2 Kings 5:1-5 - Naaman was commander of the army of Aram [Syria]. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly respected, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." Naaman went to his master and told him all that the girl from Israel had said. "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. "I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. For the whole story, read all of 2 Kings 5.
The phenomenon of "Christian super-heroes" pervades the church today. Glitzy books by popular preachers or biographies of the latest Christian sports stars, musicians, and TV personalities surround us when we shop in Christian bookstores. They jump out at us when we read Christian magazines or watch "Christian TV." The "Christian celebrity" mentality may gradually affect our thinking about how God accomplishes His plans and purposes. Does God primarily work through high profile "super-Christians," or does He normally use ordinary people like you and me? In 2 Kings 5 we have the story of Naaman, a Syrian military general who lived in Syria (known also as Aram) in the 9th century BC. Syria was the country to the north of Israel, just as it is today. Naaman was the commander over the entire Syrian army--quite a prestigious position! He was a great military leader and was held in high regard by King Ben Hadad, his commander-in-chief. But Naaman had a problem. He had contracted leprosy, a dreaded and fatal disease! His leprosy was probably in the early stages when it could still be covered up. But before long his condition would become known to others, and Naaman would have to step down from his position of honor, become an outcast from society, and eventually die from this fatal disease. At this time Syrian military patrols were conducting raids into Israel. (Attacks on the borders of the state of Israel are nothing new!) During one of the raids a young Israeli girl was captured and forced into slavery as a maidservant to the wife of the Syrian commander. Most likely this girl was a young teen, because she was old enough to know about the ministry of the prophet Elisha before she was taken captive. The Lord Jesus mentioned this Old Testament event when He spoke at the synagogue at Nazareth, saying, "There were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:27). He went on to point out that when Naaman was healed, God was purposely extending His grace to people who were not Jews, who lived beyond the borders of Israel! The healing of Naaman was part of God's eternal plan and purpose to reveal His character and demonstrate His love and grace to humankind. But notice the earthly way in which God accomplished His plans--He used a young captive working in the seemingly insignificant and mundane job of servant in a foreign land. Who would have ever thought that God was accomplishing His eternal plans though the sorry set of earthly events of this young Jewish slave? Mundane Ways The word "mundane" means "of this world", earthly or temporal. It has come to imply anything that is routine, ordinary or even boring! If you look at what's going on in your "mundane" life today, you might think that there's no way God is accomplishing much of anything in the way of eternal plans right now! The events in your everyday life are too ordinary or earthly--too mundane! But God's plans are accomplished in earthly and ordinary ways! In 2 Kings 5 we see that God was working out His eternal plans through earthly events in the life of an ordinary young Israeli servant girl. God works in the same way today. His eternal plans are accomplished in mundane ways. We all are involved in everyday earthly activities. Most of us are involved in ordinary, unexciting jobs and earthly temporal tasks like home and car repairs, paying bills, cutting grass--even cleaning bathrooms! Sometimes our everyday activities include dealing with serious illness or disease, or the disabling results of an accident or other unfortunate problem. Sometimes our lives are entangled with sad or sordid worldly circumstances, perhaps through no fault of our own. How could God ever accomplish anything special though these common and everyday or tragic and unfortunate affairs? We don't know how, but we do know that God works all things together for our good. Romans 8:28-30 teaches us that God's eternal plan for each believer is to make us more like our Lord Jesus. Even the ordinary chores and activities in our everyday lives can be tools in God's hands to accomplish this magnificent purpose! If we are willing to respond properly, God will use all these events to develop Christ-like qualities in us--qualities like patience, longsuffering, kindness, gentleness and self-control. As God's eternal plan is worked out in our mundane lives, we will become more like Jesus! Ordinary People The kidnapping of the young Israeli girl had international consequences! The good news about the God of Israel made its way into the ranks of the Syrian army--from the top down! And God used an ordinary young girl as a major link in this chain of events. The testimony of a faithful teen affected a nation! In fact, if it hadn't been for the testimony of thisordinary Jewish girl, the great prophet Elisha would not have had the opportunity to minister to Naaman! Look around you. Do you see any Christian "super-heroes" in your church or fellowship group? Probably they're all just ordinary people. Would you describe yourself as a celebrity Christian? Probably not! And yet God is accomplishing His plans through you and other Christian "nobodies" around you! How many of you believe that God has plans to minister to people in your neighborhood--at your job--on your campus--in your town--right now and in the near future? How will He accomplish His plans? Through a Christian celebrity? Not likely! Probably through an ordinary person