Note how the story begins. Jesus arrives on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and goes ashore. There he confronts a man who is possessed with so many demons that he states his name as Legion – meaning that he had a legion of demons inside him. This man was living in a graveyard. I wish I had time to talk more about why he was in a graveyard, but that will have to be shared in a subsequent message at some point in the future.

The man with the demons had been removed from the nearby city and was chained far away from the citizens. He had, however, broken the chains and ran around in solitary places, ripping off his clothes and cutting himself with stones. He is the type of man people stayed away from and no one really cared for him. Yet, Jesus goes right up to him and confronts the poor creature.

It is interesting to see how much time Jesus spent with individuals – some unsavory characters included.

Jesus turned his attention to one man, a thief on the cross beside him, when he was dying before a howling mob.

He shared His grace with an adulteress who was thrown down before him by self-righteous religious leaders.

He took time with a rich young ruler, with a sick child, and many others - one at a time!

In fact, in the story of the Samaritan woman, found in The Gospel of John, Chapter 4, we note that there are thirty verses used to tell of the encounter with the woman at the well. Yet, when Jesus goes into the city where a great revival takes place among crowds of people, only three verses are used to describe it.  In other words, the verses used to describe the entire story are numerically ten to one in favor of one person's need compared to a city revival. Of course, it was the one woman who ran back to the City of Sychar and got the city excited enough to experience the Messiah Meeting in the first place. The point here is that the emphasis of Jesus is always on one person at a time. He loves YOU individually. He knows YOUR name. He knows YOUR problems. He even knows if demons are giving YOU a hard time. He knows and He cares. No wonder the Bible tells us to cast our cares upon Him – after all, He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). In a world of almost eight billion people, YOU do matter - YOU matter to the Lord.

Now, back to our story in Luke, chapter 8. The demons in the poor man do not wish to be cast into the abyss – into eternal punishment, so they cry out to Jesus in prayer. They ask Him to cast them into a nearby herd of swine. Now, here is where things become very interesting. This is what I had failed to see when reading this passage for the first thirty-five years of my ministerial life. Jesus said, “Yes,” to the demon's prayer. He did what they asked. He cast them into the pigs, just as they requested. Don’t you find that a bit odd? Jesus consented to their prayer –  to the request of demons. Yes, I knew Jesus had cast the demons into the swine, but I simply never considered their request as prayer until recently. We few other requests to Jesus by individuals as prayers, so we must see the request of the demons as a kind or type of prayer. And, Jesus answered permitted them what they asked.

I want to point out a couple of things about these demons at this point.

A. The Demons Knew Who Jesus Was

Notice right away that the demons knew Jesus. It is sad that so many people deny the deity and nature of Jesus. They are dumber than a demon. Even demons know who Jesus is and they address Him appropriately as the Son of the Most High God.

B. The Demons Knew What Jesus Could Do

They knew He had power to send them wherever He wished. They did not hesitate to pray to Him because they realized His power. They knew their destiny was in His hands. They knew that He listened to prayers and requests - so they made a bold move and asked to be cast into the pigs.

C. The Demons Knew Their Eventually Estate

The demons knew that eventually they were going to be sent to the abyss – separated from God forever. They wanted anything in this world but to be sent to that awful place.

If people knew these three things (who Jesus is, what He can actually do, and the eventual estate of all who reject Him) their prayers would rise up to Lord seeking a refuge. You see, unlike demons, humans have a choice to acknowledge and receive Jesus as Savior or to reject Him. The demons had a destiny that was fixed and all they could do was put off the inevitable.

So Jesus answered their prayer and sent them into the swine. The pigs became violent and started running wildly, and they ran over the edge of the nearby cliff, falling into the sea and drowning. Now note this important fact. The demons got what they asked for, but they didn’t want what they got after they received it. It is always important to pray for God’s will and not your own!

But this is not all that happened in this story. Note what happened next.

