Alfred Place Baptist Church

5:19-27 Naaman healed: Gehazi cursed

2 Kings 5:19-27 “After Naaman had travelled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, ‘My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.’ So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running towards him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. ‘Is everything all right?’ he asked. ‘Everything is all right,’ Gehazi answered. ‘My master sent me to say, “Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.”’ ‘By all means, take two talents,’ said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha. ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ Elisha asked. ‘Your servant didn’t go anywhere,’ Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, ‘Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants for ever.’ Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.”

We have almost ended our examination of the life of Naaman. How wonderful was the grace of God in changing this pagan general, the most famous man in Syria, healing him of his leprosy and changing all his values, presenting him along with new peace of heart new dilemmas. What a very public conversion! What a visible transformation! We might leave the story at that point, but we may not because the Holy Spirit wants us to see something else that happened. We discover that immediately Naaman’s new spirit of generosity was abused by an ugly Old Testament Christian. The writer of our text will not tell us anything about the problems and the persecution that Naaman might meet back home in Aram. He draws a veil of silence around that, but he relates how this blissfully happy general was conned out of his possessions by an evil man who was an actual worshipper of Jehovah.

We have to remind people of our Lord’s words, “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). He is warning us to beware of fellow members of the household of faith. Watch out for some professing Christians! It was one of the Twelve, Judas, who stole money given to the work of Christ. Judas had seen the miracles, and heard preaching empowered by the Holy Ghost – no man spoke as Christ spoke and Judas was often in the congregation – but he still put his hand in the money bag and helped himself. How often do you see that greatest of all Christians, the apostle Paul, attacked from within the church by lying brethren and false apostles? All the Christians in Asia turned against him. He names former Christian brothers who had done him much harm. Churches he had planted were undermined by professing Christian people who, in order to gain influence, sought to destroy Paul’s reputation. Watch out for some professing Christians. There come times when every Christian discovers that his greatest griefs come from the behaviour of professing Christians.

GEHAZI SINNED IN SPITE OF GREAT PRIVILEGES.
Gehazi was the servant of Elisha; every day of the week he was in the presence of the Spirit-endued prophet of Jehovah, God’s authorized representative on this planet. Gehazi could observe the lifestyle of this man of God whose privilege was to enter the presence of the Lord day by day and receive instructions from him. Gehazi was frequently at those sessions in which Elisha taught the sons of the prophets the things of God. He had witnessed the extraordinary change in Naaman from being white with leprosy to a condition of health and vigor, wholly healed, but this was not the first mighty miracle he had witnessed. Gehazi had seen the corpse of the son of the Shunemite woman raised to life. He had seen the river Jordan open like the Red Sea when Elisha smote it with Elijah’s cloak. What privileges Gehazi had enjoyed.

What good effect had all these privileges on the heart of Elisha’s servant? None at all. Notwithstanding all his opportunities and means of grace, notwithstanding all the miracles he had seen and the Spirit-filled teaching he had heard he lived a sub-Christian life, impenitent, covetous, deceitful and unbelieving. God did not reign over each part of his life. The sin of avarice remained unmortified. His affections were never really set on things above. He had acquired a professional form of the faith because of all his associations with religion and religious men, but it was a garment he wore to keep in with the crowd who surrounded him. He had no sense of the value of the grace of God. He did what the sons of the prophets did when they were in the presence of Elisha, he conformed to their ways; he never said a word against their religion; he obeyed his master, cooking, washing, running errands for him day by day, but all the time his heart was wrong in the eyes of God. The world was in his heart, and his heart was in the world. In this state he lived, and did he die in this state too?

I am reminding myself and you that the mere possession of religious privileges will save no one’s soul. You may have spiritual advantages of every description; you may live in the full sunshine of the richest opportunities and means of grace. You may enjoy expository and evangelistic preaching, Bible Studies, Christian Union meetings, access to the very best books from the whole history of the church. You may be surrounded by fine Christians, appreciate holy living in other people, and enjoy the fellowship of other Christians. All this may be. Much of this was true for Gehazi and yet in the end come under the judgment of God

