One of the most powerful pictures of the importance of fellowship to be found in the Old Testament is in Exodus 17 when Israel is attacked by the Amalekites in the valley of Rephidim. Moses is sent by the Lord to the top of a cliff overlooking the battlefield, and basically what happens is that as long as he holds his rod up – a picture of faith in the Lord – Israel prevailed, but whenever he lets the rod down – a picture of unbelief – Amalek prevailed. So what happens next is that Aaron and Hur firstly find a rock for him to sit on – a picture of our rest in Christ – and then hold his arms up for him so his tiredness doesn’t prevent him doing what is necessary for a full victory over the enemy.
And of course what we have here is a clear picture of the fact that none of us can truly prevail in the Christian life unless others are helping and aiding us, just as others can’t prevail unless we are helping and aiding them. Without each other, without true, genuine, significant and actual fellowship with other believers, none of us can live in the victory over sin and the principalities and powers that the Lord has won for us. I cannot properly follow the Lord unless those with whom I am in close fellowship help me, just as they can never properly live the Christian life without my help.
The tragedy is, though, that there are many believers who, even though in ongoing fellowship, fail to truly step up to the plate in such regard, and leave others to engage in spiritual warfare whilst they stay nice and safe and sound in their comfort zones and spiritual laziness. “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion…” thunders the Old Testament (Amos 6:1), and we do well to pay attention to the ramifications of such a warning.
I am further struck by the incident in the Gospels when the disciples were in the boat and the Lord called Peter to get out of it and walk on the water to Him. And one can just imagine the other disciples, who stayed nice and safe and sound in the security of the boat, castigating him when he got back into it for having sunk when he took his eyes off the Lord. Yet Peter’s failure, of both nerve and faith, only came about as a direct result of his willingness to follow the Lord in a way the other disciples were not, and into dangers and difficulties they were not prepared to risk. We must, of course, be ever open to the correction, and even rebuke, of others, yet there is nevertheless a time when the legitimate response to such might well be, “I think the way I have stepped out of the boat and am following the Lord is better than the way you haven’t!”
There will always, sadly, be those believers who just sit back, doing pretty much nothing of spiritual worth, yet who are ever willing to point out the failures of those who at least try to go the whole hog in following the Lord; and I for one would rather be failing as a result of actually getting out of the boat and walking on the water with the Lord, as opposed to merely having the ‘success’ of those who just remain, nice and safe and sound and secure, in it, and who hit the target merely because they are aiming at pretty much nothing at all.
The sad fact is that, not only has Satan,spiritually speaking, immobilised those believers who won’t dive into the fray of truly serving the Lord, he is actually able to at times immobilise and damage even those who are in the battle precisely because they are not getting the support and help the lazy ones should be giving them. Had Aaron and Hur not found the rock for Moses to sit on and then held his arms up, Amalek would have prevailed against Israel even though Moses was being as obedient and faithful as he possibly could.
Question: Do we truly have each others backs? Are we actually in the fray, or just sitting around like deadweight possibly even hindering those who are?
I have only once, I believe, been given a parable from the Lord to share, so here it is:
The Parable of the Soldier
During the war a Commanding Officer issued orders to a small group of soldiers to take a hill on which the enemy had placed heavy artillery. Upon receiving their instructions the small rag-tag band of soldiers looked at each other in disbelief. There was little doubt that what they being ordered to do was dangerous in the extreme; in fact, it was obvious to them that there was no way they could accomplish their mission without a significant chance of loss of life.
The situation weighed heavily on them as they discussed the dangers involved, and doubts and uncertainty crept in.
“This is suicide,” one of them finally said, “we haven’t got a chance!”
Silence took hold as, to a man, they realised how right he was.
“I didn’t come here to take stupid risks!” said another. “I’ve got a family and I want to see them again. No way am I going up that hill!”
And one by one they shared their reasons for not carrying out the order they had been given by their Commanding Officer.
But another of their number, one who had not yet spoken, protested that it wasn’t for them to be debating about whether or not they should obey their orders. He argued that they should just simply, and unquestioningly, do whatever it was they had been instructed to do. They were, after all, soldiers, and merely having received their orders ought to settle the matter, irrespective of the risks involved. He also drew their attention to the fact that their chances of successfully carrying out the mission, and surviving, increased precisely to the extent that they stuck together, fighting bravely at each other’s side, each doing their particular bit.
However, the others were not persuaded, and it became clear that this was one band of soldiers who were not going to obey the order they had received from their Commanding Officer.
“Then I have no choice but to take the hill alone,” he said. “I have a wife and children too, and a good life to return to, and I no more want to put myself at risk than the rest of you do; but I have my orders and must do what my Commanding Officer has told me.”
The others remonstrated with him, pointing out that it would be suicide for him to do what he was proposing, and that he would be crazy to try and take the hill on his own. But he was a good soldier who took seriously the fact that he was a man under authority, and that he should therefore obey every order; and thus he remained adamant. And because he remained adamant and obeyed the order they had been given by their Commanding Officer, albeit alone, he was also, within a few minutes, lying dead and bleeding, having made it just fifty yards towards the top of the hill before a hail of bullets found their lone and easy prey.
The others bowed their heads in a confusion of great sadness, but also relief. “We did warn him,” they lamented to each other. “It’s his own fault. We told him he didn’t have a chance, but he didn’t listen! If we’d have gone with him we’d be dead too! We surely made the right decision!”
“Unless…” one of them pondered, somewhat quietly, “…going with him might have made a difference? Perhaps if we had gone with hi and obeyed orders too then he might not have died, and we would have taken the hill?”
“Best not to think about it!” replied the others. “We’re alive! That’s what counts!”
“I wonder how many men will die because we didn’t take out that artillery?” another thought to himself. But he didn’t dare voice it out loud!
They vanished into the night, grateful at having survived to fight another day!
(Hey, how about that? A short Blog post at last!)