Essential Truths for Unity in Ministry
By Matthew Black, Pastor
Text: 2 Samuel 10
Date: Sunday, June 7, 2009
Tabernacle Baptist Church
7020 Barrington Road
Hanover Park, Illinois 60133
Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of 2 Samuel 10. We are continuing our study in the life of David. The title of the message this evening is “Essential Truths for Unity in Ministry”. When you think of unity think of more than teamwork, but oneness in Christ.
The church is a body. Just because we meet together does not mean we are maintaining our unity, nor does it mean that God is pleased with what we are doing. As a church, God commands us to “Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We are united in Christ. We need to endeavor to guard our unity. There are many battles we must face. We are going to learn from the words of Joab as he expresses his battle plan to his brother Abishai, and from his challenge we are going to see six essentials to unity and teamwork in ministry.
Obviously our truths come from the great battles of David and his victories. There are differences of course. Our battles are not physical today. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Physical battles come and go, but spiritual warfare is constant. We face a very real battle, and without real unity in our church, we will not see the progress and victory that we all desire. Before I show you these truths, let me give you what’s going on in the chapter.
We are not going to take time to read this whole chapter, but instead we are going to summarize it and then read the main verses I want to preach from.
Context: In 2 Samuel 10 the king of the Ammonites has died and his son, Hanun, ruled in his place. David wanted to show kindness to Hanun so he sent his delegates to express his condolences to the new king for the loss of his father. But Hanun’s princes convince David is up to no good, and that it is a trick to overtake the city. So what does Hanun do? He utterly humiliates David’s delegation of peace and sends them away by shaving off half of their beards and cutting their robes at their waist.
This was an act of war against Israel, and David would have NONE of it. Hearing that David was angry, the Ammonites made the first move by calling a foreign reinforcement army, the Syrians (from the north). They also called two other smaller armies, the army of king Maacah (1000), and the army of Ishtob (12,000). All in all that’s four armies against David’s one army
So David sends Joab and all the mighty men to fight against the Ammonites, the Syrians, and the two other armies.
As the battle develops, we find the Ammonites and Syrians have divided their armies. The Ammonites are protecting their capital city to protect it on one side and the Syrians are gathered in the open field on the other side, and Joab, with the soldiers or Israel, are sandwiched in the middle. In other words, they are surrounded. What are they going to do?
Joab takes charge of one group of men and set himself against the Syrians, and the rest of his men he puts with Abishai, his brother, to fight against the Ammonites.
In verses 11 and 12 Joab gives a challenge to Abishai. Though this is advice for a physical battle, here we find six truths for spiritual warfare. Listen to the courageous words of Joab to Abishai, both brothers, both considered David’s mighty men.
2 Samuel 10:11-12, “And [JOAB] said [TO his brother ABISHAI], If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee. 12 Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.”
With these words, Joab paints a picture of success for the battle to his brother Abishai, and I believe Joab challenges us for ministry today and how we should work together in unity. Before we dive in, let’s go to God in prayer.
[Prayer for Guidance]
In verses 11 and 12 we find six foundations that should characterize every thing we do as a body of believers. If we give ourselves to these things, our ministry for Christ will be strong and healthy in the Lord, we will be fruitful for Christ, and we will be protected from the many spiritual failures and traps that are in this world. What are these six foundations?
6) surrender to God's sovereign outcome
I. The first foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Humility. Verse 11a, Joab says to his brother Abishai: “If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me”.
Joab was a mighty warrior, but he was humble enough to recognize that he was only a man and he had weaknesses. He was the general of David’s army, but he knew he had limitations and inadequacies. He was not ashamed to ask for help. He knew he might need help from his brother.
Application: The kind of church that God uses is one that is filled with humble, teachable members. A church that is going to skyrocket for the Lord is one where each member esteems others as higher than themselves. It is one in which we give each other the benefit of the doubt. It is one in which each one of us is engaged and involved. It’s not about personal preferences but the Body as a whole. We all may be stronger in some areas, but we all have areas of weakness and we all NEED each other. That is TRUE whether you agree with it or not. It takes humility to realize it. Humility acknowledges our own finiteness and need for the help of others. If you believe you have much to learn from the other members of this church, then you are laying a strategic foundation for victory and spiritual progress for our church.
Are you humble? Do you resent people giving you advise? Do you ever think that the person you are talking to doesn’t know as much as you do?
· 1 Corinthians 10:12, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”.
· Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”.
· We need to cherish the members of Christ’s church. John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.
One of the reasons that humility is an absolute essential in for unity in ministry is that no lasting unity is possible without it. This is taught, for example, in Ephesians 4:1–3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 ¶ With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Do you want to see the Body of Christ in Hanover Park go forward in battle against the wicked one? We all need to renew a spirit of love and humility among us. We cannot do what God wants us to do ALONE. We need each other!
Clarification: You might say, “I can’t work with so and so, he has warts”. You know what? We all have warts. I don’t know if this is an ancient Chinese proverb, but it ought to be, “The one who thinks he doesn’t have warts is the one that needs a new set of glasses.” This is why the Bible tells us we need to have “lowliness”, meekness, longsuffering, “forbearing one another in love”. That means at times putting up with one another’s weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. If we are going to have true spiritual unity, we must all have a spirit of humility.
II. The second foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Diversity. Abishai was sent against the Ammonites. Joab went against the Syrians. Diversification is wise battle strategy. Our enemy is widespread and diverse, and we must not engage all the troops in one place.
What does this mean for Christ’s church? Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “Now there are diversities [varieties] of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences [varieties] of administrations [ministries], but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities [varieties] of operations [the way the Lord works], but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal [everyone].”