This may sound tough for many of you. There are those here who think that their great lack is religious privileges. They find it hard being a Christian; they are confronted with many obstacles. If only they had a God-fearing husband or wife, if only they had some Christian friends their own age, if only they had more inspirational preaching each Sunday, then what a difference that would make to their lives, so they imagine. Then they would be a mighty witness to the Lord. It is a great mistake; it is delusional thinking. It requires more than privileges to save your soul. Lot’s wife was married to a righteous man whose uncle was the father of all who believe. Demas was Paul’s companion. Judas Iscariot was a disciple of Christ; Joab was David’s friend and captain. All those men and women died in their sins. They all went down to the pit in spite of all the knowledge, and warnings, and opportunities they had. They needed more than privileges, they needed to be regenerated and full of the Holy Spirit; they needed to have presented their bodies a living sacrifice to God; they needed the word of God to dwell richly in their hearts. Never forget that privileges alone cannot save you. Gehazi saw miracles of grace; heard Spirit anointed teaching, met with godly young men who were going to spend their lives serving the Lord all over the land, and yet Gehazi experienced a fearful fall that brought into his life the judgment of God.

GEHAZI’S SIN WAS NOT A ‘ONE OFF’
Gehazi’s sin reflected a pattern of sinning which he had failed to mortify by the power of the Holy Spirit. You must not think when you read of the judgment that came on him that God is harsh, that Gehazi had a single fall and then God smote him down like some iniquitous father lashing out at his erring child. It was not like that at all. There was a pattern of sinning in Gehazi’s life, while the Lord and Elisha continued to be good to him longing for him to come to repentance. For example, we are told in the previous chapter of the woman of Shunem who had shown remarkable kindness to Elisha, preparing a room for him to use when he was preaching in her area. She had an only son late in life, but the boy fell ill one day and he died. She laid him on the bed of the man of God and hurried off to tell him what had happened, but when she reached Elisha and bowed before him holding on to the prophet’s feet Gehazi came over and tried to push this grieving woman away (2 Kings 4:27). “Leave her alone,” said Elisha to Gehazi. What a bully the servant was.

Again Elisha told Gehazi to go to her son and lay Elisha’s staff on the dead boy’s face. He did exactly what the prophet had told him to do but no spark of life appeared in the boy. Elijah’s staff was not a magic wand. The staff was dead wood. The power of God comes through men who are in union with him, who are joined by faith to God. Gehazi wasn’t joined to God. By himself he could do nothing to bring the boy back to life.

Once again, there was a time when there was a famine and the people were famished. A man brought twenty loaves of barley bread and some heads of ripe grain which he presented to the prophet (2 Kings 4:42). Elisha received them and passed them on to Gehazi saying, “Give it to the people to eat ” Kings 4:43). Gehazi was disdainful; “How can I set this before a hundred men?” Elisha repeated himself, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over’” (2 Kings 4:43). That is exactly what happened. Gehazi had no faith to think God could multiply the loaves. A servant thought he was wiser than his master and would challenge him.

So Gehazi’s incredulity and anger rose as he heard Elisha refuse to take a penny from Naaman. Gehazi’s scheming to get money from the Syrian was a symptom of the spirit of unbelief which lodged in Gehazi’s heart. He was a rebel.

HOW DEVIOUS WAS GEHAZI’S BEHAVIOUR.
i] The sin started in himself, not in his poverty, or companions, or upbringing but in his own heart. We are told that Gehazi said to himself some angry words (v.20). There was no son of the prophets who actually came to him complaining about Elisha’s folly – “do you know that the old man has refused all that money that could help us in our need!” No, it was out of his own mind that he reacted to his master’s rejection of the offer of money from Naaman. He dwelt on it, and mulled it over and over until it had put down great roots of bitterness in his life. That is the beginning of the sin that led to God’s judgment falling on Gehazi. Its commencement was in his own thinking. James tells us, “When tempted, no-one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).

ii] The sin was strengthened by his stereotyping of Naaman and making him less than a fellow human being. Notice how Gehazi disdains Naaman, by giving him a label, “This Aramean,” he says (v.20); labeling people or ideas goes back and back doesn’t it? You ferret out some absolutist claims made by a man you’ve made your enemy, and you brandish these quotes with a triumphalist ‘do-you-know-what-he-said?-you-see-what-a-nasty-man-we’re-dealing-with.’ The Arameans might have had some very bad people, but did that permit any Jew to hate them all and feel superior to every one of them? That spirit is all around us, the ‘Jews,’ the ‘blacks,’ the ‘Pakis’, the ‘English,’ the ‘Welsh.’ “We know what they’re like, and what some of them have done to our people. We’ve got long memories.” So they launch a pogrom, they build gas chambers, they wait down a dark alley for them to walk pass, they make suicide bombs, they declare a crusade, a holy war. Give them a label and then you can treat them like dirt. The Arameans were the nation with tons of power, but they were infidels so they could be robbed and cheated and deceived with importunity.

