Called to trust God, trust his word
Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2022
By Charles Qualls
Life gives us a lot of things that we have to suspend our disbelief about. In fact, this past week, I was attending the annual meeting of our denomination, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. While there, I had breakfast with a fellow pastor named Jim.
He asked me what I was preaching on this Sunday. I told him it was the Naaman passage of healing from 2 Kings 5:1-14. He reacted by saying, “For some people, that story gives you a lot to get past.” He was referring, of course, to Naaman’s healing by simply dipping himself in the Jordan River seven times.
For many people, the Bible gives us a lot to get past. That is, if we are going to get the benefit of why any particular story was told. Today, I affirm that stories such as the one of Naaman’s healing are more than worth the journey. Because we are called to trust God.
This episode doesn’t ask anything of us we don’t do pretty often. In fact, my friend Jim says there are at least four arenas of life where we humans willingly suspend our disbelief. When we’re watching movies or sitting in a live theater, we willingly suspend our disbelief in the name of entertainment. When we read a fairy tale, there are aspects we can’t explain. Things we can’t add up when squared with real life. But we accept them as parts of the story.
In foreign travel, there are constantly language and cultural details that we don’t understand. But for the sake of peace and travel, we set them aside and even say, “When in Rome…” The Bible is the fourth, a sacred realm where we are called to either suspend our disbelief or we have to just give up without hearing God’s voice.
The Bible is a book where a virgin gives birth to our Lord. A place where there are angels and demons swirling into contact with people. There is water that parts, people who don’t die, life that is created with mere words and diseases that are healed the same way. Speaking of water, in the Bible it becomes wine. The law becomes grace. Fire burns but is not put out. Oh, but the fire does speak.
Four-year-olds will break your spirit by endlessly asking one simple question. They ask “why?” ceaselessly and with all sincerity. Yet adults when encountering these types of Bible stories will often ask “how?” instead.
How is understandable, but it’s also a question that will never be answered satisfactorily. But “why?” The ancient Hebrews, for whom this story was written, asked “why?,” just like our younger friends.
“Why?” is the question of Bible study. It is the question of theology. It is the question that will take scripture and lead us closer to the very heart of God. In these summer weeks, our sermon series reminds us that we are called to live. In this story, we are called to trust God. That is, if we can move past asking “how?”
There are cultural and ritual implications hanging in the balance for Naaman. He is somehow being extended extra grace to hold his position while seeking a cure. This disease was thought to have normally rendered people socially marginalized, jobless and physically separated so that they didn’t infect others.
But why did this story get told? What are we supposed to find in it? Like any, there are many reasons I suppose. Jesus did later have something to say about faith without sight, now that I think about it.
So, let me ask you this: What is there of God that you don’t readily trust? God asks us to love people we aren’t ready to love. “How do you know that’s going to work, God?” we ask. “How do you know it won’t?” God responds.
God asks us to do things we don’t feel ready to do yet. Things we aren’t comfortable with. God asks us to do things that risk or give away something we want to keep for ourselves. Our time, our wealth, our power or status. God asks us to act more like Christ and a little less like ourselves. To give up our biases, prejudices or assumptions.
Like Naaman, we are called to trust God about things we can’t fully see the value of. Also like Naaman, we may question why we should. I think God responds, “How do you know that you won’t find life unless you do?”
Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.