Jul 8, 2019
Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls, I can tell you from experience, it is an awe inspiring sight. Standing on the bow of the Maiden of the Mist, feeling the spray of that avalanche of water, hearing the thunder of millions of gallons of water rushing past. It is something you never forget. When you feel the mighty power surrounding you, little doubt remains about the existence of a powerful God of creation. Someone did this. It didn’t just happen.
The same feeling rushes into your head when you stand at the precipice of a volcano and peer down the side of throat, feel the heat of the lava boiling below, and know the immense geothermal energy trapped within that opening, ready to spew its lava out across the countryside. Or stand in the center of what used to be a city ravaged by a category five hurricane and see what the wind and water have done to that place. Not much stands that isn’t damaged. In fact, not much stands. We recognize immediately the power God can unleash on the world. His heart and awesome power most often restrained, but ever present in nature.
We think about his power and the stories of his miracles, the calming of the storm, the feeding of the thousands, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead. We think, “I want to be part of that. I want to be part of those majestic events. I want to experience what those first disciples experienced by witnessing first hand some of those miracles. Then my faith will really take off. Then I can really be a great witness for God since I can tell of his great miracles and be an instrument in those actions.
There is a story in the Old Testament, though, that reminds us of what our walk with God will be like most of the time and what he expects from us most of the time. It comes from yesterday’s lectionary reading from 2 Kings 5:
Naaman’s master considered him an extraordinary man. He was the military commander of Aram’s army, and he had won many important battles for Aram by the power of the Eternal. Naturally he was greatly esteemed by his king. Naaman was a fierce warrior, but he also had a skin disease.
Now one time, the Arameans went out in raiding parties and took a little girl from Israel as their prisoner. The little girl became a servant to Naaman’s wife.
Girl (to Naaman’s wife): If only my master could be near the prophet in Samaria, the prophet there could heal my master’s disease.
Naaman became hopeful, and he went and told his king what the little girl from Israel said.
King of Aram: I am going to write a letter to Israel’s king, and I want you to take it to him immediately.
Naaman left with the king’s letter in his hand, plus 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and 10 sets of fine clothing. Naaman handed the letter to Israel’s king, and the king read it.
King of Aram’s Message: The man carrying this letter is my servant, Naaman. He has a skin disease, and I request that you heal him.
King of Israel (ripping his clothing): Who does he think I am—God? Why does Aram’s king think I have the power to kill and make alive again? What in the world makes him think that I can heal you of your disease? It is obvious that Aram’s king is trying to create trouble between us.
Elisha, the man of God, received word that Israel’s king had ripped his clothing, so he sent a message to Israel’s king.
Elisha’s Message: What has caused you to rip your clothing? Tell the man who has come to you for healing to come to me. Then he will be assured that a prophet lives in Israel.
The king told Naaman to go find Elisha, so Naaman showed up at Elisha’s door with his horses and chariots. Elisha did not show his face to Naaman, but instead sent instructions: “Wash yourself in the Jordan River seven times. The waters will heal you, and your skin will be back to normal. You will be cleansed.”
Naaman boiled with anger as he left Elisha. He had come to his house expecting something much different.
Naaman: What is this! I came here thinking that Elisha would come outside and call upon the name of the Eternal One his God, and that Elisha’s hand would pass over my sores and heal my skin disease, not the waters of the Jordan River . The Abanah and Pharpar Rivers in Damascus are greater rivers than all the rivers of Israel combined, so why couldn’t I just go bathe in those and be healed?
Naaman then stormed away, boiling with anger. Later his servants approached and spoke to him with respect.
Naaman’s Servants: Father, if the prophet had told you to do some important thing, wouldn’t you have done what he asked? Why is it difficult for you to follow his instructions when he tells you, “Bathe yourself in the Jordan River, and be cleansed”?
So Naaman swallowed his pride, walked down to the Jordan River, and washed himself seven times, just as the man of God had instructed him to do. There, the miracle occurred. Naaman’s disease was healed: his skin was as new as an infant’s, and he was clean from the disease. Naaman and all his entourage went back to the man of God.
Naaman: I am convinced that there is no God who exists in the entire world like the True God in Israel. Please accept this gift from me, your humble servant.
Elisha: As certain as the life of the Eternal whom I worship, I refuse to take any gifts. Naaman tried again to give Elisha a gift, but Elisha would not take it.