You see how devious this is? How do people escape the implications of what gospel preachers preach so directly and clearly from their pulpits? By their own labels and slogans. What do they label us? A Fundamentalist? The Calvinist? The One Man Show? The One who Always Gets his Own Way? The One who Does Not Believe in the Holy Spirit, or Revival? The Baptist? Then when the Spirit lays the word of God right on them, then they think they can dodge it and brush it aside, whatever it says, because it comes from ‘the man with the label.’ How do people dismiss the Christian Union at the university? In the same way. They put a label on it; they are the group full of holy fools, brainless, simplistic and slightly fanatical hypocrites. Then they don’t have to think about what you’re saying to them.

iii] Gehazi shows he is not only unrighteous but ungodly. He displays this by swearing in the name of Jehovah; “As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him” (v.20). What ungodly bravado. What was he going to do? He was going to lie; he was going to claim that Elisha had sent him, that he was a man on a mission from God to take a gift from Naaman. He was going to lie about money being needed because of a sudden emergency, a ministry of mercy for a couple of poverty-stricken young servants of Jehovah. All lies! “As surely as the Lord lives I will go and deceive and steal . . . as surely as the Lord lives.” Here is a man who neither fears God nor man. How plausible he made his story seem. He has thousands of men like himself in west Africa today who write Emails to America and Europe telling lies about financial matters. Gehazi was their forerunner.

iv] Gehazi’s actions struck at the very heart of Elisha’s message. He was undoing what the prophet had taught Naaman. The Lord wanted the general to know that his kindness was absolutely free. God had healed Naaman because he loved him, but why he should have loved a man like Naaman or me nobody knows. Gehazi now jumps in and reverses all that free grace and puts a price on the goodness of God. You know that you can’t bribe the Lord. There is nothing you can do that can earn deliverance, because what you do isn’t good enough. We have spoiled everything we’ve tried to offer to God through our sin. God’s grace can’t be earned or it wouldn’t be grace. God’s grace is free grace. Naaman was freely healed, without money and without price, and that was revolutionary to a Syrian who had spent his life worshipping Rimmon and the gods of Syria. They all had a price and you’d better pay it or you were in trouble. The God of Elisha saved men because he loved to save. Gehazi was undoing all of that. Naaman was thinking, “Ah, the God of Israel after all is just like the rest.”

Didn’t Gehazi remember a famous incident in the life of Abraham when he had rescued Lot, his relatives, the women and their possessions from some kings. The king of Sodom came to Abraham very grateful for what he had done. “Return the people to us,” he said, “But you can keep all the possessions.” It is Abraham’s famous reply I want you to notice, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, `I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing” (Genesis 14:22-24). We don’t ask men from Sodom for money to extend the kingdom of God. We don’t apply to the lottery to support our missionaries. We don’t go running after the General of Syria for help for our preachers.

But Gehazi went running after Naaman and seeing him coming up the road behind them the general stopped the cavalcade and got down from the chariot to meet him saying, as we would say, “Is everything all right?” (v.21). Then Gehazi tells his lies and asks for a talent of silver and two sets of clothes for the threadbare boys. “Take two talents,” says the general glad to help, adding kindly, “My servants will carry them back to the house for you.” So they did, until they came to the hill where this procession could have been seen by Elisha. Gehazi took them from them, and sent the men back to Naaman, hiding the loot in the house.

“Where have you been Gehazi?” asked Elisha (v.25). It is the question every wife asks her husband, and every parent asks her children, and every teacher asks her pupils. Where have you been? How easily the lies slip out, “Your servant didn’t go anywhere . . . I wasn’t with my boy friend . . . I wasn’t seeing a woman . . . It’s just a platonic friendship . . .” But the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole world. You, Almighty God, see me, And Elisha says, “‘Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants?’” When is the time to sin in any shape? To steal money, clothes, land, animals or people? When is the time to defy God?

