August 2, 2009

The Power of Team-Spirited Ministry (Exodus 17:8 -16)

by: Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

After leaving Egypt, the first battle that the Israelites fought in the wilderness was against the Amalekites. This battle was a very significant one. If they lose this battle, they will not have enough courage to enter Canaan, because there were seven more fearsome tribes awaiting them in Canaan. If they cannot win against the Amalekites, how can they face more fierce enemies? But the Israelites had indeed won this battle. The Israelites’ victory is a good example for us. This is the power of team work, the victory of three in one. What was the three in one? That is Moses’ raised staff on the hill, Aaron and Hur’s assistance, and Joshua’s fighting the battle downhill. The power of three in one won the victory against the Amalekites. In church ministry, we also need such team work.

I. The Leader’s Raised Staff – Moses raised his staff on the hill

Moses is the leader of over 2 million Israelites. When the Amalekites advanced against them in battle, Moses said to Joshua in v.9, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” As a leader, Moses did two wonderful things:

1. He courageously faced the problem

The enemy had come, a problem has presented itself, so, Moses told Joshua, “Choose some of our men and fight the Amalekites.” A good leader is one who will bravely face the problem. Life is full of difficult situations, and the way to solve these problems is to face it. Many people are afraid to face their problems, they think that if they don’t face it, the problem will automatically disappear. Some people even take drugs to numb themselves so that they don’t have to face the problem, as a result, the problems grow worse. Many times, this is also our failure; as Christians, we are afraid of having conflicts with people; and when problems come, we retreat from them. As a result, the problem worsens, and doesn’t get solved even as the damage persist.

2. Lift up God’s staff

Moses told Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.” And, he added, “Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

Moses was an almost 80-year old man; he knew what he was capable and no longer capable of. Moses knew that he cannot go into the battlefield with Joshua, because he was already an 80 year old man. But he can go up the hill to do battle in prayer, to support the battle with prayer. The facts tell us that the result of the battle downhill had a close relation with the prayer uphill. Verse 11 says, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” A good leader is not a superman, he knows what he can do, what he cannot do. A good leader knows when to advance, and when to retreat. A leader must lift up God’s staff, allow people to see God’s power and will, letting the church understand clearly. Leaders, have you done so?

II. The co-workers who assisted – Aaron and Hur assisted Moses as he lifted the staff

Verse 12 “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up … one on one side, one on the other … so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” Moses was very wise in bringing along Aaron and Hur. Indeed, old people are more far-sighted. While young people are impulsive, old people can see much farther. We must learn to listen to the older generation, their wisdom from the richness of their experience are what we lack.

Moses knew that he cannot do it alone, and so he brought Aaron and Hur along. When Moses’ hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur were there to help. People who assist must also be wise. Do not be an assistant who makes the person you intend to help busier. Leaders often have such experiences – sometimes, we give a task to our co-worker, yet we take more time trying to settle the problems they cause. We must learn to be a wise assistant. We often thought that in this event, Aaron and Hur lifted Moses’ hands, one on each side; but it was not so. Verse 12 says they took a stone and let Moses sat on it, then they held up his hands. Doing so made them able to hold up Moses’ hands much longer. If not, all three of them would have been tired out. Moses needed Aaron and Hur. Moses needed co-workers and friends. We too need co-workers, and friends. For a team to succeed, only addition or multiplication may be used; combining all the strength there is; subtraction or division, dispersing the otherwise available strength, must not be utilized. How then do we combine the existing strength? The answer is simple: take the initiative to achieve unity with others.

Moses took the initiative to ask Aaron and Hur to go up the hill with him. Assistants are only tasked with one goal and that is to help the leader succeed. Assistants are not to seek the establishment of their own kingdom. If Aaron and Hur did not help Moses lift his staff, but instead each one lifted his own staff, there would be three staffs on the hill. Downhill, the warriors would see three staffs. They wouldn’t know which one is Moses’, Aaron’s or Hur’s. They wouldn’t know which staff to follow. Isn’t this the problem with many churches today? Many co-workers are not helping the leaders lift up their staff, but are lifting their own staffs, causing disharmony and divisions in the church. As assistants, which staff are you lifting up?

III. Co-workers who execute – Joshua’s battle

If there were only Moses praying, with only Aaron and Hur helping him, and no Joshua fighting the battle, this battle would not have been won. This is our greatest problem. Chinese have a saying “Empty phrases on a piece of paper”. In simple terms, it means we keep holding meetings, and making plans. Meetings and plans are very important. But if we only stop at meetings and plans, we will not accomplish anything in the end. We need to put our plans into action – we need co-workers who execute the plans – Joshua.

If you were Joshua, and you see Moses lift the staff on the hill, while you do battle downhill, would you have felt a sense of unfairness. Who doesn’t know how to lift a staff, while, being a warrior and going into battle entails great danger to one’s life. If you were Joshua, would you tell Moses, “Moses, come down here, let us change places, I will lift the staff and you be the soldier!” Sometimes, we encounter such problems in the church – why does he get to go up the stage all the time, while I have to sit downstage. But Joshua didn’t complain, because he , Moses, Aaron and Hur had the same goal. Their goal was simple, that is to defeat the Amalekites; so they were willing to unite their strength and fulfil their goal. Who is on the hill and who is downhill isn’t important, the important thing is to win the battle. Moses lifted the staff while Aaron and Hur supported him, and Joshua fought the battle downhill. This is God’s best strategy – to defeat the Amalekites, they had to have a strategy. We must make a choice – do we want to win or lose?

Brothers and sisters, when we serve, what is our purpose? To glorify God or ourselves? To win for God or ourselves? If it is for God, there is nothing to dispute about; but if it is for ourselves, then we would indeed have much to fuss about.

There are 3 important principles that can be seen in this battle:

1. There must the same goal

2. Coordinate with one another in ministry; commit yourself to your post

3. We must all submit ourselves under God’s authority

Whether Moses, Aaron, Hur or Joshua, they were all serving under God’s staff. When Moses lifted the staff on the hill, Moses was under God’s staff. Aaron and Hur beside Moses were also under God’s staff. Downhill, Joshua was also under God’s staff. Everyone serving the Lord must submit to His authority. Whoever does not submit to God’s authority, no matter how talented, how skilled, cannot be a blessing to the church. Because it is the more talented, and more skilled who can bring the church more problems; since they lack a submissive, obedient heart. Successful ministry is team ministry. Moses, Aaron, Hur and Joshua were all necessary. May the Lord help us, let us coordinate with one another as we serve the Lord, submit to the Lord’s authority as we serve Him together.

August 2, 2009