When Smaller Is Better (2 Kings 5:1-15)


Jerry Benge - June 22, 2014

When Smaller Is Better (2 Kings 5:1-15)

Transcript When Smaller is Better By Jerry Benge I can tell right away when I’m in a church that has a high view of God’s Word and loves the gospel, and everything from the Scripture reading, the worship songs we’ve had this morning have been such a reminder of our great God. And you know, this is what sets Christianity apart from everything else, I mean the Bible is not just a liturgical book that we’re reciting in a meaningless way and maybe God will smile upon us if we do enough good things and we’ll somehow get into heaven. This is a book that tells the whole story, the good and the bad. And this morning, that Scripture reading I’m going, “Wow! What an unusual Scripture reading,” and then I’m thinking, “Well of course! This is the story line of Scripture. This is a God who’s holy and we’ve turned our back on Him and went and declared our independence. And what does He do? He turns around He makes a promise and the rest of Scripture is the unfolding of our problem and the answer of His promise.” And there’s messed up people, and yet through the very people through whom the line of Christ comes so that Matthew can announce in chapter 1 after reading some of these very people in the genealogy that we read about this morning and all this soap opera-like behavior and His conclusion is, “You will call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” And that is so true. We are such great sinners and He is such a great savior and it is so good to be together with God’s people to rejoice in that this morning. Thank you for your commitment, your dedication, your love for the gospel, and thank you for extending that love through us to the people of Ukraine. It is a joy to represent First Baptist Church of Farmington in Ukraine. And if you weren’t here this morning, I gave a little update – I’ll just give a thirty second update and that is we just completed our first term. Our goal of the year is to go and serve at Kiev Theological Seminary to train students so that God’s true students are learning how to handle the Scripture and proclaim the Scripture and live the Scripture will lead churches more and more to be spiritually healthy in a way that they can demonstrate the power of the gospel where they live there in Ukraine, and then be extension of that power by sending missionaries to the rest of the Russian speaking world. And we’re seeing that happen and I have the joy of getting to see these students really get plugged in to the Word of God and move from just nominal sort-of topical preaching to really handling the Scripture and proclaiming it with power, and it’s because of churches like you that this is going to happen. So thank you for sending us there and allowing us to see that in the first term and we hope to go back on August, the 26th, and see more of this take place with some specific goals we would like to accomplish by God’s grace in our second term. So, pray for us because as I also mentioned in our report, there’s a few things going on in Ukraine, as you’re well aware, and right now the future there is uncertain. Not from God’s perspective but from our perspective. We don’t know the future. But pray that God will continue to work even as He already has been working in the midst of the chaos to show His power, to show His wisdom, and through that to raise up His people to put Him on display. And just a reminder about the card, these cards are in the back, on the front side of card, this is our newest prayer cards. If you have an old one you can get rid of it and replace it with a new one. We actually, somehow we look younger than we did five years ago. I don’t know how that happened – the miracle of Photoshop. But, on the back of the card there’s very important information. There’s a phone number here and if you call this phone number you can actually reach us here in the states and when we go back to Ukraine, you can actually reach us there as the same, like a local phone call through something called Magic Jack, and it’s just something that enables us to keep in contact. Now, please keep in mind, we’re seven hours ahead of you, so if you decide to call us after four o’clock in the afternoon your time, just keep in mind that’s after 11 o’clock in Kiev our time. So, we hate it when we get wrong phone calls, you somebody calls the wrong number you know, and we get that around three or four in the morning. You know, after I come to my senses, I don’t think very clearly in the middle of the night, so if you do call me, I’ll talk to you but it may not make any sense. So, better to call before four o’clock than after four o’clock. Also, our website is on here and if you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter or if you’d like to be alerted about blogs when they come up, usually I’m trying to do about one a month, I haven’t been doing that, but I’m trying to get in the groove of doing about one per month. Then, if you go on there, you can