When I Tell God, “No!”

By: Khalilah Shelton

Sometimes we as women, have a hard time saying “no”. When a friend asks if you want to go out for dessert when you have a pile of laundry waiting to be tamed, you go anyway. When your boss asks you to take on a new project, knowing you are drowning in work, you say “sure, no problem.” When they ask you to bring a dish to the potluck at church, knowing you don’t need anything else on your To-Do list, you give a big smile and nod to hide your reluctance.  Why is it that we have such a hard time saying no to people but it is so easy to say no to God? Is it because we don't have to see the same disappointment on His face as we do face-to-face with a neighbor? I think it's deeper than that. When we don’t obey God we have an issue of the heart and when we tell God “No” we have said one or all of the following:

  • I don’t love God

  • I don’t love people

  • I love me more

I can hear some of you now saying, “Whaaaaatttt?! Khalilah, how can you say I don't love God, I go to church every Sunday and I am a Christian.  Don’t judge me!” Before you close this page and leave this site, hear me out. Let’s delve into this deeper. We have all had moments when we have not loved God fully. We all sin and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23).  I'm not saying you don't love God at all. But do you love Him well?

I don’t love God…

Throughout the history of the Bible, God used prophets to talk to, give warnings to, and tell people to repent and turn to God.  Jonah was one such prophet. He was very popular in his day and he was used mightily by God. But at one point, Jonah received an assignment that would test and reveal the real state of his heart.  Basically, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell Ninevites to repent and Jonah gets on a boat going in the opposite direction.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. -Jonah 1:1-3(ESV)

Jonah rejected God’s instruction; he told God “No!”, but why?  Jonah was used to talking to others and he probably had to deliver bad news before, so why run away this time?

Sure Jonah had love for God, he was chosen by God to speak on His behalf, but ultimately Jonah did not love God well. Jonah trusted his own understanding of what was best for the Ninevites and for himself.  He ran from God and attempted to abort the mission. When we disobey God, we tell Him that He can rule and reign except in certain areas of our lives. Our obedience indicates our right understanding of who God is as well as reveals our love for Him.  

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? -Luke 6:46(ESV)

We must ask ourselves, “What does my love look like by my obedience?”

I don’t love people…

Ok, I love God, but what if God sends me to love someone I don't know? Or worse, someone I hate?  We may find ourselves giving a resounding “No!” to God because we don't love people, especially people we don't even like.  Has God ever called you to love a specific person or people group that you would not normally reach out to? What about someone who has wronged you or that is deep in a life of sin? Has God ever sent you to “those people”?  You know the ones over there that nobody talks to or talks about because “....everyone is afraid of them...”?

When Jonah fled to Tarshish and met an “evil” storm on the way, it was his hate for and fear of the people of Nineveh that made him willing to commit suicide by drowning in the sea to avoid speaking God’s word to them.  

“And he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?’ For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.’” -Jonah 1:9-12(ESV)

We clearly see the self-righteous attitude of Jonah.  We may even scoff at him thinking “how dare he be so selfish?!”, but how many times have we chosen our own comforts and prejudices over sharing the gospel? Following Christ calls us to abandon our ideas of self-preservation and choose gospel-preservation instead.  We must abandon our own pride and prejudices to be effective disciples because God took the most precious wealth of heaven, His only Son, who willingly entered earth, death, hell and went back to heaven that we may share in his wealth! God gave everything when we had nothing. May our hearts be postured, and just as eager, to pour out as we are eager to receive from His generous hand.  

I love me more…

It’s so easy to justify making yourself first. Our lives are painted with a myriad of experiences, both good and bad, that mold us.  However, when we shrink the world down to fit the comfort of our experiences, we attempt to shorten the reach of God’s hand. Jonah knew about Nineveh and the types of things that happen there.  He knew that, that was not a place where people would listen to God, or so he thought. Jonah would have rather die than go to this Old Testament Las Vegas (on steroids). He loved himself more than the mission of God.  He literally meant over his dead body. But when you are talking to the One who created your body and every other body on earth, (human bodies, whale bodies, bodies of water…) then you begin to see the limited control and input you have over your life.  Jonah threw himself into the sea and God appointed a large fish to swallow him alive and spew him on dry ground after three days. Jonah's pride, lack of faith and attempt at self-preservation did not abort God’s mission, nor did it excuse him from the task at hand.

