Dear radio friends,
We began last week a series of messages on the subject of personal evangelism, that is, the calling given in the Word of God for every believer in the Lord to be a witness of his God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, to communicate the gospel to the lost and to be an aid to other Christians in the shoring up of their faith in Christ Jesus.
Last week we sought to lay the foundation of this calling in the fact that each member of the church of Jesus Christ is called to live the life of Christ before all men. We are to live in the power of the gospel in this world. Our lives, according to God’s Word, must embody and consistently display the transforming power of the grace of God. We considered our Lord’s words in Matthew 5, when He said, “Ye are the salt of the earth…. Ye are the light of the world.” We are, then, consciously to live as those who, by grace, have been brought into the fellowship of Jesus Christ and, therefore, in their life, in their deeds, show what it means to be transformed by the grace of God, and to show that before this present world.
Today we want to see that it is also our calling, according to our ability and opportunity given by God to bring the Word, to speak of the testifying power of God in Jesus Christ. The life that we live, as children of God, is intended by God to evoke questions by others. You remember the passage in I Peter 3:15, where we read, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” The almighty God, who controls all events of our lives, brings each one of us as children of God into situations where we are able and called to give a simple and confident witness of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.
It may be over the proverbial fence with your neighbor who is unburdening himself to you of all the woe that he is facing in his life, and you have the opportunity to say to your neighbor, “Do you know what God’s Word says about these things?” It may be at the office or on the job site when your fellow workers are talking about what the world is coming to or commenting on recent events in the news, and you have the opportunity then to speak of your hope in Jesus Christ to them.
You see, when we speak of personal evangelism, we do not mean that every church member is a preacher. We do not mean that we are attempting to produce an army of “cookie-cutter” evangelists all given a canned speech or taught an opening line. But we mean this: Each child of God is given a place in the church of Jesus Christ. Each one has graciously been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in his heart, and each one, according to his abilities, is to know the Word of God and to use whatever opportunity God gives him to speak, to give a convicting testimony of the power of God’s Word and to speak of the blessing of hearing the Word of God in the church of Jesus Christ.
We have a beautiful example of this in a little maid’s testimony that was given, as recorded in II Kings 5:1-5. A little girl spoke a testimony of her faith in God. And God used her simple words for a powerful effect.
The setting of the passage to which I am calling attention today is very instructive and applicable. We read about Naaman, who was a great man. In fact, we are told that he was captain of the hosts of the king of Syria and he was a great man with his master. In today’s terms, Naaman would have been featured on the “Lives of the Rich and Famous.” He would have been the feature article in People’s magazine. He was a man who would have been driven to work in a black limo. He lived, in today’s terminology, in a gorgeous home with beautiful stonework and curving driveway and marble floors and maids and butlers and dinner parties. He was a great man. He was a lieutenant-general. He was a capable technician. He was a keen strategist. He enjoyed the complete confidence of the king.
But, for all of this, Naaman was a miserable man. He was a wretched man. He was a failure. His life was literally rotting away. For we read that although he was a mighty man of valor, of physical strength and forceful personality, a man among men, Naaman was a leper.
We must feel the force of those four words: He was a leper. Those words tear away all the glamour and all the honor of man and expose him as a wretched, rotting away sinner. He was a remarkable man. You would say, in our judgment, “Oh, what he must have lived like, and what it must have been to be like Naaman — all those natural abilities — so successful.” But it is all erased. He was a leper.
Leprosy was that dreadful, that incurable disease, that rotting of the flesh, the sores of the body that would not heal, the awful stench and smell and the certainty of bringing the reality of death. Leprosy, according to the Scriptures, brings out the reality of human life now lived under the curse. As sinners, we rot away in sin. That word “leprosy” conveys all that the Bible means to teach us about sin. In spite of all of the outward luxury and all the outward success and all the outward glamour within, sin spoils everything. Naaman was an unhappy, miserable, unfulfilled, empty, vile man. Sin had corrupted all his glories and consumed them.
Now there is nothing more applicable or important for us to hold before ourselves as we live as God’s redeemed in this world than to know the reality of sin and its horrible and inescapable effects in the world. Even though our flesh and the devil would cover up these effects, we must see very clearly that man, of himself, is miserable.
