Patient in Affliction – Get Encouraged
The question posed to the college speech class was, “What are your priorities?” Students were to compose a 1-to-2-minute speech listing their top 3 priorities. The next class meeting did not bring shocking answers. There were those which were well-thought, and some that were probably written on the walk to class. Family, significant others, and friends made many lists, and at the top of many lists was God and/or faith. At the end of the class, the professor reminded the students ordering one’s priorities will dictate how we act in life.
As Christians, Psalm 37 helps us align our priorities. Verse 4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” David recommends we put the Lord at the top and center of everything we do. The Lord will then plant desires in our hearts, and he will help us align our priorities for a peaceful and satisfying life. Living out David’s recommendation puts our focus on the Lord’s plan and purpose rather than shiny things we believe will bring satisfaction apart from God.
So, ask yourself the question posed in the speech class. What are your priorities?
Bad days; we all have them.
Naaman certainly did. 2 Kings 5 tells us Naaman had a lot going for him. He was a mighty warrior and had found favor with the king, but he had leprosy. This contagious skin disease would have caused much difficulty for Naaman, so one of his servants suggests Naaman go to Israel to seek healing. His journey leads him to Elisha.
According to 2 Kings 5:9-12, “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”
But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.”
Naaman can’t believe this is happening. He is a mighty warrior, and he feels he deserves a better answer than a messenger telling him to wash in the muddy waters of the Jordan. He is certainly having a bad day. It seems he expected a completely different outcome to this day, so he takes off in a fit of rage.
We also have days like this. We can’t believe something is happening. We can’t believe we have to go there or do that, so we want to take off in a fit of rage like Naaman. But, notice the advice offered by those traveling with him.
2 Kings 5 goes on, “But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So, you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!”
Imagine the scene at the river. Naaman, still furious from his interactions with Elisha, steps into the nasty water of the Jordan. He slips and slides out to a place where it is easy to get his whole body under the water and begins dipping. Perhaps the first couple dips felt kind of good. Naaman was angry, so the coolness of the water may have been somewhat refreshing. Long about dip six, Naaman’s agitation may have returned.
He’s in the Jordan, he’s doing what Elisha said, but all he’s getting is mud in his hair and water in his ears. His skin disease isn’t healing. But then comes the seventh dip, and that’s when everything changes.
He goes under with leprosy, but he comes up healed. He goes under with a skin disease, but he comes up with a renewed skin. Naaman goes under wondering how this is going to help, but he comes up knowing that God is real. It was the seventh dip that made the difference.
In many ways, this may illustrate our lives. We have all these things we are going through. You can insert your things here, and we can’t believe they are happening. We know God says to trust him and we do, but we easily relate to Naaman, standing in the middle of the Jordan, wondering how this is going to help.
It is in these moments we need to remember we haven’t reached our seventh dip. Many years ago, I heard a sermon that pointed out not every day can be a seventh dip day. Not every day is going to be filled with happiness; not every day is going to be good in our eyes, but they are all leading to our seventh dip. So, when you are going through your things, hang in there. Your seventh dip is coming!
Imagine Naaman’s thoughts as he was dipping himself in the water.
We pulled into the Bob Evans parking lot, and our daughter noticed a gentleman standing between the parking lot and street. He was holding a sign at the intersection of two busy roads. She read the sign and asked if we could give him some money. His sign was requesting money for food.
How were we going to respond to his request?
We didn’t know the man or s of his situation, but we were faced with a choice. This is just one example of an everyday occurrence; each day we are given the choice of how to respond to various situations. Whether it is the guy in the parking lot with a sign or the lady in front of us in line, we have to choose how to interact. We have to decide how to respond to that driver who cut us off in traffic or that grouchy person who bumped into us on the bus. Each day brings a new set of opportunities needing our response, and Psalm 37 gives us a pattern to follow.
Verse 3 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.”
The Psalmist encourages us to use these opportunities to do good. As we trust in the Lord, we should allow our faith to drive us to doing what is right even if others are doing what is wrong. We should allow our faith to guide us to do what is good. We may not know every detail of each situation, but the Lord does. When these opportunities come, our response should always be to do good.
As for the guy in the Bob Evans parking lot, we didn’t know his situation. All we knew is he was holding a sign asking for help, so we gave him enough money for a meal. He said thank you, and we went on our way. We’ll probably never cross paths again, but I hope by our doing good, the man at least saw a glimpse of Christ’s grace.
As a father, he had a lot of responsibility. He had to provide for his family while keeping everyone safe. He may have hoped a unique beginning to fatherhood smoothed out to a more ordinary time, but his family stayed in the Once in History category. And, each step of the way, we see how his character makes him a real man and a great dad.
