As we live and experience life, we are continually reminded that Outcomes, what we may have set our hearts, and all of our plans in achieving, may never come to pass. When you think about your life, what’s more important to you? . . .
~ View copy of sermon – (2 Kings 5: 1 – 14)
Sermon Title: WHEN OUTCOMES ARE NOT GUARANTEED / 2 Kings 5: 1 – 14
Sunday, July 7, 2019
2 Kings 5: 1 – 14
Series on Elijah-Elijah #3
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
WHEN OUTCOMES ARE NOT GUARANTEED
“But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ’Indeed, I said to myself, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the Lord his God, and eave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.”
When you think about your life, what matters most to you. Anticipated outcomes or the journey leading to the outcome? What is most important to you, your arrival to your desired destination or the journey that led to your arrival? Well, I guess we each might have differing answers based upon what matters most to us. Some of our Elders of Session and church members might recall that many years, possibly 2003-4, we entered into a season of Strategic Planning that was led by our good friend Rev. Dr. Kikanza Nuri-Robins.
We are doing an assessment of where our church and neighborhood had been, where our church and neighborhood presently were and the changes we felt needed to be made in order for the church to experience new growth. And as we began this planning process, we had so many questions, of where she was leading us, what results would we arrive at, how would all of this help us in becoming a growing church. And she would continually remind us, “Just trust the Process and you’ll end up where you need to be.”
Well, as we live and experience life, we are continually reminded that Outcomes, what we may have set our hearts, and all of our plans in achieving, may never come to pass, because life has so many unpredictable variables that might enter in to our plans that we had not considered or might not ever have any control over. Maybe this is what the Jazz guitarist and singer George Benson was trying to communicate to us, many years ago when he recorded the song “Everything Must Change.”
Everything must change, Nothing stays the same, Everyone must change Nothing stays the same.
The young become the old, Mysteries do unfold, Cause that’s the way of time, Nothing and no one goes unchanged.
There are not many things in life you can be sure of. Except,
Rain comes from the clouds, And sun lights up the sky, And humming birds do fly,
Winter turns to spring, Wounded heart will heal, Never much too soon, Everything must change.”
When Outcomes are not guaranteed. So many today are getting their education and learning valuable trades, but because of the competition and our economy, there are no guarantees that one will immediately be hired for the job in their chosen career.
So often in this life, when it comes to our relationship with God, through our prayers, through our worship, through are seeking to live holy unto the Lord, through our seeking to love our neighbors as we do ourselves, we are seeking desired outcomes. And many times, God throws us a curve ball. Sometimes God asks us to do some strange things that make no sense at all to our human reasoning. While we look to outcomes, Scripture continually reveals that God is more interested in teaching us to trust Him and the process He is guiding us through rather than the outcomes.
The fruit of our relationship with God reveals, that if we trust God, and His process, we will end up where God wants us to be, which may or may not be where we thought we would be. So, what’s most important to us? Is it the End result, the outcome, or the journey in how God got us there? Such was the experience of Naaman whose story is recorded in 2 Kings 5.
Naaman the central figure in our text for this morning was the grandson of Benjamin and the commander in chief of the armies of king Ben-hadad of Syria. Naaman was a great general who had won Syria’s deliverance from Israel in an earlier battle, the Syrians being one of Israel’s constant enemies. He was a great man and honorable in the eyes of his king because the Lord had given victory to Syria through Naaman’s leadership. Naaman had received every honor that his military skill and position within Syrian society could offer him. He was military commander in chief whose record spoke for itself as he marched into one battle after another bringing victory to his people and their king.
“He was also a mighty man of valor,” records the NKJV, “but he was a leper.” After having given us such a positive depiction of Naaman it is almost anticlimactic to footnote his record with the fact that Naaman suffered from leprosy. Life is like that, often times a mixture of good news with some bad news. Some peaks with some valleys, some joys with some tears. Some prosperity with some adversity. We are always being reminded in some way of our human frailties.
The word ‘but’ when used as a conjunction in language suggests that no matter what has been said before, it is clouded and or influenced by the shadow of what is to be said hereafter. Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Naaman suffered from a disease that carried with it, social stigma, shame and alienation. In Naaman’s time as well as during the life of Jesus, leprosy was viewed as divine punishment from God, much like many who viewed the bubonic plague during the medieval times and as many now would view those suffering with HIV/AIDS.
