“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14 NIV
I frequently hear from one of my kids that something is “not fair” or “too hard”, I’m sure most parents who hear this roll their figurative or literal eyes at this thinking “if you only knew!” To children, they don’t seem to understand that just because something is hard, does not mean that you give up. As a parent, you take the opportunity to train them on this with the hope that by the time they face real, hard challenges in life, they will persevere through them.
One of my supervisors at work used to tell others when they faced with a challenge, “Well… it’s not easy to win the Super Bowl!” I never liked it when he said this, because taking a small daily challenge and comparing it to an extreme example of the championship of football seems frivolous.
Nevertheless, it stuck with me in business by realizing if something is challenging, it requires you to push forward, not backwards, otherwise you face failure. It’s like the saying “anything worth doing, is worth doing well.”
Many Christians face the same frustrations when facing challenges; they somehow think they signed a contract when they accepted Jesus that there would not be hardships, but actually the Bible promises it! (John 16:33)
Let’s take a look at 2 Kings 5. Naaman was the leader of the Syrian army, but he had leprosy. A captive Israelite girl, who knew of the prophet Elisha and his miracles, told Naaman to send for Elisha to be cured of his leprosy. Naaman sent a letter to the King of Israel to announce his arrival and to ask for healing, Elisha heard of this and invited Naaman to come to his house. Elisha’s servant met Naaman at the door and instructed Naaman to “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (v.10).
Here Elisha gave Naaman a cure for the disease that plagued him. Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters in Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?”
Luckily for Naaman, his servants talked some sense into him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” Naaman went and did what was instructed and his skin became like that of a “young boy.” Naaman said “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (The rest of chapter 5 is very interesting about how Elisha’s servant tries to follow up this miracle for money and gets cursed).
Naaman in this story is an example of how obedience is important even if we do not understand why. If we trust in Who we serve we don’t need to know the whys. Naaman wanted a figurative snap of Elisha’s fingers to fix his problems. He didn’t want to wash 7 times in a river that was a considerable distance away from where he was. I’m sure washing 7 times was time consuming and Naaman might have even taken it as an insult. To Naaman the logical solution seemed to be the easiest and quickest one, but God’s glory would be revealed through his obedience to the prophet.
How often do we pray today and expect an easy answer to a problem? How many people today read the Bible and say “that’s too hard! Why can’t I just be a good person without having to follow all those rules?” If God commands you to do something, he expects obedience, and sometimes He tests us to see if we are faithful.
– In Luke 17:11, Jesus commanded the 10 men with leprosy to go and be examined by the priests and they were healed on their way
– Jesus tested the faith of the woman who asked for her daughter to be healed of demonic possession, by not granting her request immediately (Matthew 15:26)
– Jesus purposely tarried when He heard the news of Lazarus being sick so that he would bring him back from the dead in a great miracle (John 11)
– Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” but Paul was able to boast in his weakness and trust in God’s power. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Sometimes the answer we get to prayer is “wait”, “not yet”, or just a “no”.
The most important position we need to be in is God’s will for our life, if we walk in obedience, we can trust God even if we do not understand the journey.
I found this story about Walt Disney interesting in the context of facing challenges:
Several years ago I met a gentleman who served on one of Walt Disney’s original advisory boards. What amazing stories he told! Those early days were tough; but that remarkable, creative visionary refused to give up. I especially appreciated the man’s sharing with me how Disney responded to disagreement. He said that Walt would occasionally present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining. Almost without exception, the members of his board would gulp, blink, and stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing. But unless every member resisted the idea, Disney usually didn’t pursue it. Yes, you read that correctly. The challenge wasn’t big enough to merit his time and creative energy unless they were unanimously in disagreement! (Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.107.)
As Christians we need to accept the challenge and “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” as James 1:2 states. Challenges and resistance we face should be accepted instead of avoided. If you are in a position where you are frustrated because you do not know the future, you will find more peace if you accept that you never will. God holds us firmly in His hands if we trust in Him. Sometimes we need to take what others might consider a “drastic” step in order to walk in the blessings God has for us.
Discerning Reflection: What has God told me to do before that seemed drastic but it worked out after I was obedient? What am I asking for today that I need to seek God’s will on?
Prayer: Lord help me understand your will for my life and act in obedience when I hear your voice. Give me faith to trust in you when I do not understand what is happening in the moment. Amen
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