Self-Denial at the Threat of Death
“Faith Helped Woman Confront British Terrorists”
Remember a few weeks ago when the British soldier was beheaded in broad daylight outside his barracks?
The Telegraph, a British paper, reported that a mother and Cub Scout leader, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, age 48, confronted the terrorists immediately after the grisly murder. She was one of the first people on the scene. While one of the terrorists held a bloodied knife, she selflessly engaged the terrorist in conversation in an attempt to prevent him from killing others. A Christian blog for “First Things” noted the real factor that motivated Ms. Loyau-Kennett to risk her life and get involved was her Christian faith. She said, “I live my life as a Christian. I believe in thinking about others and loving thy neighbor. We all have a duty to look after each other.”
Denying self is seldom that dramatic or high profile but it is often that demanding. Mrs. Loyau-Kennett understood that her faith is about far more than her own personal well-being. It is about obeying God and loving humanity.
In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read about a foreign military captain named Naaman who suffers from leprosy. Naaman is a Syrian who does not believe in the God of Israel. However, he hears that Elisha might be able to heal him so he leaves for Israel with an entourage bringing gifts to the king of Israel and to Elisha. Then Elisha gave Naaman instructions to follow…
2 Kings 5:9-12 (NLT)
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 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.”
11 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! 12 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.
We see that Elisha told Namaan to go wash in the Jordan River, which he didn’t want to do. So Naaman walked away angry.
Namaan was bitter because God did not operate in the manner that Namaan assumed that God should’ve operated in. But since he wasn’t a Jew, Namaan didn’t understand the spiritual significance of the River Jordan. Earlier, much earlier in the Bible, Joshua and the people of Israel crossed the river Jordan on dry land. Also, later on in the New Testament, Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. God was trying to show Naaman something by telling him to wash in the Jordan.
And Namaan was strategically placed as the general of the Syrian army. , had a choice to make….to listen to the Word of God, given by the man of God, or not. It’s the same for us. The Word of God tells us how to be healed. Will we respond?
 All God needs is obedience — Namaan was told that in order to be cleansed of his leprosy he had to wash in the Jordan. But of course, what God was truly concerned with was the leprosy in Namaan’s heart. Of course, leprosy is a terrible disease. By no means am I downplaying the suffering of leprous people. But in this situation, just like in our situations, God wants to reveal to us who we are, so that that we can know who he wants to become, and how to become that person.
At some point in your life you’ve probably felt led to do something by God that seemed a little crazy or ridiculous at that very moment. Perhaps you asked God to do something and the answer was not what you expected.
TRANSITION: God is the one in charge and as Isaiah 55:8 tells us, God’s ways are not our ways. What steps can you take to fully humble yourself before God and realize that His ways are not your ways? Let us go again to our text:
2 Kings 5:13-14 (NLT)
13 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!’” 14 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!
How often do emotions like anger and bitterness cloud our judgment!! Naaman almost missed a miracle, because it wasn’t packaged the way he thought it should be.
Namaan actually followed the instructions of the man of God, and guess what?He was totaled healed. As a matter of fact, his skin was restored and improved. The Bible says that his skin became like the skin of a young boy.
Not only did God powerfully remove the leprous skin which was all over Naaman’s body, but he also took away any wrinkles or wrinkle lines Naaman may have had. It was like Naaman was born again!!
Namaan wanted something flashy, with a lot of drama. But God doesn’t always operate like that. [Elijah wind, earthquake, fire, still small voice]. Naaman was expecting a parade; God gave him a private meeting. Naaman was expecting fireworks; God gave sent him on a march, like a foot soldier. Naaman’s choice was to obey when it seemed like his suffering would not end immediately. We also, must learn to embrace God’s will when it’s uncomfortable.
 Embrace God’s will when it’s uncomfortable —
Illustration– In 1873, Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, knowing the dangers, realizing the inevitable results of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and built some 600 coffins. And the whole while he was giving them the answer to that question… where is God?
Then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of “my dear brethren,” he began with, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.”
