Surrounded by Dangers Surrounded by God
The power of God always trumps the threat of danger in our lives. In 2 Kings 6:15-17, we open our eyes with the servant of Elisha and see that we are "Surrounded by Dangers Surrounded by God." May 9, 2010.
As if we don’t have enough to worry about … On the radio the other day I heard a local network promoting an upcoming news story about the 2010 U.S census, “Will the census worker knocking on your door be a serial killer?” Okay, they didn’t say exactly that, but that’s what they wanted me to worry about so I’d watch. Of course, moms can be the best worry sensationalists of all, “Put your coat on or you’ll catch the swine flu … Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way.”
Truth is, we are surrounded by plenty of dangers every day from germs to meteorites falling onto Wisconsin to safe travel for family members. Add to worldly dangers the superhuman power of spiritual dangers like the guilt of our sins pulling us down, our own pending death, and the devil whom Jesus once called the prince of this world. The threat level of danger remains at its highest. And the security level of safety in God remains even higher. The power of God always trumps the threat of danger in our lives. Today we open our eyes with the servant of Elisha and see that we are Surrounded by Dangers Surrounded by God.
God had informed his prophet Elisha that the king of Aram was planning to ambush and kill the king of Israel. God told Elisha the exact whereabouts of the military units the king of Aram was sending, so that Elisha could advise the king of Israel to avoid those death traps. After a few failed attempts the king of Aram identified Elisha as the informant and sent a military force to Dothan to capture him. The lesson for us comes through the experience of Elisha’s servant. “When [he] got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh, my lord, what shall we do?’ the servant asked.”
Who outnumbers them
This servant had witnessed, or at least heard about, Elisha already performing a menu of miracles. So you and I would probably ask the same question of Elisha, “What shall we do?” which really would mean, “Elisha, what miracle are you going to do to get us out of this?” Elisha’s response: “Don’t be afraid.” Like an emergency responder looks a frantic victim in the eyes and says, “Calm down, I’m here to help,” Elisha looked at his servant and said, “Calm down, God is here to help.”
Fear has a way of crippling us when we respond to it with natural instincts of what we can do to change or avoid the situation, especially when we realize we can’t do either. So then we worry, and worry some more and more. We spiral like a tornado sucking everything around into its vortex, and we pick up even more to worry about creating a cruel storm that not only spins us out of control but lashes out at others in our path. Worrying that gives more credit to dangers than to God sinfully deposes God as our Lord. By worrying we are telling God that he has less influence on our decisions, plans, and lives than whatever we fear – that he needs to sit down because like it or not our fears are at bat. And they pummel us. And then we blame God?! What we really need to fear is God doing what we ask, sitting idly as our fears have their way with us. Because God is merciful he often doesn’t give us what we ask, and so he never sits idly, even when we can’t see or hear or feel him. “My Father is always at work,” Jesus once promised(John 5:17). The Bible assures us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Elisha told his servant to calm down because Elisha knew God was not sleeping but paying attention to the enemy army surrounding them. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” Elisha explained. God’s innumerable angels allying with Elisha and his servant outnumbered the enemy soldiers, and that was enough to keep Elisha and his servant from being afraid. So calm down, Christian. In the presence of any amount of danger or fear, you and God are always a majority. The Lord God outnumbers any of the dangers surrounding you, all of the fears within you, and whatever makes you worry. Your sins may be many, but God’s forgiveness is more (the Bible says in one place that God’s forgiveness is double the amount of your sins, and in another place it’s 77 times more, and in another place because of God’s forgiveness sins are as far as the western horizon is from the eastern horizon). Stress may be piled on your shoulders a mile high, but God’s promises stretch to heaven. Disability or disease may rob you of some life privileges enjoyed by others, but being God’s child by baptism and receiving Christ’s body and blood fills you with every spiritual blessing. The end of life on this earth may be drawing near for you, but an everlasting life awaits. With that in mind David once wrote, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17,18). God outnumbers any fears, so David and you can sleep soundly and wake up ready to face a new day because God is there. No worries for those Surrounded by Dangers Surrounded by God.
Who overpowers them
A worried mother wondered where her daughter was on a rainy school-day afternoon. She should have been home from the bus stop by now and the thunder was pounding and lightning flashing. So mom put on her coat and headed down the street in the drenching storm. She spotted her daughter walking slowly, playfully stepping into the puddles. “Where have you been?” the mother demanded. “Don’t you know how dangerous it is our here?”
“But mom,” answered the wide-eyed little girl, “this is fun. It’s like you said, the angels are bowling and God is taking my picture.” Funny how we explain away fears for children with word pictures and they’ll remember those word pictures to show us we can trust God more than we do. That’s why Elisha prayed for his servant, “Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Elisha wanted his servant to see the picture: “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
The Bible speaks of horses in terms of strength, so God’s picture for Elisha and his servant is promising that he outmuscles their enemy. Chariots provide safe journey, so God is promising to deliver Elisha and his servant safely. And fire represents a God who cannot be extinguished, so God promises Elisha and his servant that no enemy can snuff out his zeal to save them. Sure, we are surrounded by dangers but open your eyes and see. God surrounds and overpowers them all. “The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 20:31). Christ’s resurrection victory overpowers anything you fear, so don’t be afraid. “Suddenly a chariot of fire … appeared and … Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11). Christ’s defeat of death is your chariot to heaven, so don’t be afraid. “I will encamp among you all around; I will encircle you,” God promises, “your many enemies will become like fine dust … The Lord Almighty will come with … flames of devouring fire” (Isaiah 29:3-6). Christ is exalted in fiery glory and he uses it for your good, so don’t be afraid.
Chad was the shy type. His mom agonized when she watched other kids laugh and play and Chad just lagged behind, alone. When he came home one day and said he wanted to make Valentines for everyone in his class her heart sank. He wouldn’t receive any in return. But he insisted and she couldn’t say no. Chad painstakingly tinkered with crayons, glue, and bright paper for three weeks night after night until Valentine’s Day when he excitedly packed 35 handmade cards into his backpack and started out for school. His mother worried all day and that afternoon made cookies and put them on the table with milk for her forlorn son to ease the pain. She watched him walk up the sidewalk empty handed. No Valentines. She compassionately offered him cookies and milk as he plodded into the house like he always did, but he hardly heard her, his face aglow as he looked up and said, “Not a one. Not a one.” She choked back tears, and then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, mommy, not a one.” How many times had she prayed for her son, “Lord, open his eyes,” like Elisha prayed for his servant. How many times had she held his hand, lifted him up, and nurtured his faith journey to know God’s love and show God’s love. Calmed in your fears, and connected to others in your life like your children, your spouse, your friends, your neighbors or coworkers, remember to pray for them, “Lord, open their eyes. Let them see you so loving, so present, so mighty to save. Open their eyes and let them see that you outnumber and overpower their fears. Open their eyes.” And those people might, in turn, teach you to open your eyes.
I want to end with some exciting and encouraging news. A new study has discovered that worrying actually works. It’s amazing! 92% of the things you worry about never happen. Okay, that’s not from a study but it’s generally true for people Surrounded by Dangers Surrounded by God. Amen.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on May 9, 2010