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Unrealistic Expectations: Naaman the Leper

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Many countries have far less creature comforts and technological advances than America and after trips to India I have had to come back and consider the fact that though this and many 3rd world countries, as we call them, which have so much less of all these tings that we think are so important and that we could not do without, like running water and bathrooms and yet they have so much less depression,  far less insomnia, far less worry and anxiety, far less emotional breakdowns, far less of all the things that seem to be plaguing us in the west. Social scientists are plagued by this and wonder why and what is the answer. Here is one conclusion that may be different than that of some others but it is simple and can be said in two words, unrealistic expectations. The fact is that we have them and they don’t.

This issue of unrealistic expectations runs the gamut of our whole society. There are unrealistic expectations of wives of their husbands, husbands of their wives, parents on their children, children of the parents, employee to employer and employer to employee, pastors of members, members of their pastor and any other relationship you can think of.

The thing about unrealistic expectations is that when they go unfulfilled, they can be disheartening and discouraging and depressing. I even heard about a wealthy southwest oil baron with no children. Every member of his family had unrealistic expectations of what they would inherit from him. He died and the day after the funeral the lawyer called all the family. There is nothing like money to bring people together out of the woodworks and they came from far and wide. All and each came with unrealistic expectations of what they would get. Finally the lawyer stood up in front of the family and began to read the will. To my cousin Nancy, I leave my ranch. To my brother George I leave my bank. To my brother Stanley I leave the oil company. And that went on and on until every member of the family had been called upon except the last member of the family. To him the lawyer said, To my cousin Willie, who has always wanted me to remember him in my will, “Hi Willie.”

Unrealistic expectations can cause devastation. I don’t know what happened to Willie, but unrealistic expectations can cause pain and turmoil. Unrealistic expectations can be traumatic but above all unrealistic expectations can torpedo the life and walk of faith for a believer.

There are so many people, including professing Christians who confuse faith with fantasy. There are so many who confuse faith will self ambitions. There are so many people who confuse faith with selfishness, especially those in the prosperity movement. There are so many who are confused about faith, period. Faith is a complete trust in God to fulfill His promises. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is a complete trust in Christ as our savior, redeemer, Lord and Master and soon coming king.

2 Kings 5:1-2Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.”

2 Kings 5 is a contrast of truth, faith and unrealistic expectations. Naaman was like our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the country of Syria, or Iran today. It was also called Aram. Naaman was a decorated general who today would have had a uniform full of medals covering every square inch of his chest. He had complete and unfettered access into the president and the security group of his country. He was a popular hero in his country. Naaman was a man who epitomized the Broadway song “Everything is Going my Way.” That is except one thing that wasn’t going his way. One thing that was painful, embarrassing and humiliating.

This great general had leprosy. Every morning before putting on his impressive and intimidating uniform, he would bath in herbs and spices, probably for hours. Then slowly but surely he would put on his uniform. It would have covered most of his horrible skin condition, but not his face and hands. Most here in America are unfamiliar with leprosy because we don’t have it.

Leprosy begins with a discoloring patch in the skin. Then it changes into pink and brown color. Then that part of the skin thickens and then it begins to produce a foul discharge. Eyebrows fall out. The voice becomes horse and breathing wheezy. Hands and feet become bleeding stumps that eventually makes it impossible to wear shoes. No wonder the Bible equates leprosy with sin and vice-versa. Like leprosy, sin does a complete and total job of destruction until you bring it to the blood of Jesus. Leprosy like sin, will lead to death, one leads to physical death and the other to spiritual death. Both destroy your life and can destroy your eternal future if not dealt with.

I am convinced that this great general would have given all his wealth to get his health. This general would have given his uniform and medals and possessions for healing of his body. But it took the faith of a little Jewish slave girl taken captive and taken from her home and country when they invaded Israel to serve this great general’s house. This little slave girl, her witness to him was what led to this man’s healing. This little slave girl had every right to be preoccupied with her own pain, her own loneliness, her own suffering, her own estrangement and separation from her family and home. She could have said to herself; “why should I witness to him and tell him about God’s man, the prophet Elisha in Israel.” But she had faith that was unwavering and wanted to be a witness for Jehovah, the God of Israel .