It is covered up today in the twenty-first century, and we like to do that too. It is covered up in the movies and in the programs and in the advertising of our age. There is the grand deception at work. We are told that everyone is better off. We are told that what was once considered sin is now to be understood differently. The world says, “Get over it.” There are so many pleasures of life and treasures of life that will satisfy you. But the Bible says, “There is sin — active, working, destroying, corrupting.” And this is the reality of human life and existence.
Read the record of the people who excel in their professions — the sports stars, the actors. Hear the behind-the-scenes activities of life — what happens in their mansions, what takes place in “Graceland.” It corrupts. Sin corrupts. Sin is horrible. Sin is abusive. Sin ensnares in lusts. Sin is perverse. Sin is ugly. Sin is vile. And sin rots away the inside of society and of the life of a man.
Naaman was a leper. And he could not deal with his problem. He was hopeless before it. The whole question was: Who can help Naaman, where can Naaman go? He had been to the Syrian doctors. He had probably been sent over to the Syrian priests for their incantations. The king himself was helpless. He had sent letters looking for someone to heal his lieutenant-general. The magicians, the philosophers, had all given their best. Naaman was hopeless.
Yet, among the people of God, even the least among them, there was the knowledge of one who could make the vilest clean. We read in verse 2 of II Kings 5 of a little maid. “And the Syrians,” we read, “had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.” During a raid into Israel, perhaps organized by Naaman, a company of Syrian rangers had plundered a village and taken spoil — carrying away a little girl. She was seven, nine, eleven years old, old enough to serve as a maid to Naaman’s wife. She was a quiet girl. She had been brought up at home to know domestic skills. She could wash, clean, sew, and iron. Her mother might have been killed in the raid or abused or, perhaps, was back in Israel going through the horror that only a parent who has lost a child can understand. She had been torn, this little maid, out of her home. She had been kidnapped. She was in a strange land. She was a slave. She was a child, a little child, of God alone, all alone in this world. But she had been taught. She had learned her catechism. She had listened to her mother tell her the Bible stories. She had held Dad’s hand as he went up to church, the temple. The mighty power of God’s grace ruled in her heart. She possessed a child-like confidence in the God of her salvation and in the Word of her God.
As she overheard the talk in Naaman’s house, and witnessed their life behind closed doors, and as her mistress was, perhaps, crying, “Oh, my poor husband. There is no hope for my poor husband,” and as she saw and felt the despair of a home that was not founded on God’s Word, she said, we read, to her mistress (that is, Naaman’s wife), “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.” That was a testimony of God’s power, through His Word, in Jesus Christ, to cleanse the vilest and to make them whole.
Her little testimony contained three parts.
First, the power of God, the living God, alone can do good. She said, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! … he would recover him of his leprosy.” Her witness was to the saving power of the living God. Samaria was the capital of the ten tribes. Although it was forsaking God, yet God’s people were there. Elisha, a prophet of the true God, was among them and was bringing God’s word in power to them. Her testimony, then, was this: Only one can help you, my master Naaman. There is no one in Syria, there is no one among the gods of this world, there is no place on this earth — not your money, not your power, not your prestige. No one can help you. Only the God of Israel, the one true God who is Savior.
But her testimony was not only, first of all, to God alone, but her testimony was to the power of God’s word. She said, “Oh that my master were with the prophet that is in Samaria.” The prophet was the servant of God who spoke the word of God. Therefore, her testimony was based upon the power of the word of God. The word of God alone could provide the deliverance that was needed by Naaman. God’s word is truth. God, we are told, sanctifies His people through the truth. The word of God, we are told in the Bible, is the living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, instrument of God to work the salvation of His people and to leave those who reject it without any excuse. If you are to have deliverance from your misery, it is not going to be found in a self-help class. It is not going to be found in some guru. It is not found in the best-seller or by Doctor Phil. But search the Scriptures. For these are they that testify, said Jesus, of Me.
Third, her testimony was to the calling and necessity to hear God’s Word through the prophet. She said, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria.” That is, she was pointing Naaman to the need to come under the hearing of the word of God. She was saying that there is in the hearing of the word of God through a servant sent by God a power being exercised. She was bearing witness to the testimony that we find in Romans 10:17, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” The proclamation, the preaching of the cross, says the apostle, is the power of God unto salvation (I Cor. 1:18). She was saying to him, “You need to get to the place where you can hear the word of God.”
