Sermon notes: The faith of a Shunammite woman

Introduction

A common sponge activity among new bye preachers when they want to preach about faith is to ask the congregation  “How many of you have got faith?” The question actually doesn’t make sense because there’s no such thing as “people who have faith” and “people who don’t have faith.”  The truth is that everyone puts their faith in something. A much sensible way of asking this question would be to ask them “On whom or what or where do you have placed your faith today?”

An atheist might ask me “what’s the difference?” Well, simply put we can have faith on many things but God alone is faithful. God alone is capable of honoring and responding to our faith. The Shunammite woman in this passage also had placed her faith in things other than God. One day God wanted to deal with her misplaced faith and this is how he did it?

Text: 2 Kings 4:8-37

1. Challenged

Read: 2 Kings 4:8-14

A. Now the Shunammite was a noblewoman who delighted in showing hospitality to Elisha. The Lord surely took note of this and wanted to reward her with a long forgotten desire of her heart, in return for all the good things she was doing to ensure the comfort of his servant, (Psalm 37:4; Matthew 10:42).

B. This woman however just like any other had longed for a child but failed. Then  like any other childless woman, had made up her mind to move on with life. Gradually she became comfortable with where she was in life. This was obvious when she said ‘I have a home among my own people’. Though her husband was old she had nothing to fear because she had her own house and after husband dies her people will continue look after her.

C. The prophecy in the other hand was risky. What if the family members thought she was cheating on her husband and disowned her? (Her husband was old). Cleary the fulfillment of the prophecy was off the limits of her comfort zone and she was uncertain of its results. Then the Lord suddenly challenged her faith! The Bible tells us that the woman conceived and the next year about that time gave birth to a son.

Lesson: Paul the apostle said that no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no human mind has ever conceived  the things God has prepared for those who love him, (1 Corinthians 2:9). Discovering these things actually takes a step of faith. The problem with comfort zones is they replace our faith in God with a fake sense of assurance found only inside our comfort zone. At such times God walks us to a place where he challenges our faith.

2. Refined

Read: 2 Kings 4:18-31

A. Google defines the term “refined” as having any unwanted elements removed by processing. Now we noted that comfort zones prevent us from discovering the good things God has for us and when they do God himself walks us up to a place where he challenges our faith. It is an eye opener.

B. The Bible further tells us that the boy grew up to be a fine lad. Then the disaster strikes. Now the woman’s response to the tragedy is interesting. Instead of arranging for the dead boy’s funeral (Jews in general bury the dead within 24 hours) she placed him on Elisha’s bed and took off. This was an act of faith. She believed God could raise her son from the dead.

C. God had given this woman her own measure of faith and now it needed to grow, (Romans 12:3). It seems however that a part of her faith was still clouded with a sense of ‘insecurity’ which hindered its growth. She felt difficult to trust the Lord wholeheartedly. She said “Did I ask my master for a son? Didn’t I say, Don’t mislead me?”  Her faith needed some more work of refinement. Which is why God temporarily took the boy away from her.

Lesson: Our faith needs to grow because discovering all the good things that God has for us is not always easy. Certain things come to pass quickly and easily while others don’t. At such times instead of waiting upon the Lord for answers it’s more convenient to give into feelings of insecurity, feel happy about what the Lord has already done for us and forget about the far greater things yet to come. In such occasions God takes the freedom to refine our faith. This brings us to the point how we should behave in times of refinement.

3. Honored

A. The boy died while helping his father in the field and the news of his death must have spread in the neighborhood very quickly. In the biblical times it was a universal opinion among the Jews that calamities of all kinds were the effects of sin, (John 9:2). In this case because the deceased was a boy the neighbors would say that he was  fathered by a man other than the Shunammite’s husband and the Lord’s anger descended upon her son, (2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 12:15-19). This was definitely one of her concerns too. But instead of blaming the prophet she took hold of his feet an act of submission towards Elisha’s spiritual  authority.

B. We know that God honored her faith and her humble attitude because at the end he brought her son back to life. In the Bible the Shunammite woman is not the only one whose faith was refined. There was Abraham (Genesis 22:1-10), Job (Job 1:8-12), Mary (Luke 1:29), Joseph (Matthew 1:20), Zacharias (Luke 1:20) and many others. All of them walked through the painful process known as the refinement of their faith. Yet none of them turned their backs on God, (Job 1:22; Luke 1:38; Matthew 1:24)

C. The outcome was God honored their faith. A great nation was born out of Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 22:17-18). God gave Job the honor of interceding for his friends and blessed the latter part of his life more than the former part (Job 42:7-9; Job 42:12). Elizabeth could boldly say that God took her shame away (Luke 1:25).

Lesson: This is exactly the way we also should respond to God times of refinement. We must not complain, turn our backs on God or return to our old ways. But fully submit ourselves to God’s authority and allow him to refine our faith and let it grow. When we do God is faithful to honor and reward us.

Application

A. Identify your comfort zone: Let me share with you a true story. I know a young man who works in a Pizza restaurant. Usually restaurants are open 7 days a week and this one was not an exception. Consequently this boy stopped coming to  church because like any other employee he also had to work on Sundays, that is if he further wished to work there. This seemed to him fair enough for some time and it was his comfort zone.

B. Submit to God in obedience: Well, only till God challenged his faith one day. He walked into his general manager’s cubical and said that he will quit unless the management agrees to allow him two hours off from work every Sunday morning so that he can go to church. He’s married and this was truly a step of faith into the land of unknown. The Lord was actually refining his faith in the background.

C. The Lord will honor you: God honored this young man’s faith. His general manager gave him the whole day off. Now he has time to give his service to God on Sunday mornings in which he finds plenty of fulfillment. In the afternoon he takes time to follow a course in management which will earn him a promotion at work. In the evenings he spends time with his wife. None of which he had while he was working on Sundays. You see, when we leave behind the lesser things for the glory of God he blesses us with greater things.

Image: Nishanth Jois

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