Steven Furtick - When People Don't Meet Your Expectation
I've noticed I spend a lot of my time fighting stuff that God is actually sending into my life. I spend a lot of my time fighting against people I'm not really mad at. It's really not them. Tell the person next to you, "It's not you; it's me". I'm a perfectionist, so sometimes when things aren't just like I want them to be… Here's what really happens. It really happens with my expectation. When I expect it to be one way and it's the other… When I went off on my dad a few years ago, it was because I rented him a house, I moved him and my mom to Charlotte… Well, I didn't move them. I hired movers, and then they got fired because my dad was crazy. It was so funny. It really wasn't funny. It's funny now. Can we laugh about it? The day I went to see him…
The story has a happy ending and we ended up being together and it was good and all that, but in between… Remember, Naaman gets healed at the end of this story, but there's some stuff in the middle I want to talk to you about. In the middle of that whole messy situation with my dad, I remember going over to check on him one day, and I was so proud of the house Holly had found that we rented for them. My mom liked it, and she was happy, and my dad… The first thing he said when I walked through the door was, "This ain't going to work, bo'". I know, "Honor your father and mother in the Lord". I know that Bible verse. I promise you I know it. I even know that honor is kabad in Hebrew and it can also be translated glory and weight. But the only thing I wanted in that moment… I'm going to just be honest with you. I don't like to be disrespected, and it felt disrespectful to me, so I went off. It really wasn't what he said, because really what he wanted were just a few small tweaks, but I couldn't hear that anymore.
My expectation was that he was going to meet me at the door and give me a big ol' hug and say, "My son in whom I am well pleased," and a dove would descend, but he didn't read my script. What do you do when people don't read your script, meet your expectation? Here's where the story gets good. I want you to notice that the same event that triggered the king and made him go into fear mode, which is usually what's happening when we're lashing out or withdrawing… Not everybody fights outwardly. Some of us bottle it up inwardly, and we never go off. One day we just tap out, and you wonder, "How did they drop like that"? Well, it's usually a series of unmet expectations.
In this case, the king of Israel, Jehoash, is traumatized to the point that he thinks everything is a fight. It says it in the text. "See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me"! That's verse 7. "See how they're looking at me? They didn't even wave at me". This is a Southern thing. You're supposed to wave at people when you drive by them. In the town I grew up in, you waved at everybody. The first time we were driving through the neighborhood and Holly didn't wave at people, I corrected her. I was like, "What is wrong with you"? She's not from Moncks Corner. She's from Miami, and it's a different culture. It's an inferior culture of rudeness. Anytime that you've been used to fighting in your life… If life has really been a fight for you, if you've had to fight for your mental health or your emotional health or fight through issues of bitterness and forgiveness because of abuse, if you've had to fight for your own and fight to make it or if you had to fight your own family…
When you've had to fight over and over again, everything looks like a fight. Everything looks like a threat. Everything sounds like an insult. Every time somebody doesn't check on you, it feels like abandonment. It's the trauma that's being triggered. What's encouraging to me and what I got up here to tell you about today (because this is pretty depressing so far)… The same stimulus that triggered fear in the king's heart triggered faith in Elisha's. The Bible says in verse 8, "When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message…" The king said, "Who do you think I am? You think I'm a healer"? Elisha said, "I know God is a healer". Watch this. "Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel". This man said, "Where you see opposition, I see opportunity".
The same thing that triggered the king to tear his robes and freak out and fall down in fear triggered Elisha to rise up in faith. Elisha said, "Send him to me, because the Word of God is with me". Elisha has an experience to build this expectation on. Elisha has healed the waters at Jericho. Elisha has multiplied the widow's oil. Elisha has spoken to barren wombs and, when that child died, spoke life and it resurrected from the dead. Elisha has dug ditches in dry valleys and seen God bring water from the direction of Edom. Elisha has seen God do things that only God can do. So when an impossible situation that is beyond him shows up, Elisha knows what to do. "Bring him here to me. I've got something for Naaman. I heal lepers for breakfast. Bring him to me, and he will know not how great I am but how great God is".
Watch verse 9. I love this story. "So Naaman went with his horses and chariots [and his expectations and his leprosy and his greatness and his but]…" He brought it all because he wanted to be healed. I know you want to be healed of something today, even though you've been covering it up. I know you use your charisma to cover your cracks, and I know nobody knows how dark the thoughts can really get for you sometimes, but I've been doing this too long to sit there and preach to your armor. A business leader walked up to me and told me he had to kick his teenager out of his house. He said, "We almost got in a fist fight". He said, "I swung at him and missed, and I realized this has gone way too far".
The man had on khakis while he was telling me, double-pleated khakis, no tattoos. He didn't look like the kind of guy who would swing on his kid. I don't even really think you've seen your own but until you've been through certain things. Then the weird thing is we all have short-term memory loss. If we have one devotion and read our Bible one morning, now we start judging other people when they flip out. Naaman is on the verge of something. He had to travel a long way to get here. It's like a 90-mile trip. He has a big crew with him, and he needs a miracle. We admire him because he went. I do at least. I think to even get to this point takes faith. Maybe one of the reasons I try not to put a lot of condemnation in my preaching is I'm pretty proud of you who decided to show up anyway. I know how many things could have kept you from being here, and I'm pretty proud that you made the decision to bring your but to church. Give yourself a hand for bringing your but to church.
If you're watching online, you don't get to clap. "So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger…" This is not going to go well, because Naaman is a great man, and when a great man comes to your doorstep you give him a great greeting and welcome him by name, man. (I'm going to retire. This is my last sermon. Y'all enjoy.) He sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan…" "In the what"? "In the Jordan". "You mean that muddy little excuse for a river that y'all like to celebrate so much in this nation of Israel, which I don't even like anyway? And he didn't even come to the door"? Naaman went off. No, he literally went off. Not in the figurative sense. He literally decided, "I would rather go home with my leprosy. I'd rather go home and my arm fall off. I would rather die than be disrespected like this".
