Naaman, a Syrian general in the days of Elisha, riddled with the dreaded disease leprosy, was told that he would be healed if he would simply wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was ticked. Having come so far, he was told to wash in a river probably more dirty than the waters of his homeland. What was this tomfoolery? If it was not for his servants, he would have returned to Syria unhealed. “God has promised – just do it” they said.
There are very ordinary, quite dull looking, but simple plans God has for our spiritual growth. They are His Word, primarily through preaching, and the sacraments, a splash of water, some wine and bread. And then there is the gift of prayer – simple communication with the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit.
There is little pizzazz, no dog and ponies, no smoke and mirrors, no hocus-pocus. These were the means of grace by which the church saw phenomenal growth. Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers….and Acts 2:46, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
God does use other means to grow us in the faith. However, most of those are simply ordained by Him in the form of His providences – trials and blessings, tribulations and more blessings, and more trials. But the ordinary means, the means that He leaves with us to discipline ourselves and give ourselves to with faith are these – the Word, the Sacraments, and Prayer. To neglect these is to bring about spiritual deterioration – and then often a temptation to find other means – means which have not been ordained by God as ordinary and useful.
However, this is not to say that our trust is in the means. Baptism itself does not wash away sins. Nor are there automatic blessings from hearing the Word or partaking of the Lord’s Table or giving oneself to prayer. These must be done trusting in God, believing on Jesus, and humbling ourselves before Him, not the means. Trust God, use His means, and come worshipping with faithful expectation of grace to come.