Monday, June 20, 2011

Barriers to Belief

…Barriers to Belief…

(2 Kings 5:1-14)  1 And Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man before his master, and honourable, for by him Jehovah had given deliverance to Syria; and he was a mighty man of valour, but a leper. 2 And the Syrians had gone out in bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 And she said to her mistress, Oh, would that my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! then he would cure him of his leprosy. 4 And he went and told his lord saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. 5 And the king of Syria said, Well! go, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of raiment. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, And now, when this letter comes to thee, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest cure him of his leprosy. 7 And it came to pass when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his garments, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks an occasion against me. 8 And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his garments, that he sent to the king, saying, Why hast thou rent thy garments? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
9 And Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11 And Naaman was wroth, and went away and said, Behold, I thought, He will certainly come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean? And he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants drew near, and spoke to him and said, My father, if the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he says to thee, Wash and be clean? 14 Then he went down, and plunged himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God. And his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. [1]

            The story of Naaman has a lot to tell us today.  In it we begin to see certain principles emerge, principles that are in effect today, principles that if we let them, will become barriers to our belief, and cause us problems as we seek out the kingdom of God.  These barriers fall into place with what we have been learning of the Holy Spirit, because, they tend to reveal to basic attitudes, known or not, that can cause us to run aground of God’s plan for our lives. 

For those of you who are more familiar with me, I like to look at Scripture in different ways, to get you to see threads underneath the stories, to look at them from a little different perspective.  In the story of Naaman, we want to see how these threads connect, and add to our study, thus adding to what God wants us to see.  Any move that God does in our lives usually consists of these three threads:

(1)   An attitude or pattern of behavior on our part is identified.
(2)   A Sovereign God establishes within us who really is in charge.
(3)   An unknown instrument of faith is used by God to change the way we do things.

To see these threads, let’s look at Naaman.  Naaman was a great man.  A warrior, captain of the host of the king of Syria.  Bible says he was honorable and a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.  Now, without a doubt, Naaman was also a proud man, as we’ll see later on.  The point here is, this is thread number one.  The attitude of the man is being established.  Remember that here is a man who leads armies, he was the man who the Lord used to engineer the deliverance of Syria.  He was wealthy, a man that commanded respect, yet he was smote with leprosy.  Still he was proud.  Pride is the original sin you know.  It was pride that brought down Lucifer; it has been pride that has brought down many.  Pride has two distinct attributes associated with it:
·            It is the one vice no man is ever truly free of.
·            It is also the most unconscious fault we have.

Pride is not vanity.  The proud individual is best characterized by the example of a dictator.  A dictator cares not what people think of him, he will have his own way.  It is in this doing of things our own way that pride lives in.  Naaman was a proud man, and here the second thread is revealed.  God smites him with leprosy.  A Sovereign God proves who truly is in charge.  Now what about our third thread?  Look at vs 2 thru 4.  Here is the real heroine of the story of Naaman.  Here is the unknown instrument of  faith, the little maid, the slave of Naaman’s wife.  She told Naaman’s wife, that if only Naaman would go to see God’s prophet, Elisha, he would be healed.  That’s all.  No well maybe if he went to see him he might get lucky and be healed, no, it was if he would, he would be!  What faith!  This little girl just knew that God would deliver her master.  She knew her God.  She knew that it was a Sovereign God that was in control of our destinies- in spite of what usually occurs: we wish (or think) we are (or were). 

            Wanting to be in control is the root cause of most of our own troubles.  Two principles emerge that both believers and unbelievers share. 

(1)   Principle #1: Most unbelievers (and more than a few believers) are willing to go God’s way as long as God goes their way (we’ll see the examples of these principles in a minute).

(2)   Principle #2: Many believers end up going their own way, making it look like God’s way.

We live in troubled times.  Man, since the fall, has been trying to live in paradise, to create a new Eden without the controlling influence of God.  Crime, wars, murders, famines; the list is endless.  How does man seek to solve these problems?  With his own solutions.  In his pride, man thinks that he can do it his own way, but there is no solution, no political or academia solution that can solve these without a Sovereign God taking charge.  The world, the unbelieving world sees this, we as believers do also, yet, too many of us go our own way and act as if it is God’s way.  For example: we sell the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Bible is the largest selling book in history.  Ad campaigns, rallies, announcements about the latest greatest translation, flyers, commercials, telethons.  The word of God is peddled, packaged and marketed.  The ways of the world have crept into the realm of God.  How can we not help but think that this hurts God’s heart, to see His people so in tune with how the world does business?  Can we truly justify doing things our own way by saying “God has asked me (or told me) to do this” when we know the truth?  To sin is bad enough, but to justify the sin by using the name of God?  How much worse is this?  If the world sins, dwelling in its vices and debaucheries, that is to be expected.  If the one who calls himself by Christ’s name falls, this vice ridden world yells “Hypocrite!”  Vice will defame virtue, for virtue has gone her own way, instead of God’s way.  We as Christians must ask ourselves “Are we going our own way, and making it look like God’s way” or “Are we going God’s way, even if it hurts”. Should not the Word of God be given freely to all, so that all may hear of the One who loved us enough to die for us?