What was her simple testimony? “God alone can do good. That power is through His word. And you must come under the hearing of God’s word.”
A little maid’s testimony. And the whole palace was stirred.
The testimony that she gave was confident. There was no doubt in her words. There was no hesitancy, no possibility that it could not be true. It was confident.
And it was exactly this aspect of her testimony — its matter-of-factness and its unshakable confidence, its rock-like certainty — that caught the attention of Naaman’s wife, in fact, caught the attention of the king of Syria and of Naaman. It was the confidence of her faith. She is not alone in this. It was Job who said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” It was the apostle Paul who said, “I know whom I believe.” I am not talking to you about religious theory. I am not talking to you about what works for me. I am not talking to you about a book of knowledge. But I am talking to you of some absolute certainty that God has worked in my heart concerning absolute truth. You see, there is no power in our testimony before the world if the Word of God is not our personal confidence — if God is not our personal confidence. Our day is a day of relativism. We are told that there is no absolute truth, there is little truth in any thing and there is much truth in everything. There can be no settled conclusions. We are told simply that noble little men and women are examining various perspectives of the truth and hopefully finding out what might be true for them at this given moment. And under the pressure of this unbelieving relativism the church is caving in. We are told that God’s Word is in the Bible — we can’t be sure that it is all God’s Word — and the Bible has mistakes and is not accurate scientifically or historically. Now the church, in the folly of thinking that it has to be relevant or take on the form of this world, says, “We don’t want you to think that we are exclusivistic, that we think that we have the only truth here. We suggest that you consider or that you try Jesus.” But there is no heartfelt conviction.
This young girl was confident. She did not sound like a know-it-all. The confidence was not in herself. It was in God and in His Word. We have to be careful how we speak. We must not speak as if we are speaking out of bloated arrogance, as if we are somehow, as children of God, different and better than another person. But we must speak with confidence. Rock-like, unassailable confidence in God and in His Word.
But not only did she speak with confidence, she was compassionate. She had been taken captive. Naaman was her enemy. He was the man who was responsible for her agony. He was the reason why she would not see her mother again. And he had leprosy. We could well understand why one might say under those circumstances, “Well, let him suffer for it! Let him rot, for all I care. I’m going to help him, I’m going to bring God’s Word to him?” But what did she do? She pointed out to him the only place where his suffering could be alleviated. She spoke in great compassion.
And her confession was real. It was not fake. It was not plastic. She spoke of a reality that lived in her soul. Her confession was confident, compassionate, and real.
And it had the most profound effect. One little girl spoke, and a kingdom was moved. One little girl spoke, and a government acted and a king issued orders.
We read, “One went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, “Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel.”
Now, there was a powerful result. And the power was due to God, His Word, and the Holy Spirit. It is really incredible when you think about it. Naaman’s wife tells someone, the members of the court. Various members of the court go to the king and say, “Your majesty, a little slave girl said ….” On the basis of that testimony Naaman is going to go down to Samaria to search out the prophet Elisha. That is the power of God’s Word. There is always a result when the Word of God is spoken. We read in Isaiah 55, “So shall my word be that goeth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” There is not always the same result. There might be, and often is, rejection and ridicule. But always the Word of God accomplishes God’s purpose. Whenever a child of God testifies, powerful results happen.
When the most (what we would call) insignificant among the church — here is a seven-year-old girl who is playing by the neighbor, a nine-year-old boy who is being questioned by a group of grown-ups, a mother, a carpenter, whoever it may be as a child of God — when that testimony is left, even though it appears weak and insignificant, there is a great power at work. It is the power of God. It is the power of His Word, to save or to destroy, to heal or to condemn. Because the excellency of the glory is not of us, says the apostle, but of God. God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word now preached from the pulpit of the true church is powerful — always powerful.
Now you, child of God, in your place and station in life, you speak of Him and His Word. And God accomplishes His purpose.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word and pray that it may be applied to our hearts this day through Jesus Christ, Amen.