Gehazi was utterly compromised, He had seen the living God at work and he had deliberately chosen paganism, the worship of Mammon. He had seen the healing God at work and he deliberately chose the way of sickness and death. He had seen the generous, loving God at work, and he had chosen the way of selfish greed. He knew the mighty God had said, “Thou shalt not steal,” and he had stolen. He had heard the God of Sinai say, “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and he had borne false witness. He knew God said, “Thou shalt not take me name in vain,” and he took his name in vain. The story of Gehazi has to be put alongside the intention of Naaman going back into the temple of Rimmon with the king. We must not read of that so as to infer that God doesn’t care about compromise. Naaman was moving to the light, but Gehazi was moving into the darkness.

So a fitting judgment falls on Gehazi. Elisha says to him, “‘Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants for ever.’ Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.” The punishment of Gehazi is simply the ratification of the choice he had already made. He chose to be a crook and his twisted thinking about God and stuff ended up making his whole life distorted and destroyed. What a man sows that he also reaps. You say that this is Old Testament ethics, but you read in the letter to the Corinthians how there were people in that congregation who were sick, and some had even died because they knew the word of God and professed to be transformed by its power and yet had sinned with a high hand against much light and privilege.

4. HOW WE CAN BE DELIVERED FROM THE FALL OF GEHAZI.

Let’s pause in closing and try to see things from the perspective of this servant of Elisha. Let’s attempt to be as sympathetic to Gehazi as we can be. He was a mere servant of the prophet. He had no house; he lived in the prophet’s house. He was dependent for food and raiment upon any gifts given to him by the people of the land, as were all the sons of the prophets in Elisha’s academy. He had no pension; it was not an easy life. Gehazi imagined what vast good could be done for those young trainee prophets by this money that Naaman had freely offered to Elisha. They, their wives and children, could all be secure for a year – or maybe far longer – if Elisha had only taken the gold and silver and fine garments selling the latter in Samaria. Elisha’s attitude was plain foolishness to the mind of Gehazi. Growing resentment gripped him with intense anger focused on Elisha. What possible harm could come from Gehazi’s little white lies? Weren’t there in fact some young men from the hill country of Ephraim attending Elisha’s school who actually were in great need? Wouldn’t they have been helped with Naaman’s gold and silver? What was the big problem with lying a little bit that good could come to others?

Haven’t we heard that often? Isn’t that an argument men make who tell us that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong, that there are times when it is right to steal, and lie, and be violent, and even commit adultery? Isn’t this the whole position of the proponents of so-called ‘situation ethics.’ Here is a woman, they say, and she has children to care for; she has no husband and no job, no land and no animals, no income at all. Her kids are under-nourished and crying for food. All she has is her body, and so she sells her body in prostitution to provide for her children. She is held up before us as a noble woman to choose to act like that.

I would tell you first of all that such a woman is a phantom figure existing in the mind of wealthy academics who are right out of touch with ordinary folk. Then I would say that that is the ‘ethic’ of people who do what is right in their own eyes. It is the ethic of people without God. It is not a Christian ethic, and I affirm that God never puts us in a position where the only possible course of conduct is to sin, that there are always right actions at hand that honour God, and God always helps us to do what is right.

Let me illustrate this as simply as I can from the life of someone I’ve read about recently. This man is a Christian farmer and he has two small boys named John and Tom. He called into the bedroom to see them before they went to sleep, and he asked them had they prayed. They hadn’t, and one of them, John, wasn’t feeling well and they said that they didn’t know how to pray. So their father sat on the bed and he said to them: “There’s a little prayer that has helped me many times when I’ve been in trouble and God can make you feel better when you pray to him for help. I have prayed this prayer many times, more than any other prayer.”

