Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14
We all expect things to be exciting, dramatic or spectacular before they will impress or motivate us. We consider our every day lives to be so dull and ordinary that they are insignificant and unimportant.
Naaman had leprosy, but he would have missed his healing if he continued to look for impressive signs and wonders. He must have been a brave warrior who had taken part in many spectacular battles, but he saw himself as the lowest of the low because of his affliction. He travelled all the way to Elisha’s home in Israel to see a mighty display of God’s power, but he was quickly disappointed.
Naaman expected to experience something super-spiritual from Elisha, and for this reason he sent ahead expensive gifts to the prophet. But on his arrival the man of God would not even do him the honour of greeting him, instead he was told to go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. What a put down! Naaman was furious and refused to wash in ordinary water, for the rivers in Damascus were of better quality. He wanted to do something flashy and spectacular rather than simply dip in the Jordan. When he was advised to do as Elisha ordered, his miracle happened.
Naaman looked for extraordinary answers to his problem, and in reality we are not much different from him. We too often miss the gifts and blessings of God because we want to see and experience dramatic and spectacular things. We want extraordinary words from the Lord instead of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit as we read His word. So often God works in our lives in very ordinary ways, yet they are no less powerful. By searching for the spectacular we can easily miss the presence of God in every day life. “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Jesus condemned the people of His day for underestimating the ordinary, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:7-11).
Elish’a words did not conform to Naaman’s preconceived ideas and expectations. He became angry and lashed out as he rushed away from what he took as a personal insult. He no doubt thought that, as a man of wealth and power, he deserved to be honoured by the prophet. His servant showed more maturity than the self-centred Syrian captain. He allowed his own self-importance to get in the way.
We are called to maturity too, which partly means that we must accept that God knows what is best for us and what will bring the greatest blessings. Often this includes apparent hardships and deprivations. We are experts in getting in the way of the Lord working in our lives. As soon as we desire recognition and notoriety, then God moves His hand from us until we come to our senses. “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11). We must allow Him to lead us even into obscurity, where He alone sees our service and commitment. If we want the praise and adulation of others then we will never receive anything from the Lord. “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).
Naaman thought that God only worked in the spectacular or that He can only be worshipped in magnificent places. Maybe the two rivers of Damascus were holy places to the Syrian people, places of pilgrimages where religious festivals were celebrated. The ordinary water of the Jordan did not appear to be very holy to him, but the fact is that a place can only be holy if the presence of God is there.
Christians travel to see where Wesley was born, where Luther nailed his thesis, or where Spurgeon gave his final message. Some go to Israel to walk in the footsteps of Jesus or visit sites where the apostle Paul taught, but they wont find God there. They may be touted as extraordinary places, but in reality there is nothing truly spectacular or life-changing about them. God could have used any bush to set aflame with His glory, yet He did not expect Moses to pilgrimage each year to the one He chose. “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).
What Naaman was called to do was simple, even mundanely boring, yet it was there God touched him. We live in an age when everything has to be super-sized, over-the-top, flamboyant and glittery. Our churches have fallen into the same trap too, for preachers think that dramatic events are needed to draw people to Christ. There is even the thought that church buildings need to be jumbo-sized to get noticed by the community. In the midst of all this God is lost sight of. We need to realise that the most important things of life are found in the ordinary.
God can move amongst us in spectacular ways, but unless we see Him in the routine and ordinary, we will miss the blessing. In this way the ordinary can in fact prove to be extraordinary. Apart from the obvious spectacular miracles, we find the Lord working in the lives of ordinary people doing ordinary things. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). When Jesus took ordinary bread and fish, He did extraordinary things with them, but notice that the ordinary came first. Let us begin to see the extraordinary in ordinary things and our lives will dramatically change.