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.
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.
One of the world’s most loved comic strips is Hagar the Horrible. In one strip, we see Hagar kneeling in prayer, “It is not easy to believe in you God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?” Next, we see:
- A flower springing into life next to Hagar.
- A volcano erupting in the distance.
- An eclipse of the sun turning the sky black.
- A star shooting across the night blackened sky.
- A tidal wave rushing over Hagar.
- Lightning flashing.
- A bush beginning to burn.
- A stone rolling away from the entrance to a tomb.
Hagar pulls himself from the mud, dripping wet, and surrounded by darkness. “Okay, okay! I give up! Every time I bring up this subject, all we get is interruptions.”
This comic strip makes light of a real issue with which many Christians struggle at some time in their life.
Is it true? This is a question many have asked over the years, and it brings to light the reality of doubt. Doubt is a season which many people pass through. When we think of someone who doubted, we probably think almost immediately of Thomas. He is even known as “Doubting Thomas.” Peter also experienced some moments of doubt, and it is safe to assume other of Jesus’ first followers may have had a doubt or two. John the Baptist among them.
Matthew 11:1-6 records, “When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing, so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor.’ And he added, ‘God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
John the Baptist is struggling here. Perhaps with good reason, imagine the scene. John has been sitting in a small prison cell for approximately a year. His disciples were talking with John about the rumors of Jesus’ work. He was healing folks who suffered from a variety of diseases and illnesses, he was having compassion on people, and he was approaching individuals with a tender touch. As John was looking through the bars of his jail cell, it seemed Jesus was not bringing any judgment to the world, especially to the corrupted official who imprisoned him. Jesus is not acting in the way John thought the Messiah would, so he begins to doubt. He begins to wonder if Jesus is the Messiah who was to come or if someone else will be coming.
Put us in the scenes of our lives, and doubt begins to enter. We have plans made which we feel are secure, but suddenly life throws a wrench in those plans. We begin to wonder of the Lord’s whereabouts as our plans fall apart. Doubt creeps in.
Doubt enters for the young husband who is struggling just to provide for his family. Doubt enters for the parent whose child is struggling. Doubt enters for the retired couple who is dealing with much more than planned in their golden years. Doubt finds opportunities to walk into our lives.
Doubting and asking questions does not make you a bad person. It is how you handle the doubts and the questions which makes all the difference. Here are 3 keys for handling doubt the right way.
1. Present your doubts to the Lord
The first key for handling doubts is taking our doubts to the Lord. John’s doubts are real. John doesn’t try to hide his doubts are hide himself from the Lord. He does just the opposite. He goes right to Jesus with the question. We can even say John’s question was blunt.
“Are you the Messiah, or is someone else coming?” This question is to the point. It is not hidden; it is not veiled. It is very real and honest, and Jesus’ response shows us it is okay to directly approach him with our doubts.
Jesus responds to John with much compassion and grace, as if to say, “I understand how you feel, so let me help you through it.” This is not the only time Jesus responds compassionately and graciously to someone with doubts.
He responds the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just can’t wrap his mind around it.
Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Thomas’ doubt is not hidden or veiled here; it is real and bluntly presented just like John the Baptist. And, Jesus responds in the same way.
John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”
It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.
The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.
You see, it is okay to go directly to Jesus with our doubts. He even defends John. Matthew records Jesus telling the crowd they did not go out into the desert to see a man put on a good show. They went out to see a prophet. During everything John is going through, Jesus still calls him a prophet; “the Elijah” who was to come. John doesn’t lose credibility with Jesus because he presents doubts.
Likewise, we do not lose credibility with Jesus when we present doubts. He knows our hearts and minds anyway, so why try to hide the doubt? Why try to veil the very feeling which the Lord will help us work through? John presented doubts; Thomas presented doubts, and Jesus responded with compassion and grace. We can present doubts, and Jesus will respond with compassion and grace. Stop becoming unbelieving and start becoming believing again. The first key to overcoming doubt is to take it to the Lord.
2. Look Around to Overcome Doubt
The second key to overcome doubt is to look around. Jesus replies to John’s question by telling his disciples to go back and report what they see and hear. Look around at the Lord’s work.
Just step outside and look around at the workings of nature. We find the Lord’s fingerprints all over. According to Amazing Facts, here are a few places we see the Lord’s fingerprints.
- The sun is a certain distance from the Earth. If it were any closer or at a greater distance, human life could not exist.
- The Earth rotates on its axis at a certain angle. Any change in the degree of angle, and human life could not exist.