sign up and on the website, just go to ‘Newsletters’ button will pop up and all you do is give your email address, it’ll ask you to confirm it through a note to your email and then you’re on and you’ll get that information sent directly to you if you have access to the internet. If you don’t access and want a newsletter, tell us and we’ll sign you up for our ‘snail mail’ list and you’ll at least receive a quarterly newsletter. And so, again thank you for your support. We really, really appreciate your participation. My wife is with the children right now. I wish you could meet her, but we’ll both be at the table there in the back at the end of the service if you would like to talk to us if you have a question. I want you to turn in your Bibles to 2 Kings, chapter 5 – 2 Kings, chapter 5. We’ll be reading in just a moment verse 1-15. 2 Kings, chapter 5, looking at verses 1-15 (2 Kings 5:1-15). People today love bigness. They love bigger cars and trucks and I come back from Ukraine and I’m sort of, you know, we don’t watch a lot of TV but I do like to watch the news and I’m back to seeing the biggest and latest in trucks and the special automobiles. We love bigger stores to shop in, I just was at Costco the other day and the first time you walk into a Costco having come from a country like Ukraine, it’s like culture shock in reverse. It’s just amazing to see the stacks of goods and things, or even to walk into Kroger and just see innumerable options on the shelves. I mean, you know I just going in there thinking I want potato chips and now I’m presented with 3000 different assortments of potato chips with any number flavors they added to them. Or we like bigger portions to eat, you know I mean even in Ukraine we have the Big Mac and that’s a big deal. And of course, many dream of becoming big in the eyes of others. When I got back to the Metro Detroit airport, one of the things I was hearing about was somebody from Farmington that was on American Idol, is that right? I’m getting back with the news here. Everybody got all excited about the young lady from North Farmington High School and you know, “Wow!” You know, she’s up in front of how many millions of people? Many people dream of becoming big in the eyes of others. And of course, we see nations doing this. One thing I notice in Ukraine is when we were going through this turmoil and Russia was trying to show how big and powerful it was, you know I saw pictures on the internet of just lines of military trucks lined up at the border ready to move in to show the Ukrainians, “You better watch out. We’re big stuff. Don’t mess with us.” And so, people love to show off and display their power and their might. Well, I’ve also heard the phrase, “Bigger is Better,” but I want to throw out a question to you this morning – Is bigger always better? Is it always better? Well, not if we’re putting our trust in our bigness. Today I want you to meet an unlikely character in the Old Testament whom the Holy Spirit uses to teach a powerful lesson about this. His name is Naaman and you can read about Naaman in the book that I mentioned to you just a moment ago – 2 Kings, chapter 5, I will be reading beginning with verse 1: “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by Him,” notice this note by the writer here, “because by Him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naamans’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘Would that my lord were with the prophet who’s in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord, ‘Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.’ And the king of Syria said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how hi is seeking a quarrel with me.’ But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘God and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ But his servants came near and said to him, ‘My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, ‘Behold, I know that there is no god in all the earth but in Israel…” Father, we do look into your Word, we’re reminded that we live in a culture that is constantly at odds with your values and ultimate truth. It’s easiest for us to forget that you are a great God and we are little people desperately in need of knowing you and your promises and your ways. Lord, remind us of our smallness and your bigness and how you love to use our smallness to make known and to demonstrate your greatness for your glory. For it’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen. This account is found in a part of the Scripture that shows the unraveling of the Israelite kingdom. God had made a covenant with Israel through Abraham. He promised that he would make of Abraham and his descendants a great nation and that through him; all the people of the earth would be blessed. Later on, through Moses, He laid out the requirements for Israel’s relationship to Him as their God and King. He promised them blessings if they would obey His word and curses if they disobeyed him. You read about that in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. Now, closely