Following Doctor’s Orders
2 Kings 5:1-14
Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was highly respected and esteemed by the king of Syria, because through Naaman the Lord had given victory to the Syrian forces. He was a great soldier, but he suffered from a dreaded skin disease. In one of their raids against Israel, the Syrians had carried off a little Israelite girl, who became a servant of Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could go to the prophet who lives in Samaria! He would cure him of his disease.” When Naaman heard of this, he went to the king and told him what the girl had said. The king said, “Go to the king of Israel and take this letter to him.”
So Naaman set out, taking 30,000 pieces of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and ten changes of fine clothes. The letter that he took read: “This letter will introduce my officer Naaman. I want you to cure him of his disease.”
7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and exclaimed, “How can the king of Syria expect me to cure this man? Does he think that I am God, with the power of life and death? It’s plain that he is trying to start a quarrel with me!”
8 When the prophet Elisha heard what had happened, he sent word to the king: “Why are you so upset? Send the man to me, and I’ll show him that there is a prophet in Israel!”
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and stopped at the entrance to Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a servant out to tell him to go and wash himself seven times in the River Jordan, and he would be completely cured of his disease. But Naaman left in a rage, saying, “I thought that he would at least come out to me, pray to the Lord his God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and cure me! Besides, aren’t the rivers Abana and Pharpar, back in Damascus, better than any river in Israel? I could have washed in them and been cured!”
13 His servants went up to him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” So Naaman went down to the Jordan, dipped himself in it seven times, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured. His flesh became firm and healthy, like that of a child.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. 24Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last for ever. 26That is why I run straight for the finishing line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
A few years ago I heard a doctor proclaim:
“Not one of my diabetes patients is doing well.”
As a diabetes patient myself I knew what the doctor was saying. The unsaid part to that is this:
“Not one of my diabetes patients is taking responsibility for their diabetes management and not one is eating and exercising properly so that their blood sugar levels and their weight levels are in the excellent range.”
The doctor was a little discouraged.
Diabetes is a serious condition, but it can be managed and most people with diabetes can live long and healthy lives if they take care of themselves.
But they have to take care of themselves.
Several years ago I did a funeral for a man who had diabetes. His family said:
“you know what, he would not follows the doctor’s orders. He decided he wanted to enjoy life, so he ate sweets and chocolates and chips and whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. ‘To hell with diets’ is what our father said.”
And so he died in his sixties… Heart problems… which is one of the complications of diabetes.
As a diabetic I know all too well the human propensity to disobey the doctor’s orders, not because I am a rebel, but because I am weak and I am tempted.
But it seems to me that not following doctor’s orders is not limited to diabetics. It seems to me that if we took a poll that many sitting here do not follow their doctor’s orders explicitly.
In fact, I knew of one doctor who used to say to his patients something to the effect of: “I will be your doctor only if you quit smoking. If you will not quit smoking which is probably your greatest health risk, then you will not listen to anything I have to say. I only want patients who will actually follow the health suggestions or orders I give.”
I don’t actually know if this was legal for the doctor to say or if it lasted very long, but his point was this: If I take the time to see you and help you. If you want healing when you are sick then simply do what the doctor orders.
Do you know people who will not take the medications the doctor orders? Do you know people who will not go for the tests their doctors order?
Do you know people who will not go for regular checkups?
You and I both know people who will not even go to the doctor when they are sick.
Oh I’ll be fine.
Quite a few summers ago when I was still playing soccer, a fellow on my soccer team stopped playing because he had a pain in his chest. The more questions I asked about whether it was a sharp pain or a dull pain, whether it was affected by breathing or not etc. led me to believe it was a heart problem.
“I think you had better go to the hospital. I think it might be a heart attack.” I urged.
“No, no, I’ll be fine. It’s not a heart attack” he said.
So we finished the soccer game and showered up and finally someone took him to the hospital because the pain would not go away.
It was a heart attack.
Why do so many humans ignore every piece of good advice they get from doctors, friends and family that has to do with their personal welfare?
It isn’t just doctors who are ignored.
As a parent I sometimes wonder that the way to make sure my children do not follow good advice is to give them good advice.
Is it our sense of independence?
Is it that we cannot take orders?
Are humans innately rebellious?
Are we just stupid?
Do we just have to learn the hard way?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that humans were pretty much the same three thousand years ago as they are today.
And in our old testament story, we find Naaman. A commander in the Syrian army not willing to follow the prophet Elisha’s orders to wash in the Jordan river in order to be healed of his leprosy.
Let’s sum up the story again.
Naaman is a commander in the Syrian army. Obviously a good and successful commander, one esteemed and respected by the King of Syria.
But Naaman has leprosy.
