A Simple Command for a Commander

Don’t forget about the mundane.  While we are so often drawn to the grandiose, there is great value in the simple.  

Many years ago there was a great warrior and army commander named Naaman. He could fight against all sorts of enemies and he had a proven track record of success, so much so that the king of the land had great admiration for him.  However, he suffered from a skin disease, an ailment that he couldn’t defeat on the battlefield.

Through an ironic twist, this great warrior traveled with gifts in tow to the king of Israel and then to the prophet Elisha.  Elisha instructed Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman became very angry at this insult of a so-called healing.  He commanded an army – why would he come all this way to wash in a river? He had rivers in his own homeland and no doubt that he tried washing in those.  Naaman walked away in rage.

Naaman’s officers stepped up to reason with him.  “Sir,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it?  So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” Grudgingly, I imagine, Naaman followed Elisha’s instructions and he was healed!

This story (found in 2 Kings 5) highlights the importance of following even the simplest instructions.  A commander of an army ought to have appreciated the simplicity and directness of this order. Perhaps it was too simple.  After all, this was a great warrior who understood hardship and struggle. He watched men die at his hand. He repeatedly conquered adversity.  When he gave orders, he expected his soldiers to follow. And here was a simple command, go and wash. He was prepared to follow a difficult order, but not a simple one.

How often have I heard a simple instruction and reasoned my way out of it?  

  • “Pray.” No, Lord, I’ve got this.  
  • “Give thanks.”  No, Lord, I did this myself.  
  • “Speak.” No, Lord, I’m afraid.  
  • “Meditate on my word.” No, Lord, I’ll worry about tomorrow instead.  
  • “Forgive.”  No, Lord, I’d rather stay in the prison of anger and hate.  
  • “Go.” No, Lord, I’m quite comfortable here.

When we obey the simple instructions, we walk in the very presence of God.  (This is a rather bold statement that causes me to pause even in editing mode. As I consider the implications, I see evidence over and over that it is true.)   Naaman obeyed (eventually) and God healed him. God revealed himself to Naaman, the officers, and potentially to an entire nation. And this was a nation that fought against God’s people!   

If we fix our eyes on the grandiose, we will miss the blessing.  And it takes discipline to do the small things well. Sometimes it takes a trusted friend to remind us of what is important and to give us perspective.  It is critical that we do not slack in our personal training and disciplines. Do whatever it takes to complete those small things. The Greek lyrical poet, Archilochus, observed, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”  

I spent some time today in the mountains near my home.  Looking at the different peaks, I remembered some of the hikes I’ve been on over the years.  None of those hikes or mountain climbs were without effort. There was preparation. There was a map. And there were many, many steps. Never once did I see the destination and jump there in a single leap. Never once did I focus my mind so much so that I “arrived.”  No, there were many short, small steps.

Whatever your goals are, whatever dreams you have, wherever God is leading you, begin taking those small, simple, mundane steps.  I won’t promise that the journey will be fast, safe, and easy. I do know that end result is worth it. There is nothing sweeter than seeing Jesus face-to-face at the finish line. “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Be strong and finish the task!” (Zechariah 8:9a NLT)

Let’s commit to doing the small things.  And I’m not saying that we only verbalize that sentiment.  Commitment is a promise of intentionality. Commitment is expressed in action.  Let it be said at the end of our days that we were committed to the way of Jesus.

May we be consistent in doing the small things well.  May we see Jesus and experience the fullness of his presence in our lives as we walk with him and he with us.

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