I’ve been told for most of my life that you can’t say “yes” to everything. I’ve also been instructed that the most important word in a busy life is learning how to say “no” to certain things. I see the benefit of saying “no” but I don’t want anyone to tell that to me.
What happens when you have really great plans with no ulterior motives and God still says “no?”
King David was there. At one of the best points in his leadership, he was experiencing peace and prosperity. He looked at all he had and thought, the LORD’s tabernacle deserves better than a tent if he lived in such a palace (2 Sam. 7:2). He told Nathan the prophet his idea to build God a temple, and Nathan blurted out what all of us would have thought in that moment: “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3).
It seemed like a noble gesture. David wanted to honor the LORD and there appears to be no ulterior motives. He wanted to do something well for one who had done everything for him.
The problem is neither David or Nathan consulted God on the matter. As soon as Nathan left David’s presence, he was invaded by God’s presence. And even though the idea seemed well-intended, purposeful, and reasonable, God said “no” (2 Sam. 7:5-7).
God had a better plan.
What to Do When God Declines
So, what do you do when God declines your ideas? He doesn’t agree with your plans? Doesn’t move forward with your wishes?
- ACKNOWLEDGE that God’s idea must be better than your idea. While this seems obvious, it is critically important. God is not saying your thoughts are bad, his are just better (Is. 55:8-11) – submit to it. David realized that God brings about the greatness – not us (2 Sam. 7:21).
- ACCEPT that God might want to use the plan but in a different time and with a different person. God did want a temple built, but he wanted David’s son, Solomon, to build it (2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kings 5:3-5). Would I be OK if a great plan of mine was carried out by another person? Could I rejoice that my plan would take place after I am dead and gone?
- ASSIST God’s plan as you lay aside your own. The fact that David couldn’t build it didn’t mean he couldn’t prepare for it. He embraced God’s plan and did his part to fulfill it even though he wouldn’t experience it. He gathered as much materials he could so that his son Solomon would be set it for success (1 Chron. 22:1-5). When you submit to God’s greater plan, you are embracing God’s ability and authority to change your great plans.
God may have said “no” to you, but I believe that in the declination, he is saying “yes” to something far greater.
For more on this topic, check out the sermon, “This Is the House That God Built.”
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.