Missing God for the Hard and the Heroic
But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”
-2 Kings 5:13 (The Message)
Naaman was a classy guy. He was a successful general, had servants, was buddies with his king, and was a hero to his people. Like anyone, he was susceptible to skin disease. Somehow he contracted leprosy. His servant girl told him about a prophet in Israel who could cure him of this incurable disease. Someone who could do the impossible. His buddy the king of Aram writes him a hall pass so he can visit Israel and visit the prophet. When he gets there, the prophet Elisha’s house, Elisha sends his servant out to give him instructions. Go wash 7 times in the Jordan river. At that point, Naaman begins to think he might contract more than just leprosy from that cesspool, is deeply offended, and decides it’s better to leave.
On first look I want to slap Naaman. Really dude? It’s sooooooo easy! Just do it. Don’t you know who Elisha is? You can’t lose. This guy’s always right.
Unfortunately I do the Naaman thing quite often.
I ask God what to do. He tells me. I don’t believe him. It can’t be that simple. It’s too easy. It’s beneath me. I’d rather do it my way.
That’s when his servants go after him. “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”
Sometimes its easier to do the hard and heroic. It feels better somehow. Slay the dragon, then you get the princess… or just knock on her door and ask her out… too easy. Not romantic enough. No really, she likes flowers and isn’t that impressed with the macho type.
Years ago God used me to bring one of my coworkers to know him. He took a seat in front of me, told me God told him to talk to me. We start talking, I’m asking God what to do, what to say.
God says, “pray for him.”
No way God. That’s too easy. I keep talking, and everything I’ve got is going out the window.
God, this never happens, what do you want me to do.
Pray for him.
Don’t you understand? He still has questions. He’s still not sure if he believes. I keep talking, conversation’s still bouncing off.
Ok God, any day now. Give me something to say!!
Just pray for him.
Ok, fine. Just let me explain what we’re praying about. My words aren’t going anywhere.
God, a little help here!!! I know you want a relationship with this guy. I’m doing my best to help him understand who you are. If he walks away from this, it’s your fault. What do you want me to say?
Just pray for him.
Fine, but it’s not going to work, and it’s your fault because I’ve done everything I know. I pray the lamest 2 sentence prayer I’ve ever prayed in my life. I’m pissed. Why does this always happen to me. God said I was an evangelist. What a failure.
I ask my coworker if anything happened while we prayed, fully expecting him to say no and be disappointed. Instead, his whole world flips upside down. He starts telling me about the joy he received, the hope he has, and how he knows for certain he belongs to God… huh?
That’s all I had to do?
I learned a couple of things that day, but among them was the fact that serving God isn’t as hard as I make it out to be. I tend to complicate things that are generally easy. I put my own spin on it. I try to do what’s hard and heroic instead of just doing what God says.
Often when I train people to pray for the sick, they have a difficult time grasping that it’s not their prayer that heals the person. What I mean by that is, you can pray eloquently and you can pray simply. It doesn’t matter that much. God’s the one who heals the person. I usually pray short prayers, quick commands to be healed. But getting out of that box is difficult. We want to start with a prayer of thanksgiving for life and love and birds and trees, then transition into a retelling of the story of humanity and how Jesus saves us, then we reaffirm that God is really the one who does the healing wherein we quote several verses to bolster our faith in God’s sovereignty over disease, then we confess our inability to have the perfect faith needed to heal people, cross ourselves, kneel to the ground three times and then ask God meekly if he’s not too busy, and if he’s so inclined to hear our miserable prayer that maybe he might be willing to heal this person a little bit just this once, but if not it’s ok and we still love him, amen.
Is God like that? Does he only answer prayers when we get the alchemy right? He gave us power to heal the sick. Just tell it to go in Jesus name and see if anything’s changed. It’s that simple. Stop making it harder than it is. Didn’t get healed? Don’t write a letter to the pope, just pray again. Sometimes it takes a few prayers to get healed, sometimes God’s doing something different. Cool it’s not up to me. Doesn’t make God any less powerful or our prayer wrong.
Sometimes God tells us to do crazy things, like sell everything you have and follow me. If he says that, do it. Other times it’s, listen to that person. They need someone to listen to them right now. Pray for that guy.
Honestly, how complicated does God ever make it in the Bible? Usually it’s not that complicated. Why? Because God’s usually not as worried about whether or not you can get the sequences and details right. What he wants to know is whether or not you’ll obey him. Do you trust me? Is my word good enough? Like Eve in the garden, we often add to what God tells us to do. God says don’t eat that, we say don’t even touch it.
I think many of us are so scared we’re going to get it wrong that we freak out about the details. I couldn’t see how God could possibly change someones life without making sure that person knew what he was getting into. But God didn’t ask me to understand, he just asked me to obey him. Like Naaman, we might not understand why it’s so easy. Wash in the Jordan? You’re gonna get sick if you do that. Besides it’s way too easy. So easy it almost seems… wrong. It’s never going to work. Better to do this in a clean river.
To you students of history out there, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade might come to mind:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
The light brigade charged into certain death. 673 light cavalry head on into Russian artillery. No real tactical gains. 278 casualties, including 335 of their horses, and an unknown amount of prisoners taken. All for a war that’s all but forgotten to this generation… *cough* the Crimean War.
You are not the light brigade. God is not sending you on a suicide mission that means nothing. When God tells you something, yours isn’t to reason why. You can, but you’ll go in circles like I did. When God says go, go. If you do go down, your life will never be a waste. Whether you make it across the field or get hit a long way off, God will use it. The point is, like the cavalrymen, we can’t see the greater battle. All we know is what we’ve been directed to do, and if we respond faithfully there is always victory whether we see it or not.
For most of us, the stakes aren’t usually that high. Instead of being blown up by Russian artillery, we’re more likely to be blown up by the artillery of our own foolishness. What if I look like an idiot? What if God doesn’t come through? What if this doesn’t work? I don’t want to blow it. Don’t be afraid. Stop looking at your reputation, and look at me. The more you know God’s love for you, the more you’ll trust his voice, the more you’ll risk for his sake… even your reputation. Swimming in stinky rivers? Gladly.
Faithful service is often found in the simple and menial, its we who usually envision it as the hard and heroic.