Be Open to God’s Ways
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’, says the Lord, ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55: 8-9
God has revealed truths to us in His word, the Bible. As true Christians we are required to take these revealed truths and apply them to our lives. We need to believe in them, trust in them, align our lives with them, and walk in the reality of these truths. These truths are displayed throughout the Scriptures and are culminated in the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. These truths are deep and profound and involve our origin, our purpose, and our destination, and therefore impact our core philosophy and world view. Adhering to these truths affects the way that we perceive our surroundings and how we respond to life’s circumstances.
One of the greatest challenges we have as Christians is recognizing the work of the Lord in the circumstances as they come up in our lives, especially the more difficult or challenging circumstances. We tend to get too caught up in our day to day living to be aware of the bigger picture of God’s way of working.
I have heard some older Christians say that they started out excited about their life in Christ, rejoicing and hungry for more, but then “life hit them” and they lost the joy and excitement. I understand that the Lord will allow trials and difficult circumstances into our lives to test our faith and to strengthen our character. These circumstances can be earth shattering for us and cut us deep emotionally, but we must not lose our perspective of God’s hand in our circumstances. We must be able to see things from His viewpoint.
We can retain our joy and excitement in the Lord if we keep our spiritual viewpoint, understanding that the Lord will work with us, in us and through us for His purposes, and they are all good.
There is an interesting account in the Old Testament that illustrates our need to be open to God’s ways. It’s the account of Naaman the Syrian commander who had leprosy. Here’s my quick background of the situation of Naaman: He was a man of valor, commander of the Syrian Army and highly regarded by the King of Syria. His wife had a young servant girl who was from Israel and mentioned that if Naaman would go and see the prophet from Israel he could be cured of his leprosy. Naaman mentioned this to the Syrian king, so the king then sent Naaman to the king of Israel with a large sum of money and gifts along with a letter. We’ll pick up here in the Scriptures:
“Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, ‘Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.’ And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore, please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.’” 2 Kings 5:6-7
Looking at this circumstance from a purely physical viewpoint, in our natural minds, it is certainly very troubling for the king of Israel. Here is a neighboring king asking for him to do something impossible. Note that the tearing of one’s clothes was an outward sign of one being extremely upset on the inside. The king of Israel saw this as a way for the king of Syria to start an incident that could lead to a major war between the nations.
It is not unlikely that we could face similar situations. Maybe the boss asks of us something impossible that we think could result in losing our job. Or our spouse expects something seemingly impossible from us that appears to be the start of a quarrel. Or there are many circumstances that would cause us to become very upset, and if we were in the Old Testament culture, we would tear our cloths upon encountering.
It’s easy for us to see God’s influence in this account, especially for those who are familiar with Naaman’s story and know that he is healed later by God through the prophet Elisha. But how should the king of Israel reacted? At the very least, shouldn’t he have first looked to the Lord and inquired about the situation before reacting as he did? From the spiritual perspective, this was God’s people – the nation of Israel, therefore this was an opportunity for the true and living God to show His power to Syria and all the surrounding nations who would hear of this situation. The king should have considered God’s purpose in this matter.
For us today, we should learn that we should not respond quickly to adverse circumstances without seeking the Lord’s guidance. We are God’s children and He is aware of every situation that we encounter in our life. He has a purpose for our good and for His glory in every circumstance that we face.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
We must understand that God’s ways and purposes are not easy for us to see and understand from our limited earthly viewpoint. The Lord has infinite knowledge and He knows the future. Our faith demands that we trust His judgment totally. If we are fearful, we are not trusting in Him.
Elisha later corrects the king for his negative reaction to the letter:
“So it was when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.’” 2 Kings 5:8
Lesson 1: God has a purpose in all of our circumstances, even the most difficult or trying situations. We must trust Him and not look at things in our flesh, but rather know that His ways are beyond ours, therefore we don’t have to understand things. Sometimes what appears to be meant for our harm or to cause trouble, God will miraculously intervene and use for His glory.
There are a few more similar lessons for us in this chapter of 2 Kings, but I will just cover one more, the lesson about Naaman’s response to Elisha:
“Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became furious and went away and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and wave his hand over the place and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.” 2 Kings 5:9-12
What I find most interesting in this account is that Naaman has his own idea of how this healing should happen, and when it doesn’t happen as he imagined, he leaves in a rage. We do the same type of thing, don’t we? We think we know how God should work, and when He doesn’t do it our way we get upset.
Fortunately, Naaman’s servants had enough common sense to talk Naaman into doing what Elisha said:
“And his servants came near and spoke to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, “Wash and be clean”?’ So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 kings 5:13-14
Lesson 2: Don’t allow your preconceived ideas about how God should do His work in your life or circumstances to confuse or upset you when His approach differs from yours. Be open to His leading when things change from your preconceived plan (and most times they will).
What’s worse is when we try to force things to work the way that we think that they should, rather than accepting God’s change in direction. This is foolish.
At first glance, Naaman’s response seems arrogant and foolish, but we should look in the mirror.
I find that my circumstances often change and take turns that are a surprise to me, completely different than what I expected. God’s ways are higher than mine (and higher is better). He sees all the information. He knows people’s hearts. He knows the future. He knows what is best. Later on, sometimes years later, I can look back and see the purpose in some situations, in others, I’m still trusting His judgment and higher purpose and may not know His reasoning until I’m in His presence.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5: 7-9