Leadership lessons from Naaman.

In the first few chapters of 2 Kings we have the account of the life of the prophet Elisha. One thing that I have noticed about the stories of Elisha is that if you didn't know you were reading 2 Kings you could easily think these were stories about Jesus in the one of the Gospels. In Talk Through the Bible Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa point out that Elisha's life was marked by many of the same characteristics as Jesus' such as; grace, life, and love. That is not to mention all of the miracles that Elisha performed during his ministry in the Northern kingdom. One of those miracles was the healing of Naaman, the captain of the army of Aram. While the story of Naaman only last for 14 verses in chapter 5 I believe there are a few important lessons that we can draw from it as we seek to be godly leaders.

1. Naaman was not to good to listen to his subordinates. If there was ever a lesson to learn in "Leadership 101" this would probably be it. One of the marks of a great leader in the military is that they don't just blow off their troops. One of the marks of a great leader in business is that they are willing to take note of what their employees are saying to them. In this particular situation, Naaman had, what some versions call, a skin disease and others call leprosy. Either way, this great warrior for king Aram had a serious issue that, if left unattended, would surely kill him. Fortunately for Naaman, during this period of history God was known for working through His children even though they were captive. Lo and behold, Naaman had captured an Israelite girl who was serving he and his wife. She noticed his condition and mentioned that if he went to the prophet in Samaria (Elisha) he could be healed. Perhaps he was just desperate, or perhaps he saw something special in the girl from Israel but either way Naaman decided to investigate the possibility. There is no doubt in my mind that no matter how hard we have worked or how much we have learned, we do not know everything. In short this is a lesson in humility. It takes a big man to do everything on his own, but it takes a bigger man to humble himself, first before the Lord, and secondly before those under his care and command.

2. This is perhaps the greater lesson I've found in the story of Naaman. Once he goes to Elisha he is told that all he must do is go to the Jordan River and wash 7 times. In verse 11 it says, But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper."  Then in a very bold act his servants came to him and said, My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, "Wash and be clean'?" I must confess that when I read that verse I was immediately under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and God's perfect Word. I pray that in a similar manner you are cut to the quick by the question of these servants. Let me express to you why this is such a strong lesson to me. There are some of us who say to God, "If you call me to be a missionary in some foreign land I will go without a moment's hesitation." Or we say, "Lord, if you call me to do some great and dramatic thing for your Kingdom I will." Then the Lord replies, "My child, go across the street, go across the county, go to the soup kitchen, go to the back of the sanctuary, and minister there." When the Lord says thus, we are offended that He would so rudely turn down our offers for grander things and more sacrificial actions. Yet all along, He is not asking us to sacrifice great things in our own eyes but the great thing of our pride so that we may humble ourselves before Him and submit to His perfect will.

The words of the servants seemed to have struck Naaman between the eyes because we have no record of a verbal response. The next verse simple states, So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and was clean. I get the feeling (and I have no scripture to back this up so know that it is my own opinion and speculation) that Naaman was very quiet after the servants told him this for his subordinates had spoken the truth and he was humbled. That his actions do tell us. In our efforts to be godly leaders we must, above all else, be willing to accept God's plan however great or small it may seem to us.

I would be greatly remiss if I did not take this opportunity to share one other lesson that I see in this passage, and it does not relate to leadership. Many times people expect that coming to Christ and His salvation involves many things. We must do thus and so, we must "get our lives straightened out" before we go to God. We think, "There must be more to it than just faith and trusting in Christ. That is too simple." No my friends, it IS that simple. Forgiveness of sins is being bathed in the Fountain of Living Water, and not even seven times as Naaman had to do, but just once and we are clean. Salvation does not require a complicated intellectual assent to the knowledge of God. It comes through a child-like faith in the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. Yes, there is much more to the Christian life than that but there is where it begins. It is that simple and the offer is there for each of us to accept it.


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