II. The Profit Prayer

The poor demon possessed man was no longer tormented. The demons were gone from his life and he was in his right mind. He was dressed and sitting at Jesus feet. What a wonderful picture this is of the love and power of Jesus to change an individual’s life for the better.

The people who had been watching and caring for the pigs ran into the city and told the owners what had happened. They came out to see if they had been told the truth. There they saw the man who had been tormented, sitting at Jesus feet and in His right mind. You and I would have rejoiced at such a site. The poor man was changed and completely redeemed from his former life. But, that was not the case for the owners of the pigs.

When the pig farmers saw the man, they were afraid. That is what the Bible tells us. They were afraid. How strange! They weren’t afraid when he was running around naked and cutting himself, but now that he is okay, they are afraid.

Our world is bit like that today. People are afraid of the Bible. They are afraid of Jesus. They don’t want His name mentioned in public places. They don’t want a Bible in a school room. It is strange to me that Bibles are welcome in prison – any prisoner can own, carry and read a Bible in a federal or state prison, but a child can’t have one in school. Doesn’t that sound backward to you? If more children had Bibles in school maybe there wouldn't be so many of them in prison reading the Bible! But, this just shows you how mixed up the world is when it comes to Jesus.

Also, note that people that are right with God and in their right mind keep their clothes on! I read the other day about a college in California where the professor of an art class required all students to take the final exam naked! That is not a sight I want to even think about much less see! That is the nature of our world today. Like the naked man running among the tombs, our world is disrobing because the heart isn't right and the mind isn't right either.

So, back to our original point, these pig farmers asked Jesus to leave. They actually wanted Him out of their city and out of their area. That sounds just like the world today. They don’t want to hear about Jesus. They want to close Him out and push Him away. Now, why did they want Him to leave? That is a good question for us to consider.

A. They Put Pigs Above People

A pig was more important to them than a person who was suffering. They didn't care that a man had been saved, changed and was at peace. All they cared about was their profits - their money.

You recall the story, I am sure, of Paul and Silas in Philippi. Paul cast a demon from a girl that some wicked man had been using for their financial profit. The men became enraged and took the case to the city officials. The officials became irate and had Paul and Silas beaten and jailed. Now, why was everyone so upset about a girl being freed from ruthless men and a demon spirit? It is a simple answer. The men feared losing their income. The city officials feared losing the taxes. All that mattered was money, money, money!

Let me assure you that our world is no different today. Whether it is in Washington or your town, the key to what is going on is found when you follow the money. Sadly, people tend to put pigs above people where money is concerned.

B. They Put Silver Above Souls

You see, these pigs farmers just saw their profits go over a cliff and into the ocean. The fact that a man’s life and soul had been saved didn’t matter to them. Don’t get to smug here – there are Christians who do the same thing. When the preacher mentions tithing or taking an offering for missions – an offering to reach those who are hurting and dying – church members often complain that all they ever hear in church are sermons on money. We, too, are guilty sometimes of putting silver before souls in our priorities.

C. They Put Fear Above Faith

The real problem for these pig farmers involved fear trumping faith. They feared what it would mean to their lives and livelihood if they accepted what had just happened. Many people are lost because of fear. When the preacher asks people to come to Christ, fear grips the hearts of the lost and they hesitate to respond to what their hearts tell them is true. Do you remember when you came to Christ? Weren’t you afraid as well? I was. My heart was thumping like rock band drum when I came to Christ. Faith must overcome fear if you are to have what Christ offers you! Giving in to fear is accepting failure!

Sadly, the fear among these people caused them to pray an awful prayer. They prayed for Jesus to leave them alone. Let me tell you something about Jesus, He is a gentleman. He does not burst into your heart and life. He calls to you. He whispers to you. He knocks on your heart’s door and asks you to open up to Him. But, if you demand that He depart from you, He will!