like you. The apostle Paul told the believers at Corinth, "Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth...He chose the lowly things of this world ..." (1 Corinthians 1:26-27). God accomplishes His plans through ordinary people! We don't often think about who will notice the "unseen" ordinary qualities of our lifestyles, or where our ordinary testimonies will be heard, or how important our ordinary "links in God's chain" may actually be. Bur our integrity on the job will be noticed by fellow-employees. Our godly commitment to care for our families and teach our children will be observed by friends and neighbors. Faithful service in teaching a Sunday school class, counseling at summer camp or helping with a youth ministry may influence a young person who, in turn, will be greatly used by God in the future! Most of the "ordinary Christians" that God will use in the future have ordinary Christian parents and ordinary camp counselors and ordinary Sunday school teachers right now! Misunderstood Message The Israeli girl was misunderstood, even though she was faithful. Although Naaman was eventually cured, there were misunderstandings all along the way. When Naaman went to King Ben Hadad to ask permission to visit the prophet Elisha, the Syrian king offered to write a letter to the king of Israel. Ben Hadad apparently didn't understand that the it was Lord who would heal Naaman--through Elisha the prophet, not through the wicked king of Israel! Then Naaman set off on his journey with silver, gold and fine clothing to offer as a gift for his healing, not understanding that God responds to faith--not money, gifts or bribes! But these misunderstandings were not the fault of the young girl whom God used as His messenger! She had given a faithful account of the work of God through the prophet Elisha. God worked in spite of the misunderstandings and Naaman was healed. We should be aware that we will be misunderstood when we're trying to be faithful. Remember, Satan is always doing his best to destroy the work of God! Unbelievers, for example, may get the distorted idea that we think "our religion" is better than "their religion," and misunderstand when we try to share what Christ has done for us. Some unbelievers get the wrong idea that church attendance is the way to "make points" with God--misunderstanding why Christians attend church regularly! Other unbelievers get the distorted idea that giving time or money to church or charities is the key to God's favor. They miss the whole point of why we're involved! And, of course, in their spiritual blindness, unbelievers many times misinterpret what we are trying to communicate. What should we do when people misunderstand us? Don't become discouraged and give up! Expect to be misunderstood! Let's continue to faithfully share our faith and live for the Lord, even when our words and actions are misunderstood. Tragic Events Humanly speaking, the everyday life of the young Israeli girl was a horrible tragedy! She had been kidnapped. She may have seen her parents murdered. She may have been abused by the soldiers who captured her. She was taken from her homeland to live in a pagan culture. She was enslaved, and forced to serve in a menial job in the home of the commander of her captors! Yet in spite of the cruel and unfair treatment she had undergone, this young Hebrew girl remained faithful to the Lord. She even reached out to help her "enemy"--the commander of the men who had kidnapped her. (See Matthew 5:44.) She told him about the God of Israel and how he could receive help and healing for his fatal disease. The faith of this young Israeli girl reminds us of Joseph, who remained true to the Lord in spite of all the evil, vicious and unfair events of his early life. (See Genesis 37-40.) Joseph was sold to slave traders by his own brothers; he was forced to work as a slave in a foreign land; he was unjustly accused and imprisoned. But in spite of all these seemingly tragic events and circumstances, Joseph was faithful and witnessed for God. Suppose an unfair, life-shattering event were to occur in your life, and you couldn't understand why. Suppose God were to permit a serious car accident in which a loved one was killed instantly? Or in the accident, through no fault of your own, you were left paralyzed for life? Suppose God were to permit you to be convicted and imprisoned for a crime which you did not commit? Or suppose God were to allow you to work all your life in a frustrating, boring, low-paying "dead-end" job, surrounded by non-Christians who were hostile to your attempts at friendship and sharing your faith? If God allowed any of these difficult things to happen to you, would you remain faithful to Him, or would you become angry with God and filled with bitterness, hatred, rage and despair? Are you in one of these situations right now? Be faithful! Amazingly, Joseph and the young Israeli girl were willing to trust God and be used by Him in spite of the desperate, tragic events of their lives. Not only that, they even demonstrated the love of God to those who had mistreated and enslaved them! Because these "ordinary" people were willing to trust God, even in very difficult situations, God was glorified through their lives as His great eternal plans were worked out! Speaking to his brothers, who had cruelly mistreated him, Joseph summed up the way God worked out His plans: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20). This was also the unspoken attitude of Naaman's Hebrew servant girl. God weaves together even "tragic" earthly events in the lives of ordinary people to accomplish His eternal purposes. Although Joseph went on to be famous, the Israeli servant girl never achieved fame - but both remained faithful to God. Famous or not famous, let's be faithful to God in all the events of our lives.