Skip to content
May 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 10, 2015 – 2 Kings 4:8-10

Gear and Skill for the Journey

Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food.
She said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be when he comes to us, that he can turn in there. 2 Kings 4:8-10


Intro: When my Scott started his current job, I let him have my Volvo

That was a mixed blessing, because it gets him to work but needs a new transmission
– and that would cost more than the car is worth
• one reason it is so expensive is because the car was designed to require unique tools for repairs
• without the necessary tools and skill to use them, there is no “do it yourself”
– this is not the case with every car or every repair, but even then it helps to have the right tools
• this goes for lots of things besides fixing cars
◦ rock climbing, house cleaning, building a doghouse, or performing surgeries

For a few weeks, we’ll go over the gear and skill required for our spiritual journey
– I begin with simplicity, because in my reading last week this passage caught my attention
• otherwise, the order of the items we will consider is not important
• spiritual exercises and disciplines are not like stair steps, in which you must climb one before the next
– we learn (or encounter) them in the order God chooses
• our hearts usually tell us when we’re ready
• for example, a book that was once boring, I find today enlightening and inspiring
◦ I was not ready for it the first time I attempted to read it

A little walled upper chamber

In other words, the couple in Shunem provided Elisha a small apartment on their rooftop
– they furnished it with “a bed . . ., and a table and a chair and a lamp” (lamp: menorah – candlestick)
• there’s a reason why I find these spartan accommodations so pleasing
◦ and not because I’m a minimalist
– once, when visiting a hermitage, I was provided a small room
• it was also furnished with no more than a bed, a desk, a chair and a lamp — oh, and a heater
• one morning, between vigils and lauds, I sat in the chair with my Bible open on my lap
◦ unexpectedly, I found myself filled with a sense of intense contentment
◦ I could have died and been utterly at peace — and it required a lot less stuff, than one would have imagined

This what saints have been saying for centuries
– that contentment can be found in simple things

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:6-8)

• and regarding food and clothing, Jesus told us not to worry about them (Mt. 6:25-33)

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
Henry David Thoreau

• Paul was concerned for the Corinthian believers over this very issue

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3)

– “purity” is the quality of a thing that consists of one substance only (pure gold or pure water)
• Jesus had a way of simplifying issues to “one thing”
◦ to a wealthy young man, “you are missing one thing
◦ to Martha who complained to him about her sister, “one thing is necessary”
◦ he summed up all the law of Moses and the prophetic writings in two commandments (Mt. 22:35-40)
• in other New Testament passages:
◦ a blind man was certain of “one thing” (Jn. 8:25)
◦ the apostle Paul was driven to do “one thing” (Php. 3:13)

So we could say that what simplicity and purity mean to us is:
To identify what is essential and concentrate our attention and energy on that single point

Most articles and books that tell us how to simplify our lives say the same things

  1. Cut back on buying and owning “things”
    • most of our households are cluttered with a lot of unused or useless items
    ◦ in the next chapter of 2 Kings, Elisha will ask a question few of us every ask (2 Ki. 5:26)
    Christopher Lasch was neither the first or last social analyst to address shopping addictions
    “Drugs are merely the most obvious form of addiction . . . the need for drugs–that is, for commodities that alleviate boredom and satisfy the socially stimulated desire for novelty and excitement–grows out of the very nature of a consumerist economy.”
    ◦ the moment when many shopaholics get their “fix” is when they slide the credit card across the counter
    ◦ we cannot simplify our lives by acquiring more stuff, but we can by giving things away
  2. Reorganize time
  3. Reorganizing space
  4. Rethinking relationships
    • not only setting boundaries, but the games we play in our communication and s on

But what concerns me is the way we have complicated our spiritual lives with:

  1. An excess of ideas and arguments about God and the Christian life
    • debates are legitimate, up to a point
    • but laboring over questions such as “Where did Cain find a wife?” is silly and a waste of time (Titus 3:9)
    The second-century apologist, Irenaeus, said, “It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and [uneducated] class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God than, [by subtle questions and hairsplitting expressions we] should fall away from that love which is the life of [humankind]”
  2. Conditions and chores (cf. Mt.23:4 versus Mt. 11:28-30)
    • Some Christian organizations are constantly demanding us to give what we do not have
  3. How we understand and respond to sin and forgiveness
    • why do so many believers carry a surplus of guilt? Because it is not the guilt addressed in scripture
    • psychological guilt has been imposed on Christians and it resists removal
    (I love this quote from John Chapman, “HOPE tells us not to mind falls; God forgives them and forgets. But the merit of getting up again and again He never forgets.”)

Our challenge cannot be resolved by simplifying everything

Simplicity, of itself, is not a virtue nor is complexity a vice
– melody of a song is simple, harmony is complex
• we are sometimes given solos and other times thrown into the choir
“…simplicity makes great complexity bearable…” — Dallas Willard
• the problems we must guard against are oversimplifying the complex and complicating the simple

We oversimplify when:

  1. We anesthetize symptoms rather than treat the illness
    They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,
    Saying, ‘Peace, peace.’
    But there is no peace. (Jer. 8:11)
  2. We quote platitudes rather than dig for wisdom
  3. We fall for cheap grace rather than surrender to costly grace (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Conc: Simplifying does not impoverish our lives

It is more likely to enrich them
– simplifying leaves us less distracted by the necessary maintenance that things require
• and a lot of unnecessary maintenance as well

Years ago, I met a man who owned a couple expensive cars. Every time he drove one of them, after returning home, he would grab a cloth and tire polish, then clean and shine each tire.

– simplifying enables us to become less needy for artificial stimulation
– simplifying shows us how to be freer to enjoy life as it comes
• it can even help us recover our childhood sense of wonder
– simplifying our lives allows us more time, space and freedom to experience them

Besides what is obvious and what others have said, I cannot help but add a suggestion or two:

  1. Walk when it is not necessary to drive
    • you see more of the world, have more time for thought, and get closer to life
  2. Be silent when it is not necessary to talk
  3. Accept people as they are rather than waste time trying to change them
    Rowan Williams, “. . . it is foolish indeed to believe ourselves capable of writing another person’s part and assessing that person’s progress in learning it.”
    • accepting others as they are is the first stage of really getting to know another person
  4. Choose humility over conceit, arrogance, or self-assertion
  5. Choose patience over instant gratification
  6. Choose generous grace over exacting revenge
  7. Choose freedom (when possible) over further obligations
    • and especially choose freedom over addictions
  8. Choose peace over conflict

How about, when writing your next list, instead of making it “to do,” make it a “stop doing” list?

Well? . . .

Stop shining your tires and just get in and go somewhere!

Leave a comment