There is a dangerous temptation to think that the gifts God has given us make us either inferior or superior to others. I’ve seen this in our own congregation and in myself.
1 Corinthians 12:18-21, “But now hath God set [arranged] the members [organs] every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?” (Whenever I read verse 19, I can’t help thinking about if we were all an eye rolling down the street, or an ear just hopping along. No, if we were all one member “Where would the Body be”? Verse 20, “But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
Like Joab and Abishai, we are given different gifts to fight Christ’s battle on different fronts of warfare. Joab cannot say to Abishai, "I have no need of you." I cannot say to Mike Klikas “I have no need of you”. Mike cannot say to Amelia, “I have no need of you”. Amelia cannot say to Mrs. Fran of Mrs. Jeanne, “I have no need of you”. We all need each other. God has put us together so that we might do battle for Him on different battle fronts and ministries.
Illustration: When I was a child we’d play baseball. I was never good at baseball, so I was often the last one picked. Now basketball is different story. But we need to understand that there is no unimportant person on Christ’s team!
III. The third foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Involvement. Verse 11a, Joab says to his brother Abishai: “If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee”.
This is a precious principle to me. So often we think that our presence does not matter in various ministries. If I don’t show up at an event or activity, it won’t matter. I want you to know it DOES matter. When you come for Sundays but not Wednesdays, you make a statement. It says, “you don’t need my help, I think you can make it without me”. Sundays and Wednesdays are about so much more than preaching. When you don’t show up to Sunday school, you are removing your support from the Body of Christ as they meet together with Christ as Head. We all need you. We need everyone to be involved.
How refreshing it is to see someone out of the blue join the choir and say as Joab did, “I will come and help thee”. When Saturday morning comes and we see a new face say, “I will come and help thee”—what a joy it is! We all need each other. Yes, it is sometimes difficult to squeeze your schedule so that you can work in the nursery, teach Sunday school, do all the work for Lord’s club, but what a strength it is to the unity of this church when we are all involved and we are all supporting each other. We all say to each other “I will come and help thee”.
IV. The forth foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Endurance. Joab says in verse 12 to Abishai, “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God”. When the battle begins, do not limp away weak and fearful. We need to ATTACK! Jump right in! Don’t wait for the “right time” to get involved. And then once you are involved, don’t give up after a few weeks. It takes endurance to win any battle. It takes character. Someone once said, “The test of your character is what it takes to stop you”. What does it take to stop or discourage you?
Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might…” The power we need to endure in faithful service for Christ does not come from ourselves but from Christ. We must be strong “in the Lord, and in the power of his might…” He says in Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man”.
Why must we endure? Why must we be faithful? Why must we be involved and humble? Why must we be careful with our actions, our words, and our attitudes? Because God’s people hang in the balance. Joab says to Abishai in verse 12, “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God”. This brings us to our next point.
V. The fifth foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Selflessness. We must have an “others” mindset. Joab tells Abishai in verse 12 to be strong and courageous why? “For our people, and for the cities of our God”. Everything we do is for the benefit of God’s people. Why be humble, why be involved, why be faithful?
A. We have to ask ourselves, “Why are we doing what we are doing?” This is called our “philosophy of ministry”. The answer can be found in several places.
1. Ephesians 4:12 says, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.
2. Romans 8:29 tells us that the purpose of God calling us to salvation and (by inference) together as a Body is that we all might “conformed to the image of his Son”.
B. Our job in serving Christ is not to please every one in the Body, but to please God. Paul asks in Galatians 1:10, a question that we all should ask ourselves, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ”.
We are not against people being pleased. But our aim is not to please people it is to help people GROW and CHANGE and to please God. With Joab we can cry out “For our people, and for the cities of our God!” (verse 12).
VI. The sixth and final foundation for unity in Christ’s Body is Surrender to God's sovereign outcome. We read again Joab’s words in verse 12, “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.” It is not up to us to navigate the outcome of obedience to God. If you are obeying God, what he does with your effort is up to Him. I read a quote by a man that God is using mightily in Manhattan in New York City. When asked “What is it that make a ministry have success?”
He said this:
The difference between a solid church and a terrible church is pretty much up to you. The difference between a solid church and incredible success has almost nothing to do with you at all. It’s like you are out there paddling on your surfboard, and suddenly the wave comes and you ride in, standing up like you’re [really somebody]. That has everything to do with the [power of the] wave.”
We are to be out in the battle, being faithful to our Lord. What He does while we are out there on His ocean has everything to do with the “power of the wave”. Let God do what He will with you. Are you happy to surrender to whatever God wants for you? It is not up to us ultimately. It’s up to Him! Let us say with Joab, “the LORD do that which seemeth him good”.
Conclusion: In closing, let me take you to another group that was unified. Turn over to Daniel 3. This group of young men surrendered to God’s sovereign outcome for their lives. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to bow down to the idol Nebuchadnezzar built. And when the king threatened to throw them into the furnace, we read in Daniel 3:16–18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
If we have committed our life to God, then He will do with us what He will. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego God sent a forth man, the Son of God to join them in the fire. They were unharmed. But for the four Hebrew children that were spared, we read about many who were not spared.
Surrender to God’s sovereign will seemed good for Adoniram Judson was in Burma for 12 years with only 18 converts. He hoped that by the time he died he would have 100 converts. That was his prayer. I would have you to know that when he died, there were 100 churches in Burma with 8000 believers!
And there are so many who are unnamed who go where God wants them to go, but I can tell you it is never easy. We must die to our will completely before God gives us victory and fruit in ministry. Jesus said in John 12:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Is it enough for you to surrender to God’s sovereign plan and leave the outcome up to Him. That’s the best place to be!