When he heard this ridiculous command, he said something very important. It was a simple instruction. It was a stupid instruction. It didn't make much sense, just like it doesn't make much sense when God tells you to forgive somebody so you can be forgiven. You want to say, "Well, God, if they ask for it, I'll give it," and God says to you, "I'm not talking about what they deserve. I'm talking about your deliverance. I'm talking about your clean heart. I'm talking about your clear mind". "If you want to get cleansed, I need you to do something that makes no sense, because there is no cure for leprosy. It can't be cured; it has to be cleansed, and it can only be cleansed if you obey this command". Verse 11 starts so sad. "But…" There it is again.
I'm going to preach a whole series one day on the "buts" of the Bible. Naaman is standing in front of a miracle. The guys around him are like, "Okay. That's all we have to do? Naaman, you can keep the 75 pounds of silver and the 75 pounds of gold and you can pass off the 10 sets of clothing, and we could go home. We could start back home. That's easy. Somebody start running the water. Naaman, do you want it hot? Do you want it extra hot? Naaman, do you want a rubber ducky? Get the towel ready. Do you want some sunscreen"? It's a funny thing about pride. It's a funny thing about the small things. It's a funny thing about something that seems beneath you.
Remember, the king was triggered because of something that seemed beyond him. "Am I God"? Naaman is triggered because of something that seems beneath him. "You want me to do what? Nuh-uh. I'm not doing that. Nope"! When your heart is filled with pride, you try to write your own prescriptions. "This is how I want God to bless me. This is how I want God to come through. This is how I want God to heal me. This is how I want him to respond. This is the opportunity I want". "Naaman went away angry and said…" These are two very dangerous words, by the way. These are maybe the two most dangerous words for you to interpret your life through. "I thought…" Maybe those two words are the two words that are standing between me and peace today. "I thought…" "I thought my dad was going to be grateful for the house.
Now he's telling me about getting somebody over here to fix the… Huh"? "I thought you'd say, 'Thank you.'" "I thought you'd grow up and play piano. I put you in lessons". "I thought…" "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God…" Naaman had it all planned out, because that's what great men do. Great men make great plans, and when those plans don't go the way they were supposed to go, great men and women go off. "I had this family picture, and here's where you were supposed to stand, and here's where you were supposed to smile, and here's where you were supposed to…" "I thought…"
Could those two words be standing between you and healing today? "I thought…" God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts and my ways above your ways". "But Naaman went away angry and said, 'I thought that…'" "I thought he would come out to me. I had this worked out. He comes to me, and then I give him the gifts, and I get the healing. This is how this works". Not this time, Naaman. Not this time. This transformation is not going to happen on your terms. God is not going to do it like you expected. He's not going to be held hostage to what you thought. "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand…" "He's supposed to wave. He's supposed to wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy". He doesn't like the place God told him to get healed. "'Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? [I didn't have to come here for this.] Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?' So he turned and went off in a rage. [One of his servants]…"
This guy needs a raise, by the way. "…went to him…" Notice how beautiful the story is told. It's chronicled like this. Naaman went to his master and said, "I need permission to go to Israel". So he went to the king, and the king said, "I can't do it". Then he went to Elisha with his chariots and horses, and now Naaman went off in a rage. He's about to miss the opportunity to be healed because he is going off. And here's why he went off: because he didn't go in. He went off because he made his decision about what he thought about it, but he didn't go in. I've noticed something about myself. When I don't go into the presence of God, when I don't go in and ask God, "What are you doing in this situation"? when I don't go into myself and seek for the Spirit of God to lead me, I start going off.
Then I spend the next week fixing stuff that if I would have taken one moment and worshiped, if I would have taken one moment and sought God's wisdom, if I would have taken one moment and said, "You know what? I don't want to fight about this. I don't want to be right; I want to be healed. I don't want to prove my own power; I want to receive your power, God…" What happens next is really beautiful, because some of you are going to do it today. Stand with me. The servant came to Naaman and said something that I think is very prophetic, and I hope you can hear it on the level at which it is intended. The servant chased Naaman down. Naaman is on his way back to Damascus. He's going to walk 90 miles back home with leprosy still on his skin because of something that seemed too small and insignificant for a great man like him to do. He's going to spend the rest of his life with this disease because he didn't want to do what he was told to do.
The servant said, "Hey, man, sir. Naaman, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it"? "Well, of course I would, because I'm a great man". "Well, if you're a great man, how much more should you be able to do a small thing"? "So when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed,' why not give it a try? You've been fighting so hard, justifying your side of the story and justifying yourself and why it's all right and why it's okay, but hey, man, if we already came 90 miles, if we already came this far and that prophet is telling you that if you dip in the Jordan you can be cleansed, isn't it worth a try? You already went to your master and got the letter. You already went with your horses and chariots. Now you're going off in a rage".
Verse 14 is the happy ending, and I believe it's a new beginning for many of us today. The Bible says, "So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan…" I'm glad after Naaman went off he went in. He went in not just once, not just twice, not just three times, not just four times, not just five times, not just six times, but all seven. Often when you're in the process of obeying God you see no immediate effects of change. It's not like your skin gets healed a little bit with every dip. You have to have the faith to go through the motions even when you see no evidence. Who am I talking to? You have to have the faith to go down and pray again, to lift up your hands in worship and say, "I don't feel a thing right now, but God is with me and God is for me, and who can be against me? I will not fear. Though a host of enemies encamps about me, I will not be afraid. The Lord is my helper. I lift my eyes to the hills. My help comes from the Lord".