“Preparing for a Miracle” – (I saw this on Sermon Central and it was so good I wanted to share it with you. Original author Bob Hunter.)
Miracles rarely just happen. They are the work of God’s constant intervention in our lives. So how can we prepare ourselves to receive one?
Our lesson today comes from the Haftarah portion that we read earlier. It’s the story of General Naaman of the Syrian army. He’s not a believer, & he doesn’t live in the Holy Land. In fact, when it comes to spiritual things, he’s on the outside looking in.
Naaman is a desperate man, seeking answers to an incurable problem. He has leprosy. Which is a disease that affects the skin. A person with leprosy didn’t have much of a future. It’s a very painful disease to say the least, that has serious physical and social consequences. A Leper finds himself alienated and ostracized from the rest of society. All the while, his body aches from a process of deterioration that occurs from the inside out causing the loss of limbs and legs.
Naaman needs a miracle! He’s got a problem, a big problem. He has an issue that can’t be resolved. That’s the first thing you need to know about miracles. All of God’s miracles have one thing in common, and you know what that is? They all start with a problem. Naaman has a enormously big problem in his life! Now, how many of you here this morning have a problem? Truth be told, you have problems, I have problems, all God’s children have problems!!! If you have a problem you’re a candidate to receive a miracle.
All the miracles you read about in the Bible have this one thing in common. They all start with a problem or a need. That’s the starting point for God’s action. If you don’t have any problems then you don’t need God.
We don’t know how long Naaman had leprosy or how far the disease had advanced. But Naaman knows that if something is not done quickly, his life will soon deteriorate as the disease progresses. He’s going to lose his career, his family, his fortune, his position. He’ll forever live in isolation and alienation. So he’s got to do something about it.
The first thing that Naaman did with his problem was this: He admitted it. Naaman was willing to look at things for what they were, not what he wished they were. He was willing to bring his problem into the light.
STEP ONE. ADMIT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
Now for many of us, this is a very difficult step to take. We don’t like to admit some of our problems, do we? We would rather pretend our problems don’t exist. We falsely think, that If we don’t talk about them, maybe they will go away. And when we’re confronted with them, we have all kinds avoidance strategies like blaming others, getting defensive, or just plain denial.
Naaman, however, was far more realistic. He was beyond the denial stage. His problem was so bad, he couldn’t escape it. It changed his appearance, threatened his career. Who could deny it? Everybody knew that Naaman a problem. Realizing his predicament, Naaman resolves to do something about it.
For most of us here today, our problems are much more subtle than Naaman’s leprosy. For many, addictions can take hold of a life in such a way that it is hidden from most people. We even hide it from ourselves. We won’t admit we have a problem. Once we come to the conclusion that a problem exists, we can move toward resolution.
That’s the second step in the process of preparing yourself to receive a miracle.
STEP TWO: BE WILLING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
You see, Naaman was not only willing to admit his problem, but he was willing to do some radical things to get the problem fixed.
The first thing he did, was take advice from a female slave! That’s a miracle in itself! This is an enormous step for a man to take in the ancient world, because it was a man’s world. So, the first thing Naaman does is take some good advice. He’s willing to listen to what others are saying and entertain their advice.
As it turns out, Naaman likes the advice that’s given to him and he acts upon it. He requests permission from the King of Aram to go to Israel. The King gladly grants permission.
Naaman was willing to do something about his problem. He didn’t give up. He was willing to take his problem to the highest authority in the land. He pulled out all the stops. He didn’t waste any time. There was no delay. Naaman was willing to do something about his problem. And you’ve got to be willing to do something about yours.
You know, some people are experts at diagnosing problems, but that’s about as far as it goes. They are capable of identifying problems, defining problems, analyzing problems, and talking about problems; but it doesn’t go any further than that. So you’re really long on diagnosis, but short on prescription. What good is a Doctor that only tells you what’s wrong and not how to fix it? I’m sure all of us have known people that can always find problems but can never come up with solutions.
