Good morning everyone. I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas day and week. I was truly blessed this Christmas, but as always, this time of the year seems to go by way too fast. As I have been praying about this coming weekend and what the Lord wanted to have for us as his people, I was continually brought to look at where the Lord wants to take us in the coming year and where He wants our hearts to rest during this year.
For many of us we take the new year time to consider where we have been over the past year and where we would like to be in the year to come. For example, my family and I have been working on some financial goals over the last year and in the coming year my son will enter his first year of university. I think it will be a challenging time for both my son and us as his parents. Today, we are going to take a moment from considering what has happened in the past to now look to what the Lord wants to reveal to each of us in the days to come. I would like you to consider the question; as a believer in Christ, what are your expectations? What do you expect or anticipate of your Lord in the year to come? Where would you like to be as a believer in Christ, by the end of 2017? We need to ask ourselves, how do we get to where we would like to be as believers by this time next year? What do we need to do in order to see the fulfillment of all that Lord has for us in the year to come? Let’s turn today to the book of 2 Kings chapter 5, where we will see an individual’s perspective of the greatness of God and how it was changed so that he might see God’s truth in his life.
Scripture – 2 Kings 5:1-14 (ESV)
Naaman Healed of Leprosy
5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Engaging the Word
A Spiritual Awareness of God’s Grace
In this passage of scripture, we are brought into this story of a man, who in his lost state completely miscues both his position in this life and his expectations of the workings of God in his life. In verse 1 of this passage we see as Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army and as we can see in this text, it is brought to light that Naaman is a great man, one held in high favor and one who was defined by his valor or his bravery. He was a man who was self-made, one who even within the chronicles of Jewish tradition was thought to be the individual to have put the arrow into King Saul. Yet, in all his valor and even within all the money that he had what we discover here is that he was beset by the disease of leprosy. Leprosy is a horrific disease, particularly during those times. Leprosy began as small, red spots on the skin, however before too long the spots get bigger, and start to turn white. Pretty soon the spots spread over the whole body and hair begins to fall out – first from the head, then everywhere else. As things get worse, finger nails and toenails become loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of fingers and toes begin to rot and fall off piece by piece. Gums begin to shrink and they can’t hold the teeth anymore, so each of them is lost. Leprosy keeps eating away at your face until literally the nose, the palate, and even the eyes rot – and the victim wastes away until death. It is a horrific disease, and it is for this reason that the Israelites would separate the lepers from rest of society. However for Syrian society the lepers were allowed to maintain their place in society. This is what this great man of valor had to face in this life. He had by all means in life all that he could have ever wanted. He had fame, he had money, he was defined as a good man by those around him and yet he resided within the wake of hopelessness for the future. On the other side of this story, we see a little girl in verse 2 and 3 of this text, that had been captured by Naaman and his Syrian armies and was now serving as a slave in the Naaman’s home. This little girl had done nothing wrong, but had been stolen from her home by those who would kill the loved one’s that she cherished. We don’t know, but perhaps her parents had been taken as slaves as well or maybe they had been killed by the many Syrian incursions. Yet in this horrid circumstance, to the very individuals who had destroyed her life, this little girl reaches out in mercy, kindness and faith to reveal to Naaman that there is hope in the God whom she serves. Under all accounts by mankind’s standards, this little girl would have had the right to let this man rot by the disease that held his life.
As we look at this portion of this passage one cannot help but consider the implications of this truth in our own lives. Many of us come into the church through different ways, whether it is through ministries in the church, or loved ones who invite us, or some of us have grown up our entire lives within the church. Very few of us show up at the front door of the church, completely aware that we are completely lost and that we desperately need Jesus in our lives. I praise God, that many of us come to this understanding as we become a part of the body of believers. However, unfortunately in this journey of many of our lives, we embrace this understanding that there are elements in our lives that we need God to take care of, but that there are characteristics that we bring to the table of God, never fully embracing the truth that we bring nothing to the table of our Creator. Paul put it this way 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Within the truth that Paul speaks, is a spiritual understanding that you and I need to embrace if we are to fully grasp the significance of God’s fulfillment in our lives. It is in our own weakness that we can experience the strength of our Savior. Whether we are talking about the struggles that we face in sin, in relationships, in emotional baggage, in ministry or anything else in this life. The sooner we can embrace this truth in our soul, the sooner we can experience the healing that God has for us in the water of the Jordan.
