I want you to think of the greatest fear you face today. Your greatest fear may dominate your thoughts, your life, your days and your nights. For some of you, your greatest fear is an enemy that controls you and leads you according to its own design and desires. I do not know what your particular fear is – only you really know it. You may have the fear of failure, or maybe you are afraid of success. Maybe you are afraid that a secret you’ve been harboring for many years will be “found out”. Maybe you have a fear of getting too close to people – or you have a fear of being rejected. Maybe you are afraid of change, or afraid of losing something. Whatever you fear may be, there are some of you who have a fear that cripples and controls you.
Today, I want you to think about what your life would be like without the control of that fear. I want you to imagine today what you life would be like if the control of that fear was broken? What would it be like to have the victory and overcome your greatest fear? Yet it’s not only something you can IMAGINE… it is already possible in light of scripture.
A key verse that immediately came to mind when thinking on the subject of fear is that which is found in 2 Timothy 1:7:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
What a wonderful promise! For indeed God does not give believers the spirit of fear – He grants power, love, and sound mind. Note, however, the context of this verse: Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, a young man Paul has been mentoring and teaching. In this particular section of his letter to Timothy, Paul is urging him to remain faithful to God, faithful to the truths he has learned even from a very young age at his grandmother and mother’s knees. There is a linkage between those who place their faith in God, who obey God, and the degree to which fear controls their lives.
Scripture is clear about the Biblical principles concerning God’s response to His children’s obedience. The reverse side of the equation is that disobedience and rebellion will always have a consequence of pain and suffering. The reward or retribution in our lives is NOT always immediate but make no mistake, they will come in due season.
We know as Christians that we do not serve the Lord because of the reward…it is not an end in itself. What is our motivation then for obedience to God’s word?
• He is sovereign and therefore deserves our devotion and obedience
• He has divine wisdom and knows what is best for our lives
• Our obedience should spring from hearts filled with love and gratitude.
If I were to ask you, “Are you committed to living in obedience to Christ?” There could be only one of three answers…
• “Yes, I am doing all that He has asked of me.”
• “No, I am not doing what He has asked of me.”
• “I am doing some of what He has asked of me.”
Our scripture for today highlights the premise that partial obedience is NOT acceptable in the eyes of God. Here me, as we talk this morning about the fatal flaw of fear – a life of victory over your greatest fear begins and is sustained by a life of complete faith in and obedience to God’s Word. So let’s take a few minutes to look at 2 Kings 5.
2 Kings 5 tells the story of a man that struggles with the question of obedience. He is a real life character and his journey in obedience certainly applies to our lives today. There are 5 basic principles that must be reviewed if we are to live a victorious life free from fear. Personal application of this message will not only break the bondage of fear in your life but it could also prevent pain and suffering that comes through partial or willful neglect of what God has directed for your life.
There are three main characters in our story today:
• A MAN…Naaman, a general in the Syrian Army
• A MAID…she has no name and certainly a hidden hero
• A MESSENGER of God…whose name is Elisha.
Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the historical account in the Bible:
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
2 Kings 5:1 (NIV)
Naaman was a brave, highly respected military man. He was a general in the Syrian army. Although he was greatly decorated for his military genius, there was one dark cloud over his life. He had leprosy. Leprosy is a disease that reduces an individual to a grotesque figure as a result of them not being able to feel. The longer people live with this disease the more unrecognizable they become. Incurable and terminal; much like a terminal cancer or the AIDS virus. It was frightening and overwhelming and was something you could not hide from others.
2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.
2 Kings 5:2-4 (NIV)
There was a maid that the Syrians had captured from Israel and brought to Syria. She still remembers her spiritual foundation and the one true living God, the Lord of Israel. She remembers His acts and tells the general’s wife about the prophet of God, Elisha. When you are in a helpless situation you will do anything to get relief, even if it means going to the enemy. However let’s remember that at this point in the story the general’s hope is in a man and not in God.
5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:5-6 (NIV)
The King of Syria allowed him to go and sent letters and the equivalent of around $5 million dollars in today’s monetary rate. Like most in our world today, the first attempt to overcome any fear is to buy the fear away.
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
2 Kings 5:7 (NIV)
The King of Israel thinks that it is a trick to cause a war and he believes that the Syrian King wants him to cure Naaman and so he goes into depression at the time of the request. Tragically, this reveals how far the King and the country had fallen from their faith in the Lord. It’s sad that there is never any indication that the King ever thought that God just might be at work in this situation! Fear does that – it blinds us to possibilities and makes mountains out of seeming impossibilities.