Now, here is my point. Jesus answered the prayer of this lost community with a resounding, “Yes.” He left them just as they asked Him to. Wow! He said "yes" to the demons and "yes" to the prayer of a city of lost pig farmers. Don’t you think that is a bit strange? Here we see God answering yes to the prayers of the lost.

But, that brings us to the last and very important point.

III. The Purpose Prayer

As Jesus left the area, He went down to get into the boat to depart. The man who had been relieved of the demons begged Jesus, “Let me go with you!” He prayed fervently to go with Jesus and the disciples as they continued their journey. No wonder he prayed that prayer. Look at what He had experienced. He loved Jesus. He wanted to be with Jesus wherever Jesus went.

Here is where things really become strange in this story. Jesus heard the prayed of Legion, the redeemed man, and answered his prayer with the the word, "NO."

Now, think this over for a moment. Jesus said yes to the demons and yes to the lost city but He said no to the redeemed man. Does that make any sense to you? If you listen to modern preaching by many television evangelists, you know this is the opposite of what they preach. They have a "name and claim it" message. They tell you that God MUST DO what you tell Him to do. I shutter when I think about anyone making such a claim, but some of them do so. The story we are reading here rebuts the seed faith gospel so often heard today by preachers who fly around on private jets. Jesus said, “No,” to the prayer of the redeemed, changed man.

Why did Jesus refuse to take Legion with Him? Why did He send the man away? The answer rests in the will of Christ - in the ultimate PURPOSE of the Lord.

A. The Physical Presence of Jesus was not as Important as the Purpose of Jesus

Christ knew that Legion's presence with Him was limited. After all, Jesus was soon going to Jerusalem to die on a cross. After His resurrection, He was going to ascend into heaven. Then, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was going to arrive to abide in every believer on earth. Jesus knew things that Legion didn't know. Also, Jesus was going to make a place for Legion to live with Him forever (John 14:1-6). The temporal blessing of traveling with the disciples was trumped by the overarching need for the gospel to be preached. It was the will of Jesus that this changed man go and tell others what Jesus had done for Him.

Sometimes we pray for things that God denies. It isn't because God is not listening to us or that He is being cruel to us – God has a better and more complete picture of what He is up to in our lives than we can ever see. This is hard for us to accept, but it is true.

B. The Temporal Blessing Requested was not as Important as the Eternal Work to be Accomplished

Jesus told Legion to go home and tell what had been done for Him. You see, Legion wanted to just sit around and enjoy Jesus. Jesus wanted Legion to get on His feet and go serve. Jesus knew that believers do not develop and reach spiritual maturity by sitting around doing nothing. All Christian training is done “on the job.” Jesus did not say, “Sit around till you learn everything and then you can serve me.” Jesus said, “Go, and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I mentioned earlier the Samaritan Woman. She is a case in point when it comes to getting busy for Christ. Jesus shared with that woman that she had need of the Water of Life. When she realized that He was the Messiah, she ran back into the City of Sychar and told everyone she saw about Him. They came out of the city to meet Jesus, and He remained in the city for three days. A great revival took place and many were saved. Now listen carefully to what I am about to say. The Samaritan Woman did not have her theology all figured out with every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed. She didn't understand all that was to take place concerning Jesus at Calvary. She didn't know much at all about heaven. She knew one thing - Jesus had changed her life. She knew it. She felt it. She experienced it. She told it. One woman, saved for fifteen minutes, helped start a revival that led many souls to faith in Jesus. I believe our doctrine ought to be carefully thought out and studied, but I'd rather have one turned-on, excited, vocal Christian who wants everyone to know Christ than a triple dozen theological intellects who will not talk to a soul about Jesus! In the best world, we have theologically correct and evangelically active people at the same time - but give me a fired-up, prayerful soul winner, if I must make a choice between the two.

We read that Legion did exactly what he was told to do. He left and went home to tell the story of his redemption. He was obedient to the Master. He wasn't praying for more of what he wanted, He was simply doing more of what Jesus wanted. He wasn't praying for more peace for himself, He was sharing more peace with others.

Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that we are saved by grace and we are saved to serve. God has foreordained that we should do good works for Him in this world. We are not saved just to get us into heaven. We are saved to work for Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

C. The Misguided Request for Something Personal was not as Important as the Message and Mission Required

The Lord is concerned with the gospel being shared and not so much with our comfort. After all, we will have eternity to enjoy the comfort of our Lord. Yes, He is the God of all comfort, and He can bring you peace in the midst of a storm. He will never leave us. However, God may say no to what we want because He has a greater plan regarding what He wants – and that is to get the gospel to the world.

Jesus said that He came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. In other words, Jesus left heaven and came to this sin cursed world to die on a cruel cross for the express purpose of bringing poor lost souls to salvation and eternal life. If Christ had been interested in His comfort, He would have remained in heaven and left us here on earth to fend for ourselves. Jesus, on the other hand, took off the robe of royalty, laid down the scepter of power, put aside the crown of glory and came to be born of a virgin for the express purpose of living and dying for our sins. He called us to follow Him. To follow Him is to accept His will and do His work. Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so send I you!” In other words, we are sent for the same purpose. Now you and I can’t save anyone. Our job is to introduce them to the Savior so that He can save them. But once we are saved, we are then commissioned by the Lord to go forth to be His witnesses.

Conclusion

Now, listen closely. I know some of the problems we all experience are extremely difficult to endure. The physical and emotional pain some of you are going through in your lives or in your families are too difficult for you to find words to share it. I am not making light of your prayers for God to help you, to bring a miracle to you. In fact, Jesus taught us to pray and told us that He will answer our prayers. I am not telling you not to pray for that which you feel you need or even what you desire. I'm simply pointing out that our short time on this earth, and the suffering we go through, is not to be compared to the glory we will know in His presence - and that will be soon! The fact is, that whatever we are going through we are use for His glory. We must share our testimony in the midst of our pain. We are to seek His WILL and not OUR OWN. Sometimes God says no to our requests, but He always has a better plan. He sees what we cannot see. Sometimes God tells us to wait. His answer is on the way, but it must come in His timing. In the end, our duty is to do His will during this little, short life we live.

Years ago in Scotland, the Clark family had a dream. Clark and his wife worked and saved, making plans for their nine children and themselves to travel to the US. It had taken years, but they had finally saved enough money and had gotten passports and reservations for the whole family on a new liner to the US.

The entire family was filled with anticipation and excitement about their new life. However, 7 days before their departure, the youngest son was bitten by a dog. The doctor sewed up the little boy but hung a yellow sheet on the Clark family front door. Because of the possibility of rabies, they were being quarantined for 14 days.

The family's dreams were dashed. They would not be able to make the trip to America as they had planned. The father, filled with disappointment and anger, stomped to the dock to watch the ship leave--without the Clark family. The father shed tears of disappointment and cursed both his son and God for their misfortune.

Five days later, the tragic news spread throughout Scotland--the mighty "Titanic" had sunk. The unsinkable ship had sunk, taking hundreds of lives with it. The Clark family was to have been on that ship, but because the son had been bitten by a dog, they were left behind in Scotland.

When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son and thanked him for saving the family. He thanked God for saving their lives and turning what he had felt a tragedy into a blessing

Sometimes God says no but when He does, He always has a better idea, a better plan and a better purpose for you and His kingdom! Can you trust Him today with all the affairs of your life? Will you tell Him that today? Some of us need to come today and recommit our lives by thanking God for the times He said, "No," and it turned out for the best. God's refusals have often led to rich blessings in my life. Isn't that true for you as well? Some of us are going through things right now and can't understand them. We can, however, commit afresh to trusting His heart and His will in our lives.

There is one prayer to which Jesus will never say, "No." If you will ask Him to come into your life today, He will say, "Yes."

Now, let us respond to the Lord who loves us, leads us and will never leave us!