Ladies, when we love ourselves over and above the mission of God, we lose.  When my pride propels me into the opposite direction of His word, I am no longer seeking His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33) but am seeking my own glory.  I am saying that I love me.

How to say “Yes!”

How do I say yes to the God of the universe that created all things? Our first yes has to be to God’s Son though salvation (Romans 10:13). We must first trust in the One True God for all things pertaining to life and death.  Once we have called on the name of the Lord and are saved, we then have access to the power of the Holy Spirit. We are equipped with all that we need to walk in obedience to the word of God. This includes loving God well, loving our neighbors and forsaking our own will, making God our number one priority.

Love God…

A Believer’s disobedience will likely come from a decision made not to trust God. Jonah was well equipped to go to Nineveh and declare the good news of God, however, he chose to run from the will of God. Of course there will be struggles and failures but blatant disobedience is a choice.  But if we love God well we must walk in obedience. All that we need to do this is provided in the resurrected Savior.

Love Thy Neighbor...

“I believe and receive, but who is my neighbor? Do I really have to go the them and love them?”  God calls us to walk in obedience, not perfection. If we are seeking to do what He has called us to do it will require our willingness to love the neighbors we don't necessarily like.  It will require us to be uncomfortable and go to some who are completely different than us.

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.  -Luke 10:27-28(ESV)

May we not be deceived into thinking that we are where we are by our own good will, our own strength, or righteous deeds.  May we find refuge in the shadow of the cross knowing that we have received all that we have from Christ while we were still sinners! Hallelujah!

Jonah knew about God.  He told of this attributes in Jonah 4:2.  He explains to God how gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love He is.  How He would even relent from disaster to save. These very attributes are the things that Jonah had seen from God and experiences first hand from the King of kings. But Jonah is not willing to extend that which he has received, God’s gracious love, to his neighbor.  The love that we extend to others will testify of the goodness of God.

Die to Self...  

Often we try to paint life in the ways that are most pleasing to us.  We fantasize about what life would be like if we were in the perfect situation.  But what if what is perfect for us is consequently wreaking havoc on another? What if one man's treasure is actually making trash of the next man’s treasure?  When we seek to make things according to our plans and in our own image, we fail miserably at bringing God His due glory. When I love me at any cost, there will inevitably be someone who I will not reach with the gospel.  But what do we do instead? Die to self, sister. If we have been saved by Christ we are to die to our own desires and comforts, lay them on the altar. We place our gifts, talents, dreams, goals and values at the foot of the cross and surrender to what God has commanded.  

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  -Matthew 16:24-26(ESV)

Dying to self means to deny yourself now for the sake of God's glory.  Jonah’s anger was not only against Nineveh, but against God. God did not destroy Jonah in an instant or make him mute so that he could no longer prophesy or even speak, but He asked Jonah a question:

Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? -Jonah 4:4(ESV)

Ladies, is it right for you to be angry that you didn't get your way? When plans don't go as you see fit, is it right that you be angry?  When we die to our own plans, our own self-made mold for life, we can let go of anger and trust God.

The only time you have reason to fear, dear woman, is if you have not surrendered to Christ.  If you are trusting in your own righteousness to get you to God, you should be filled with fear.  But there is good news, Christ came to earth and lived the perfect life that we cannot live. He upheld every command and mission of God, his Father, like you, nor I, nor Jonah ever could.  Though never having sinned, he took on all of the sin of the world and paid the price for it by dying on the cross. Just as Jonah spent three days in a big fish, Jesus spent three days in a tomb.  But on the third day he rose back to life. He complete the rescue plan for God’s people. He attained salvation for all who would call on the name of Jesus.

God has spoken, what will your answer be?