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Suffering, Saving, and Serving

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
September 14, 2023 9:00 am

Suffering, Saving, and Serving

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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September 14, 2023 9:00 am

As we continue our series through Psalm 23, Pastor J.D. Greear examines the life of Namaan—a powerful king with a powerful problem: leprosy. Naaman would eventually get the healing he was after, but not before God led him in a direction he never expected to go.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Here is the question that Naaman's story ought to make you ask. What if God was trying to send you a message in your pain?

I'm not saying that this is true for everybody that's in pain right now, but it is a question that some of us should at least ask. Thanks for joining us today for Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, as we continue our series through Psalm 23, Pastor J.D. Greer examines the life of Naaman, a powerful king with a powerful problem, leprosy. Naaman would eventually get the healing he was after, but not before God led him in a direction he never expected to go. Today, we'll get a glimpse of a God who brings redemption through suffering. Does that sound like where you're at now? Do you need to see a light at the end of that dark tunnel?

Then you have come to the right place, my friend. Let's open our Bibles to Psalm 23 and join Pastor J.D. for an important message he titled, Suffering, Saving and Serving.

When we find ourselves in a place of waiting, and we all do from time to time, the one thing, the one thing we can always be sure that we should be doing is ministering to others. David, in his time of wilderness, in his time of trial, when he was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he said, my cup overflows. And we saw that that meant that in a time of trial, God fills us up with himself so much that it just overflows to others.

Remember our sponge we had on stage last week? God is so powerful, so in control, so joy-giving, so overflowing in love that if you are soaking in him and feasting at his table, then when life squeezes you, even when it's unfair, what comes out of you is his grace. In fact, I'll show you this today, one of God's primary purposes for sending suffering in our lives is to bring salvation to the world. The melody line of the entire Bible is that through God's suffering servants, he brings redemption to the nations. That happened ultimately in Jesus, of course, but it's a pattern that's set down in the Old Testament, repeated over and over and over again until all these stories in the Old Testament create a silhouette that Jesus and the Gospel of Matthew just kind of steps into.

And we're all like, oh, there you are, we've been hearing about you now for several thousand years. When God's servants go through an unfair trial, when life squeezes them, what comes out of them is God's grace. And through that, others are gonna learn the truth about God, they get to taste it. So today we're gonna see that principle play out in the story of a young girl who suffered unfairly, a girl whose name we don't even know.

She found herself in a terrible situation, but because of her trust in God through it, God used it to bring healing to a bunch of people around her. What I'm gonna suggest is that for many of you, what God wants from you in your time of waiting is he wants you, you're like, what do I do? I don't know what to do right now. He wants you to start ministering to others. In fact, write this down as we begin.

Here's sort of your thesis statement for this morning. Serving is always the proactive posture of the Christian life. Serving is always the proactive posture of the Christian life.

When you don't know what to do, you just serve. 2 Kings 5, if you got your Bible, okay? Yeah, you can actually just, I mean, stay in Psalm 23 if you want, but let's spend most of our time in 2 Kings 5, I'd encourage you to turn there. Today, you're actually gonna hear about two suffering people. One was a believer and the other was not, and their sufferings you're gonna see are intricately intertwined. In fact, the believer in this story suffers precisely so the unbeliever can escape from his. The unbeliever is a man named Naaman, and he has a terminal disease, leprosy. The believer is a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped, her parents were murdered, and then she was trafficked.

She is a victim in every sense of the word, but today, you're gonna see how God turned her suffering, awful as it was, into something beautiful. I remember as a kid, there was this painting show. It would come on PBS on Saturday morning after all the good cartoons were over.

It's the kind of thing you'd watch when you'd totally given up on your day, when you just knew it was gonna be a sweatpants and Crocs kind of day. You know what I'm talking about? It was called the Bob Ross Painting Show. Anybody remember that? All right, Bob the painter would paint these pictures, and as he went along, he'd explain what he was doing. He'd say, he'd paint these trees, be like, oh, happy little trees, happy little trees, happy trees.

Remember that? And he'd always start his pictures by slapping these amorphous blobs of color onto the canvas, and you think, what is that? But then somehow, through like a couple of quick strokes, he would make it into a beautiful cloud, like so good that you think that could be a photograph of a cloud. And then he'd say, oh, happy little clouds, happy little clouds. And then I think, how did he turn that amorphous blob of paint into a cloud with just a couple of strokes? Well, in a way, that's what you're gonna see God do in this story. You've got these things that feel like amorphous blobs of chaos that God just adds a couple of strokes to, and they instantly transform into works of art. Tell you, Kings 5, y'all, this is one of my favorite stories in the entire Old Testament.

