If you happen to be shopping for a new car, you may be interested in the news article from back in August that talked about the most expensive car in the world. It’s a car made in Sweden called the Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita, a car that is literally coated in diamonds, has a 1000 horsepower V-8 dual supercharged engine — and it costs $4.8 million. I would assume – and I would hope – that if I stood up here this morning and said that I needed that car to go out there and make calls on people to share the gospel of Jesus Christ — and that I felt all of you should provide that car for me — you would at the very least say, “Pastor Kolander, we’ve got to tell you something. That is not going to happen.”
The reason I mention this is because some of you may remember the story from this past spring where a well-known megachurch preacher from Atlanta, Georgia named Creflo Dollar didn’t ask for a $4.8 million car, but he did ask 200,000 of his listeners to give $300 each so he could purchase a $65 million jet airplane, primarily because his present jet was getting old, and he needed something safer and more reliable as he proclaimed the gospel around the world. He thought it was appropriate to get something like that for his work in the church of God.
Elisha’s servant Gehazi’s request of the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army named Naaman for some money and some clothes may not seem nearly as extravagant as a request like that, but, unfortunately, his spirit was very much the same. It wasn’t that it would have been wrong for Elisha to accept a gift – because in the Bible God does want those who are served with God’s Word to give their offerings and financial support to those who share that Word as pastors and teachers. Elisha, however, didn’t want this new believer in the Lord to get the wrong impression that God’s blessings had to be purchased or to give any impression on his part that he was just some miracle worker out to make money. The problem was Gehazi’s spirit or attitude, which he demonstrated in the third paragraph of our lesson when he said that Elisha was too easy on Naaman, and then he ended up taking an oath and saying this in the last line of that third paragraph: “As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” On this day when we are reflecting on the spirit which the Holy Spirit wants us to have when it comes to the mission of the church to share the gospel with people who don’t at this time know the way to heaven, let’s think about a couple of very important reasons why we don’t want to have the kind of attitude about our life as God’s people that is basically saying what Gehazi was saying, “I want to get something for it!”
First, though, do you remember the backstory to this episode about Naaman? He was a big man is his country of Aram, the country we know today as Syria, where so much war is presently going on. Naaman was a man of war. He was in charge of the army and helped protect the king himself. But he was also a man who like any other man or woman, was susceptible to injury and disease. In his instance he contracted the horrible disease called leprosy, which would eventually eat away at his skin and take away his life. But a little slave girl who had been captured in the land of Israel and was a servant for Naaman’s wife told Naaman to go see the prophet in Israel, the prophet Elisha. And so he did. God then told Elisha to tell Naaman to wash himself seven times in the little Jordan River, and that in so doing he would be healed of his leprosy. And so he did. And exactly what the Lord said would happen did happen. Elisha was just the human instrument. He had no reason to want to get something for it. The Lord God who has all, had given all to help a man from a foreign nation who had nowhere else to turn.
The fact is that he who has all, has given in our life, too. The reason God allowed some of his prophets of old to carry out miracles like this was to show that the Lord God of Israel could be trusted when he said that the way to heaven was through the Savior he had promised to send. You and I have nowhere else to turn when we think of what’s going to happen after we die, especially when we think about all the things we have done during the time of our life that are a slap in our Lord’s holy face. But the Lord Jesus, who came as promised, allowed his face to be slapped and so much more to the point of death. He who has all, has given. And what Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, has given is the unbelievably awesome assurance that what is his is ours. He who is God’s Son has made us God’s children. He who is one in glory with the Father has promised that we will live in glory in heaven. He who returned to his Father to watch over us has said he will watch over us every single second of our lives, even though he has also made it clear that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.
Christ’s mission was to suffer, to die and to rise again so that we could live in heaven. Our mission is to believe that, to grow in our understanding of that, to live in thankfulness for that, and to let other people in our families and in our community and in our world know that that is exactly what God wants for them, too. And that’s what changes our spirit and attitude if we are ever tempted to somehow think that God owes us something and we end up saying, “I want to get something for it. I want to get something for how faithful to God I have been. I want to get something for how hard I have fought off all those temptations. I want to get something for all the tribulations I have gone through before I enter the kingdom of God.” What we should get from God is the opposite of what we have gotten from God – and what we have gotten is the best there could possibly be. Through Christ Jesus, we’ve got it all! How can you possibly want more, when you already have everything?!
And he who gets all, gives. The new convert Naaman did that in a way that set a far greater example than did the veteran believer Gehazi. Naaman’s natural reaction was to give a gift to Elisha. Naaman’s natural reaction was to want to dig up some up of the ground of the land of Israel so he could have a constant physical reminder of what took place on that day when in future days he would offer sacrifices to his new Lord back in his old land of Syria. And Naaman’s natural reaction was to make sure that Elisha understood that when he had to accompany his boss, the king, into the king’s place of idol worship, he really was not there to worship, something about which Elisha told him, “Go in peace. I know that you are not there to worship, but as part of your obligation to protect the king as he goes about the land.”
Gehazi on the other hand also had it all in that he knew his Lord and had the opportunity to be about God’s work every day. Instead of being thankful for what the joy and blessing he could give to Naaman, however, he wanted to get more. And that spirit of greed led to those lies, one after the other: “Hey, Naaman, Elisha told me to ask you for some money and some clothes for our seminary students.” “What are you talking about, Elisha, I wasn’t gone anywhere” – until finally Elisha made it clear that in some way God had let him see everything that had been going on, and that as a result of his sin, God in his love was going to allow Gehazi to suffer for the rest of his life from the same disease of which Naaman had just been cured. What we pray is that Gehazi also ended up seeing this as something given by the God who has all in order to let Gehazi come back to his senses and stay close to his Lord, whose promise always remains to welcome back all those who return to him.
You and I have all. We know Jesus Christ as our Savior Lord. We also have opportunity after opportunity to worship him and to serve him and to pray to him and to let others know about him. So we who have gotten all, give our all – all our heart and soul and mind to carry on the mission God has given his people. In this lesson from God’s Word, Gehazi ran after something that made it look like God’s gifts or God’s love were something to be profited from in a greedy way. What we pray we will always do is run after those things in a way that shows that we know that God’s gifts and God’s love and God’s forgiveness and God’s blessings are totally free, even though they have been purchased by God himself at the highest cost imaginable – far greater than a multi-million dollar car, far greater than a many-multi-million dollar jet airplane.
With God’s help let’s all try to remember these simple, but important things when we think of the importance of mission work right close by and mission work so far away: that the God who has everything, has given everything to us through Christ, and that all of us who have everything through Christ, want to give to others in whatever we can the riches of God’s treasury, which can be offered and shared and given time and time again, with the awesome confidence that there will always be just as much left for us then as there was for us before. Brothers and sisters, we don’t have to worry about “getting something” for our efforts. After all, we really didn’t do anything at all to get it in the first place, and we still have received everything that anyone could possibly ever want to receive. What better way can there be to show how much that means to us than by resolving every day to make God’s mission our mission. God promises that when we do that, he is the one who will get something for it – the glory and praise he loves his people to give him from every corner of the world. Let’s make that what we want to get for it. Amen.