Faith believes in the possibility of a better tomorrow. God always uses faith. Faith moves the heart of God. Not only does it change your circumstances, but it also changes the circumstances of the people around you. I’d like to share one of my favorite stories of the Old Testament.
In 2 Kings chapter 7 the author describes a time of conflict. The year was 892BC. Israel was at war with their northern neighbor Syria. Samaria, which was the capitol city of the northern Israelite nation, was under siege. Siege warfare is an ancient practice where an enemy would surround a city and slowly starve the city to death.
Ben-Hadad (King of Syria) led his troops to surround Samaria and no one went in or came out. Weeks slowly turned into months. The food reserves ran out and people were literally starving to death. Famine was so severe that the Bible tells us that a donkey’s head or a pint of dove’s dung was being sold in the market for a week’s wages. If you were wealthy you could afford to dine on donkey; if you were poor you would have to settle for dove dung soup.
In the midst of this bleak situation a prophet came on the scene with a message of hope and restoration that seemed extremely improbable. His name was Elisha the son of Shaphat. Elisha announced a prophetic word from the Lord, declaring, “Listen! God’s word… This time tomorrow food will be plentiful—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel. The market at the city gate will be buzzing.”
At the gate of the city there were four lepers, four outcasts, four men who were living the most dismal life imaginable. These men occupied a no-man’s land of hopelessness and rejection. As lepers they were not permitted to enter the city and they were afraid to travel very far outside the city. Their dilemma was that they were stuck in a “place.”
We cannot really conceive a more miserable situation than that of these four men. They had nothing to do and nowhere to go. They were four dying men at the gates of a dying city. They had no family, no food, no business, no obligations, no responsibility, and nothing to occupy their time.
Can you imagine these four men discussing their plight in life? Talking about the situation and asking, “Why is this happening to us?” “What have we done to deserve this?” Then one of the lepers asked a very important question that came in the form of a few startling words: “Why are we sitting here until we die?”
Let’s emphasize the “here.” They are saying that this is not a particularly good place for them to be. They knew that they had nothing to lose. So their big question was “Why sit here?” They knew death was approaching, so they began to wonder what was so great about where they were. Visualize with me, four men sitting at the threshold of death when a simple question jolted them out of their apathy. Under the dark shadows of the gates of death they rose up and moved toward the enemy’s camp. They decided, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” “The enemy may kill us, but at least we will die trying.”
Can you see them? Clothed in rags, full of sores and sickness, no strength in their frail legs, yet emancipated to press forward hoping for a better tomorrow. That’s faith! Four dying men marched through the darkness of night with no one lining the roads to cheer them on. Nobody said, “You can do it!” Besides each other, they were alone and unimportant. Their lives did not matter to anyone.
No one saw their march of faith. Except one: God saw it. As he looked on, the faith of these four lepers tugged on his heart. Their faith invoked the presence of God and he decided to make these four sick men his own personal army. God joined four lonely lepers walking by faith and something remarkable happened.
As they marched through the night God amplified the sound of their footsteps. As the Syrian army slept they begin to hear what sounded like a mighty multitude of men coming their way. As they heard this rumble of what sounded like chariots, swords, shields, and foot soldiers, the gossip begin to spread through the camp like wildfire. Fear spread through the camp and within moments the entire army was in complete panic. They begin to retreat from the horrible sound that was drawing ever nearer.
Just as the sunlight began to break over the horizon the lepers entered the enemy’s camp. The campfires were still burning, but no one was home. They came to surrender, but no one was found. So, you know what they did? They started eating, drinking, and rejoicing. Just one day earlier these were four dying men, in a dying city, with a dying situation. Their prospects in life were absolutely dismal, until one of them asked a life-changing question: “Why are we sitting here until we die?”
Remember the Prophet Elisha announced: “By this time tomorrow a miracle will come.” That miracle solution for a miserable situation arrived because of the faith of four sick men that marched into the darkness of a long treacherous night. At the enemy’s camp they ate and drank till they were revived. They put on new clothes and filled their pockets with silver and gold. What a difference a day can make.
One day later, these four lepers bore no resemblance to what they once were. Not only were they better men with better lives and better conditions, but they were also about to be turned into evangelists. They said to themselves, “Here we are, our bellies are full, our pockets are stuffed with silver and gold, but in Samaria they’re dying. We can’t remain silent, let us go and proclaim the good news.”
They returned to Samaria preaching: “I know it is hard to believe, but the enemy is gone, they’re no longer there, their spoil belongs to us!” And Elisha’s prophecy was fulfilled that day when in the marketplace, “This time tomorrow food will be plentiful—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel. The market at the city gate will be buzzing.”
I believe the horizon holds a better tomorrow for anyone willing to move forward by faith. We can’t be satisfied to exist in complacency and ineffectiveness. As we step out by faith God promises to amplify our efforts. When we march by faith, even though we’re weak, sick, weary, and tired, the hosts of heaven marches with us toward the dream of a new tomorrow.
Faith believes that God is there when everything says that he is not. Faith is the capacity to step out without caution. Faith is not risk; it is an assurance built on hope. Faith believes as if something is, even before it is. Faith imagines the impossible, attempts the unreasonable, and dreams without limitations.
When we walk by faith we never walk alone. The lepers realized time was slipping away. The sand was running out of the hourglass. They were ready for a change. They knew that if they remained in that place that there was absolutely no future. So they tried something different. They were so excited about their newfound hope that they didn’t wait until morning. They rose up that night, before they had time to talk themselves out of it and God blessed their efforts.
What a difference a day can make!
(Sources: Brian Zahnd and Graham Cooke)