We last saw how Naomi’s perseverance in suffering caused Ruth to see into God’s Kingdom, and how she desired to cleave to Naomi. Many doctrines have come up today that deny Christians the privilege of partaking of the sufferings of Christ – and the blessing that comes with this suffering.
Chief among these is the gospel of prosperity. I have heard preachers claim that it is actually a sin to live in deprivation or even to get sick. These type of “bless me” gospels just serve to promote the flesh in the Church. Christians cheer at these gospels without realizing the seed of carnality being planted in their lives.
But when we suffer for the sake of Christ, we reap a different harvest. Our lives enrich others, and we reap a harvest for the Kingdom.
Today I would like us to look at another aspect of Naomi’s faith as we study her suffering. When Naomi went back to the land of Judah, everyone came out to receive her saying, “Is this Naomi?” to which she replied, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me” (1:19-21).
The saints we read about in the Old and New Testaments saw God at work in their lives. They saw the hand of God, not of Satan. We see Naomi acknowledging God in her suffering. Yet, today we live in a generation where Satan is probably more alive in Christians’ lives than God Himself.
It is no secret that today Christians are seeing the devil behind every bush. Nearly every problem in the Church is attributed to the devil. Poverty, disease, unemployment, domestic and matrimonial problems, grievance of brother against brother, and even sin are all considered the devil’s doing. So is persecution. Christians cannot imagine God “deserting” them and leaving them in the hands of the enemy.
This belief in the devil has in turn opened the door for “sorcerers” of every sort to invade the Church. I don’t know about other countries, but in our country there are now preachers peddling every kind of sorcery within the Church: “blessed water” (and oil!), books into countless forms of “deliverance” and “lightning” prayers (against the devil) plus countless other ‘indulgences’ – all written and invented by preachers – are sold at Christian bookstores situated right at the entrance into the churches themselves. In church there are ‘apostles’ who specialize in “prospering” God’s people; and – the latest – there are preachers “cleansing” Christians’ “stars” (which is pure black magic)!
The other day, on Christian radio, I heard of a “mobile church” where, once you register (yes, you have to register, and there are 3 main conditions you have to fulfill for your membership to be confirmed) – once you are accepted into this cloud nine fellowship you will never need to tire yourself walking to some old church building; you only need turn the dial and you are on, right there on your couch!
These false teachers are promising God’s people all kinds of placebos, all of which are geared to convince the Christian that he does not need to suffer. “Promises” have been dug up from every tip of the Bible to prop up the desperate belief that a lack of suffering and a materialistically prosperous and comfortable life was the promise given to Abraham by God. But all this ‘revelation’ is of the flesh, really, for the flesh does not contemplate suffering of any sort. And these gospels ultimately lead to disillusionment for the believer, to live in fear and defeat.
What the Bible actually says about our father Abraham is that he received the promise when he was “as good as dead”! (Heb. 11:12). In other words, Abraham never received that promise in the flesh! (We would have to remove a whole load of scriptures from the Bible to agree with these new age preachers).
Naomi did not say, “The devil has afflicted me.” She said “God has afflicted me.” Though she was sorrowful, yet she realized God was at work in her life, and she was ready to let Him have His way in her life.
Let me tell you that due to the nature and magnitude of her problems, Naomi could have consulted the Moabite sorcerers of her day. But she did not. She bound herself to her God – for good and for evil! At no one moment did she lose sight of the vision of the one living God who is in control over the affairs of men.
At Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and the subsequent birth of Obed, God would begin rewarding Naomi for her patient suffering and her trust in Him. But many, many years later, Naomi’s true reward was realized at the birth of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.