Yes and No

Sunday, August 9, 2020
Intern Teleen Saunders 

Acts 16:6

So, I’m a gardener.  Excuse me, I misspoke.  I have a garden.  It came with the house we bought eight years ago.  And now I pretend to be a gardener.  I’ve tried for eight years to make a go of this shade covered, brick bordered, hosta filled space.  It has a leaning fountain on one end.  This year I wanted to add some nice color.  I planted some lovely little snapdragons that the rabbits have eaten.  And when that wasn’t enough, the rabbits went after my hosta.  So now I have a shade covered, brick bordered, hosta stump and devoured flower filled “garden”.  Oh, and the fountain still leans.  I tried.  I really did.  I watered and pulled weeds.  It just didn’t work out.

Have you ever done something right and still had everything turn out wrong?  Maybe you studied really hard for a test only to literally fail.  Or you gave your all to your job only to passed over for a promotion or even worse, let go.  How about those stories of athletes who train their whole life only to have their dreams cut short because of one fluke injury?  I don’t know about providence or where exactly God’s hand fits into the whole scheme of things.  But I do know that some things just don’t go our way, no matter how hard we try.  In life, we sometimes get a “yes” and sometimes we get a “no”.[1]

In our reading today from the book of Acts we join the apostle

Paul and his friends Silas and Timothy as they embark on a mission to strengthen the newly forming churches around the Aegean Sea.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy are guided by the Spirit of Jesus.  This is the book of Pentecost after all.  The Spirit literally blocks them from entering, this region they call Asia, which is modern day Turkey.  They simply were not allowed to go.  We have no details.  We don’t know how they were forbidden or even why they were forbidden.  But we know it was an act of the Holy Spirit.  It says it twice, first in verse six and again in verse seven.  They tried, and it was a big, fat “no”.

Didn’t God want the gospel preached on the eastern side of the sea? What about the Great Commission (if you’ll allow me to Gospel jump) from the book of Matthew saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) But now the Spirit says, “Nope.”  This must have been frustrating and even a bit embarrassing for Paul who just split ways with Barnabas over a sharp disagreement.  The text here doesn’t say, so we can only speculate on Paul’s state of mind.

Did he doubt himself?  He was human after all.  Did he want to quit and go back home thinking he failed as a missionary?  Was he running out of money and resources?  Maybe.  In the following verses he prevails upon a woman named Lydia for food and shelter.  Did he think God was punishing him?  Maybe.  He was blinded for three days on the road to Damascus. Maybe Paul was angry like in his letter to the Galatians.  Maybe he was even angry… at God.  These are all natural responses to encountering a “no” in life.  And like I said before, I don’t know the mind of God.  It’s heretical to think anyone could.  But I do know the heart of God.  And God. Is. Love.

And so perhaps the most important verse in our reading today is hidden in verse eight, “passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.”  That’s it. Not necessarily a verse to memorize for confirmation or to tatoo on your shoulder if that’s your thing.  But this little verse tells us one simple fact:  Paul, Silas, and Timothy endured.  No matter how they felt, they didn’t quit.  And here is where I see God.

Even when we are confronted with a “no” in our life, God is there with love.   God gave Paul friends – Silas and Timothy.  Together they supported each other and encouraged each other to go another way.  God gave Paul the gift of prayer.  There are forty-two prayers in Paul’s New Testament letters.[2]  That man knew how to pray.  And God gave Paul a bedrock of hope through scripture.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). God is not our adversary.  God is love.  And love is always “yes”.  Paul does not quit.  He had friends, prayer, and hope.  In fact, these are our gifts too – friends, prayer, and hope– we just call it church, you know… that thing that Paul’s trying to start?  Let’s just add one more ingredient to the mix – The Holy Spirit.

In verse nine Paul has a vision.  He sees a man in Macedonia pleading with him for help.   You see, the Spirit’s “no” to Asia is so that the Spirit can give a “yes” to Macedonia.  Paul did not quit.  And the mission continued.

Sometimes, God’s “nos” allow God’s “yesses”.  We can’t always see how the “yeses” will happen.  But they do happen because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, is here to guide us too.

Army Major Daniel Gade blogs[3] about his own triumph over adversity, how he moved from a “no” into a “yes”.  Major Gade was wounded while serving in Iraq in 2005 when an IED injured his right leg and fractured his skull and spine.  He had limited use of his hands due to nerve damage.  He called himself mangled.  He remembers making a critical choice between going forward or allowing himself to be defeated by his circumstances.  He writes, “My lowest day was when the doctors told me I would never regain full use of my hands, and that I would never run again.”

Whether it’s a divorce, a financial disaster, the death of a loved one, or a dramatic failure in an important part of life, we all face adversity.  We all face “no”.  Gade says, “not everyone gets blown up in a combat zone, but we all “wake up on our backs in the ditch” metaphorically.

Today, Major Daniel Gade is an instructor at West Point. He also completed a 3,000 mile bike ride across the United States.  He didn’t quit.  His “no” became a “yes.” His advice? Be prepared.  Moving on to Troas or recovering from an injury is hard work.  Training starts now.  By building up our faith, we will have the tools we need, when we need them.  I encourage you to cleave to the church – to be, in the words of Major Gade, prepared – with friends, prayer, and hope.  The Spirit of God will surround us with love and show us another way.  The Spirit of God can turn a “no” into a “yes”.  Amen

Oh… And if you need me this afternoon, I’ll be in my garden.




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