linked to Israel’s blessings was the kind of king that happened to be sitting on the throne at the time. When the king had a heart for God like David, and he led them to follow the Lord, and thus they received God’s blessing. But whenever a king took his eyes of the Lord and neglected to follow God’s law, when he began to observe the lavish lifestyles of pagan kings and to crave that lifestyle for himself and for his people, when he made alliances with pagan rulers, well then the Israelites got into all kinds of trouble. And you see this starting to happen with Solomon under his rule. Israel accumulated great wealth, but that was not enough for Solomon. No, he wanted more. He wanted bigger, and so in 1 Kings 11, he began a policy of alliances and intermarriages that compromised his own relationship with God and launched the nation on a downward path that eventually divides the kingdom between northern and southern. And so by the time we get to this passage, 2 Kings 5, things have just completely degenerated. Israel’s completely abandoned faith in the Lord and Judah is hardly better off. God is allowing Israel, His people, He’s allowing their enemies to increasingly defeat them. As this story unfolds in chapter 5, it is full of surprises. It focuses not on the privileged people of God, the Israelites, no, it highlights on of their worst enemies, the Syrians. Why? God’s grace is about to reach out to an undeserving pagan, but that’s not all. Naaman isn’t just any Syrian soldier; he is the most valued warrior in the entire nation. In fact, in today’s terminology he would have been called the ‘kings field marshal.’ History tells us that Naaman probably saved Syria from the super power of their day, Assyria, by leading his armies to victory over the mighty Assyrian army. Out of most people, Naaman was a big man. He was a mighty hero and you see this thing of bigness going all the way through this story, but notice something else in this story – this big hero had a really embarrassing problem. He was a leper. Heroes are not supposed to have these kinds of problems. That would be like Jude Law slipping on a banana peel. That would be like Matt Damon running into a glass door and knocking himself unconscious. That would be like John Wayne falling off his horse – that just doesn’t happen. And yet, this mighty hero has been reduced to a helpless human being and that is precisely where God is at work in this story. For in Naaman’s own household, there’s a servant girl who had been taken captive by Syria during one of their raids into Israel. And when she hears the problem, she simply informs them, “Well, there’s a profit who has the power to cure Naaman, and he’s in Israel.” Here’s another surprising truth, help often comes from unlikely sources. A young slave girl, and yet; it’s one of many examples in this whole, not just this passage, but this whole section of the Book of Kings where God loves to do big things through small people. Naaman listens to her, but he reacts to the information the way you would expect a powerful man to react – first of all, he goes to his boss, the king of Syria, and he immediately goes through the normal political channels to get the desired results. He tells the king of Syria, who as a pagan, he assumes that this profit is under the authority of the king of Israel, and therefore his services can be bought if you have the right amount of money. So, he writes a letter to the king of Israel, probably king Joram, and he sends Naaman to the king with this massive gift. Now to appreciate the magnitude of this gift, you have to change it to todays – First of all, our American Weight System and today’s values – so we’re talking about 750 pounds of silver. At today’s market price, that would be about just under a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of silver, and that’s just getting started. Also, there’s 24 hundred ounces of gold and at today’s market price approximately, that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3.2 million dollars’ worth of gold – that is no small gift. And then he throws in 10 Brooks Brother suits to boot. You say where is that? It’s in the Hebrew somewhere I think. And the idea, surely this magnanimous gift will bring about certain results. But then, the whole plan starts to go badly. When Joram, king of Israel receives the letter, he interprets it as a trick, a ploy by the more powerful Syrians to provoke another war, a war he is certain to lose. He’s so blind to the power of God, he totally misreads the opportunity. So he publically goes into mourning because he thinks, “We’re toast.” So, this news quickly gets to the prophet, Elisha, who rebukes the king for his unbelief and then he tells him to send Naaman to Elisha’s residence in Samaria. Well, the story is quickly moving to a climax. Naaman of course, coming there with his pagan mindset, he’s thinking, “Okay, I’ve paid the money, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, and this guy is like a Shaman, he’s