Fruit of the Spirit - Patience
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-19
Today we’re going to talk about the fruit of the Spirit - patience. And we’re going to look at this story of Naaman. This great Syrian commander of the Aramean army who, because of the Lord - OUR Lord - had give the king of Aram great victories.
So rather than look at WHAT patience IS, we’re going to see today, I believe, how patience developed in this man. Because I believe the Lord wants his people to be filled with patience - filled with the fruit of the spirit. And it’s one thing to know what it is - it’s quite another to HAVE it. And in order to HAVE it, we need to know how we can develop it.
So this morning we’re going to see the interactions of four or five people in this story today and we’ll discover through these people how Namaan, and we, can have patience.
Let’s look at the characters we have in this story. First, there’s the servant girl - she is a little girl of Jewish parents. She would have been captured from Israel’s territory by a Aramean’s - and so she came to live in the house of the commander of the Aramean Army, to SERVE the commander’s wife as her maid.
Now what’s interesting here, if you look in verse 3, is that this little Jewish girl - a captive - a prisoner of war, if you like, says, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”
This little girl, even though she was a captive. Even though she had most likely been torn away from her parents, certainly at the very least from her father - it’s possible that they had also taken her mother to be a slave in some other part of the household. But this little Jewish girl, who is now a slave, in a foreign country, that is the enemy to her native land, wants what is best for her captors.
She says, “I wish” - “If only!” This little girl LONGS for the best for others, even her enemies.
So I think that’s the first thing WE must do if in our lives, in our homes, in our churches, we are going to develop patience,
1. We must long for the best for others - even our enemies.
Because you see, it may be through, the very ones we categorize as our enemies, that God, in his wisdom and his truth, and his understanding, will receive glory through us.
I can’t imagine that this little Jewish girl wanted to be pulled from her home and her friends and her family. I’m sure she, who was once free to play with her friends, didn’t want to be subject to a life of slavery - to the oppression - no matter what level of oppression it might have been - to have to live as a servant.
And yet, it was God’s will that this little girl be where she was. The Bible says in verse 1 of this chapter - chapter 5 - The Bible says, that it was THE LORD who had given Aram these great victories.
And sometimes in your life, and sometimes in my life, it seems like the ENEMY is winning the battle. And yet, as this story unfolds, we see God working out HIS purposes in the lives of ALL the people - not just those who fear him - so that HE gets all the honor and the glory.
And as the story of YOUR life unfolds, as the story of MY life unfolds, as the story of THIS CHURCH unfolds - if we will hold fast to our faith, and LONG for the BEST for those around us, we will see God’s glory and God’s grace, revealed in all of it’s splendor and all of it’s majesty, and nothing, not even the enemy - the devil himself will be able to stop it!!
The second thing I think we’ve got to do if we’re going to develop patience is:
2. Set aside OUR expectations.
The Bible says in verse 11, (READ to vs 13).
What happens inside of you when things don’t happen the way you expect them to? What happens inside of you when people don’t live up to your expectations? I know what happens to me. Am I the only one here who gets irritated - who gets frustrated - who even gets angry - when things don’t go like you expect. You know, you plan and plan and plan, and you try to do everything just right and you go through all the proper channels, and things just don’t work out like you expect that they should.
Naaman went through all the proper protocol - he went through the right channels. The Bible says he went to the King of Aram - (he had to have permission you see, to leave the country) - he got a letter to take to the King of Israel. He even brought gifts for the king of Israel.
And what happened - the Bible says the king of Israel got mad!! He thought Naaman’s visit was a declaration of WAR!!!
Have you ever been misunderstood when you’ve tried to do the right thing? Huh?
You see, when it comes to this story of Naaman, we have all the pieces - look what happened - we can see where it happened. Look at verse 4 - it says Naaman told the King that he was to go and visit the prophet - that’s what the servant girl had told him. The KING though, sent Naaman to the King of Israel. Now proper protocol says that would be the right thing to do - especially if you’re sending one of your men into enemy territory.
Look what it says now in verse 6, “The Letter to the King of Israel said, “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want YOU to heal him of his leprosy.” That’s where the story got twisted - that’s the missing piece.
Do you think this story would have been any different if the letter had read, “I present my servant Naaman. I want Elisha the prophet to heal him.”??
Not only were Naaman’s expectations not met when he finally got to Elisha, but even the King of Aram had false expectations. See he thought the KING of Israel would heal him, not some lowly prophet. And Naaman thought Elisha would at least come to the door when he knocked. He says in verse 11, “I thought...”
Do you ever do that? I do. “I thought surely it would be like this. I thought it would happen this way.” The bible says, “Trust the LORD with all your heart. Do not lean on YOUR understanding. Acknowledge HIM in all you do, and HE will direct your paths.”