– You see it was out of love that a humble priest became one of the them. Out of love he gave those lepers a gift that would change their life for all of eternity. He shared with them the answer to the ever present question… “Where is God?” And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them. [END OF THE ILLUSTRATION].
TRANSITION FROM ILLUSTRATION: In the same way, God is calling us to identify with those around us who are infected with the spiritual leprosy of sin. Christians sin as well, but the difference with us as Christians is that we have hope. We have an antidote, a physician for our spiritual leprosy, the man Christ Jesus. He is Lord over both physical and spiritual diseases.
In many places today, lepers are still outcast, especially in places like India. Now Namaan was not an outcast, but he undoubtedly suffered greatly because of his leprosy. At the time when Namaan was alive, he probably would’ve been separated from his family. He probably did not have a wife and child. He must have been a lonely man. So the bitterness he felt went deeper than Elisha’s instructions when Elisha told him to wash in the river Jordan. But God is greater than leperousy, or any other disease for that matter. The human body has no choice but to respond to being summoned to healing and restoration by its master.
TRANSITION: So, Namaan’s men traveled back from the Jordan River back up north to Samaria. Verse 12
2 Kings 5:15-19 (NLT)
15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. 18 However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.”
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again.
Now that Naaman saw the miracle of God which healed his ravaged body, he converted to Judaism on the spot. But even though Naaman was now a convert to Judaism, he had to go back to his king, who served a different God.
Who was the God Rimmon? A Syrian cult image and temple, mentioned only in 2 Kings 5:18. In Syria this deity was known as “Baal” (“the Lord” par excellence), in Assyria as “Ramanu” (“the Thunderer”). Basically, Naaman was saying look, even though I’m a believer in the true God, when I get back to work, forgive me because my boss will be worshipping this false god, and they’ll be back to their foolish ways. In the same way for us, we have a great time here at Neighborhood, don’t we? We enjoy each other’s company, and there is a lot of love and joy at this church. But what happens on Monday? Just like Elisha told Naaman to go in peace, so God is telling us, go in peace.
So in Japan, the primary religions are Shintoism and Buddhism. So Japanese Christians are the minority, even more so than in America. And in America, people worship their own brainpower and intellect, meaning, they treat man-made ideas as though they were worthy of worship. This is the world we go into on Monday. We live in a world where the government has made laws to protect lifestyles and practices that the Word of God condemns. This happens in Japan and America. We sin by default simply by being U.S. government employees, working for a government that promotes abortion, same-sex marriage, and treats all religions, even Satanism, as equally ok to practice. But go in peace. God understands that we have to work and provide for our families. He knows that when we live in a sinful culture, sometimes we sin by default. But God’s grace outweighs all sin.
 God’s grace outweighs all sin —- God’s grace covers us when we are at the very end of our strength, energy and desire. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples, right? It’s mandatory, not an option. But For military members, we can’t preach the gospel at work. But we can pray, can’t we?
“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.”
― J. Sidlow Baxter
God’s grace was far more powerful than Naaman’s bitterness and anger. God’s grace washed over his physical leprosy, and healed his spiritual leprosy as well. leprosy is treatable today, but even without illnesses, we are still dying. But we can have hope in Christ, beyond the grave. No belief system can match the promises given to us in Christ. It’s no wonder that Paul says:
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NLT) 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
This is interesting, especially coming from a guy who was stoned, two or three times, endured 39 lashes twice, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starved, and beaten, all for the cross and for Christ. The persecution Paul faced, and the suffering Naaman faced was nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in them and in us, in heaven. Just as Naaman made a choice, we have a choice to make today. For the Christian, we have to make the choice to maximize our potential in Christ. For the non-Christian, Jesus said he was the Son of God, the only way you could escape the wrath of God, torments of hell, and receive eternal life. What’s your response? To not respond to Christ is to declare war on Him, there is no neutral ground. It was Naaman’s choice, whether to respond to the Word of the Lord. It is our choice. Let’s make the right choice.