going to pull off some miracle and I’ll be on my way back home.” He’s looking for a big display of power and he comes with his own impressive entourage. I mean there’s horses, there’s chariots, in fact I think we got a picture of this. So he’s got this big parade of horses and chariots, probably a limousine or two, and any moment he’s expecting Elisha’s going to come to the door, he’s going to show up, and he’s going to perform a spectacular display of power, and then I’ll be on my way back home. But that’s not what happens. When you look at verse 10, what happens? Elisha doesn’t even come to the door. He sends his servant, Gehazi, and Gehazi shows up and he delivers the message from Elisha. And how does Naaman feel? He [?] no parade, there’s no fancy ceremony, there’s no spectacular feet, it’s just “go and immerse yourself in the Jordan seven times.” And if you read verse 11, he is angry. He is beside himself. He walks away in a rage – “Forget this.” He’s ready for the big and spectacular, but that’s not the way God typically works. In the Jordan River? I mean, even the Jordan river you think, “Well the Jordan was spectacular. Remember when Joshua parted the waves and they walked across?” Well, yes. At certain times of the year, the Jordan could swell to as much as a mile wide. But on this particular day in the dry part of the year, it’s nothing more than a muddy, little creek – very unspectacular. So, what is it that turns the story around? First, an insignificant slave girl in verse 2, and now, some nameless servant in verse 13 who were accustomed to such inconveniences. Once again, God uses the little people and they plead with him, and Naaman wisely listens and you know the rest of the story. He follows the instructions of God’s prophet and God ultimately heals him. But what’s most ironic is to hear this former pagan who is now become a believer in Jehovah, to hear what he says; “Now I know that there is no God in all world except in Israel.” This story is full of irony. God saves from the most unlikely characters in the Scripture. A pagan hero, who up to this point can only think in terms of his own bigness, but who’s finally brought to an understanding of his smallness so he can embrace and announce the bigness of the God that the leader and the people of Israel have forgotten about. And how does all this happen? How does God display His bigness? – Through the smallness of the little girl, through the smallness of Naaman’s own servant, through the small, faithful people that God had placed into these circumstances. In the end, the kings of Israel, who were so fond of pagan might and power, totally missed the greatness for which they were aiming. It takes a pagan leader who’s experienced the bigness of God through small people to finally proclaim what everybody else had forgotten. Now, if you pull back on this and try to magnify the entire book here – get the bigger picture of the whole book – the Book of Kings is merely setting the stage for the later coming of another King. And how does this King come? Not as a wealthy celebrity, but as a helpless baby in a manger. This King lives far removed from wealth and prestige, and how does he die? He dies as a helpless, sacrificial lamb. He shows His bigness through His apparent smallness, and that ultimate irony reveals His true bigness, His true greatness, and His infinite power. We’re talking of course about the Messiah, Jesus Christ, because that’s what all the Old Testament ultimately points to. So, what do we take from this? What can we learn from this? Why does the Spirit of God place this here for us to think about and meditate on and act on? Well, we live in days of unbelief that are similar to what you see here in the text. Some of the lessons that we can learn from this: Well, number one- God uses little people to display His bigness. It’s the little people who are the key people in this account. Not Naaman, not the kings of Israel or Syria, not even Elisha, Elisha could of made himself a bigger part of the story but he carefully avoids doing anything that would place credit on himself instead of the spotlight on God. And by the way, if you want to look at this a little more closely, you can see not only this little people thing not just here in chapter 5, but throughout chapters 3-8. For example if you go back to 2 Kings 3:11 – when the kings of Judah and Israel are about to face a military disaster and they’re trying to find a prophet to get a word from that prophet, it is a lowly servant of the king who points him to the prophet, Elisha. In 2 Kings 6:11-12, when the king of Syria is angry that his battle plans are being leaked to the Israelites, he’s thinking if somebody in his cabinet is leaking the news to the enemy, then he finds out from one of his servants, one of his lowly servants, who announces to him, “King, the prophet knows what you’re saying in the privacy of your own bedroom.” How does he know that? - Another of the little people. And then in 2 Kings 7, it’s not the army of Israel that relieves a