Verse 3And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.” Here Samaria was the northern kingdom of Israel. Notice that she said, “He would recover” not he might or could, but he would.  That is uncommon and unwavering faith. Children can accomplish great things for God as a witness for him in their home, school, witnessing to the grownups like this little girl, who had confidence, not in Elisha, but in the God of Elisha. She had confidence not in Israel, but in Jehovah, the God of Israel. This little girl was not intimated by the general and his uniform or afraid of his bodyguards, but she was full of compassion for him and she wanted to bring glory to her God. So she witnessed to this great general and finally he came to Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel.

Verses 4-6And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.”

But he came like most, especially those who are wealthy would come, with loads of unrealistic expectations. He comes with a letter of endorsement that would be like a letter today from the White House and Pentagon. And he was so full of himself and so puffed up; he had to go to the king of Israel rather than the prophet. He had pre-conceived ideas of how his healing should take place. He had unrealistic expectations of what should happen to him in order to be cured. So he comes in with silver and gold and fine clothing thinking he could pay for the miracle he desired with his wealth.

So he came in and like so many church goers today who think they can pay their way into heaven or that they can do enough good things to get into heaven or they think that if only they could get their act together God would accept them. They have erroneous thinking just like this man who was coming to Israel with unrealistic expectations. And instead of going to the man of God like the little girl told him, he went to the palace of the king of Israel.

Verse 7And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.” The king of Israel, thinking it was a trick from the king of Syria, tears his clothes and is troubled about how to respond or react to this request from the king of Syria. He knows that he can’t heal Naaman. So he rent his clothes as they would when hearing blasphemy for to him such a ridiculous idea that he would do anything about leprosy as if he was God, was heresy. He didn’t have the kind of faith that they little slave girl had and point him to the prophet ELisha but the Lord still stepped in the situation.

Verse 8And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? (It’s like saying, hey, have you forgotten there is a God in Israel and I’m His prophet?) let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” When Elisha sees that Naaman had gone to the wrong address, he sends a message to the king to not worry, but just send the general to him, he had just come to the king by mistake. Now the great general comes thinking that the prophet Elisha would have a big welcome committee for this great general. He thought that he would have a great welcome for the great general of Syria. But Elisha, the man of God was not impressed with celebrity worship, as most are in America today and the world in general. God’s servant was not star struck by the famous and the infamous like most of us are. God’s servant was not impressed with big names or titles and position in this world because he served the God of the Universe.

Verses 9-10So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” First Naaman had unrealistic expectations, going to the king instead of to the prophet like the little slave girl told him. Unrealistic expectation two as that he was shattered when he went to Elisha and ELisah would not even come out to see him.

This is definitely not standard protocol in the world or how you normally are expected to treat a dignitary or someone as important as Naaman was. But Elisha threw out all worldly protocol. In God’s kingdom Naaman is nothing, and Elisha is the servant of the most high God and God wants Naaman to know that he is nothing and his worldly status means nothing before the throne of the Universe. Instead Elisha treated him with scorn and sent a servant out to meet him and basically tell the big shot to go wash in the river Jordan 7 times and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed. You have to understand that the River Jordan is generally nothing to the beautiful rivers in Syria. It is dirty, murky, shallow and nothing to compare to the beautiful Euphrates and other beautiful flowing rivers in Syria.

Verse 11But Naaman was wroth, (his pride rose up for anger comes from pride) and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” The general become really furious and devastated when he came to his third unrealistic expectation. His response to the message from the prophet’s servant was as we would say it, “what does this prophet take me for, an idiot. He wants me to go where and do what and dip how many times?” This was his thinking. He might have thought or even said, “is this man out of his mind? Doesn’t he know who I am? I am the greatest general of Syria.”

Verse 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” When unrealistic expectations are not fulfilled, anger sets in and you are devastated. This is not criticizing the man but only speaking the facts. But it doesn’t have to be if your faith and trust is in the living God and not your unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectation number one, he went to the king of Israel instead of the man of God. Unrealistic expectation number two, he wanted the prophet Elisha to come out personally and greet him and lay hands upon him to heal him. It was that Elisha would come out recognizing who he was, lay hands upon him and call upon the God of heaven and he would be healed of his leprosy. It didn’t happen that way. Unrealistic expectation number three, He is sending me where, to the dirty river Jordan. I am clean, if I get in that dirty river then I will get dirty. And he wants me to dip seven times? Why seven? So he commands his group today it would be his motorcade to go back home to Syria and he was headed back sicker than when he came. Why? Because in addition to his physical illness, he was now furious at the man of God. Now he has not only a disease of the mind, but a disease of the heart, anger and pride from which it came.