So, while being revered for his military victories in battle, respected for his value to the stability of Syria as a free sovereign kingdom, he was scorned as a person and human being. How often do we seek to identify a person or to reduce the significance and value of a person’s life by a cultural, societal or religious label? Being homeless ought to not define the total value of the person. Teen mother-father, high school drop-out, at-risk children, adopted, widow, divorced, single.
Fighting an addiction, does not have to define the total contributions nor value of who the person is. Being unemployed or financially broke, should never be used in equating the value or worth of an individual. No label can ever fully define the human being whom God has created in His own image. Labels do not have to define the person, their value or God-given potential. “Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”
Enter into this story two prophets. The first whom no one would have guessed would be used by God in a prophetic way. She was a young slave girl, whom the Syrian armies had brought away and made captive during one of their many raids into Israel. This young maiden became a slave to Naaman’s wife. Being a slave, female and young, rendered her irrelevant to most people of her day. Yet God saw her as a person of great value because she alone knew that in Israel there was a prophet named Elisha who could cure her master Naaman of his leprosy.
We should never become so confident, self- reliant, or in to our own intellect and wisdom of experiences that we cannot discern and hear God speaking to us through the voices and lives of those whom we might tend to overlook or disregard. She was young, she was a slave, she was female, yet God spoke a prophetic word through her mouth, saying, “I know of a prophet in Israel who can heal your husband, my Master Naaman of his leprosy.” Ironically the only hope Naaman had, was delivered through this young girl.
Her message got to Naaman and king, Ben-hadad. The king sent huge amounts of wealth with Naaman to the king of Israel with a letter saying “I have sent you Naaman my servant that you may heal him of his leprosy.” When Naaman got to the king the king said, “I am no God.” When word reached Elisha of Naaman’s request, Elisha sent for Naaman. Naaman went to the house of Elisha with his horses, and his chariots, he had his entourage you know, and he stood outside the house of Elisha, but Elisha would not even come out. But sent his servant Gehazi out to meet Naaman with the instructions “Tell him go wash in the Jordan River seven times.”
Well, Naaman got angry. Naaman got offended because here is this mighty man of battle, and this prophet will not even come out of the house to meet him. “Who are you Elisha to talk to me like that?” Adding insult to injury, Naaman was instructed to go wash in the Jordan river after Naaman had suggested he send him to wash in the rivers of Damascus, that were better than all the waters in Israel. That is why faith is so important. Because faith looks beyond human reasoning, and logic, and the ways of this world, and faith looks to God.
If you know anything about the Jordan river it is a dirty river. And because Naaman was willing to swallow his pride and obey the command of the prophet, he went down to the river and washed seven times. To wash in a great river was one thing, but to wash in a small dirty muddy river was quite something else. God was focused on the process requiring Naaman’s obedience, while Naaman was focused on the outcome, he just wanted to be healed. God was looking for trust, while Naaman was looking for results. I wonder how often have we been more focused on the Outcome, how its’ going to turn out rather than keeping our focus on God?
Through Elisha’s command to go wash in the Jordan, God was asking Naaman to trust Him and the process and not the outcome. Finally, Naaman humbled himself and did what the prophet commanded. Sometimes to get the blessing that we need, we have to be willing to humble ourselves and do what God says do, even when it sounds illogical, and focus on the process rather than what the end results are going to be. Because nothing is guaranteed. The only thing that is guaranteed in this life is that God is faithful.
And the miracle for Naaman was not in the washing but it was in his obedience. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.” Sometimes we don’t know what step to take, what move to make but if we just trust in God’s guidance, and leave our doubts behind, as Naaman did, God will surely lead us out. Naaman washed seven times and he was healed. Came up with skin like baby’s skin. The dipping in those muddy waters was like a baptism. Naaman had a conversion experience.
He went down and came up not only cleansed of his leprosy but a convert and worshipper of Jehovah Yahweh. That’s why God reminds us in Scripture: “My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are my ways your ways, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above the ways of human beings and are past finding out.”