nation from the suffering of their famine; it is four helpless leper beggars. It’s very clear that the writer of Kings is trying to, as he writes his plot, he weaves through this plot this theme of God working through small people to do big things. But it’s not just here in the book of Kings, it is the story line of Bible. God can do whatever He wants, but typically he uses the small, typically He uses the weak to demonstrate His power and His wisdom. Read about that in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1. Paul is trying to convince the Corinthians who’ve been enthralled by the bigness of the philosophers and the educated and the wealthy of Corinth that know it’s typically through the small that God does big things. Can I put that statement into the context of what’s happening in the country where we serve right now in Ukraine? We have been seeing, certainly when we were there we saw it and now we’re on the outside looking in from the states, but we’ve seen an intimidating display of bigness from the neighbor to the east and the eyes of the world have been watching a military buildup and then they watched it fall back and now they’re watching it build up once again on the eastern border of Ukraine. And it gets really easy for people there and even people here to get all focused on the geopolitical situation and become obsessed with the latest news reports and say, “Oh my, looks what’s happening. What’s going to happen? What’s the world coming to? This could be another world war.” We’ve got to keep reminding ourselves of this simple truth; while the media focuses on the larger stage of geopolitical intrigue, the King of Kings is at work in the little noticed but highly significant work of His kingdom people. I mentioned, for those who weren’t in Sunday School, I mentioned about one of our students, his name is Bosia and he, when the demonstration was going on in Kiev – there was a demonstration in Independence Square in the center of Kiev between November and March – and he wanted to go down and just show up. There was tension going on, there had been blood spilled, there had been loss of life, there were people that were injured and he wanted to go down and just show the face of Christ in a difficult situation. So he went down, and as he went down there, the police would not let him into the area where they were demonstration. So, he just simply started praying with the police. He simply, he would just go up to a policeman and offer to pray with them. Some refused, others accepted it, but he was able to in that context to show Christ. He was able to put Christ on display. He found people who had been wounded who were in makeshift tents where they were receiving medical care, and daily he went back to them to minister to them and to have gospel conversations with them. And I can tell you, that’s just one slice of innumerable slices of stories of God’s people in the midst of the difficulty, in the midst of the fear of the intimidation determining to put Jesus Christ on display in all of that. And it’s getting the attention of the Ukrainian people. These little people, in small ways, are showing the greatness of God, and people for the first time are starting to listen. People are starting to have gospel conversations; they’re starting to ask questions. Why? - Because God loves to show His greatness through our weakness, through our smallness. God uses little people to display His bigness. Secondly, if you pursue your own bigness, you will miss God’s bigness. Let me say that again – if you pursue your own bigness, you will miss God’s bigness. Later in this chapter, Gehazi is ruined by his own quest for bigness. He tried to use his position as a servant of God to gain wealth and prestige. He wanted some of the things that Naaman had offered to his master who refused them so that God alone would get the credit. He looked that and said, “Well, I could use some suits. I could use some gold and silver.” And so, he went back and he lied in order to get some of that wealth. He tried to use his position to gain wealth and prestige. What was he living for? – Ultimately one thing – he was living for his own bigness and in the end he got it because we’re told later on in this chapter, God judged him and he became a leper. And as a leper, he would be banished to a life of isolation in a world no bigger than himself. I think of the famous missionary, Amy Carmichael, she once said, “Be careful what you set your heart on, for it truly shall be yours.” Be careful what you set your heart on, for it surely shall be yours. You know, we live in a country, we talk about the American dream, we talk about all the trappings of prosperity, and we make that the thing to live for and yet when you read the few who managed to live this lifestyle, they’re empty. They have nothing to live for. Many of them take their own lives. What are you seeking? What are you living for? Are you living for God’s greatness? Are you living for all that He is and has done for you in Christ? Or are you living