Naaman: OK. If you won’t take my gift, at least allow me to take two mule-loads of earth. I, your servant, will no longer give burnt offerings or sacrifices to other gods. The Eternal One is my only God now. May the Eternal One forgive me when I walk into the house of Rimmon, the storm god of Aram, to worship there beside my master. As his first officer, I must be by his side wherever he goes, even when he worships. May He forgive me for bowing down in that place.
In this story, Naaman learned, as we heard in Elijah’s story a few weeks ago, that God doesn’t necessarily care about the grandiose, the spectacular, the awe-inspiring. He wants us to understand that he is God always. In every circumstance and every situation. Naaman needed help. In his day, there was no cure for leprosy and he had it. Soon he would be banished from civilization because of the disease.
Aram wanted Naaman around because of his military prowess. Naaman wanted to be around. He certainly didn’t want to know the isolation and stigma leprosy carried in those times. But soon he would not be able to hide the sores, the symptoms, and he would be among those banished from others, forced to hide himself and cry out “unclean” when anyone neared him.
But a servant girl told him about a miracle making prophet in Israel, Elisha. It was worth a chance. There was nothing to lose. Naaman went. He expected something special. He expected this man of God to come out and perform some kind of special ritual, some incantation, some soothing salve to put on his body, some potion he would drink every day. Instead, Elisha didn’t even come to the door. He sent his servant out to tell him to go wash in the filthy Jordan River seven times.
Naaman was livid. He was an important man. How dare the prophet not even speak to him. Who did Elisha think he was? After all, he just came from the king. And his king sent him. Israel’s king was a vassal to Aram and Naaman was Aram’s right hand man. This prophet didn’t even take the time to come out of his shabby little shack and greet him. Now he wanted him to go wash in the Jordan River? Hrmph! Not on your life!
I grew up in Tennessee. In the Smoky mountains, the headwaters of some of the creeks rivers that flow into the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and others that feed into the Mississippi River are crystal clear. Many of them I still wouldn’t have a problem dipping my hand into those headwaters and drinking their clean, clear water. But drink from the Mississippi River? Not on your life. The Mississippi? Never. They have become so polluted over the years through industrial waste and outgrowth of people dumping whatever they please into the river, you have no idea what might happen if you drank that unfiltered water.
The Jordan River was like that even in Naaman’s day. Dirty brown water where everyone did their laundry, dumped their waste, and every other imaginable disgusting thing. And Elisha wanted him to wash in this filthy river not just once, but seven times. He would be sicker than he was. He just knew it! Why should he stoop so low as to infect himself in this countries filth? There were cleaner rivers in Samaria, he would just go back there and wash himself. After all, water was water, right?
It wasn’t about the water at all, though. It was about obedience. Just like it is with us. Why would God entrust us with massive, spectacular things, if he can’t trust us with minor, simple things? I used to counsel people that came to work for me in similar terms. Everyone is on a leash. If I’m responsible for the outcome of events, I want to know what people that work for me are doing. I want to shape what happens so I know the outcome will be what I want the outcome to be. So when someone first comes into the team, I don’t know how they work, what they think, how they interpret my instructions. So they are on a short leash. I want frequent reports. The tasks are simple. The projects are inconsequential to the total effort if they fail.
But the more I get to know the person, their work, their trustworthiness, the longer leash. I don’t need to check as often or as thoroughly. The leash is still there if I’m responsible for the outcome. I never let go of the leash, but instead of a two foot leash, it may become a six foot or ten foot or thirty foot leash. The more I can trust that someone who works for me understands how to interpret my desired outcomes and how to get there, the less I need to overwatch what they do.
I think it is the same with God. The more he can trust us with the little things in life, the more he can trust us with the big things in life. The more we trust him, the more he trusts us. Why would he take us to the moon if we’ve never climbed a ladder? As you look at the lives of biblical characters, I think you’ll see that pattern of growth in all of them. God gave them small things to do before they could be trusted with greater things. He knew their heart, but tested them first so they knew their own heart, too.
Do you want to see great, spectacular, monumental things happen around you? Then take care of the little things around you. Pay attention to the everyday, mundane activities that need to be handled diligently. Watch for opportunities to do the things no one will ever see or know about and take care of those with no fanfare. When God can trust you with the little things in life, he will begin to trust you with the bigger things in life. Remember the story of the three servants and the talents. Take care of the small things and God will reward you richly.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.