Now the had a girl who was a slave, who had been taken from Israel, for as you might have imagined Syria and Israel were often enemies.
And the slave girl mentioned in passing one day to Naaman’s wife, that if only Naaman lived in Israel he could go to the prophet there because that prophet could heal him of his leprosy.
Now some hope is better than no hope and even though it was enemy country, Naaman got permission and a letter from his king to go to Israel to try and get healed.
In fact the letter was addressed to the King of Israel from the King of Syria. Here is my man, Naaman that he is healed.
The king of Israel was all upset. He didn’t have any magic powers, but if he told Naaman to get lost then the King of Syria would probably use that as an excuse to invade, for Syrian was a powerful nation that had warred with Israel on and off, with Israel often coming out on the losing end of things. Sometimes Israel even paid tribute to Syria.
When Elisha the prophet heard about it, he sent a message to the King. Send the soldier down to see me.
So the King sent Naaman down to see Elisha. When Naaman and his soldiers and servants arrived, Elisha didn’t even bother to come out. He just sent a servant with a message: “Go wash seven times in the Jordan river and you will be healed.”
Well this infuriated Naaman. He was a high-ranking official of the great nation of Syria. “At the very least the prophet could come and see me and wave his hands and cast a magic spell to heal me. And washing myself in that dirty little river of Jordan. Surely the rivers in Syria are much better rivers that the Jordan.
I won’t do it.”
Naaman did not want to follow the orders that would see him healed.
Fortunately he had some servants and friends who talked him into washing and he went to the river Jordan, washed seven times and was healed.
It is a fascinating story. Interesting not for the sake of healing because there are lots of biblical healing stories, but interesting in other ways.
This is a foreigner an enemy. In fact in the 2 chapters before the Syrians actually had the capital city of Samaria surrounded and the Israelites inside were starving so badly that some people actually ate their own children.
So in is interesting when there are so many people worthy of healing that it is a commander of the enemy army that is healed.
The second thing that is remarkable is that this had nothing to do with faith. Naaman did not believe in God. He worshipped his own gods. And even when Elisha told him to do something Naaman was kind of snooty about the whole thing.
But when he finally follows the orders the healing happens. When he finally can trust enough to follow through and do what he is told he is healed.
And I sometimes wonder if that is not true about our faith and the orders we receive from Jesus.
That maybe we would see a lot more healings if we would just do what we are told. Maybe we are to participate in our healing. Maybe there is a role for us to play in our healing.
Maybe healing isn’t about just sitting by the miracle pool waiting for a miracle, but is means standing on one’s own feet and working together with God.
And I am not talking about physical healing. I am talking about inner healing.
It is easy to get confused, because our scriptures are written in a pre-scientific age, in an age when everyone believed in miracles.
It is easy to forget or not even notice that these stories of healings are primarily metaphors for our lives.
That we can be healed of the things that paralyze us…
We can be healed of the things that make us lepers and outcasts.
That we can be healed of the things that rob us sanity and control our lives.
And it is not that I don’t believe in healings. We have one of the greatest medical systems in the world. I know. I have been to doctors enough in my lifetime. Millions more people are healed today that in Naaman’s day or Jesus’ day, it is just that we understand healing in scientific terms much better.
But I believe the church should be a place of healing. I believe that we need to recover the role of healers ourselves.
Because when I made list of the types of healing that people need beyond physical healing, I filled a whole page.
There is healing from past hurts and rejections.
There is healing from humiliation and ridicule.
Some need to be healed of physical abuse, mental abuse or sexual abuse.
Some people have been tortured
Some need healing from relationships gone wrong, marriages, friendships etc.
Some need healing in their current family relationships
Some need healing from the gossip and lies that have been told about them.
Some need healing over great disappointments.
There is healing from all sorts of losses, houses, jobs, income, pets, physical health, mental acuity, power, wealth, security or friendship.
Some need to be healed of their deep grief.
There are those who need healing from depression, phobias, neuroses or other emotional sicknesses.
There are those who need healing from habits and addictions.
Some need to be healed of their past sins, the way they have talked about other and treated others in hurtful ways.
Some need to be healed of their current emotional state of greed, selfishness, unforgiveness, violence, vengeance, prejudice or hatred.
I could probably go on with more things and more details….
But I know that all of us here need healing.
All of us need God’s hand on us. We need to dip seven times in the River Jordan and have our inner souls healed.
Where do you need healing today?
Where can Jesus touch your life and bring transformation?
Several years ago, Kirsten was watching a hockey game one time and I went in the room and when I saw one of the teams who was playing I decided to leave.
Don’t you like that team said Kirsten?
