Giving Your Faith Away

 

Shaking-hands  

When we talk about “giving your faith away,” we’re talking about witnessing, which is another way of describing the act of evangelism.  The idea of talking about Jesus in public scares the daylights out of some Christians.  A lot those Christians are of the opinion that one’s faith is a “personal thing.”  That sounds reasonable, except it goes against what the Bible teaches!  The least personal thing in a believer’s life is his faith.

Still, sharing your faith can be a tricky thing.  Who wants to offend somebody else?  Who wants their views slammed by another?  Being an effective witness for Jesus Christ can be a tremendously rewarding endeavor, but it isn’t always easy.  Learning to rely on the Holy Spirit takes time, but it is He who leads a believer in the right direction, to the right people, and the Holy Spirit helps us to be an effective witness for Christ by our words and by our example.

Let’s consider an example in Scripture of some men who bore witness of their faith.

The Adventure of the Four Lepers, 2 Kings 7:3—9

Finally they said to each other, “This isn’t right. This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! Even if we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us; come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”  (2 Kings 7:9  TLB)

This was a bad time in the history of God’s people.  The Assyrians were on the cusp of taking Samaria (capital of Israel) and Israel’s king would have nothing to do with Elisha or even with God Himself.

Later on, however, King Ben-hadad of Syria mustered his entire army and besieged Samaria.  As a result there was a great famine in the city, and after a long while even a donkey’s head sold for fifty dollars and a pint of dove’s dung brought three dollars!  (2 Kings 6:24, 25  TLB)

This siege occurred around 845 BC, and it was an all-out assault on the northern kingdom of Israel.  Samaria, its capital, was able for a time to withstand this prolonged siege, thanks to the efforts of a previous king, King Omri, who had the foresight to build Israel’s capital in a good location and to fortify it against attack.

Just how bad had things gotten in Israel?  They couldn’t have gotten much worse:

One day as the king of Israel was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Help, my lord the king!”

“If the Lord doesn’t help you, what can I do?” he retorted. “I have neither food nor wine to give you. However, what’s the matter?”

She replied, “This woman proposed that we eat my son one day and her son the next. So we boiled my son and ate him, but the next day when I said, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ she hid him.”  (2 Kings 6:26—30  TLB)

King Jehoram, in the throws of anger and distress, blamed God’s prophet Elisha for this whole mess, ordered him beheaded.

“May God kill me if I don’t execute Elisha this very day,” the king vowed.  (2 Kings 6:31  TLB)

But Elisha actually had good news for the king:

“The Lord says that by this time tomorrow two gallons of flour or four gallons of barley grain will be sold in the markets of Samaria for a dollar!”  (2 Kings 7:1  TLB)

Somehow, God was going to bless the people of Israel even though they didn’t deserve it.  The king’s aide mocked and ridiculed this Word from the Lord, and Elisha’s news to him was worse than bad:

“You will see it happen, but you won’t be able to buy any of it!”  (2 Kings 7:2b  TLB)

This man’s faithless incredulity would cause him to miss out on God’s blessings.

God moves in mysterious ways!

How God accomplished this unmerited deliverance was surprising and reminds us of this New Testament passage:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are…  (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28  NKJV)

God fulfilled the prophecy He gave to Elisha the very next day, in a most unusual way, using a very odd group of men.

Now there were four lepers sitting outside the city gates.  (2 Kings 7:3a  TLB)

These four lepers were cut off from the rest of society.  They had no means of support, save from family members who would bring them food from time to time.  But, remember, there was no food in Samaria now; the siege had taken care of that!  In effect, the healthy citizens of Samaria were now no better off than these four lepers.  These sorry men, knowing they had nothing to lose, decided to go to the enemy camp, throw themselves on their mercy, and maybe get some food.   What they found there is stuff miracles are made of!

So that evening they went out to the camp of the Syrians, but there was no one there!  (2 Kings 7:5  TLB)

What happened to all those soldiers?  There were, perhaps, upwards of 100,000 soldiers in that camp, yet these four hapless lepers found the camp abandoned.  What the lepers didn’t know, and what no one could have known, was that the Lord was working silently in the background.

For the Lord had made the whole Syrian army hear the clatter of speeding chariots and a loud galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us,” they cried out. So they panicked and fled into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else.  (2 Kings 7:6, 7  TLB)

The Lord, as we might say today, messed with their heads!  The Lord “spooked” these hardened military men, frightening them into fleeing their camp in an absolute panic. They left everything behind…even their supplies.   This is significant because in that day, an army carried with it all the supplies they would need for whatever military campaign they were engaged in carrying out.  This was a long siege; therefore this huge army had tons and tons of supplies on hand.  And they left it all behind.

Who would have predicted this turn of events?  Nobody would have guessed what the Lord was doing in the background.  It was William Cowper in 1774 who coined the oft-cited phrase, which was part a longer hymn, actually:

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

That’s not actually a Biblical statement.  That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it certainly isn’t a Bible verse.  What Cowper wrote, and what becomes obvious when reading the Bible, is that while God may be known by man, and while He is revealed in His Word and in the Living Word, Jesus Christ, God sometimes does things in ways that just boggle the human mind.  To our limited, finite minds, God does seem to move in mysterious ways.  Now, what God does isn’t mysterious to Him because He is in possession of all the details while we aren’t.  So, from the faulty, human perspective, God “moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!  For who among us can know the mind of the Lord? Who knows enough to be his counselor and guide?  And who could ever offer to the Lord enough to induce him to act?  For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory. To him be glory evermore.  (Romans 11:33—36  TLB)

These four lepers suddenly and without explanation, found themselves literally in the middle of the lap of luxury!  And they did what any hungry, needy person would do.

When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp they went into one tent after another, eating, drinking wine, and carrying out silver and gold and clothing and hiding it.  (2 Kings 7:8  TLB)

Now, we should remember that these lepers weren’t privy to Elisha’s prophecy and they certainly had no clue that God’s had was behind this turn of evens.  Still, when the exhilaration of the moment cooled off, they came to their senses and realized they owed it to their countrymen to give them this awesome news.

Finally they said to each other, “This isn’t right. This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! Even if we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us; come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”  (2 Kings 7:9  TLB)

Without regard to their superstitious attitude, they were compelled to give this good news to others who were also in desperate need.  They got to town and nothing stopped them from shouting the good news, which eventually reached the ears of the king.

This was truly a night of “good news” for the people of Samaria!  It was an unexpected victory; the people did NOTHING to merit what the Lord did for them.  The king was skeptical, but eventually, the four lepers were proved to be have been right.  It wasn’t long before the starving, beleaguered people of Samaria ventured out of the city to plunder the enemy’s camp.  Thanks to the work of the Lord, every word of Elisha’s prophecy came to pass.

An application for Christians

This is a remarkable story on so many levels; one of many amazing incidents in the life of Elisha.  There is a tremendous message for the church today.  We Christians enjoy abundant fellowship with God and are able to learn from His Word any time we feel like it.  We pray together, we worship together, and we enjoy the things of the Lord together.  But what about those who aren’t “part of the group?”  What about all those lost people who don’t have a relationship with God and don’t know what the Bible really says?  What are we doing to get the “good news” out to them?  There are people—some may be your neighbors—who are literally starving to death spiritually.  We who know the truth owe it to them; it’s the debt we owe all non-believers.  The four lepers felt compelled to “share the wealth” with the rest of the people in Samaria.  May we, like them, feel compelled to share the good news with those who don’t know it.  You never  know what God is doing in their hearts before you say the first word.

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