I'm serious. I love it more than the story of David and Goliath. I love it more than Daniel and the lion's den. I even love it more than left-handed e-hud sticking a knife into the fat king's belly or El driving a spike through Cicero's temple. I love it. And here's the thing. If you did not grow up in church, you've probably never heard this story.

So you are in for a total treat. Verse one, 2 Kings 5, Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a mighty man and in high favor with the king because by him, the Lord had given victory to Syria. Now, wait a second, victory over whom? Well, Syria's enemy was Israel. Naaman was the captain of the forces that had conquered Israel.

God had promised Israel that if they wandered from him, that he would send in enemy armies to punish them and Syria was one of those armies. And Naaman was the captain of that army. He, Naaman, was a mighty man of valor, but, this is a huge but, he was a leper. At the time, leprosy was the most feared disease in the world. It started as a small white powdery spot on your skin, like a rash that would soon spread all over your body. Wherever it spread, the nerve endings in your skin died and boils would break out, leaving these gaping wounds of raw flesh. Eventually body parts decayed and fell off. Your facial features lost shape.

You became grotesque. In those days, there was no cure. Leprosy had a 100% death rate. And to make matters worse, it was regarded as highly contagious. So the moment one of these spots was discovered on you, it didn't matter who you were, you were immediately banished, where you would spend the next 20 years in isolation as you slowly corroded and died. Now we can cure it pretty easily now with modern medicine. Sadly, there are still tens of thousands of people with leprosy in South Asia and Africa, but back then there was no cure. So here you got the mighty Naaman, a man on top of the world, who discovers one of these spots of death on him.

And in just a matter of a moment, he goes from being on top of the world to the pit of despair. Verse two, now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel. And she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. Here's our second character in the story, the Israelite servant girl. Verse three, she said to her mistress, would that my Lord Naaman were with the prophet who was in Samaria? Samaria at that point was still part of Israel. And she's talking specifically about Elisha, who's one of the greatest prophets in Israel's history.

He, she says, he could cure him of his leprosy. So Naaman went in and told his Lord, the king of Syria, thus and so spoke this girl from the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, well, then go now.

And I will send a letter to the king of Israel. So he went, taking with him 10 talents of silver, 6,000 shekels of gold and 10 changes of clothing. Now y'all, that would have been a ginormous sum of money. In our terms, it's like 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold. Clothing might seem like an odd addition to that massive amount. Here's $5 million and some shirts. But don't think like jeans and a t-shirt. This was like a whole formal party get up. Super expensive. Most people back then would never even own a single set of clothes like that.

So to have 10 pairs would today like be having a garage full of Maseratis or something. The point is the man of God going to be blinging after this moment. Okay. Verse six. And he brought, and he brought the letter to the king of Israel. And the letter said, when this letter reaches you know that I've said to you, Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy. And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes. And he said, am I God that I could kill and make alive that this man, the king of Syria sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?

You know what he's doing? See how he is seeking a quarrel with me. In other words, in other words, in other words, this king of Syria is looking for an excuse to go to war with me. And so after I failed to heal Naaman, the king of Syria is going to say, well, I asked you to heal my servant and you didn't. So now I'm going to bring my armies and destroy you.

It's a pretext for war. Verse eight. But when Elisha, the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he said to the king and he says, why have you torn your clothes?

Let this man now come to me. Send Naaman to me that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel. Elisha recognizes a bigger purpose in Naaman's leprosy. He knows that God is wanting to do something in Naaman's life.

And to all of Syria, he wants to show them that the Lord is God. Verse nine. So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. Y'all imagine what this would have looked like, a mighty cavalcade of horses and chariots.

Today, think of it like an entourage of police cars and suburban suddenly driving right up to my front door, helicopters flying overhead. Verse 10. I love this. And Elisha sent a messenger to him saying, just go wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

Y'all catch that? Elisha doesn't even go out to see him. He sends an intern. There's one thing that I've learned here over the years, and that is important people do not like to talk to interns. I read that Steve Jobs got really upset with President Obama when after Apple released the first iPad, Obama had Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, call Jobs to congratulate him instead of doing it himself.

And Steve Jobs was super ticked off about it, super hurt. Here you got the most powerful man in the world coming to the home of a relatively unknown prophet and the prophet won't even come to the door. He sends a messenger.

By the way, how would you have liked to have been the intern who had to deliver that message? I'm sorry, General Naaman. Brother Elisha has a busy afternoon and he is not going to be able to see you today.