These events represent the extraordinary steps Naaman was willing to take to resolve his leprosy. Naaman was willing to do everything within his power and ability to pursue help, including sacrifice.
STEP THREE: BE WILLING TO SACRIFICE.
Naaman’s willingness to sacrifice further established the groundwork for this miracle.
Naaman gathered an enormous amount of his wealth, gold, silver, and ten sets of clothes and a whole entourage of people and set out on a journey with hopes of receiving a miracle. He spared no expense. Naaman was willing to give everything in his possession to see an answer to the problem. He was willing to pay any price, give any gift and make any sacrifice. Nothing would he hold back. Naaman lays it all on the line, and so should we.
If you want to see miracles happen in your life, be willing to sacrifice! Nothing happens except by way of sacrifice.
You need a financial miracle? Be willing to sacrifice and discipline yourself.
You need a marriage miracle? Then you have to be willing to put some other things aside in order to make your marriage a priority. It won’t happen until you sacrifice something.
You need a physical miracle? You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sometimes that calls for a lifestyle change. I have met people that call me and ask me to pray that God would heal them of their diabetes. But I knew that every time we got together, they would eat twice as much dessert as I did, drank sugary drinks, and basically did nothing to reduce the effects of diabetes in their bodies. As cruel as it sounds, I told them straight up that unless they are willing to stop poisoning their bodies with sugar, I would not pray for their healing.
God is looking for some people who are willing sacrifice! So that miracles can happen and the world will know that He is alone is God. And so often He uses what’s in our hand, if only we would be willing to sacrifice it. You see, miracles usually involve some degree of sacrifice. Naaman was willing to sacrifice. Let me give you another example…
You remember the story of the loaves and fishes. This was the only miracle that Jesus performed recorded in all four gospels. That’s how important it was. Jesus is teaching a multitude of hungry people, it’s late in the afternoon and they’re all hungry. Along comes a little boy with 5 loaves and two fishes, Jesus said, “give me your lunch” And the little boy willingly gave up his lunch. He didn’t do it begrudgingly or with hesitation, he gave his lunch to the Savior. Now, did Jesus need the 5 loaves and 2 fishes? No, he could have called down manna from heaven and spontaneously created a hug buffet line. But Jesus didn’t do it that way, He took what little bit that boy had to offer and multiplied it. God typically uses what’s already in our possession. We just have to be willing to give it to Him. The key word is: Sacrifice. Naaman was willing to sacrifice. Are you?
Now, as many of you know, sacrifices come in many ways. Naaman here was put to the ultimate test, little did he know at the time, receiving his miracle would require a different kind of sacrifice. When he meets up with the prophet Elisha, a messenger gave him detailed instructions about what He should do to be healed. Elisha said, You need to go wash in Jordan 7 times and then you’ll be cured and your flesh will be restored. Seven times! Elisha said.
The Bible says, that Naaman got angry. Why did He get angry? Why does anybody get angry? (Answer: Pride) Elisha asked him to do something that required humility. He asked Naaman, a wealthy and prominent man, to go bathe in the Jordan, not only once, but 7 times. You need to know something about the Jordan river, it’s not the cleanest body of water in the region. It’s the drain basin for the hills of Judea, so it is very muddy the further downstream you get.
Naaman was angry because he couldn’t see how a dirty river could cleanse him from an incurable disease… How do you get into a dirty river and come out clean? So he got mad and walked off in a huff. The Bible says that Naaman was in a rage over the whole thing. You see, not only was God dealing with Naaman’s physical disease, he was also dealing with a spiritual disease. And Naaman was a very proud man that needed to learn some lessons in humility. God was calling him to make a sacrifice far greater than just money. In fact, God didn’t use the money. God was calling Naaman to be a living sacrifice. Dipping in Jordan was an act of humility. The remedy for pride is humility. And that’s what God was calling him to do… to be a living sacrifice. And Naaman after giving it some thought and being persuaded, did exactly what Elisha told him to do.
