In this episode, Pastor J.D. continues through our series on Psalm 23. This week, he answers, “What if God is using your pain to bring you closer to him?”
God uses your pain to bring you to him
- Here’s the question Naaman’s story should make you ask: What if God was trying to send you a message in your pain?
- I’m not saying this is true for all the pain we go through, but it’s a question some of you should at least ask?
- You see, 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 kings’ 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. He was a national hero, trending on Twitter.
- And 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 was.
What if God was doing something similar in your pain? Again I’m not saying for sure that is what is happening, but…
- What if that “problem” had been put there by God to wake you up to a bigger problem—the problem that you’re not right with God and 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 who had just signed a multi-million-dollar contract to play in the pro’s, but then got into an accident doing something dumb that totally destroyed his future career. This guy didn’t 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, “Respectfully, I think God may have been up to something bigger in your life. I think I might have been trying to say to you, ‘You are throwing away your entire eternity for a few seconds of glory in an athletic arena.’” To make a long story short, God ended up using this to bring him to Christ.
- What if God, in your pain, had something for you beyond—better than—even the cure that you seek? And what if this thing he had for you was so valuable that after you found him, like Naaman, you find yourself failing to mention the healing–so great is the treasure you 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 have thought?
- Maybe the ‘spot’ is a wrinkle in your marriage—your marriage is falling apart and you can’t do anything about it;
- Maybe it’s a problem with your kids and you feel helpless. That’s maybe where I see this most. You are worried about them, or maybe they are wandering. Or maybe you have no more relationship with them and you keep asking, “How did we get here?”
- Maybe it’s a habit you can’t break (alcoholism, pornography, a bad temper)
- Maybe it’s a personal failure you’re humiliated by
- Maybe it is a dull, aching unhappiness you just can’t get rid of.
- Maybe it’s the inability to figure something out. You feel paralyzed, unsure of which way to go.
- A health scare. In a sense, all of us have this same spot–it’s our mortality. We are all going to die. Your body has an expiration date on it. It’s like you walk around with a stick of dynamite in your hand with no idea how long the fuse it. It could be a week or it could be 70 years, but at some point you will die. Even with all our advances in modern medicine, the death rate is holding steady at 100%.
These spots can all wake you up to a bigger problem–that is, where you stand with the God who created all of us. You see, leprosy, throughout the Bible, you see, symbolizes sin. Like leprosy, sin deadens. It grows in you and corrupts you over time. Because of it, you slowly lose feeling in your life—parts of you die. Your innocence; your joy; your optimism; your compassion for others. You become grotesque.
Scripture says, “the wages 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 we should be worried about.
Not that every leper who heads out to the Jordan River will find healing for his skin disease; the point is to show us that God sometimes uses suffering to open up your eyes to your need of him. Again, I’m not saying that is the case with you–as we saw with Job and Joseph, a lot of our suffering doesn’t have a root cause in our lives. But, sometimes God is trying to get our attention. As the writer of Psalm 119 says, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Ps 119:67) (God used affliction to bring me back to himself.)
So, our first point is that God often uses our pain to bring us back to him. And Naaman shows us that all we need to respond to God, if he’s doing that in our lives, is humility and faith.
Humility: That’s the one thing God keeps going after with Naaman. Naaman in this story keeps trying to go to the top: “Let me see the prophet. Here’s an enormous amount of money. Ask me to do something hard.” Yet God keeps sending Naaman to the bottom. Talk to an intern. Do something humiliating.
The path to God is the path of humility. You can’t get there any other way. If you are going to be saved, the one thing you absolutely need is a sense of absolute need.
- Eph 2:8–9: For by grace you have been saved through faith–faith not in what you have done, but what Jesus has done. It is the gift of God–this healing has nothing to do with Naaman’s might or strength. It is not given as a reward for anything in you. It is the gift of God.
- You see, the cross absolutely destroys our pride. The cross declares that God’s verdict on our lives was death. Some of you have always lived for report cards. You always want the “A,” the “high pass.” The “graduated with honors.” The “pat on the back.” On the report card of life, the only one that really matters, all of us received a failing grade. And to receive healing from Jesus, we have to admit that. Embrace it.
So, I ask again: Do you have the humility to come to Jesus? Think about how much humility it took for Naaman to cross that border into Israel, a place he regarded as inferior to Syria, to seek salvation; to admit that the healing he sought could not be found among his own mighty Syrians but among the despised Jews. I say this because maybe this is where you are: you never thought you’d be in a place like this, with people like these. A church of born-again Christians? For some of you, we are in the same category as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals for you. Do you have the humility and courage to question your convictions, to consider these things with an open mind?
God can save anybody, it just takes humility and faith. Faith means just believing what God says and taking a chance on it. Like Naaman did.
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