Meanwhile, Naaman can look inside and see Elisha kick back in a recliner with his feet up, you know, watching the Bob Ross painting show or whatever. Okay. Here's a question. What do you think? What do you think God's doing here? Thanks for listening to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. We'll get right back to the teaching in a moment. But did you know that every month we send our gospel partners and financial donors a copy of a premium resource we've selected? It's our way of saying thank you for their generosity to this ministry. And this month we are excited to offer a new study of Psalm 23 that actually goes hand in hand with our current teaching series called Goodness in the Middle. If you've enjoyed this series as much as I have, I know you'll want to immerse yourself even more in what it means to understand God's goodness in the middle of whatever you may be walking through. The study features eight sessions working verse by verse through this beloved Psalm about our Good Shepherd. And we'll send you a copy with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry when you become a monthly gospel partner. To find out more and to give your gift today, call us at 866-335-5220.

Or you can visit us online at jdgreer.com. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Let's keep reading verse 11. But Naaman was angry and he went away and he said, behold, I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.

I thought he would like, there'd be a ceremony. Elisha would run out of a smoke-filled tunnel and jets would fly over. Beyonce would sing. Elisha would walk on some hot coals, char on some snakes, and then I'd be healed. Furthermore, verse 12, are not Abana and Farpar the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel?

Could not wash in one of them and be clean? We got rivers in Syria and they're better than this piddly little Jordan River. One day, I hope we can all take a summit trip to Israel. But if you go to Israel sometime, what you will see is that the Jordan River is not that impressive.

More like a slightly oversized creek than anything. Mostly shallow, muddy, plus it would have been another 15 miles past Elisha's house, which would have been a couple more travel days on horseback for Naaman. So he turned and went away in a rage. He's insulted, probably plotting revenge. But his servants came near and they said to him, by the way, it's amazing how many times in the story God speaks to Naaman through not important people, but servants.

There's a point there. And they said to him, my father, if it was a great word that the prophet had spoken to you, would you not have done it? Had he only said to you, wash and be clean? Again, it's amazing. This is coming through servants. This whole process, this whole event is designed to bring Naaman to a point of humility. The whole thing is a lesson in humility.

True conversion always is. These servants say, master, if Elisha had told you to do something difficult, if he told you to get the berries off of a plant at the top of Mount Everest or to clip the toenails off of a dragon, wouldn't you have done that? Look, man, all he told you is go and wash. What do you got to lose?

Go try it. A little swing by the Jordan on the way home. And if it doesn't work, you can come back and do your big bad general thing to Elisha or whatever. Verse 14, so he went down and he dipped himself seven times in the Jordan. According to the word of the man of God and on the seventh dip, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. In other words, he did the first time, nothing, nothing happens. Second time, third time, fourth time, Naaman getting angrier and angrier each time he can feel the mockery the mockery of his servants. He can feel the scorn at how pathetic he now looks. You know that he's sitting there thinking, what am I even doing? I'm the most powerful man in the world and I'm humiliating myself by putting myself under water seven times in this nasty little river of a country that we've conquered. What am I doing? Everybody thinks I've lost my mind, but he's desperate.

He's desperate. And on that seventh time, as he comes up out of the water, he looks and the leprosy is gone. He's got skin, it says, like a baby skin. So he returned to the man of God. He had all of his company and he came and stood before him. And he said, now watch this, keep in mind, this is his and Elisha's first meeting.

Up until now, Naaman's only talked to interns. So here's the question. What would you say to the man who had healed you of a terminal disease the first time you met him? You'd probably say something like, you saved my life, I'm healed. Look at what Naaman says, verse 15. Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. Friends, he does not say the first thing about leprosy. He never even mentions it. He only talks about God.

Naaman had not been looking for God. He'd been looking for a cure for leprosy. But God used his search for a cure to lead him to something even greater than the cure itself. And that is a relationship with God himself. And the knowledge of God that he found was so valuable that when he finally met Elisha for the first time, he forgot even to mention the healing.

All he talked about was God. If you go into your boss's office to request this Friday off and the boss says, well, sure, but while you're here, I just got done meeting with our board. You did a great job last year, and we're gonna give you a $200,000 bonus. When you get home that night and your wife or your husband says, how was work today?

I doubt you'll even bring up that you were able to get Friday off. See, that's what happened to Naaman. He found something better than a healing for leprosy. He found the Lord.

So I wanna use this story to make two points. Number one, God uses your pain to bring you to him. Here is the question that Naaman's story ought to make you ask. What if God was trying to send you a message in your pain?

I'm not saying that this is true for everybody that's in pain right now, but it is a question that some of us should at least ask. You see, up until this moment, Naaman, up until the moment that Naaman discovered this spot on him, he had felt on top of the world. The story says he was on the king's arm, which means he was the king's right-hand man. It says he was highly regarded, which meant he was a celebrity. Everybody in Syria loved him.

People were always asking to take selfies. He was a national hero, trending on Twitter, whatever. All that was taken away in a moment by one small spot. One small spot brought the mighty Naaman crashing to the ground. One small spot showed him how fragile everything else was. What if God was doing something similar in your pain?