When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
2 Kings 5:8 (NIV)
Elisha hears of the news and sends a message to the King. This is where the messenger of God enters the scene.
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
2 Kings 5:9-10 (NIV)
Naaman comes to Elisha’s home but the man of God does not come out, he simply sends the Word of God to greet the general via another messenger. Elisha is immediately painting a word picture for this General that it is the power of God and your obedience to His word that is the key to overcoming your fears. How vitally important it is for us to point people to Christ and His Word rather than tie them to our personality or our position.
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
2 Kings 5:11-13 (NIV)
Naaman is furious! He wanted to be free from his fears via his healing; but he only wanted it on his terms and not in obedience to God’s word. His reaction tells the story. “You won’t even come out of your home to meet me and then you ask me to wash in the dirty Jordan when there are beautiful, clean waters in Syria!” The servants of the general have a clear head and persuade him, “How can it hurt, we are already here…go ahead and wash.”
So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
2 Kings 5:14 (NIV)
The result of his obedience is obvious to everyone. Through obedience to God’s word he is able to overcome his greatest fear and live in victory forever!
This is a very powerful story in scripture but in order for it be more than just another Bible story there are five principles that explode from this book that must be applied in obedience to God’s word. If we are to fix our greatest fears and gain victory over their crippling control in our lives then applying these 5 principles is vitally important.
fear fixer #1:
UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR FEAR IS GOD’S OPPORTUNITY TO STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH.
What was the general’s most pressing problem? Was it his desire for power, popularity, prestige, position? No, it was the physical problem of leprosy. It was this disease that occupied his thoughts day and night. It mattered little that he had money, title and power, what he needed was a cure!
There are times in our life that God allows a problem in our life that can seem so hopeless to create the opportunity for Him to bring His power into our situation and through His work increase our faith. What was God teaching the general in this situation? He was teaching that the God of Israel was the one true and living God and that when you trust and obey Him you shall know His power and the reward for obedience. How often we look at our situation and exhaust all our personal resources in an attempt to conquer a problem that can not be conquered. Could it be that God is allowing the problem to continue to get us to the place where we will say, “You alone have the power to deliver us in the midst of the situation.” Would you be willing today to consider that your problem, that your fear, presents an opportunity for God to stretch and strengthen your faith?
fear fixer #2
OBSERVE THAT OBEDIENCE MAY REQUIRE WHAT SEEMS TO BE IMPRACTICAL
Naaman was angry because the prophet did not meet with him personally and also because he did not want to wash in the Jordan River. To this general, the solution offered was ridiculous and unreasonable. The real problem was PRIDE. His own foolish pride prevented him from immediately obeying God’s instructions.
The act of Water Baptism is to many people what the Jordan River was to Naaman. They are to pride full to follow the command of Christ and obey the very basic and simple of all commands. Like the general many will say, “What will others think when they see me in the water?” Instead they should only be concerned about what God thinks.
Naaman would not obey because he thought the request was both impractical and unreasonable! The problem was God did not tell anyone else to go to the Jordan and wash 7 times…He told Naaman – first! Human nature does not want to do something that someone else has not done first. We want to look around and see if others are going into the “Jordan” and if they are then we will consider the call. The key to victory in our Christian life is obedience to HIS PERSONAL COMMAND OF OUR LIVES.
Illustration: Phillip in Acts 8 was obedient to the command of Christ and the result was salvation of the Ethiopian. It wasn’t practical but it was personal!
Some are called to give their life to Christ, others to write a letter, or to mend a broken relationship, or to get up in the middle of the night and share the Gospel or pray. You must understand a basic biblical principle that there are times God will ask you to do what you may believe to be impractical or unreasonable. You will NEVER taste the true rewards of obedience if you are bent on debating with God about His perfect will for your life.
We don’t need to figure out God’s will we need to do God’s will in faith!
Further, I wonder how many things that seem impractical or unreasonable really just appear that way because of what our fear would lead us to believe…
fear fixer #3
TAKE NOTICE THAT FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH GOD’S WILL MAY COST YOU WHAT YOU DESIRE THE MOST
Naaman’s greatest desire of his heart was to be free from the bondage of the leprosy. Yet, when he faced the opportunity to do just that he became furious at the request, thinking the remedy was out of the question as far as he was concerned. His reaction to God’s perfect will illustrates three basic problems that many people face when dealing with their fears:
1) PRIDE: He was outraged that the prophet would not personally come to see him. It was an insult to his pride. Pride would have kept him from that which he needed the most.
