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 OF FAITH AND LIFE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

26 JULY 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

2 Kings 4:18-37
Colossians 2:6-12

Last week we talked about being alone in a crowd, and how our belief and faith and fellowship with other true believers can overcome that loneliness.

It is God's unconditional love and compassion flowing through people of faith that is the key ingredient to our helping each other.

We also discussed the fact that God's unconditional love and compassion extends to the whole of His creation (humans, other animals, and the environment in which we all live), and that it's only people who limit that love, and in turn bring loneliness and strife to others.

We ended our discussion last week with the fulfillment of Elisha's prophecy, when the Shunammite woman gave birth to a son – a gift that removed her reproach and more of her loneliness.

It is also interesting to realize that Elisha didn't end the people's hardness of heart and scapegoating ways, He just took away one of the things that they were picking at.

Today, let's continue where we left off at 2 Kings 4:18f, and also with some New Testament verses from Colossians 2:6f.

Perhaps it would be best to put a marker in both references, for we will be flipping back and forth in our look at the application of our faith in the course of our lives.

Let's begin with what happened with the Shunammite woman and her son (2 Kings 4:18-20).

18. When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers.

19. And he said to his father, "My head, my head." And he said to his servant, "Carry him to his mother."

20. When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died.

What a terrible thing to happen.

Can you feel the pain and suffering of this woman’s heart?

Can you hear what must be going through this woman's mind, and the questions she must be asking?

If ever there was a time to throw away our faith, we could understand her doing it at this time.

Before we go on to see what this woman does, let's see what we are told in Colossians 2:6-7.

6. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

7. having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Overflowing with gratitude?

How could you be overflowing with gratitude when your son has just died?

You can't, if you apply both together and limit it to the situation at hand.

We cannot be overflowing with gratitude over the death of a son.

That doesn't make sense; and this is not the way to apply what Paul is telling us.

Our overflowing gratitude is for the gift of Jesus Christ, and for our faith.

So, we can still be overflowing with gratitude and, at the same time, be suffering the anguish of the death of a son.

If we can't do this, we are not walking in our faith.

Our faith is like the food in our refrigerator. We can open it any time we wish, and see the food in it. We can also add food to it, or take some out.

Even when the door is closed, there is still food inside. When there is hunger outside, we can open the door and satisfy that need.

Likewise, our faith can be stored inside ourselves. We can add to it, and we can use it whenever we have a need.

Just because something is wrong outside of our spiritual bodies does not indicate that there is no more faith inside.

When we are in need, all we have to do is remember to take some faith out of storage and put it to use.

If we can't do this, we are not firmly rooted and established in our faith.

If we can't do this, we haven't gone through the building process that comes from exercising our faith.

The biggest problem we have is not being able to separate our faith and the unconditional love and compassion of our Lord from the corruption of this world and the effects it has on our lives.

The two are separate.

They are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Nor are they ever all mixed up together.

They are separate.

And if we have been limiting God's unconditional love and compassion in any way, we also weaken our faith, and this make our troubling times even worse.

It is our faith in the Lord, and our receiving of His love and compassion, that helps get us through these horrible times in our lives.

God did not cause this woman's son to die.

So what's she going to do?

Let's flip back to 2 Kings 4:21f and see.

21. And she went up and laid him [her son] on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door behind him, and went out.

Do you see the beginnings of her acting out or utilizing her faith, even through her grief?

She has called upon the faith she has stored up and is putting it to use.

22. Then she called to her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and return."

23. And he said, "Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath." And she said, "It will be well."

Her husband doesn't even question her as to the health of their son, or if she may be going to see Elisha on his behalf. He just tries to discourage her from going.

And more than likely, this is why she didn't tell her husband about their son's death; for she was afraid his lack of faith would in some way destroy hers.

And her faith also allowed her to conceal her grief.

24. Then she saddled a donkey and said to her servant, "Drive and go forward; do not slow down the pace for me unless I tell you."

She didn't want anything to discourage her from the exercising of her faith.

25. So she went and came to the man of God to Mount Carmel. And it came about when the man of God saw her at a distance, that he said to Gehazi his servant, "Behold, yonder is the Shunammite.

26. "Please run now to meet her and say to her, 'Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?' " And she answered, "It is well."

But it isn't well with her or her child.

But in her heart, she knows that the man of God has the power to call upon the Lord to raise her son from the dead; thus she can't bring herself to say anything otherwise.

27. When she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to push her away; but the man of God said, "Let her alone, for her soul is troubled within her; and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me."

This is the first time this woman let her grief show, which caused cracks in her faith.

28. Then she said, "Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, 'Do not deceive me'?"

Our worldly mind causes us to consider that God is cruel, and would deceive us by giving us something and then taking it away, through no fault of our own.

This is not the way of God.

He allows us to die, both young and old; but that is not deception. It is part of life in a corrupt world.

God has given this woman a promise, unlike when most women have children, and He will not break His promises.

Before continuing with what happens next, let's flip back to Colossians 2:8f.

8. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Satan is the principle one we should be aware of, and perhaps he is the one now playing on this woman's grief.

But note how this woman was aware of this truth: she didn't tell her husband, so that he would not convince her that there was no hope, since their son was already dead; and she didn't tell Gehazi, so that he would not do the same, and convince her not to trouble Elisha.

And today, with Jesus Christ in our hearts, this becomes even easier, if we are willing to accept this truth.

9. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

10. and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

11. and in Him you were also circumcised [spiritually] with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

12. having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

In Christ, in the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, is the fullness of our faith.

We just have to remember to open up to Him to receive it all.

Thus, we can be overflowing with gratitude in the midst of all sorts of problems.

Now, with our faith also built up, let's return to 2 Kings 4:29f, and see what happens with this woman and her son.

29. Then he [Elisha] said to Gehazi, "Gird up your loins and take my staff in your hand, and go your way; if you meet any man, do not salute him, and if anyone salutes you, do not answer him; and lay my staff on the lad's face."

Satan will send all sorts of people to divert us from our appointed task, and Elisha is here cautioning Gehazi of this fact.

30. And the mother of the lad said, "As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." And he arose and followed her.

This woman needs undaunted faith around her at this time, and she knows she must stay with Elisha to have this.

This is why it is so important for Christians to strengthen themselves with and through other strong believers.

31. Then Gehazi passed on before them and laid the staff on the lad's face, but there was neither sound nor response. So he returned to meet him and told him, "The lad has not awakened."

We are not to fear. God is still in control.

32. When Elisha came into the house, behold the lad was dead and laid on his bed.

33. So he entered and shut the door behind them both, and prayed to the Lord.

34. And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm.

35. Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes.

36. And he called Gehazi and said, "Call this Shunammite." So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, "Take up your son."

37. Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out.

Nothing is impossible for God.

We just have to keep looking up to Him and hold on to our faith in Him.

Because He lives, so also will we live.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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