Browsing Tag

Naaman

Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Warfare

Problems in Perspective

March 23, 2016

 

 

What’s the default storyline that you’re operating in? When something goes well are you the achieving hero or a person carried along by something greater than yourself? When something goes wrong are you a victim or a protagonist preparing to overcome the odds?

We humans can’t help but tell ourselves stories. We interpret every situation through the lenses of the stories we’ve bought into, regardless of how accurate they are. God is a storyteller, writing something amazing on the pages of history. In his image we’re created as storytellers, and in many ways the stories we tell ourselves define our quality of life. Our stories define our perspective on life, for better or worse. Our stories – if we could externalize them – would give clear evidence as to whether we are functional atheists or practical, real-life believers in the God of Jesus Christ.

There’s a scene in 2 Kings 5 that illustrates the radical difference that two different perspectives – two different stories – can have. I’ve written about this scene before but from a slightly different angle and felt that this concept merited a post of its own.

Here’s the story, in brief. Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, has leprosy. He’s dying. One of his wife’s servant girls comments that there’s a prophet in Israel who might be able to heal him. Naaman’s master, the king of Aram, lets Naaman head on over to Israel with somewhere upwards of $60,000 worth of gold and silver plus ten fine sets of clothing and a letter saying that the king of Israel should cure Naaman of his leprosy. The King of Israel receives the letter and isn’t so thrilled about it. The text reads,

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.”

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.”
– 2 kings 5:7-8

A Problem

The king of Israel’s story interprets this letter negatively. His perspective shows him a big problem. Big enough for him to tear his clothes and begin mourning. He believes that if he doesn’t heal Naaman the Syrian army is coming for him. The question is, why is this his perspective? The text gives us several hints.

  • He sees Naaman as an enemy. The king’s response is a petulant child passing blame; “See how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
  • His false humility is really masked-over fear and lack of faith. “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?”
  • He doesn’t realize the power of his position as the king of God’s people, or the resources at his disposal. He’s not God, but he is the king of God’s people.
  • He’s more focused on himself than on God or Naaman. His story is about him, a victim at the hands of the more powerful Naaman.

An Opportunity

The very next paragraph we see Elisha operating in the same situation with a totally different perspective. He’s living in a different story. Where the king of Israel sees Naaman’s arrival and request as a problem that is too big for him, Elisha sees an opportunity for God to show his power. Contrast Elisha’s view with the king’s:

  • He sees Naaman as needy rather than as an attacker. “Let him come now to me, that he may know…”
  • He knows his position and authority. He’s a prophet of God, which means God listens when he prays. “Elisha the man of God…there is a prophet in Israel”
  • His boldness is humility because it’s inspired by God. He believes in the power of God and acts accordingly.
  • He’s more focused on God and Naaman than himself.

Our Opportunity

Elisha’s perspective enables him to step forward in faith and ultimately see Naaman healed of his leprosy and become a worshipper of the God of Israel. The king’s perspective would, most likely, have led to war or at the very least Naaman’s eventual death.

Every day you and I confronted with situations that we can either view as a problem or an opportunity. What perspective are you going to live from? When you lose your job, how will you see it? When the relationship you’re in ends painfully, how will you see it? When there’s conflict in your community or the person you’re discipling goes off the deep end, how will you see it? Is it a problem that leaves you as a victim, helpless and lost? Or is it an opportunity for God to demonstrate himself in new and wonderful ways?

When we see other people’s neediness, know our position and authority in Christ, live humbly before God, and focus our eyes, minds, and spirits on Christ rather than ourselves, we’ll get to see things just as amazing as Elisha’s healing of Naaman’s leprosy. People will be blessed, restored, encouraged, and saved.