2) ANGER: (v.11) His anger was a result of a preconceived idea about how God should act and what God should do concerning his situation. How many people do you know that get angry at God and others when God doesn’t come through just as he would have desired. Frustration and anger always follows the person who attempts to put God in a box.
3) UNBELIEF: His major problem was His inability to believe that God could really overcome his fears by his simple obedience. His unbelief could have robbed him of the greatest blessing of his life. I know because it did the people of Nazareth…”He could do there no mighty work because of their unbelief.”
Those three obstacles, pride, anger and unbelief almost kept him from finding the very thing he needed the most, to be free from the fear and reality of his disease. “What would people say? What will people think? I want God to work on my terms…not HIS!”
Illustration: Think how the Devil would have used that scene to attempt to ruin his opportunity for victory. General went into the river with many laughing him on the banks…dipped once, twice, three times…he would hear the laughter and be filled with anger, frustration, embarrassment and fear. But he would continue, four, five, six…perhaps he thought it would be a progressive miracle of God’s grace…now the disappointment is greater than ever before when suddenly someone yells from the bank, “one more time, sir…the word of God said seven, not six…please just one more time.” The General complies and goes down into the water for the seventh time as he comes up out of the water…the rest of the story is history. Skin smooth and new and he is completely healed.
That seventh time in the water is the completion of the perfect will of God. There are too many of God’s people that are throwing up their hands and calling it quits after the first few times facing their circumstances. Tragically there are some that are walking away from God’s very best after six times down. Because of discouragement and fear they leave the waters of God, one small step away from the greatest victory in their life.
The greatest question that must be asked of us today as we face our greatest fear is this: “Have I done everything that God has desired of me? Am I controlled and captivated by the power of His Spirit?”
fear fixer #4
REMEMBER THAT PROPER COUNSEL ALWAYS ENCOURAGES YOU TO FOLLOW GOD’S WILL (V.13)
Naaman was blessed with at least two assistants that cared enough for him that they were willing to confront him when he was close to walking away from the very thing he had longed for his entire life. They encouraged him to remember the Word of God and to do the perfect will of God. It won’t always be easy but it will always be victorious.
We have far to many generals in the Army of God who have turned and walked away from victory and gone back to Syria the same way they came.
Parents have even been so foolish as to tell their children or teenagers, “Don’t get so excited about this “God thing”. You need a balance.” If we are going to see the victory over your fears today we are going to have to return to the counsel of the godly and that is the one voice that is encouraging you in the midst of difficulty to “do the will of God.”
Far too many people pay more attention to the people who feed their fears than the ones who feed their faith. Learn to recognize the difference!
Fear fixer #5
DON’T FORGET THAT THE REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE WILL BE A STRONG WITNESS TO OTHERS (V.15)
Naaman’s obedience to the perfect will of God not only changed his life but also impacted those in his circle of influence; the men with him, his king and even an entire nation. This same kind of testimony occurred some years later when three young Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego took their stand in the face of tremendous odds and won the witness of God to a pagan king and his nation.
When you overcome your greatest fear in obeying God’s word not only will it change your life but it will be used greatly by God to challenge the lives of others. People are rarely motivated by eloquent words – but will frequently move to follow the one who makes a path. You could be a Naaman to someone today!
Where did real obedience begin in this story? With the General? With Elisha? With the King? With the General’s wife? With the captive maid from Israel? NO! I believe the real obedience began when whoever it was years earlier shared with a young Jewish girl about a personal relationship with the God of Israel. She then faithfully reported that testimony to Naaman’s wife and the rest is history. The power of an obedient spirit will spread much further than we have any idea.
You want to know a secret about fears? Our fears are signposts of what God wants you to do. If there’s something you are not doing because of fear then more than likely it is exactly that which God wants you to obey Him in.
So we come to a close of this message and we end where I began today, by asking, “What is your greatest fear?” After reading God’s word can you now embrace and believe in VICTORY OVER YOUR FEAR? God is waiting for you to take one step of faith into the waters of obedience. The victory is yours for the taking.
1. UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR FEAR IS GOD’S OPPORTUNITY TO STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH
2. OBSERVE THAT OBEDIENCE MAY REQUIRE WHAT SEEMS TO BE IMPRACTICAL
3. TAKE NOTICE THAT FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH GOD’S WILL MAY COST YOU WHAT YOU DESIRE MOST
4. REMEMBER THAT PROPER COUNSEL ALWAYS ENCOURAGES YOU TO FOLLOW GOD’S WILL (NOT LISTEN TO YOUR FEAR)
5. DON’T FORGET THAT THE REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE WILL BE A STRONG WITNESS TO OTHERS