for your own temporal hopes and dreams and hoping for something bigger and better? Perhaps you have forgotten that God wants to show His strength and His power through your simple, daily trust in Him. Why has God given us the resources He’s given us, even though we’re in relatively difficult times economically, we’re still better off than so much of the rest of the world? Has God given us these resources so we can just simply ramp up our lifestyle more bigger and better, or so we can use these resources for God’s kingdom purposes? This is exactly what I see you doing and we are the beneficiaries of your vision. Even through small things God shows His greatness, and we’re seeing that and you’re a part of that. Number three: Pursuing God’s bigness comes from believing daily in God’s promises. [It’s an] interesting play on words for any who are reading the story. It says that when Naaman dipped in the water and he came out the seven times? What does it say? It says his skin has become that of like what? – A little child. And it’s very evident, especially if you look at the Hebrew text, there’s a clear play on words here, and the terminology that he uses here to describe the skin on Naaman harkens back to the description of the little servant girl. In essence, what the author is saying here, he’s saying, “You have to become like a child. Just like a child trusts someone over them, they have implicit trust in, for example; their parents, you have to become like a little child and put your faith and trust in your big God.” And that’s the picture here. God’s bigness comes as we believe His promises and He then in response to our faith in Him, He demonstrates His power, He demonstrates His bigness. We’re told very little about this servant girl other than tragic circumstances for her being kidnapped, but her actions speak loudly. She had a faith so great that Jesus, in fact, mentions it Himself in Luke 4:27. And this account in the Book of Kings makes it clear that her faith in this shade of the chain of events that led to this glorious testimony on Naaman’s part. So here’s the question – how did this girl with no Bible, how did she have faith, such faith, in the midst of such unbelief? It’s because she had been taught the promises that were given first to Eve and then handed down to Abraham and Moses and David, and promises that in fact even more available to us in the written Word of God. But even the written Word of God will do us little good if we don’t, in the words of the Psalmist, “Learn to meditate on it day and night.” It is our meditation on it. It’s allowing on God’s word to so engage our minds that we become entranced by God’s promises and we believe them and we act on them. Most of us, we like to turn in to ‘earth TV,’ we like to watch the news, maybe some of you like to watch Fox news because well, it seems to be more far or whatever you want. You know what, you can get so tuned in to the geopolitical stuff that the promises of God get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and pretty soon, you’re not thinking like a Christian, you’re just thinking like a hopeless American, “Look what’s happening. Look at the decline…” And wait a minute, where is God? God is sovereign through all of that. Does that mean God is pleased with everything that is happening? No, he’s offended. He is holy, He is full of wrath toward our sin, and yet He takes the wrath of man and uses it to do what? – To praise Him. He takes that which we say is awful, just as we heard about in Genesis 38, an awful, soap opera situation, scandalous, and what does he do? He demonstrates His power in the midst of our weakness. And He does it through the church as the church fixes its eyes on Christ and His promises that run from Genesis to Revelation. Are you meditating on God’s Word? That’s the way that you can pursue His bigness, is you daily, step by step, putting one foot out in front of the other in obedience. [?]…Thinking small – how’s that for a church mission statement – think small. Wow, that’s one I’d be proud to get up and say, “Hey, here’s our church mission statement: Think small.” That’s an incredible statement to say particularly – I can remember actually in my younger days, you know I was part of a fellowship that said, “You need to go to this church growth conference.” And I went up to the church growth conference and all these things that you’re supposed to do to get to the first one hundred and the second one hundred, and all these little formulas you can use and you too can pastor a large church and all this kind of thing. I mean, who wants to pastor, you know, like a small church? And yet, what do we see in the Scripture? – Opposite of that mindset. God, He loves to do big things through our smallness. Now, of course we want to see many people come to faith in Christ and we should be effective in reaching others in our community and around the world for Christ, but the problem is that in sometimes in aiming for what we deem as ‘big things,’ we miss the everyday opportunities