Acts 16:1-15; Judges 2-3; Job 34
If the most famous authors of our time were able to sit down around the table some night, I have no doubt that at some point the conversation would turn to rejection. I would venture to say that every best-selling novel has at least one publisher kicking themselves because they rejected the novel instead of picking it up. J. K. Rowling’s novel “The Philosopher’s Stone” was rejected repeatedly until the daughter of the eventual publisher demanded to continue reading it. Agatha Christie, whose works are only outsold by Shakespeare, was rejected for 5 straight years. Ernest Hemingway received this rejection notice: “It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” Publishers and agents don’t always get it right.
The author’s joke is that the difference between God and a publisher is that God doesn’t think He’s a publisher. When publishers pass on a novel, they sometimes make mistakes. When God directs us, He never makes a mistake. He has a purpose and a plan. As followers of Christ, we can choose to follow His plan, or we can try to do our own thing. Success comes when we follow His plan, even though being told “no” can be quite disappointing. “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:6-7)
Paul had picked up Timothy and added him to his entourage. Soon, Luke would join them. They were poised to go into Asia to preach. Asia was populous. Many people needed to hear the word of God. I’m sure that Paul was excited about what God could do there. Only God told them “no.” They turned north and skirted Asia in their journey. Then they got to the Bithnyian border and saw the possibilities there, including the bustling city of Istanbul. God told them “no” again. I’m sure they must have been a bit frustrated. They were traveling on the understanding that they were following God, and everywhere they tried to go, God told them “no.” In the midst of their frustrations, though, they kept following God wherever He allowed them to go. They ended up in Troas, and only then did God reveal His plan.
The serious answer to the question of the difference between God and a publisher is that God never gets it wrong. It’s hard to understand sometimes when you’re trying to follow Jesus and you get an amazing idea, only to have God tell you “no.” You’ve thought about this idea; you’ve prayed about it; you’ve prepared to follow through and God’s message is clear: don’t do it. That can be a crushing blow. You can react in a couple of ways. One way to react would be to get upset by the rejection, or to deny that the rejection was from God, and go ahead anyway. Then, when failure comes, you can blame the failure of your great plan on Satan’s opposition – proving what a great idea it was. The other, more mature thing to do, is to accept God’s no, and keep seeking His will. God doesn’t have plans to sideline us, He wants us to follow Him as we serve. Sometimes, He has greater plans than we could imagine, so He says no to lesser plans. He opened up an amazing new door in Philippi for Paul and his companions. He will lead each of us in the right direction if we stay tuned to Him. “No” doesn’t mean that God has rejected us, “No” just means that God has other plans for us.
O Lord, life would be so much easier if You would just listen to me when I tell You my plans. I don’t understand why You tell me “No,” on such great plans. Remind me, though, that Your plans are always better. Help me be obedient to You.