Fasting, Calling, and Managing the Naaman Complex

A fasting day devoted to seeking a closer connection with God and obtaining a greater understanding of my need for him is a good time to reflect upon my calling. What is my calling? This can be a really hard question when I am immersed in a competitive, materialistic, and performance oriented culture where church is often contaminated by the same norms and standards with the only difference being what is counted and how success is measured. The obsession with measurable success remains. How am I doing? How does my church compare to the church next door? Am I doing more and bigger things? This noise of the world crowds out God and prevents me from hearing him.

I love the song, ‘Big Time,’ by Peter Gabriel that lampoons the Bigger, Better Deal (BBD). At the end of the second stanza of the song, he sings with great pride and self-satisfaction:

‘I’ll be a big noise with all the big boys, so much stuff I will own

And I will pray to a big god, as I kneel in the big church’

At the end of the fourth stanza he sings with the same great pride and self-satisfaction:

‘And my heaven will be a big heaven,

And I will walk through the front door’

Naaman Complex and Killing the BBD

Off and on during my life I have struggled with the BBD. Like Naaman in 2 Kings, chapter 5 I have looked for some great thing that I am supposed to do. But I am reminded when I draw near to God in studying his word, in prayer, and in fasting that it is not some great thing that is required, but it is respect (often described as fear), love, obedience, and dependence (trust) upon him that he wants. A few questions I can ask myself when an idea that might become a religious Naaman Complex or BBD comes over me:

  1. Do I still want to do this if I must do it in secret with only God as the witness?
  2. Do I still want to do this if someone else gets the credit?
  3. Have I forgotten that no matter how well I do that compared to what Christ has done for me that my obedience and response to his commands should be “I have only done that which was my duty.” Luke 17:10
  4. What gain do I expect other than ‘well done good and faithful servant?’
  5. If my role is to pass this on to someone else to fulfill, am I at peace with that?
  6. Have I ignored an opportunity to ‘give a cup of cold water to a little one’ to pursue my perceived calling?
  7. Have I forgotten that my ministry begins with my family and those closest to me, my neighbors (those I am physically near) in reality not in social media?
  8. Remember, my primary call is always to love God and my neighbor (those within reach).
  9. Do I think about the “praise of men” more than the praise of God? John 12:43. I must spend much time praying about this and asking God to speak to me. This common disease of the Pharisees is very common today and can be buried under many layers of self deceit.
  10. A good question from Oswald Chambers: “Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him?”
  11. Does it give me joy to think: His grace is sufficient? If I think I need more, a disconnect with my Lord exists.

When I hear: How does my church compare to the church next door? Is it growing as fast as they are? Is my ministry successful? The solution to this problem begins with me and my refusal to participate in this religiously veneered worldliness and to remind myself and those who ask such questions to lean upon God, trust him, and go where he sends, and to know the peace described in Psalm 131.

Decision from Him, not My Naaman Complex

His call might very well lead me to something bigger than I could ever imagine, but that is for him to decide and direct. God has a call and a vision for all: primarily to love as he does. Any specific further vision and calling for my life will not be found in a desire for the BBD, envy, comparison, or a need to fulfill my ego. It will be in context of loving as he does and subjugated to that. His definition of success may even be invisible to my understanding. I can only find my calling in relationship to him and in much prayer. Fasting and prayer can sharpen my sense of dependence and, with practice, help me shed the Naaman complex.

If you’ve never fasted and you struggle with keeping your calling free of the BBD, I encourage you to make this the topic of prayer on your next fasting day. Remember a calling is to service, obedience, and love, not to measurable results. The results may be enormous and abundant; but they belong to God, and he gets the credit. All this takes massive effort in letting go, concentration, sacrifice of ego, and ongoing confession, but I am not alone. With the power of the Holy Spirit, I can overcome ego, massive self-deceit, and the Naaman Complex and move closer to grasping the holiness he has destined for me.

Prayer for when thoughts of glory and measurable success arise

Father you know me and my thoughts. Please forgive my thoughts of… Heal me and transform me into the person you desire me to be. To your glory and honor, make me, a sinner, as holy as you will. Amen (last part of prayer paraphrased from Oswald Chambers)

Read how Anna overcomes this and more in her conversation with Jesus in Food in God’s Place.

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