“Oh, what’s that, Daddy?” the boys asked. “Lord, help me,” said their Dad. The boys looked up at their father. “You’ve prayed those words and the Lord has helped you? Tell us how,” asked Tom. This is what the farmer said;

“Well, about fifteen years ago, I used to graze our sheep on cabbages in the autumn and winter months, it was on the outer leaves after the cabbages had been harvested. I used to pay the farmer ten pence per sheep per week. At the end of the winter I paid the farmer £130. The next winter, there was hard frost for three weeks in December, which spoiled all the farmer’s cabbages. He said: ‘You can graze all the fields with your sheep.’ There was much good feed for the sheep because all the cabbage hearts had not been harvested. I had nearly a thousand sheep on the cabbages. At the end of the winter, I reckoned up what I owed for the cabbages, and it was £1,130, exactly £1,000 more than the year before; but, oh dear, I had a problem. It had been a hard winter; I had many bills to pay on the farm and I didn’t have any money left. The price for sheep had been very low and the cabbage farmer needed paying. He had been pushing me to pay a higher rate for the cabbages, and I knew that tomorrow he was coming to collect the money for the sheep grazing. I could, maybe, pay him £130 by the end of the month, but oh dear, not £1,130? Whatever could I do?

“All night I stayed awake, and all I could cry was: ‘Lord help me; Lord, help me.’ All the next morning, while working with the sheep: ‘Lord, help me; Lord, help me.’ By the afternoon, I was at my wits’ end. The man was coming to collect the money at five o’clock. Wherever could the money come from? It was impossible. What should I do? ‘Lord, help me; Lord, help me,’ It was four o’clock. I was in my field by the pond. I fell down, and there was none to help. I cried: ‘Lord, help me,’ for an hour.

“Five o’clock came, and I heard the man’s car and saw it arrive in the gateway, about three hundred yards away. I was beyond all help now. I stood up. I staggered across the field like a drunken man, every step: ‘Lord, help me; Lord, help me; Lord, help me; Lord, help me.’ I arrived at the gate, and lifted my downcast head to look at him, for I couldn’t speak. He said: ‘I’ve been thinking, coming along . . . just pay me the same amount as you did last year, and send it to me by the end of the month,’ and he went back to his car and drove off.

“I turned around and walked back towards the pond . . . I ran . . . I skipped: £130 to pay instead of £1,130! I stopped and shouted out, for all the animals in the field to hear: ‘The Lord has paid £1,000 for me!’ I fell on my knees by the pond.

“‘Oh, praise him; praise him.’
‘Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name;
‘Oh give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.’
‘The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?’
‘He raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill.’
‘He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.’”

He controlled himself and then encouraged his boys to pray, “Lord, help me.” His sons told him that they liked that prayer, that they had learned it already. This was the prayer, saying back to him, “Lord help me.” Sometimes we are in great pain and weakness. We are recovering from an operation lying in a hospital, thinking is an effort. We can only say, “Lord help me! Lord help me!” It is yet a mighty prayer.

Do you understand that so called ‘situation ethics’ are the ethics of unbelief? They are the attitudes of people whose lives are not sustained and supported by the living God who always works all things together for good to them that love him. Our God supplies our every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Our Saviour will sustain and keep all his people, all the sons of the prophets, certainly Elisha himself, but inconsistent, stumbling, weak Gehazi too if he puts his trust in Jehovah. No good thing will he withhold from those who trust in him. We have to learn to live by faith, and walk by faith, and trust God for everything that we need, and obey God. Always obey him! Keep obeying him in the toughest of times. Gehazi was a prisoner to a temporary frustration and a present sorrow, and that was making him act as unbelievingly as he did.

Set free from present sorrow we cheerfully can say
E’en let the unknown morrow bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing but he will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people too.
Beneath the spreading heavens no creature but is fed;
And he who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig-tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there.
Yet, God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding I cannot but rejoice

(William Cowper, 1731-1800).

Let me again illustrate the provision of God by sharing with you how Pastor Conrad Murrell of Louisiana helped one troubled and tempted man who came to him. He recounts the incident like this:

A few years ago a pastor brought a troubled man to me for counselling. When I asked him about his problem, he replied, “I want to serve the Lord but I am having a terrible time.” “What seems to be hindering you?” I asked. “Everything and everybody it seems,” he said. “Let’s get down to particulars,” I insisted. This is his story.

“I have a smoking problem. I know I shouldn’t be smoking. It is harmful to me and a blight on my testimony but I am having a hard time giving it up. Then there is my wife. She thinks I am a fanatic and she says if I insist on living a Christian life, she is going to leave me. She wants to have some fun, and I don’t want to go back into that kind of life; but I don’t want to lose my wife. Then there is my business partner. He is not a Christian and we are having a conflict over some unethical business deals he wants to pull. He says I am holding back the business with my stupid morals and if I don’t shape up he is going to force me out. Then, last week I was down in Tucson in a restaurant feeling sorry for myself and this young divorcee approached me. She liked me and made some obvious suggestions and approaches. I almost fell into what she was proposing. But, I don’t want to live like that. I’m just in a terrible mess.”