No, it’s not that. It’s just that….well they were the favourite team of those friends who betrayed me and really hurt me.
And Kirsten said: “Dad that was three years ago. It’s over now.”
I still needed healing. I still needed healing.
But I found that healing doesn’t come, by just sitting, waiting, and calling on the Lord, anymore than you are healed of your ailments by sitting on the couch and complaining about the lineups at the outpatients.
I found that you have do something about your healing. Just like you have to go to a doctor or a hospital for your broken ankle,
You have to go to Jesus for your broken heart.
It takes work and effort, to pray, to share, to listen and to obey.
It takes discipline to read scripture and study scripture and work on your faith.
There are all kinds of orders in the scriptures. Not complicated orders. Simple ones…
Love God with everything you have…
Love your neighbour. Turn your cheek.
Do not repay evil with evil, but with good.
Pray without ceasing. Study…
Don’t neglect worship. Trust God…
Maybe if we would just follow the good doctor’s orders….
I am not talking about your acceptance by God here. I am not talking about his grace which is free.
I am talking about your health, in which you play a huge part.
You have to go and wash in the Jordan seven times.
You have to do something to deepen your faith. You work with God.
And as you work with him, talk with him, study him listen to him you will not only be transformed, not only will you be healed you will become a healer.
You will be a positive force in your community.
People of deep faith are healers. They always bring grace and love and life and wholeness to any situation they are in.
And remember when that leper said to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”
Jesus replied “I choose.”
That’s what I am choosing. That what you can choose: To be a healer.
For homework today after lunch, go home and think about it and ask yourself this question:
Where could I bring healing?
Where could I bring healing?
Who could you touch and make a difference?
Could you be a big brother or sister and help bring healing?
Could you volunteer at a hospital?
Could you help with a food bank?
Could you be there for a friend who needs advice or someone to listen to?
Could you give to a certain healing charity?
Could you work with people in need?
Could you volunteer in school?
Could you work for peace, or reconciliation or mediation in groups.
Is there somewhere you can bring your own story and share it…that God touched your life and brought love and peace?
Could you share it in Sunday School or with youth?
I choose to work for my healing.
I choose to work for healing in others.
Several years ago I watched this movie and there was a really poignant moment.
I know some of you are very happy when I use my movie illustrations, because it saves you having to buy tickets to the show, you can get it all here in church.
The movie was entitled “Crash” and it was about all the prejudice in the world and how we keep on blindly going around crashing other each with our own prejudices.
And in one part of the movie a man comes home and finds his little girl under the bed. In part she is under the bed because she is scared. Not that long ago, a bullet had gone through her window of her bedroom in her house in Los Angeles.
The Dad said that she didn’t need to be scared because they had moved to a nicer neighbourhood. But she was still scared.
Then the dad said that when he was five he was given a magic invisible cloak by a fairy. And the cloak was impenetrable, which means nothing will go through it, no bullets, knives or anything and that he has been wearing it all his life and never got shot or knifed or anything.
And he was supposed to give it to her on her fifth birthday and he forgot.
So he takes it off and ties it around her.
Do you feel anything at all? He asks
“No” she says.
“Then if fits perfectly” he says, and he puts her to bed,
Later on, in the movie another man thinks he has a grudge against this father and he plans to shoot him.
He waits for the father to come home and when the father gets out of his van and is in the driveway, this other man comes up and holds up a gun.
The little girl comes to the door and sees the man holding the gun on her father. The father shouts: “stay there”
But the little girl says to herself; “he doesn’t have the impenetrable cloak” and she runs out and jumps into his arms just as the man shoots.
The little girl has put herself in between the bullet and her father.
And the father screams out….
Even the man with the gun is horrified.
He shot the little girl.
(And of course I am crying…)
But then the little girl says: “It’s okay Daddy. I’ll protect you.”
The girl is alive. In fact to everyone’s surprise, she doesn’t even have a mark on her.
And we are left wondering why she isn’t hurt.
And the little girl says: “It’s a really good cloak.”
(and I laugh and cry at the same time)
It is only later in the movie that we find out, as I had surmised that when he got the ammunition he had asked for the red box and the red box was full of blanks.
But I was struck by the willingness of the daughter to put her arms around her daddy and protect him.
It made me think all who have put their arms around me to protect me, to heal me, to save me and love me.
My mother and my wife and my family and friends and ministers, youth leaders, congregants in my churches. So many I couldn’t name them all.
It made me think of Jesus who put his arms around us and went to a cross to protect us, heal us, save us and love us.
You too can put your arms around people to protect, to heal, to save and to love.
Jesus replied “I choose.”
That’s what we can choose: I choose to heal.
I choose to work for my healing.
I choose to work for healing in this world.