that God puts before us, that’s the point in this point. The older I get and the more I watch and I meet pastors and I talk to men that I look to as faithful, godly me, successful, certainly in God’s eyes, you know what it all boils down to? – Lots of small choices over time have big results. You understand what I’m saying by that? We look for that sort of picture, I can swing for the fences and I want to get it in one swing, and the Christian life isn’t one thing. The Christian life isn’t the model of the hare; it’s more like the tortoise. It’s getting out of bed and doing the little things, it’s meeting with God, it’s even some of the littlest things we do, even the small kindnesses of giving somebody eye contact and smiling that make a big difference. You say, “That’s all talk…” No, it’s not. A few years ago, when we first got to Kiev and we were in language school, we would walk to language school even though we could get on a bus and be there in five minutes, we would walk twenty minutes because that walk was our last chance to prepare for the next class before we met our Russian speaking teacher who spoke no English and expected us to speak in Russian like she did. And there is always lots of work to do, lots of studying, lots recitation, lots of review, and lots of evidence that you did or did not do your homework, so that twenty minute walk was your last chance to review and rehearse and all the cramming I had done and all those little acronyms I had memorized to make sure I had memorized all the parts of speech to get ready for that day of reckoning. Well, my wife did the same thing. We went at different times, we had different teachers, and she walked every day and she walked the same path every day and she started meeting this rather distinguished looking Russian woman and they just passed every day, and you have to understand something – Dave, where are you? Dave would totally understand this and others of you who’ve been to that part of the world would understand this, that in the Slavic world, you don’t give people eye contact. It’s just you don’t do that, right Dave? Am I right? You know, I mean you just sort of, if you pass somebody on the sidewalk, if you pass by them you just sort of look down and you just kind of – everybody just minds their own business. And there’s a lot of reasons for this, it’s part of the culture, but it’s also part of the more immediate history. You know the KGB? People didn’t trust each other, people turned each other in, you know it was that kind of thing, and so my wife, being not only an American, but a very vivacious, friendly, winsome person – if you’ve met her you know what I’m talking about. Her eyes just light up. She’s got very, to me, very beautiful eyes and she just greets you with her eyes and so she did that with this woman and the first time she did it, the woman just looked away, just wouldn’t even return eye contact. And every day she would meet her, every day she would smile at her, and every day she’d give her eye contact and this woman wouldn’t look at her until one day, she started looking back. And so this went on for more weeks, and then my wife tried to practice some Russian, so she said hello [in Russian], and of course the woman didn’t say anything, but she just walked past. But this went on, I don’t know, two, three months, and then December came and there was a Christmas break and we were off three weeks to give our mind a chance to repair our over-heated hard-drives, our mental hard-drives. So, after Christmas she resumes going back to school, and this time she’s thinking, “I wonder if I’ll see this woman again?” And before she could even respond, I mean before she could even had a chance to find her, this woman, sees her out of the corner of her eye. She’s not walking toward her, she’s running toward her and she gets up to her and says, “Where are you? Where have you been? Are you okay?” That was the first word she’s ever heard come out of her mouth. She thought Kelly had been sick, and of course she hadn’t been sick, that was a holiday period vacation and so they began to talk, and that turned into a friendship. And so, they would not just meet and look and greet, but then they would talk and meet. And one day, I walked with her and I got to meet this woman – her name was Luda. And that was in late January and early March of the biggest holidays of the year on the Slavic calendar is International Women’s Day (says it in Russian), and so Kelly thought, “Well I’ll invite her for some tea and some cookies,” and she did. She invited her on this very special day. It’s a little like Mother’s day here, but it’s not just mothers it’s any woman that’s done anything significant and you’re supposed to buy them flowers or candy. Actually, it a pretty good idea, ladies, I suggest you look into it. Of course, don’t give up Mother’s Day, just add this – it’s not a bad deal. So she came and Kelly’s thinking, you know 45 minutes and this will kind of be a good start to building this relationship. Five hours later, she