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Conflict With Unanswered Prayer Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
September 19, 2022 1:00 am

Conflict With Unanswered Prayer Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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September 19, 2022 1:00 am

We sometimes find it difficult to keep on believing when God doesn’t do what we ask. When David wanted to build a temple, God’s answer was surprising. In this message, we ponder the mystery of God’s ways. Could God have something bigger in mind for us than what we originally requested? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. For a believer, perhaps no conflict is more frustrating than the conflict of unanswered prayer.

You wonder, does God care? King David faced the same conflict we face. Today, a look at how to handle this deep mystery in a way that pleases God. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, a lot of our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling.

Will today's teaching help resolve this conflict? You know, Dave, I have to tell you that as a pastor, I could tell story after story of deep disappointments on the part of people whose prayers were not answered. But one of the things that God does when he doesn't answer our prayers the way in which we offer them, he gives us a substitute.

And that really also is the answer to your question, Dave. God gives us something in the place of an unanswered prayer. For example, when Paul had a thorn in the flesh, God says, I'm not going to answer that prayer, but I am going to give you something. I'm going to give you grace to endure it. And Paul says, most gladly will I therefore rather glory in my infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me. So to all those who are experiencing unanswered prayer, this message, I think, is going to be a message of hope and encouragement. God has something else for you and grace to bear it. I've written a book entitled Growing Through Conflict, Lessons from the Life of David, and I wrote it because I believe that his life illustrates all of the hills and the valleys that you and I experience. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337., 1-888-218-9337. I think we all have to agree that one of the greatest disappointments in life is unanswered prayer. I think of the little girl who held a doll in her arms, hoping and praying that the little doll would become a real baby. And when that didn't happen, she said that she never prayed again until she was a teenager. She was so disappointed with God. Well, sometimes we should be glad that God does not answer our prayers. But then I think of a woman who prayed that her daughter would grow up and become a missionary. Not only did her daughter not become a missionary, but she married a non-Christian. And here's this woman in bitterness and anger saying, why should I ever bother God with another request again?

I think of a young man who was dying of cancer. His church decided that they would have a prayer vigil. They prayed all night on a couple of occasions, and then they had a prayer chain. So they prayed for him around the clock, and still he died. And someone in that church was so bitter, they also said, I don't think I'm ever going to pray again.

Why should we? Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that it is very difficult to believe and to go on believing when you think you knew what God should have done and he didn't? Barbara Sanderville, a paraplegic, said, knowing that God had the power to heal me but wouldn't made me very bitter.

I would read Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2.24 and accuse God of holding the promise of healing before me like a piece of meat before a starving dog. He tempted me by showing me the potential, but never allowed me to reach it. Does God answer all of our prayers? Some people say, well, yes, of course. Sometimes he answers them by saying no. I don't think that's much of an answer. When our children were growing up and if they had come in and said, you know, Dad, I want $5, and I said no, I don't think they'd have gone out and told their friends, you know, one thing I like about my dad, he always answers all of my requests.

I don't think they'd have done that. Sometimes God answers no. He said to Paul, who had a thorn in the flesh, no, I'm not going to take it from you. Sometimes the answer then is denied. Sometimes it is delayed.

In the case of Abraham, God gave him a promise that he was going to have a son and Abraham became so impatient that he ended up marrying Hagar and having a child by her to help God fulfill his promises. If only he had waited, he would have noticed that sometimes the answer is delayed. It's not denied, it's just delayed. And the work that God does in us while we are waiting for him to answer our prayer is sometimes as great as the answered prayer itself. Sometimes the answer is disguised.

It's there, but it's not in the form that we expected it. David had his own experience with a desire that God said no to. And it's found in the book of the Old Testament, 2 Samuel chapter 7. As we shall see in a moment, one of the most important chapters in the whole Old Testament. 2 Samuel chapter 7. You'll notice it says in verse 1, it came about when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest on every side from his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, see now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.

And Nathan said to the king, do all that is in your mind for the Lord is with you. You'll notice that Nathan and David had talked about this before clearly, because David just says now remember that I dwell in a house of cedar, but God, that is to say the ark. I need to pause here and remind you that the ark was about what, four feet long and a foot and a half high and a foot and a half wide. And that symbolized the presence of God. The ark was not God.

The ark was not God. But it is there that the glory of God was localized and as we noticed when they came into the land under Joshua, it was at Shiloh and then it moved around some and now David brought it back to Jerusalem during the days, you know, of the desert. It was, of course, in a tent. And as I mentioned, it made its rounds and now it was in Jerusalem and David says, I want to build a permanent structure for it. Not just a tent, but a temple. That was his desire.