His name is Joseph, and his relationship with Mary started out in an ordinary way. They were pledged to be married, but suddenly Mary delivered a bombshell. She was pregnant! Joseph knew the baby wasn’t his, and Mary’s explanation was a little hard to swallow, so Joseph had to decide what he wanted to do. His character guided Joseph to respond to this situation in a compassionate, gracious way as a real man always should.
The Bible tells us Joseph had in mind to end his relationship with Mary in a quiet way. This would keep Mary from facing the public embarrassment and hardships that came in having a relationship end in this way. She, and he, would be able to move on in life the best way possible if he kept everything quiet, but the Lord intervened and guided Joseph to a different plan. Matthew 1:20 says, “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
Joseph paid attention and went ahead with his marriage to Mary, so we can add being sensitive to the Lord’s guidance to the list of qualities Joseph displayed. This was not the only time Joseph was sensitive to the Lord’s guidance. As his family grew, Joseph continued to allow the Lord to guide him as a real man should.
- When Jesus’ life was threatened as an infant, Joseph listened to the angel, who told him to flee to Egypt.
- When the threat was over, Joseph listened to the angel, who instructed him to return home.
Joseph had the courage to allow the Lord to guide his decision making, and he had the wisdom to follow the guidance.
Joseph also had self-control. Matthew’s Gospel tells us Joseph and Mary did not have sexual intercourse until after Jesus’ birth. Joseph knew there was a proper time for this occasion, and he had enough control to wait until the time was right.
In summary, Joseph was a compassionate, gracious man who was sensitive to the Lord’s guidance, and he exercised self-control. These are certainly qualities of a great dad and a real man. In fact, they are excellent qualities for anyone – man or woman – to possess. How well do you measure up?
Found in Psalm 37, these words of David are a promise which should bring us great encouragement. David says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
This promise reminds us the Lord is with us in every step of our lives. The Lord is directing our lives just like he did Moses.
Moses was born at a difficult time in history. Egypt had enslaved the Israelites, and an edict was issued to control the Israelite population. Newborn males were not to be treated well, but the Lord intervened. Moses’ parents hid him for a while before placing him in a waterproof basket on the Nile. The Lord directed the basket to float to some reeds, where Pharoah’s daughter found it. She was instantly fond of the baby in the basket, and guess what…
His sister, Miriam, was her personal servant. Miriam was sent to find an Israelite mother to help care for the child, so she brought back her mom. Of course, this was also Moses’ mom. And, this was only the beginning of God directing the steps of Moses’ life.
As time marched on, the Lord enabled Moses to learn Egyptian customs by allowing him to grow up in Pharoah’s palace, trained Moses in the ways of the desert by having him shepherd sheep before becoming the shepherd of Israel, and by giving him the strength to stand before Pharoah proclaiming the power of the Lord. God guided Moses through each phase of life.
God can guide us through each phase of life as well. “Trust him,” the Bible says, “and he will guide your steps and make your paths straight.” And notice, David says, “Though they stumble….” We don’t have to be perfect. The Lord does not wait for us to lead a mistake free life before he starts guiding us.
He sure didn’t wait for Moses to be perfect before guiding him. Moses made his share of mistakes in Egypt, in the desert, and even after becoming the leader of God’s people. Even though Moses made mistakes, the Lord still offered him guidance.
Mistakes and all, the Lord offers us guidance. He meets our stumbles with a hand so we don’t fall. As we’re promised in Jeremiah, the Lord knows the plans he has for us. We just have to trust he will guide us each step of the way.
Columnist Deborah Mathis has written about her observations during a particular trip through Union Station in Washington D.C. There was a great deal of movement and noise. Announcements blaring, security guards shouting directions, horns honking, people moving in all directions, and a traveler singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.”
Slowly a change came over the noisy crowd. The voice continued:
“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”
As the traveler sang, the hubbub of the station was replaced with a calm peace. A man in front of Mathis commented that he was not a Christian, but the peace was nice. Amid current events and all the noise of the world around us, many people are searching for peace. There are a number of places and products promising peace, but it seems those spots only leave the searcher longing for more and wondering if there really is true peace.
The Bible teaches there is true peace, and it comes in trusting the Lord.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
- We read in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
When we trust the Lord, he brings us peace just like he did on a stormy, scary night for a few of his first followers. The night started with Jesus and his disciples beginning the journey across a lake. As they were crossing, a fierce storm came up. The boat was rocked as it began to fill with water. Mark’s Gospel says, “Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.”
The calmness was once again interrupted on the other side of the lake. Jesus and the disciples were met by a man possessed by a legion of demons. This man had not had peace for a long time, and his presence probably created a scary situation for the disciples. Jesus, though, had control of the situation. He ordered the demons out of the man and into a herd of pigs, which went dashing over a cliff into the lake. Calm and peace were once again restored.
No matter the source of the hubbub, Jesus is in control. The same Lord who calmed a storm and cast out demons can give us a perfect peace. Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”