Be careful when you want God to perform a miracle according to your expectations.  Be careful when you want God to bless you according to your expectations. Be careful when you are waiting for God to do things your way. Be careful of unrealistic expectations and confusing faith with fantasy and be careful of not wanting to meet the conditions of the promises of God because if you are waiting for God to fulfill His promise and you have not met the conditions, the promise will not be fulfilled. Be careful of presumption against God.

Hebrew 10:36For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” First you do the will of God and then the promises are fulfilled. 2 Kings 5:13And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” Hey, what have you got to loose General, don’t be so stubborn. If he told you to do something great, wouldn’t you have done it? If you were told to do something hard, wouldn’t you have been willing to do everything in your ability and power to do it so that you could receive your healing. And this is so simple and easy that there is nothing to be, nothing that is but humbling your pride and confidence in self and your position and money. But don’t be so stubborn general, after all, you did come here that you might be healed of your leprosy and is not that the most important thing to you, the most important issue of your life?

Verse 14Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” So the general reluctantly turns around and goes back to the river Jordan. But Naaman’s healing was not in the Jordan River. Naaman’s healing was not even in the words of the prophet Elisha. Naaman’s healing was in the trip to the Jordan River and in his obedience to go dip seven times.

We need the Holy Spirit to work in and penetrate our hearts and deal with us until we answer the question, what is it that God is asking us to do, to which we are digging our heals in to avoid doing it. What is it that God is telling you to do that you don’t want to do. What is it that God has constantly spoke to you about in your walk and life and prayer and you are trying to drown out his voice and not listen to it. What is it that God is wanting you to deal with in your life and you are refusing? Be careful, very careful because in it may be the very secret to your blessing. In that trip is the key to the miracle you are praying for. Be careful, lest that be the very answer you are waiting for. Only you and God can know what it is for you, but most believers have something they want from God and are asking Him for and waiting for Him to do for them.

This general was so upset and I am sure that he was pouting and talking to himself all the way to the River Jordan, saying, I just can’t believe this and that I am doing this. This is so insane and humiliating. Then he gets there and he is pouting and he starts to take over his uniform and he doesn’t want the guards to see his grotesque body. But finally he does what he didn’t’ want to do and goes into the murky Jordan and begins. He dips the first time, no change. The second time, no change, the third time, still no change, his body is still the same as before. Again, the fourth, fifth, then the sixth time he dips and still he comes out of the River and looks at his body and it looks the same as when he came and the temptation is really to give up and quit because he had already dipped six times and nothing had happed yet, there was no sign that a process had begun, he was not getting any better, he was no better at all and it looks like he has been made a fool of. He is probably mutter of how crazy this is, that he, the great general was there in this dirty river, humbling himself and how humiliating it was and look at him in front of his entourage. But because he has come this far and he has nothing to loose by finishing the order of the prophet, he dips that one final time. And when he dips the seventh time and he comes up out of the dirty Jordan River, his skin is completely healed and like that of a baby. A total transformation has now taken place, but only in the final dip, in the completion of obedience to the Word of God from the man of God.

Verse 15And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel:” Then he could glorify the God of Israel as the God of power and might and miracles, a mighty God. Then he could shout and rejoice in what the God of Israel had done for him. Now he is glad that he obeyed the command of the prophet, now he is glad that he was willing to humble himself and do this humiliating thing for now he would not die of his leprosy, but would live.

It is the same when we humble ourselves and truly repent of our sins. If you have never received the forgiveness of God and are not assured of eternal life and you ask the question, why? I go through the motions and do what I am told. But possibly it is that you are adamant of coming to Jesus Christ through your church, or through some intermediary, or through your good works and efforts and Jesus said throughout the gospels, just come to me. You don’t need anyone else or anything else, just me. Naaman’s obedience was so significant that when Jesus preached his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth, in Luke 4, he gives Naaman as an example of obedience.

Would you obey His voice if He has spoken to you and surrender your unrealistic expectations and walk and live by faith and not by sight and feeling. In the trip is the miracle you have been waiting for. Complete obedience, not partial obedience or unrealistic expectations will be the source of your blessing.

This is beyond the scope of this message but I want to end by quickly mentioning one other person who had unrealistic expectations in this story in 2 Kings chapter 5 and that is the servant of Elisha named Gehazi, who was greedy of gain, disobeyed and went against the words of Elisha, lied to Naaman and because of it ended up with the leprosy of Naaman. This past of the story begins in verse 20; “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman…

How sad an ending to Gahezi we see in verses 25-27 because of his unrealistic expectations; “Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.”

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