left. And of course, that was one of the ways we were introduced to the Ukraine culture. When you come, you stay. And next thing you know, she’s over again teaching Kelly some recipes and one day she says, “I want you to come to my dacha.” Dacha is like a summer home, it can be anything from a little shack and a garden where you just work on your garden and your garden and the shack is a place to keep your tools, to actually a nice summer home. And this is about an hour outside of Kiev and she did something that most people don’t even do with acquaintances, she invited her to her dacha – not one time, not two times, but three times. And through all of that, Kelly was able to actually give her the gospel and walk with her through the dying and death of her husband. The last time she talked about the gospel, Luda cut it off at that point and she since moved out and Kelly is trying to re-establish contact with her, she’s probably living at her dacha, about an hour from Kiev. But the point is this: God initiated a relationship and a story that I’m convinced is not over yet, but where did it start? Well, it started with a very carefully crafted strategy and this plan of – no; it wasn’t that – it was just smiling. It was just doing something to say through your eyes, “I care about you.” And through a smile, through eye contact and a smile, God initiated an unusual relationship. Do you get my point? That’s a little thing. But little things, lots of little things done over a long time produce big results when we’re trusting God and when we’re acting on His promises, Amen? So here’s what I’m saying here: Don’t underestimate the little things. Little, as you all know this quote, “Little is much when God is in it. Little is much when God is in it.” Our great God delights in displaying His infinite power in the most unlikely ways to show His bigness. So the take home is this: What little things could you, should you be doing, that you’re not doing right now. Think about that. Pray about that - The littlest opportunities with a neighbor, with a co-worker maybe the first of several successive steps that produce something big. Ken Sande in his book The Peace Maker tells the story of a fella who got a job and worked for, I don’t know the know the name or kind of business it was, but it was an office related business, his boss was in the hall across the hall from him and she was a woman, he happened to be a man – that’s not really the point of the story except for whatever reason she didn’t seem to like him and she mistreated him, obviously, she was just rude, she was impatient, she came down on him for, really for little if nothing kind of things, and as a Christian, he was studying about things like Ephesians 4:31-32 where it talks about, “put away bitterness and rage and anger,” and it says, “put on,” in verse 32, “put on kindness and forgiveness and tenderheartedness.” If I were to do so and be forgiving just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. So, he was really meditating on that and he was trying to do that. So, even after she had done something really rude or mean, when he would have to go to the end of the hall where there was a copy machine and a coffee machine, he would always stop by her office and say, “Do you have anything I can copy for you or would you like some coffee?” And he just did that routinely. He did it every day, in spite of the way she behaved toward him. After a couple of months of this, she came in one day in tears and she broke down and said, “I don’t get it. I have treated you like garbage all this time and all I get back from you is kindness. What is with you?” And that led to a gospel conversation and she became a sister in Christ - Through some very carefully crafted strategy that he learned from some great outreach conference, right? No, doing little things over a long time – no glitz, no stardom, just little acts of faithfulness that led to a big kingdom result. Little is much when God is in it. Start looking for God in the little things and see what He can do when you believe Him. Father, we thank you for your Word. I pray that you would – Spirit of God, I pray that You would speak to us in a way that reminds us of our identity if we know Christ as Savior that reminds us of Your great plan that runs from Genesis to Revelation – A plan that you incorporated us into, even. A plan that turns away Your wrath and places us in Christ with all His privileges of justification and adoption and being a part of Your saving purposes and proclaiming you to others. And Lord, if someone here today doesn’t know you – Lord, I pray that you would open the door of their heart, not just to a babe in a manger, but a babe in manger who came to identify with simple people like us so he could live and die to make us right with you and to cause us to be people who display Your power, Your glory, in our smallness. For it’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Scripture References: 2 Kings 5:1-15

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