We see in 2 kings, that Naaman wanted it his way.  He went to see Elisha, who wouldn’t even go to the door to meet this great man.  He expected God to be impressed with all the wealth he had brought to buy his healing, he expected a wave of a hand and TAA DAA!  Be healed.  What he got was a servant to come to the door and tell him to go dip in the Jordon 7 times and be healed.  Anger and resentment flared in him, why the waters of Syria were better than the dirty water of Jordon!  Yet, in the end, he submitted to God’s way, and was cleansed.

Contrast this now with Elisha’s servant, Gehazi.  Elisha had received Elijha’s mantle.  Gehazi had been with Elisha from probably the start.  Elijha had performed 8 miracles, recorded in the Bible.  Elisha received a double portion, and had done 16.  Gehazi saw them all.  Now Elisha isn’t your ordinary evangelist.  After Naaman was healed, he came and tried to pay Elisha with the treasures he had brought from Syria.  2 kings 5:16 clearly shows principle #3: God’s ministers ought not to make merchandise of His ministry.  Naaman came with new attitudes, those of thanksgiving (v. 15), reverence (v. 17), and humility (v. 18).  A Sovereign God affected those changes, all because of a little maid’s faith.  Gehazi, who had witnessed miracle after miracle, who walked with God’s mighty prophet, who on the outside, appeared clean and going God’s way, grew greedy in his spirit.  He lied to Naaman behind his master’s back and made a gain for himself, but was exposed in the end.  He went his own way, making it look like God’s way, and lost.  Naaman’s curse became his.

We must be weary of playing the hypocrite.  God’s word says “blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God..”  What can the world offer you that you would become or remain a hypocrite to God?  If you desire to taste all that is Good, all that is pure, would you lie or cheat your way to get it?  Nothing, no wealth, position, no THING, can compare to seeing the face of God.  Does material gain mean so much to us that we go our way and expect God to rubber-stamp it?

We must ask ourselves:
·        What is the relationship between our will and our faith?

(Luke 4:16-27)  16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? 23 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you,  No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. [2]
Here in these passages, Christ shows this relationship.  We want God to work, but truthfully, we will miss the miracles of God because we don’t expect Him to work.  According to our faith, it will be given to us.  We are comfortable.  We are content with our creeds, our songs, our sermons, our what-evers, and we no longer expect God to breakthrough.  If we don’t expect it, it won’t happen.  What is our relationship of faith to will?
·        What is our relationship between truth and reality?

Truth was the original sacrifice.  Christ was the Truth, the Life, and the Way.  Truth, if we go our own way, is the next sacrifice.  It must be that we preach Christ and Christ alone.  If this is not what is preached, then the reality is truth has been sacrificed-again.  What does it profit us to crucify our Lord again, if we don’t accept the first sacrifice as truth?  We hear prosperity, we hear about blessings, we hear all that tickles the ears, all that pleases our souls, but we don’t come expecting, we come to be entertained, and promised a chicken in every pot.  When the storm clouds hit and the levies break, those that we should have been telling truth to cry “Hypocrite!  Lies!  Where is your God?”  We’ve gone our own way, and said it was God’s.  Truth hurts.  Truth preaches sacrifice, truth preaches suffering, truth says that there is no other way than God’s way.  Truth says that with God’s way, pain there might be, but joy follows in the morning.  This is the relationship between truth and reality.

A man of pride, a Sovereign God, and an unknown servant who in faith came expecting.  Pride was bowed down, God healed, and faith was proven, barriers to belief broken.  Where are we today?  Do we look at God like He is a game show, where it is the prizes that excite us, where the roar of the crowd drowns out that small still voice?  Or do we come, and bow our knees expecting God to be God?  In the end, what prevails?  Faith, or will?   Don’t tell yourself “It must be from God ‘cause it looks so good to me!”  Tell yourself and God, “Not my will, but thine be done…”

May God richly bless you this day, Amen.

[1] Darby, J. N., 1890 Darby Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.
[2] The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

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