Would we do more, if following Jesus wasn’t so easy?

The Jordan River
The Jordan River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning while reading the Bible I came across the story of Naaman, a commander of an army who also had leprosy.  He does what any of us would probably do when facing such a severe disease, he turned to God.

 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’”  So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!

— 2 Kings 5:10-14 (NLT)

I see this passage and am struck with the question, do I do the same thing?

He is struck with a disease and approaches God for healing, and the prophet gives him a simple answer. Go wash in the Jordan River.  His response is “No way!”  I can see at least three reasons in this passage as to why he said “no” at first.  And then I have to wonder if any of them are the reason I use to avoid doing what I am told to do.

Pride

“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” 2 Kings 5:11

Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” – 2 Kings 5:12

Pride is something that is really difficult to deal with, but is the cause for so much of our disobedience to God.  And it is something that affects everyone.

For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, . . . pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” — Mark 7:21-23 NLT

Naaman wanted to receive the royal treatment, after all he was a commander of an entire army.  Yet when the prophet simply sends him a message with instructions, Naaman is greatly offended.  Instead of taking to heart what he was told to do, he lets his ego get the better of him and he walked away bitter.
I know too many people that have walked away from God, bitter towards Him, simply because God acted in some way that we didn’t want and we refuse to be humble.
Naaman then used the excuse that there are better rivers than the Jordan, so why not just use them?  Have you ever been called to do something in an area that you did not like?  Who wants to minister in the slums when you can minister to Hollywood stars and football players, right?
We have to be careful to not let our pride get in the way of our mission.  Pride in ourselves or in what area of the world we minister in.  If God calls us to pass out tracks in the slums of our city, then passing out tracks in the better areas of town is not a compromise, it’s just plain disobedience.
Naaman was not going to be healed by the water in the Jordan itself, but by obedience and humility.

Expectations

“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! -2 Kings 5:11 NLT

I cannot count the number of times that I was disappointed because God did not act in the way that I, a mere human, wanted Him, the God of the universe, to act.  How silly is that?

We expect that when we pray for healing that God will instantly heal everything about us, or that if we pray for financial help that God will have someone send us enough money for everything we “need” to take care of.

But in reality God works in many different ways, sometimes subtle, but almost always in ways we never expected.

This week I have been praying for God to help us out financially.  Later I went to the store, and I saw a few movies that I really wanted.  Normally I would just get one and go on with my day.  I tried.  I stood in the movie section for ten minutes trying to decide which movie to get when it occurred to me, I didn’t really feel like buying a movie.  I wanted the movie, but the desire to actually spend money on it was gone.  In that way God helped me financially, not by giving me money like I wanted, but by helping me not be so stupid with the money He had already provided through my paycheck.

Don’t refuse to follow God or do what He commands you to do simply because it isn’t the way you wanted Him to help.

It’s too Easy

Project365-Day4
Project365-Day4 (Photo credit: JonZenor)

“Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” – 2 Kings 5:13

This one I have seen happen to people before.  They want to follow God in some really big important way, and until they are called to do something really big and important, they do nothing.

To accept the challenge to climb a mountain or donate a large sum of money to a cause makes us feel like we are actually doing something for God.  Why?  Because not everybody can do this.

We want to help others and serve God in some way that is unique and special, not just like everyone else can do.  Anybody could give a homeless person a few dollars, but we want to be the one to help get that homeless person back on their feet and into the life they used to have.

We want to be the one that flew to another country, went on a tour of Israel, and climbed a mountain to be closer with God.  It sounds impressive; very impressive.  Because it is not something that most people will ever do.  It shows that we have more dedication and commitment to God, that you are willing to sacrifice a lot for God.

But will you sacrifice the little things, every single day, for God?

Right now I’m using this excuse to avoid tithing.  Due to my current financial situation, I cannot give $100 a week in tithes and other charities like I used to do. So I haven’t been giving anything.  I could give $10, but that isn’t as impressive as what I used to do, it’s too easy.  So I do nothing.  Sacrificing ten dollars doesn’t show much dedication and sacrifice compared to one hundred.

Easy does not mean unimportant

Another reason why I think people do not do the easy things that God calls us to  do is because we feel like if it isn’t difficult then it isn’t important.  I can say that this is not true.

Giving a few dollars to a homeless man is important to him.  Reading your Bible every day may seem unimportant because of how easy it is, but it can have the single largest impact on your life.  Giving only $10 to Gospel for Asia is important for those people who are given a Bible or clean water because of that small donation.

Serving God is easy.  Follow Him, read the Bible, and follow what God tells you to.  It’s so easy that we think it is not important.  But it is important.  It is the most important thing we can do in our entire life.

Do you use any of these excuses to avoid following God?  What are you planning on doing about that?

The Humanity of Christ

It is well known that Jesus came in the form of man, and He experienced life on earth, going through all of the problems we go through, all of the hurt we go through, and experienced pain, suffering, and loss just like the rest of us.  We all know this, but in the back of our minds is a thought that since Jesus is God made flesh, He really did not, or could not have gone through as much pain and suffering as we go through.

Great Loss

When thinking of how Jesus went through loss of personal relationships, two people come to mind.  First is Joseph, his father.  We do not know for sure what happened to Joseph, but we do know that Joseph was there when Jesus was twelve in the temple (Luke 2:28), then we never see him again in scripture. When Jesus was dying on the cross he tells John to take care of his mom, something Jesus would not have to do if his father was still alive (John 19:26-27).  This also shows that Jesus cared about his mom, he wanted her to be well taken care of, something any of us would want.

Another powerful passage in the Bible is when Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus, died.  Jesus got word that Lazarus was not feeling well and then after he died Jesus made his way to visit.  Seeing the women weeping over Lazarus and then seeing the grave himself was too much for Jesus, and “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  This simple verse showing that Jesus had compassion, felt pain, even though he knew Lazarus would not be dead for much longer, it was still painful to him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Great Suffering

I think it is downright impossible for us to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.  All to often I hear others, or even think in the back of my own mind, that what Jesus went through was bad but at least he knew the end result so it was not that bad.  How wrong can we get? Not only did Jesus get tortured and executed, but his status with God was, for the first time in all existance, severed from the Father (Mark 15:34).  Can you imagine what this would have been like? Do you think Jesus was anxious at all, or wished that he could avoid what was ahead?

Jesus did not want to go through with what was ahead and prayed for God to remove this trial from his only begotten son (John 22:42).  Jesus, “being in agony, prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (John 22:44)

Yes, Jesus was human, he had compassion, felt the pain of loss felt great anxiety. Jesus went through the pain that we went through, even more so.

So why did He do it?  Jesus prayed “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (John 22:42).  Do you not think that the loving father would take such trials from His only begotten son? But he did not, why?  Because it was the only way.

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

“He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” (Hebrews 10:12)  Jesus died, do you really understand that? Jesus, our creator, was beaten, tortured, betrayed, and executed for you!

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

John Piper, in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ writes

Therefore, this man of indestructible joy was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). This “great high priest” is not unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, becasue he was tested in every way as a man like us (Hebrews 4:14-15). He wept with those who wept (John 11:35) and rejoiced with those who rejoiced (Luke 10:27, 21). He was hungry (Matthew 4:2), he was weary (John 4:6), he was forsaken (Matthew 26:56), betrayed (Matthew 26:45), whipped (Matthew 27:26), mocked (Matthew 27:31), and crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Jesus can and did relate to us, he felt pain suffering and loss.  Why did he go through all of this pain and suffering?  Because only through Jesus can we be reconciled with God.  Jesus went through all of that, only for you, what do you do for him?