It took some time for Naaman to come around to it. But Naaman came to his senses and dipped his diseased body in the Jordan River, not once, but 7 times he took the plunge. What humility, what sacrifice!!! It was a totally unconventional. But God used it to help Naaman in more ways than one, he got a lesson in humility. You see, Naaman was open to change. For a man of his stature to humble himself and bath in Jordan, that’s a pretty radical departure from what he’s known. But Naaman was open to that change, are you?
STEP FOUR: BE OPEN TO CHANGE!
You have to, because when God supernaturally intervenes, everything is going to change anyway. When miracles happen, nothing stays the same, old things pass away and new things come about. Miracles have a way of changing our habits, attitudes and lifestyles.
One of the changes that took place immediately for Naaman was his attitude toward worship. Naaman’s whole concept of worship was dramatically changed for the better. And instead of worshipping many gods, Naaman, a total non-jewish guy, is totally convinced that all other worship is in vain. He proudly proclaimed that there is only one God in his life and that was the God of Israel. In verse 15 Naaman says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Later in the same conversation, Naaman offers advanced regrets to Elisha, because he knows that back in Syria, under the King, he’s going to have to stand beside a man who worships other gods. And now, he feels convicted about that and offers regrets in advance. Naaman’s whole attitude in worship changed dramatically after this even. Instead of worshipping many gods, He was resolved to only worship one God. Miracles do that to us, they change us, they change our attitudes and lifestyle.
STEP FIVE….LOOK FOR THE UNEXPECTED!
God performs miracles his way, not our way. Did you catch that? He does it His way, not our way. God has a miracle working agenda and it doesn’t always work the way we think it’s going to work. So you’re going to have to stay on your toes. The miracle may come in a way you never thought. And it may come when you don’t expect it. There’s an element of mystery to it. Miracles are miracles for a reason, you can’t manufacture them. God is not like a vending machine, where you deposit certain inputs, make a choice and get a certain output. God is God, and we are not. And sometimes he chooses to work in a way that we never thought humanly possible. There’s a sense of awe and wonder when a miracle takes place. That’s why we call them miracles and not good fortune or good luck. Life is not a crap-shoot, God is God and if he chooses to do so He can supernaturally intervene in the natural order of things and do a miracle. We serve a miracle working God who works in unexpected ways.
I don’t think Naaman ever expected to walk away from a dirty river a changed man. Not only was his leprosy healed and his skin restored, but he was healed of a far greater disease, his prideful spirit was dealt with. God changed him from the inside out. That wasn’t really what he bargained for, he brought with him a fortune, Naaman would have gladly paid out the bucks to get a mere healing. Some scholars say, that Naaman had the equivalent of 1.5 million in gold and silver with him, and he was willing to give it all. But God was not interested in the money, you can’t buy a miracle. Who knows, perhaps Naaman thought he could. God worked it out in a totally different way, and it didn’t even cost him a dime.
You see, the greatest miracle of all is a changed life. You can read the miraculous accounts of God moving in scripture and you’ll find in every case that it resulted in someone’s life being changed. In the Bible there is a litany of miracles from beginning to end, Jesus performed 39 of them that we know of that got recorded, who knows there could have been hundreds upon hundreds more, in every case there’s the miracle and then there’s the miracle behind it. The real miracle is not walking on water, or feeding a hungry crowd or healing a terrible disease. The miracle behind the miracle is the life change that results from it. God can juggle lightening bolts all day and give us a real showing if he wants to. But real miracles from God have a different agenda, it brings about dramatic life change, and attitude change. You’ll never be the same after a God given miracle. That’s God’s agenda. When God performs miracles, unexpected changes in your life may occur. Look for the unexpected.
Humble yourself like a child and come to God holding nothing back. Put yourself on the altar today, become a living sacrifice. The real miracle that God wants to perform in YOU!