And Nathan says to him, verse three, go and do all that is in your mind for the Lord is with you. Good idea. Why not? Couple of reasons why it was an excellent idea. First of all, because God wanted it. God wanted that ark to be localized in Jerusalem because Jerusalem was to be the capital of the nation.

I have chosen Jerusalem of all the cities, it says in the book of Psalms. Secondly, David had a good motive. He was not trying to build a monument to himself. He was really intending to build a monument to God.

Isn't that wonderful? This was not to be David's house. This was to be God's house. Furthermore, David had the time and the energy to do it. Things were at a period of peace. He was a powerful king.

The nation was unified. They could add some taxes. They could collect the funds. He had the workmen that could have been trained to do the work and it could have happened. And so he thought that the answer was yes.

The light was green. But notice Nathan spends the night and, lo and behold, God comes to Nathan the next day, or rather Nathan comes to David the next day and says, guess what? I have to withdraw the building permit. Because God said, go and say to my servant David, thus says the Lord, are you the one who should build me a house? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I was brought up with the sons of Israel from Egypt to this day.

But I've been moving about in a tent, even a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, why have you not built a house of cedar? God says, it is not as if this is something that has to be done immediately. The Lord says, now, David.

The answer is no, you're not going to. Now, if we were to read the Book of Chronicles, we discover that the reason is because David was a man of bloodshed. David not only fought wars, but as we've learned, he seemed to love wars and God says, if you're going to build a house for me and it is to be known as a house of peace, you're probably not the person to do it. And then the Lord says something to David that is very unexpected and very beautiful. God says, the answer is denied.

You cannot build me a house, but rather than you doing something for me, I am going to do something for you. God is speaking in verse 10. I also will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them anymore as formerly. Even as from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people, Israel, and I will give you rest from all your enemies. And now here's the key verse.

Notice it. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. Well, that's a wonderful twist. David said, I'm going to make a house for God. God said, no, you can't do that, but I'll make a house for you. Now, you need to understand that the word house here is used in two different ways. When David says, I want to build a house for God, he's talking about the temple. When God says, I'm going to build you a house, he is thinking of posterity.

He's thinking of descendants. And this becomes very, very important. Now, I want you to notice that when God says no, that's not the end of it.

That's not the end of it. God says, David, I'm going to give you a new promise, a new promise. And that's what God does to us when he says no to our prayers. It is not as if we receive a new promise independently of the scriptures, but suddenly within the text of scripture, we see promises for ourselves that come to us in a new way. God reminds us that he is with us. He reminds us that the suffering of this present world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

God reveals himself in a new way when he says no. Now, I mentioned a moment ago that this is one of the most important passages in the whole Old Testament because it contains the covenant that God made with David. So with your Bibles open, let's continue to read at verse 12 of 2 Samuel chapter 7. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you who will come forth from you and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name. That of course is Solomon. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will correct him with a rod of men and the strokes of the son of men. But my loving kindness shall not depart from him as I took it away from Saul whom I removed from before you.

Just that far for a moment. God says, David, you're not going to build a house, but you're going to have a descendant who will. And of course that descendant was Solomon. It's time to have a parenthesis here.

We need a little recess from the text and remember something. Solomon had not been born yet. As a matter of fact, David is going to have Solomon as his son from Bathsheba with whom David is going to commit adultery, as we shall see in the next message.

Isn't that the amazing, incredible grace of God? In no sense should we think that God was somehow in any way diminishing the impact of David's sin. If you ever think that, be sure to come as we speak on that text and you will see that David paid tremendously for his sin. In fact, David went through more grief because of that immorality and murder that it engendered than anyone could possibly imagine. Destroyed his family, destroyed his kingdom, but in the midst of it there is grace. God says, Solomon, he's not named here and David didn't know his name. David couldn't have predicted who it was, even if he had had a computer with a Bible code he could not have seen into the future to know who the next king was going to be, who would do this. But God said, you're going to have a son and he will do it. Now, the Lord doesn't stop there, though, and therefore we shouldn't either.

We have to keep reading. Verse 16, and there are three words in this text that you should lightly underline in your Bible. And your house, that's the first word, and your kingdom, that's the second one, shall endure before me forever and your throne, there's the third, shall be established forever. Imagine what God is saying to David. He is saying, David, I want you to know that I am making a covenant with you so that your house, that is your descendants, and your kingdom, that refers to territory over which you will rule, your kingdom and your throne, that is political power, shall endure forever.