An Expectation for the presence of God – not an expectation for the glory of God
Next in this passage we see as Naaman and the Syrian king organize a way in which they can get Naaman to the healing that he needed in his life. It is evident by the Israel’s king that he evidently did not have a relationship with our Lord, so he responds by wondering why Syria was wanting to war against him again. Praise the Lord, that Elisha is listening to our Lord and steps between the Israelite king and Naaman. So Naaman goes to Elisha expecting a certain element of pomp and circumstance to carry this moment. He expects Elisha to come out to him when he arrives, but instead Elisha sends out one of his servants to give Naaman instructions for healing. Naaman expects Elisha to conjure up some amazing healing moment, by calling upon the name of Lord and by waving his arms back and forth. Yet, Naaman does quite the opposite of this by giving Naaman specific instruction to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman even points out that Elisha didn’t send him to wash in the cleaner waters of Abana and Pharpar, rather he sends him to the lesser, dirtier Jordan river. It is in his expectation anger, that Naaman’s servants have to come and point out to this man of pride that healing awaits in the dirty waters of the Jordan river.
Because of the glamorization of Christianity, we as humankind expect the fireworks of God to strike every element of our lives. When we ask for healing in our lives, we expect God to just provide healing in mighty miraculous ways. When we are faced with failure in our lives and we seek God for victory, we expect immediate results. When we are hungry because we don’t have provision in our lives, we just expect God to magically give us the provision we expect in this life. When we are struggling with our relationships (our children, our spouses, our parents) and we bring these relationships to our Lord we expect God to just instantaneously fix our relationships. When we embrace ministry in our lives, we just expect God to fill our pews or give us exactly what is needed in ministry. Yet experiencing the mighty hand of God is a process or in today’s terms a journey of surrender. As our Lord illustrated in Luke 9:57-58 “57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”” This truth that our Lord speaks to his disciples and followers was a specific illustration to one of the many barriers that prevent us from seeing the hand of God in our lives. This truth tells us that to see God’s hand in our lives, we are called to surrender all in our lives. That is why the journey of embracing God in our lives is so critical. Yes, God does sometimes offer miracles in our lives for the purposes of His glory. However, more often our Lord requires that we go through a process of trusting and surrendering all elements in lives so that we fully understand the fullness of His presence and purpose in our lives through his miracle. Because we are a society of drive through gratification, too often we lose what God wants in our lives because we give up on the process of the journey of faith, trust and surrender, because quite candidly we want it now and we want it our way. Naaman in this illustration wanted healing in his life within the context of what he defined as acceptable, yet our Lord illustrated to Naaman that day and to you and I today, that “not my will, but thy will be done in my life”.
Conclusion: Realizing where we are going
At the beginning of today’s message, we asked the question, how do we get to where our Lord wants us to be by the end of 2017? For some of us, it may be realizing peace in our lives. For others, it may be realizing victory of sin. For others, it may be seeing healing in our lives. For others, it may be realizing the provisions of our Lord. It is whatever our Lord has put on your heart. At the end of this passage of scripture we see as Naaman in his anger, because God has not answered the way he would like him to. He begins the process of returning to where he came from,
- because he didn’t get the respect that he deserved, (because our needs trump God’s purpose)
- because the hand of God was not revealed in some majestic way, and (because instant gratification supersedes God’s presence)
- because he was asked to clean himself in what he defined was a dirty river. (because man’s definition of the hand of God is better than experiencing the hand of God).
These are all reasons, why Naaman was about to go back to Syria having never experienced God’s miraculous hand in his life, and unfortunately it is some of the many reasons why we don’t experience the miraculous hand of God in our lives. If there is an element of your life where you need God’s hand in, I would ask that you look to the servants of God in your life just as Naaman did that day and listen to their begging cries. Place your pride to the side, expect the hand of God in your life by pressing into the process of his presence, not the drive through of Christianity; and respond to his call upon your life by washing yourself in the dirty Jordan river. If Naaman had not listened to his servant that day, Naaman may have never received healing in his life. God’s miraculous hand is sometimes a ten-step process and not a one step process but our response to his call upon our lives should always be a resounding “not my will but you’re will be done”.
Today we have looked at the truth through Naaman that it is in our own weakness that we can experience the strength of our Savior. If we desire to see the hand of God in our lives, we have to let go of all that we are so that we can experience who He is in our lives. We have discovered that we are called to go through a process of trusting and surrendering all elements in lives so that we fully understand the fullness of His presence and purpose in our lives through his miracle. That spiritual drive through gratification is not what our Lord calls us to but rather He calls us to a journey of faith, a journey of trust and a journey of surrender. Finally, we are called to respond even if it means that we have to step into the dirty waters of Jordan. Sometimes God’s call upon our lives is not an easy pill to swallow but if we will just answer his call, healing is waiting our souls.