As followers of Jesus we have opportunities, not problems. God works everything for our good. Let’s work towards seeing things that way.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith

Expectations and Miracles

February 29, 2016

 

 

A week or two ago at Salem, Kelly and I’s home church here in Fargo, Pastor Glenn preached a powerful sermon from 2 Kings 5:1-14 – the story of Naaman’s healing from leprosy. You can watch or listen to the sermon here. I wanted to delve further into one of the points that Glen made during his sermon and apply it to our day-to-day relationship with God.

To set the scene, Naaman, a powerful, influential, and strong commander of the Syrian army discovers he has leprosy. He’s on the road to ostracism, slow and painful decay, and ultimately and inevitably death. Leprosy, in his day, has no cure and is highly contagious. No cure, that is, except for the miraculous healing that the God of Israel is able to do, as Naaman’s wife’s Israelite servant girl points out. Naaman heads to Israel with gifts from the Syrian king to demand that he be healed, ultimately meeting with a messenger from Elisha who tells him to go and wash in the Jordan river. Here’s the point in the story that I want us to zoom in on. It’s incredibly applicable to us today. In 2 Kings 5 we read,

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.” 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. 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. (5:10-12)

Naaman needs healing. He needs God’s intervention or he’ll die. But there’s a problem. Naaman has expectations of how God should do his intervening. If God’s actions don’t fit in Naaman’s box, he’s going to walk on, leprosy or not. God, however, wants to directly address Naaman’s issues and use his leprosy as a magnifying glass to reveal errors in his thinking. There are at least two issues that Naaman has with God’s method of healing as outlined by Elisha’s servant;

Issue 1: The person bringing the gift

Naaman is someone in a high position. He’s the commander of the army of one of the world’s superpowers. He’s expecting the top dog, Elisha himself, to come and speak to him face to face. Elisha, however, insults Naaman by sending a servant in his place, and Naaman doesn’t like the person bringing the gift. He doesn’t want to receive his healing from some second-rate servant. He wants it from the prophet himself. None of this second-hand crap.

How often we operate this way! We judge the quality of the gift based on the person who’s bringing it. We set our expectations for the quality of a sermon based on the appearance of the preacher. We expect the greatest financial support from those who are well dressed and clean cut. God, however, tends to use the most unlikely of candidates to do the greatest of things. He sends his greatest gifts through the most unexpected of sources.

Don’t prevent yourself from receiving a gift from God because you’ve discounted the person who is bringing it.

Issue 2: The method

Naaman wanted some show – some special treatment. He expected God’s healing to align with what he’d seen Syrian priests and magicians do. God, however, wants to knock down Naaman’s barriers. Wash in dirty water and be clean, Naaman. This isn’t going to be a magic show or the result of some mystical incantation.

We, like Naaman, have our expectations set for what God’s methods should be when he answers our prayers or fulfills our needs. The financial provision should come as a surprise generous gift from an anonymous donor rather than an extra side job. The beautiful romance that leads to a lasting marriage should come before we’re X years old. The healing or deliverance should be the product of one powerful explosion of the Spirit’s power rather than months or years of slow growth and restoration work.

Set aside your expectations for God’s methods. Jesus never heals the same thing the same way twice. Our God loves to do new and unexpected things. Open your eyes and be on the lookout for God’s miraculous intervention in the places where you previously least expected it.

Thankfully for Naaman his servants prevail upon him and he obeys, dipping himself in the Jordan river. He sets aside his expectations, obeys, and receiving the healing that he needed.

We serve a God who is more than able to meet every one of our needs – from miraculous bodily healing to spiritual freedom to financial and relational provision. He’s not only able, he is willing and eager to do so, as Jesus demonstrates when he responds to the beggar’s statement “If you are willing, Lord…” with the declaration, “I am willing. Be healed.” (Matthew 8:1-3)

The real question is whether or not we’re willing to receive what God is giving. Are we ready to set aside our expectations and receive God’s gift regardless of the deliverer or the method of delivery?

I certainly hope we are. Like Naaman we each are desperately in need of a miracle. Let’s be willing to receive, regardless of how our good God gives.