Now we need to just relax a little bit here, get our minds in gear and ask a very important question. Has this passage been fulfilled? Has the Word of God been fulfilled? And the answer is no, because surely David had descendants, but they were not ruling forever, and as a matter of fact, later on, you have the divisions of the kingdom, and you have Israel taken from the land, and you have a terrible, terrible, gruesome history that takes place, and somehow we read this and we say it's unfulfilled. There are those who say, well, it is being fulfilled in heaven. Jesus is ruling in heaven, and that's the fulfillment in Jesus. Well, it is true that the fulfillment is in Jesus, as we shall see in a moment, but David could never possibly have understood this to be Christ ruling in heaven, or a descendant of his ruling in heaven.

He's talking about the earth, he's talking about Jerusalem, he's talking about a territory with certain boundaries geographically. Could it be that this was a conditional covenant? Might it be that God said, well, because the Jews were unfaithful, therefore I don't have to fulfill it?

No, it can't be that, because listen to what God's word says about that. I'm reading from Psalm 89. Verse 3, I have made a covenant with my chosen. I have sworn to David my servant. I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.

Just listen to this. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by my holiness, I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the son before me.

How is that to be fulfilled? Well, you know, about a thousand years later, an angel appears to the Virgin Mary and he says to her, you shall have a child. He shall be great, he shall be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end. You see, folks, this is why some of us are naive enough to believe that there is a day coming when Christ is still going to rule over the territory of David and much beyond that, actually still rule in Jerusalem on this earth through what we call the millennial kingdom.

Some people find it difficult to believe that. They say, well, we know that Jesus rules in heaven, but you mean when he comes back in all of his glory, he still is going to rule on this earth? And we say, yeah, on this earth, because God says, David, you're going to have a house and you're going to have a descendant and your throne is going to endure forever and it is going to be over the territory that you ruled, which is Jerusalem.

It is Israel, it is the Middle East, it is time, space, it is earth. When do you think all those prophecies are going to be fulfilled when it says that they shall beat their swords into plow shears, their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore? That will be fulfilled during that kingdom when Christ rules and that's now a complicated subject that we can't get into here. At some point we will, but not today, but that's what we anticipate is that Christ will yet rule from this earth. And when do you think it will be that the lion and the lamb shall lie down together in peace?

Because as I've often mentioned nowadays, when the lion stands up, the lamb is missing. But someday, someday they'll live together in peace. Now, here's what God said to David that day. David said, Lord, I want to build you a house. And he's thinking of a temple. God says, David, I want you to know that I'm going to build you a house, namely descendants. The temple that you build will not last forever, but I'm going to build you something that is going to last forever.

You're going to have a descendant that is going to rule forever. And that of course is fulfilled in Christ. And that's why in the book of Revelation, Jesus is spoken of as the root and the offspring of David, as Christ fulfills the Davidic covenant. Do you see that when God says no to us, that it is his intention to give us something else in the place of the no? It isn't a cold, harsh no, like some fathers might be with their children simply saying no.

It's a loving no. And I might say that God says yes as often as he can, as long as that yes is consistent with his purposes and his plans. But sometimes God does say no, but when he does, he gives us a new promise. There's something else that God gave David that day. God gave him new intimacy, new intimacy in a new relationship with him. You'll notice it says in verse 18, then David the king went in and sat before the Lord and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house that thou has brought me thus far? And yet this was insignificant in thine eyes, O Lord God, for thou has spoken also of the house of thy servant concerning the distant future.

And this is the custom of man, O Lord. And amore again, what can David say to thee for thou knowest thy servant, O Lord? Verse 22, thou art great, O Lord, for there is none like thee and there is no God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And David spills out before the Lord his own heart, and he and God are closer than they have ever been. You know, sometimes when God says no, here's what he does.

He says, Look, I'm not going to fulfill that desire that you're asking about, but I am going to give you the fulfillment of another desire which is even more basic, which is even more necessary, and that is a need for myself. Because at the end of the day, that is always, always our greatest need. So we come to God occupied with our need and end occupied with our God. Blessed are those who can submit because in acceptance, there is peace. I've written a book entitled Growing Through Conflict, Lessons from the Life of David. And I wrote it to help people understand that in the midst of our ups and downs, God is there. David experienced all the emotions, all the failures, all the joys that you and I have ever had. And yet at the end, as he dies, even a failure as a father, and this does not justify his failure, but he dies with his God.

And that's the way in which all of us want to die. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Go to And by the way, thanks in advance for helping us. We appreciate your generosity. It's because of people like you, running to win is heard around the world., or you can pick up the phone right now and you can call 1-888-218-9337. In the midst of a world that has lost its way, let's hold hands together, even as we think about ministry and leading people to saving faith in Christ. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. And so, God makes a promise to David. Erwin Lutzer has brought part one of Conflict with Unanswered Prayer, the seventh message in his series, Growing Through Conflict, a study in the life of King David. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-25 21:27:20 / 2023-01-25 21:36:07 / 9

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