Together: We Fight For Each Other

Categories: Together

Welcome to Connect. My name is Mike Edmisten, and I’m so glad you joined us tonight for a Night of Worship.

We’re smack in the middle of our four-week series called Together. The focus of this series is simple: we were never called to do life alone. We are much better, much healthier, and much stronger together.

And as we get into the third week of this series, we’re going to wrestle with this question: who is fighting for me? Don’t answer too quickly. Think about it. Wrestle with it. The question is too important to blow it off. Who is fighting for me?

How you answer that question will go a long way to determining the trajectory of your life. It’s that important.

Let me pray for us, and then we’re going to dig into this.

This series is based on these words that Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4. Starting in verse 9, he wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as an old man. He was gifted by God with unmatched wisdom, and as he neared the end of his life, he wrote this truth: together is better.

And specifically today, we’re going to hone in on these words. “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12, NIV)

The picture in this text is of two people who are on a journey together through a remote and rugged territory. There were no hotels with a fireplace or a hot shower to warm you up. When night came, the temperature dropped, and your campfire died out, you had one way to keep warm: each other. And if you’re someone with personal space issues, that was too bad for you because to keep warm, you and your traveling companion had to lie down together and use your combined body heat to fend off the chill of the night air.

And not only was the night cold, but it was also dangerous when you were traveling the countryside. Bandits would often hide in the rocky crags of that area, and then come down to rob unsuspecting travelers at night. But Solomon reminds us, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” It was another reason why you didn’t travel the countryside alone. You needed someone with you…someone who would fight for you.

Which brings us back to this critical question: who is fighting for me?

Our journey through life can get awfully cold. And we WILL be attacked. It might be a spiritual attack where Satan and his forces take aim at us. Or it might just be because life is hard in this fallen, broken world that we live in. But whatever the reason, you’re going to get hit. You’re going to take some shots. And you’re going to go down. But Solomon reminds us that “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” You need someone who is fighting for you. Who is it? Who is fighting for you?

There’s a story in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel that, to be honest, is crazy awkward. Brian and I were talking about this story last week, and he laughed and said, “Hey, it’s in the Bible!”

Yes it is, and I want to walk us through that story this morning. I’ll tell you upfront that parts of the story are weird and crazy and really awkward. And I’ll also remind you that it really IS in the Bible, so if you don’t like it, take it up with the guy who wrote it.

The story is in 2 Samuel 10, starting in verse 1. “In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.”

So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord,

“Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” (2 Samuel 10:1-3, NIV)

So here’s the scene. The king of the Ammonites dies, and his son, Hanun, takes over the throne. David, who is king of Israel, thinks, “The old king was really nice to me, so I’m going to express my sympathy to his son.” And he sends a delegation to the land of the Ammonites.

But the Ammonite commanders told their king, “There’s no way David sent these men on a mission of sympathy and condolences. They’re here to gain military intelligence. After they get the information they need, the Israelites will attack us.”

And apparently Hanun was sufficiently paranoid, because he listened to these guys. And instead of welcoming the men David had sent…let’s just say Hanun took a very different approach.

Look at the next verse. “So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.” (2 Samuel 10:4, NIV)

Now we’re getting awkward! Hanun captured these Israelites, shaved off half their beards, and sent them away with their naked butts hanging out! This would be a great verse to lead a Jr. High boys Bible study, wouldn’t it? Dan Robinson, why don’t you get right on that?

What in the world is going on here? You’ve got to understand the cultural context. In this time period, adult Israelite men always wore a full length beard. A man would only shave his beard after a tragedy as sign of deep, deep mourning. Other than that, there were only three groups of people in Israelite culture who didn’t wear beards. 1. Children. 2. Women. 3. Eunuchs.

Well, these guys weren’t children. And they obviously weren’t women. So when Hanun shaved off half their beards, he was saying, “These men aren’t men. They are eunuchs. They have no cojones!”

And again, it’s in the Bible! Please don’t email me.

And on top of mocking their manhood by shaving their beards, he also had the back of their robes cut off so their butts were hanging out!

Hanun insulted these men in every way possible. And by insulting them, he also insulted David, the king who sent them, as well as the entire nation of Israel.

But it was more than just an insult. This was a declaration of war against Israel.

Next verses. “When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.” [David didn’t want these men to be humiliated any further, so he ordered them not to come back to Jerusalem until their beards had grown back.]

When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David [literally, the original Hebrew language says that they “had become a stench in David’s nostrils,” so you get the idea. The Ammonites realized they had roused David’s anger, and that there was going to be a price to pay.], they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob.

On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men.” (2 Samuel 10:5-7, NIV)

Once the Ammonites realized what they had done, they marshaled tens of thousands of troops to be ready for Israel’s attack. And they did it by hiring mercenaries from other nations, like the Arameans. David pegged Joab to lead Israel’s assault against them. But then, things took a turn for the worse.

Next verses. “The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob and the men of Tob and Maakah were by themselves in the open country.

Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him…” (2 Samuel 10:8-9a, NIV)

Joab was leading the Israelite troops into battle, but all of a sudden, he realized that he had been outflanked by the enemy. Enemy troops were in front of him AND behind him.

In other words, Joab had an Admiral Ackbar moment. “It’s a trap!” (Star Wars geeks get it. If you don’t get it, then I feel sorry for you.)

Joab and the Israelite army had marched right into a trap. The Ammonites and the Arameans outmaneuvered them and surrounded them. The enemy was everywhere and they were closing in.