The third thing I think we need to do if we’re going to develop patience in our lives and in the life of our church is:
3. Get rid of pride.
Again in verse 11, the Bible says Naaman became angry. He says, I thought Elisha would at least come out to meet me! And what about these other rivers, they’re a lot better than the Jordan - why can I not wash in them? And then verse 13, (READ).., “But his officers.....go and wash and be cured!”
Naaman’s a mighty warrior. He’s accomplished many victories. He’s second most powerful man in the country of Aram. And because his pride is insulted and he’s told to do a very simple thing, he’s ready to go away in a rage and not even get cured he’s so mad!!
Can I just say this. In our lives. Yours and mine. And in the life of our church. Our church or any other church. Pride will lose us the one thing we want the most. And we see here, in verse 13, Naaman’s officers, (those who are not infected with the disease) tell him, if he’d told you something difficult, you would have done it - why not when he tells you something simple. Why? Because it’s a pride issue.
Naaman was a mighty warrior. The bible says the king had great admiration for him. He WAS somebody!!
And he was not greeted at Elisha’s door in a way he thought was appropriate for such a SOMEBODY as he was. And he wasn’t offered a cure for his disease in the way he thought was appropriate for such a SOMEBODY as he was.
And he lost his patience, and he got mad. And the Bible says “he went off in a rage.” You see, pride and anger almost always, go together. In fact the original definition for patience, is slow anger. Slow anger - slow to get angry. Patience doesn’t know rage. And usually, behind rage, is pride. Thinking we’re more than we are.
And his officers said to him: “If it was something difficult, you surely would have done it. Why not something simple?”
So at the urging of his officers, Naaman finally swallowed his pride and headed out the 32 miles to the Jordan River from Elisha’s house.
And the Bible says he dipped in the muddy Jordan and his skin became as healthy as that of a young child’s, and he was healed.
See the progression here of dealing with Naaman’s pride:
First of all the King of Israel wasn’t able to heal him.
Then the prophet didn’t even come to the door when he knocked.
Then he was told to go to a river that meant more traveling and it was a muddy, dirty river.
And then he was told to dip in it seven times.
And that brings me to the fourth thing I think we need to do if we’re going to develop patience, and that is:
4. We need to persevere.
You see, just to make sure that Naaman’s pride was fully dissolved before he was made clean, the Bible says he had to dip in that muddy water, not once, but seven times. Why seven times? Because God knew just how many times Naaman would have to go down before the work would be completed. You see I don’t think the leprosy was any big deal for God - healing the disease wouldn’t have been anything at all - but God was at work transforming a man. He was changing Naaman’s heart.
DL Moody says about Naaman, “First he lost his temper; then he lost his pride; then he lost his leprosy.”
God knows for us, how much is not enough.
And he knows when anymore is too much.
And if we’re going to develop the fruit of the spirit of patience in our lives, and in the life of our church - when God wants seven, six won’t do.
The Bible says: Be not weary in well-doing for in due season you will reap, if you faint not.
There are three important observations I want to leave with you this morning that, if we understand them, will help us keep things in perspective as we develop patience in our lives.
# 1. Everything is not always as it appears. Everything is not always as it appears.
Naaman was the number two man in the nation, second only to the king himself. But with all his prestige, and authority, and wealth, - under the uniform of the mighty warrior, was the body of a leper. And leprosy spreads, and ultimately it kills. And all Naaman’s power and authority and position and wealthy, couldn’t remove even one of those leprous sores from his body. Only the power of the God of Israel could do that.
And there are some things in our lives that we’re trying to make look o.k. .... But they’re not. And God may be calling us to get a little muddy in the Jordan river he’s placed before us, before we will be clean too. I don’t know what that Jordan river is for you today - I don’t need to know - God knows.
2. The second thing I think we need to understand is that misunderstandings are inevitable. When we start out on our journey, to do something great for the Lord, before we get very far along, there’s going to be a misunderstanding. You see the king got the message wrong. The servant girl told Naaman to go see the prophet in Israel. Naaman told the king that the servant girl said he should visit the prophet. The KING sent Naaman with a letter asking for the king of Israel to heal him - nothing about the prophet. And from there on, things just seemed to get worse.
But again, God knew. And God saw to it, that through it all, a healing would take place that was more than just a physical healing. And sometimes if we’ll just dip again in the river, instead of being stuck in our anger and pride, God will head us too.
Finally, perhaps most important of all.
3. What we do for God, has no price tag.
The Bible says in verse 16: 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. Elisha knew that his service to Naaman was to the glory of God. To take gifts would have been to take credit for himself and rob God of the glory.
There’s an interesting twist to this story that I want to leave with you. Luke 4:27 tells us there were many lepers in Israel at the time of Elisha, but none of them was cleansed, except Naaman - the Syrian. You see, when Naaman finally was humbled before the Lord, we find that he really was special - and you are too.
(Information and ideas for this sermon come from Wiersbe’s OT History Commentary)