“You surely are,” I said, “but maybe I can help you get some things settled. It seems to me you have about four options here. You can only take one of them so you may as well eliminate the other three. Let’s find out which ones you can take and which ones you cannot and then see what we have left.

i] Here is your first option. You can walk out that door the same way you came in with nothing changed and nothing settled. Can you do that?” “I don’t want to.” “But can you?” “If I had not wanted help I would not have come here.” “But can you leave without it? Are you willing to walk out of here the same way you came in? Can you do that? Can you go on living the way you are now? Think about it. Because if you can, you will. There is no use of me wrangling around here with you for two or three hours only to have you refuse to do what you must and leave the same way you came in. If you can do that, then go ahead and do it now. Let’s not waste anymore time.

He looked at me, saw I meant it, thought about it a bit and then said, “No, I can’t do that. I have got to have some help. I cannot live any longer the way I am. Something has to be settled.” “Then we can eliminate that option. It no longer exists. Something has to be settled before you leave here tonight. Now we have only three left.”

ii] “Here is your second option: Forget about being a Christian and serving the Lord. Put the thought of it out of your mind and go ahead and do what you like. If you want to smoke, stop feeling guilty about it and puff away. If your wife wants you to go out and get drunk and raise hell with her, go ahead. If your partner wants to pull some fast deals that can make you rich and won’t get you in jail, go to it. Take advantage of anybody you can, make as much money as you can, do what you like and live it up. If you see that divorcee again, take her up on the proposition. Whatever you feel like doing, help yourself.”

He stared at me incredulously. “Can you do that?” I asked. He shook his head, “No, I can’t do that. I can’t live that way. “Are you sure?” “I’m sure.” “Think about it now, and settle it. If you can do that then you ought to go ahead because you will sooner or later. But if you can’t, then settle it in your mind that you can’t and forget about it. It’s no use you ever thinking about it anymore. It is an utter impossibility.” “I can’t do that.” “All right, that eliminates two options and two more are left.”

iii] “Here is your third one: Go home. If you do not have one at home, stop off at a pawn shop and pick yourself up a pistol. Get out in the yard so that you won’t make a mess in the house for someone to clean up, take good aim so that you don’t miss and put a bullet in your brain.” He jerked his head back and stared at me. “I can’t do that. I’d go to hell.” “Probably so,” I said, “but at least you wouldn’t have to live in this hell till you get to the next one.” “No, I can’t do that.” “Then it looks like you have only one course left.

iv] “Follow the Lord. Obey Him. If your wife leaves you, cleave to the Lord. If you lose your business and all your money, cleave to the Lord. If it costs you all your pleasures, cleave to the Lord. You really don’t have any other option. You cannot do anything else. Live, die, swim or sink, you must cleave to Him.” He thought awhile, then lifted his head and slowly as the truth began to dawn upon him, a relieved smile spread across his worried face. “That’s right isn’t it? It’s really very simple. He is my only hope of life. There is nothing else to do.”

I prayed with him, shook his hand and dismissed the meeting. Nearly two years later I was back in the same city and this man came to the meeting. His wife was with him, clinging to his arm. They had been, it seemed, through terrible times. His faith had been tried in the fire. The devil had exhausted his resources in his attempt to shake him from the commitment he made that night. But when he had left that counselling session, he was a single-minded man with only one place to go. His eyes were steadfastly fixed upon God as his deliverer. He and his wife both wore the broad sweet smiles of a victory that endures. They had learned indeed that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Such as these can give unerring testimony that God is indeed worthy of our trust (Conrad Murrell, Faith Cometh, Saber Publications, Bentley, Louisiana 71407, 1976, pp.35ff).

There is poverty and need; there are great temptations, and our pastor seems to be far too narrow in his counsels, but there is a divine solution to every problem. You need not sin like Gehazi. You must cleave to the Lord and you must cry to him, “Help me Lord!”

14 October 2007 GEOFF THOMAS