Again, I'm not saying for sure that that is what is happening, but what if that problem had been put there by God to wake you up to a bigger problem, and that is a problem that you're not right with God and you don't know him? I know a lot of athletes that point to a debilitating injury as the thing that finally woke them up to the really important things in life. I once met a professional athlete a few years ago who had just signed a multi-million dollar contract to play in the pros, but then he got into an accident doing something dumb that totally destroyed his future career. This guy did not know God. His career was his God. He told me with tears in his eyes, I lay there on the ground, my legs broken, saying to myself, I can't believe I threw away my entire career for a few foolish seconds of fun. I said to him, I said, respectfully, man, I think God may have been doing something way bigger in your life. I think he might have been trying to say to you, you're throwing away your entire eternity for a few seconds of glory in an athletic arena. Make a long story short, God ended up using this tragedy, as he does with many people, to bring this man to Christ. So what if God in your pain had something for you beyond something even better than the cure that you seek?

And what if this thing that God had for you was so valuable that after you found God, like Naaman, you find yourself failing even to mention the healing so great is the treasure you now have in God? So again, I ask, has God revealed a spot in your life that tells you that you're not as together as you thought? Maybe that spot is a wrinkle in your marriage. I said with powerful men and women sometimes who can speak and command things that work and their power is amazing, but their marriage is falling apart and they don't know anything they can do about it. Maybe it's a problem with your kids and you feel helpless.

That's maybe where I see this the most. You're worried about your kids or maybe your kids are wandering. Maybe you got no more relationship with them and you keep asking, how did we get here? Maybe it's a habit that you can't break this morning. Alcoholism has somehow snuck up on you.

And you're like, I don't know how to start talking about this. Pornography, a bad temper. Maybe it's a personal failure that you're humiliated by. Maybe it's just a dull, aching unhappiness that you just can't get rid of. Maybe it's this inability to figure things out.

You feel paralyzed, unsure of what way you're supposed to go. A health scare. In a sense, all of us have that same spot. It's our mortality. We are all going to die. Your body has an expiration date on it. It's like we're all walking around with a stick of dynamite in our hand with no idea how long the fuse is.

It could be a week, it could be 70 years, but at some point you will die. Even with all of our advances in modern medicine, the death rate is holding steady at 100%. See, these spots come up and all wake you up to a bigger problem. That is where you stand with God, the God who created all of us. You see, leprosy throughout the Bible symbolizes sin. Like leprosy, sin deadens. Like leprosy, it grows in you and corrupts you over time. Because of it, you slowly begin to lose feeling in parts of your life. Parts of you die. Your innocence dies, your joy dies, your optimism, your compassion for others. In many ways, you become grotesque spiritually. Scripture says the penalty, the wages, the result of sin is death. Our souls have a spot of sin on them that is corroding us from the inside out.

And sometimes these lesser spots, the problems in our lives, can wake us up to the ultimate spot that we should be worried about. Pastor JD Greer with a heartfelt word here on Summit Life. I've been so encouraged by Goodness in the Middle, our brand new teaching series through Psalm 23, and I hope that you have too. JD, I think we can all agree that the heroes of our ministry are our gospel partners. Tell us again, what is a gospel partner and how can someone become one? Yeah, Molly, gospel partners absolutely fuel everything we do here at Summit Life. Gospel partners are those individuals or families or couples that give on a monthly basis because they believe in the messages that we share here. These messages have had an impact on them or their family, and they want to have a role in helping other people hear what we're saying here.

What we're saying here is we share God's word. You can become a gospel partner today by going to the donate page on jdgreer.com and then selecting the monthly option. I just want to say that I personally and we here at Summit Life are so grateful for your commitment to the gospel, for your generosity.

We take the responsibility very seriously to be a wise steward of what you give and to make sure every bit of it is used for the purposes of getting the gospel to the ends of the earth. We'd be honored to have you join our incredible team of gospel partners. Like Pastor JD said, gospel partners support this ministry by making a monthly financial contribution of at least $35 or more. All of that money directly funds our efforts to spread the message of the gospel around the country and even around the world.

When you give, we send you a copy of a premium resource that we've selected each month. This month, you'll receive a copy of Pastor JD's new eight part study through Psalm 23 that pairs with our current teaching series called Goodness in the Middle. To become a gospel partner today, call us now at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com. If you'd rather mail your donation, our address is JD Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. I'm Molly Vitovich, and we are so glad that you joined us today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow as we conclude this teaching called Suffering, Saving and Serving. Don't miss it right here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-29 01:32:48 / 2023-10-29 01:43:53 / 11

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