- The air we breathe is 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. The slightest change would cause much difficulty for human existence.
These are just a few examples of where we see the Lord’s fingerprints. Look around in nature, and you will find the Lord at work.
Another place we see the Lord’s work is in people’s lives. How many times have you heard those stories where there is just no explanation or things worked out in just the right way?
I’ve heard the story of a son who was going to look at a race car. He was interested in purchasing the car. He and his friends started on their way, and the son realized he forgot to grab an item out of his garage. He returned home to find his dad lying on the garage floor. His father needed medical attention, and had the son not forgotten the item, no one would have known it in time.
I’ve heard a story of a lady attempting to find her sister-in-law to let her know her husband was in the emergency room in serious condition. All she knew was her sister-in-law was running errands. The lady called some local businesses searching but came up empty. After exhausting all other options, she decided to just go driving around looking. She was getting ready to pull off her street onto the highway and guess who went by – her sister-in-law. If either of these ladies had delayed driving even by seconds, they would have missed each other. Everything worked out in just the right timing.
These two stories are interwoven. They are connected by a single family. As they were anxiously awaiting news about their dad, husband, and brother, they were reflecting on the afternoon’s events. And, only one conclusion was logical. The Lord had to be with them.
We all know of stories like this. There is just no explanation except the Lord was at work. “Look around,” Jesus says to John’s disciples. Look around at how you see the Lord moving; look around at how you see the Lord working; look around.
3. Challenge Your Doubts with the Bible
Thirdly, Jesus suggests referring to Scripture to help overcome doubt.
Jesus responds to John’s disciples in part by quoting Scripture. He quoted passages of Scripture which were beginning to be fulfilled. Not every detail of the prophecy John knew had been fulfilled at this point, but it was starting to come together.
Jesus was jogging John’s memory with Scripture. He certainly knew John was aware of the Old Testament passages discussing the Messiah. Jesus pushed John to Scripture to help him overcome his doubts.
Allow your doubts to push you to Scripture. Allow Scripture to challenge your doubts. Allow yourself to be open-minded enough to ponder the claims of Scripture. In doing so, your doubts may start to erode. After all, what do you have to lose besides doubts?
John the Baptist was a strong person of faith. He was the forerunner for Jesus, yet he had a season in life when he doubted. Doubt is certainly a part of many Christians journey; however, how the Christian responds to doubt makes the difference. These three keys will help overcome the season of doubt.
All three of these keys will only work if there is a willingness on our part to give them an opportunity. If you find yourself in a season of doubt today, why don’t you give them a shot? We asked this earlier, but what do you have to lose – besides doubts?
“I will always love you.”
“Till death do us part.”
“I’ve got your back; you don’t have to worry about this round of layoffs.”
These are promises many of us have heard only to find out they have been broken. Many of us have found ourselves walking through the valley of broken promises on more than one occasion. We were given a promise, but the promise wasn’t kept. Words were flowing freely, but the commitment was not behind them. Many may break promises, but there is One who will not send us to the valley of broken promises.
The Lord is faithful, and he always keeps his promises.
- Psalm 12:6 says, “The Lord’s promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.”
- Numbers 19:23 says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”
Looking through history reveals God’s flawless record of keeping his promises. He promised Abraham he would become a great nation, and Abraham did. He promised Israel they would possess the land of Canaan and they did. The Lord promised Israel manna in the desert, and the manna showed up just as he said. The Lord is faithful in keeping his promises.
- 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
- Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”
For you and I, this means the promises we find within Scripture are true. The promises we cling to in the middle of the night are true. The promises we rely on in rough times are true. The promises in which we place our hope for a better tomorrow will be fulfilled. The Lord’s promises are true.
Choose to claim the promises we find in Scripture about our family, finances, and future, and cling to them. They are true because God always keeps his promises!
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He was promised a son. He was promised from this son would come many descendants. Then Abraham was called to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Genesis 22 records:
22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
Abraham’s faith is being tested. How far will he allow his faith to take him? Genesis 22 goes on:
3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
Notice Abraham tells his servants he and Isaac will return. Like Isaac, Abraham knows the Lord is in control. Abraham’s faith compels him to trust the Lord.
In Hebrews 11:17-19, the writer says:
17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
By faith, Abraham knew the Lord would keep his promises. Therefore, he fully trusted the Lord. The Bible encourages us to fully trust the Lord. In Proverbs 3, Solomon suggests we trust the Lord and seek him in everything we do.
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