And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB
I was pulling weeds yesterday with thoughts rolling around in my mind. That happens often gardening—my kids scatter (I think because they don’t want roped into that job), and it’s just me, the dirt and God. So, I asked Him about the ‘no’ in my life. It led to an interesting revelation.
People will often say that if you work hard, are persistent, do your best and keep getting better, that eventually you’ll be successful in whatever you’re after. While I don’t think that’s bad advice, I don’t believe it’s universally true, either. It implies that all the people who have unmet dreams didn’t work hard, didn’t try their best, didn’t get better. That’s not true in every case. Well, then, does that mean that whatever those failed attempts were after, that those people were not walking in the will of God? After all, I hear often that “if it is God’s will (whatever you’re trying to accomplish), He will make it happen.” Also true, right? But, as I look around me, and at history, I see it is not always so. Huh.
I presented this to my Lord. He took my mind to the prophets of the Old Testament. You’d think that having a commission from God would guarantee a willing audience, right? Not so much.
Consider Jeremiah, persecuted not only by the people, but by his own priestly kin (Jer. 11:21-23). The rejection didn’t stop with verbal assaults, they sought after his life. Jeremiah cried out to God, saying that speaking His word had caused him great difficulty, and yet he could not hold the Lord’s message inside, because it became like a fire in his heart (Jer. 20:9).
Isaiah was sawn in two.
Ezekiel was martyred in the land of the Chaldeans.
Micah was killed by the hands of Jehoram.
Amos was tortured by Amaziah.
Zechariah was killed by Jehoash.
Commissioned by God? Yes. Accepted by men? No.
Purpose and success are not the same thing. In fact, as was the case with Jeremiah, we see that God says ‘no’ to comfort and acceptance. Perhaps that’s what Paul experienced when he prayed three times for relief for some sort of ailment (we don’t know what it was—which is likely an intentional omission). Strength in weakness doesn’t always look like the underdog-success story. It might look more like persecution. But in the end, those faithful prophets were met with the approval of God. Even if, in this life, they never saw the whole purpose in His ‘no.’