But instead of surrendering, Joab reacted brilliantly. “Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him;

so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 10:9-10, NIV)

Joab sees the trouble they’re in, so he divides the Israelite army into two fighting forces. He would command one force, and his brother, Abishai, would command the other.

And what Joab said next is the key to the whole thing. If you’re wondering why we’re spending so much time breaking down this obscure, Old Testament story, here it is.

Next verses. “Joab said [to Abishai], “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” (2 Samuel 10:11-12, NIV)

I love that. If my enemy is too strong for me, you come to my rescue. If your enemy is too strong for you, I will come to rescue you. Why?

Because “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12a, NIV) That’s why.

That’s a great picture of who we are called to be as the church. We are called to fight for each other.

But now, think of how different it would have been if Joab had taken a different approach. What if Joab told Abishai, “You go over there and fight against your enemy. And while you’re at it, I’m going to attack you, too. So if your enemy doesn’t take you down, I will.”

That would have been incredibly stupid and destructive, because Joab and Abishai were on the same team. And yet that is EXACTLY how a lot of Christians treat each other today. Instead of, “I will fight FOR you,” a lot of Christians seem to think, “I will fight WITH you” is a better tactic.

That’s why churches go to war over stupid stuff like the style of music and dress codes and which English transition of the Bible you MUST read. Honestly, Christians can go to war over the dumbest things.

And it happens way, way too often. For example, one of our partners here at Connect recently got blindsided by somebody in our community. She was out and about with her kids, minding her own business when she was approached by a man who knew that she was part of our church here at Connect. And this guy came up to her and just let it fly. He unleashed all kinds of sarcasm and negativity and outright hostility toward our church.

This lady didn’t do ANYTHING to deserve it. Her only crime is that she’s a partner with our church. But apparently that’s all this guy needed to pull out the long knives and go on the attack. And the thing is, this guy isn’t a non-Christian. He would call himself a follower of Jesus.

And when I heard what happened, I was boiling mad. It’s one thing for somebody to attack me. I’m a pastor. I’m a leader. It goes with the territory. Getting attacked like this is unfortunately part of the deal with being a pastor. But when you come after one of my people like that, I get pissed off real fast. This guy does not want to run into me anytime soon. And after I shared the story with Brian Morrissey, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to run into Brian, either.

But the sad truth is that this crap happens all the time. Maybe it’s happened to you. Maybe somebody has attacked you because you’re a partner with us here at Connect. They don’t like our style. They don’t like that we’re portable. They don’t like our vision. They don’t like our leadership. And on and on and on.

But because they really don’t have anything of substance to go on, they just resort to sniping and sarcasm and passive-aggressive attacks. You know, kind of like you experienced when you were IN JR. HIGH!

Unfortunately these kinds of outside attacks are always going to come at any church that is on-mission. If it’s ever happened to you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Unfortunately garbage like that is always going to happen. I just want you to know that your pastor has your back.

But it can get even worse than that. It’s not just attacks from without. It gets even worse when it’s attacks from within. If Satan can stir up dissension and division within a church, he has already won. A church that is busy fighting amongst itself is never going to take any new ground for the Kingdom of God.

Mark Batterson calls it “sideways energy.” The church is called to play offense, but so often churches wind up playing defense. They waste all their time and energy fighting against each other instead of fighting against the enemy. And it’s all sideways energy. It gets you nowhere.

And that’s why Mark Batterson asked a key question. “What if we used all that sideways energy and converted it into forward energy expanding God’s kingdom?” I don’t know about you, but that sounds better to me.

That’s why unity is so highly valued here at Connect. Because we simply don’t have time to waste on sideways energy. We are surrounded by people who desperately need Jesus, and we’re going to keep doing whatever we have to do to reach them. But that requires unity. Like I said, if Satan can divide our church, then he’s already won. If we have to spend time trying to mediate arguments and heal divisions and put out fires within our church, we won’t have any time to reach people for the gospel.

Jesus gave His life on a cross for our sin. And three days later, He rose to life again, fully and finally defeating sin and giving us the chance at a brand new life. That’s the gospel. That’s what we’re all about here at Connect. And that’s why we have to be all about unity within our church.

That’s why the Apostle Paul sent such a stinging rebuke to the Corinthian church, when he wrote, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-18, NIV)

And that’s why Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NIV)

Make every effort…do whatever it takes…to keep the unity of the Spirit. Unity is essential for a church to actually carry out its vision and mission. And I can honestly say this…Connect is the most unified church I’ve ever been a part of. Ever. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But I also realize that we’re not perfect. In fact, we’re very, very far from it. So I also need to say this…if you do have an issue with someone in our church, if there is a division between you and another partner here at Connect, go to them tonight. Not tomorrow. Not next week or next month. Tonight. We simply don’t have time for sideways energy. We are called to fight FOR each other, not WITH each other.

And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited about our new Connect Groups. Because when you jump into a group, you’re going to surround yourself with people who will be unified with you…and who will fight for you.

A lot of us are battle weary. We’re just tired of the fight. Fighting alone will do that to you. But fighting alone isn’t required. In fact, fighting alone absolutely goes against God’s plan for your life.

He never intended for you to fight through life alone. That’s one of the reasons that He created the church. Because He knows that we need each other. He knows that we need to fight for each other.

If I’m struggling with a sin in my life, I need to know that there are people who are there to fight for me. Not to condemn me. Not to shame me. Not to judge me. But to give me accountability. To fight for me.

If my marriage is struggling, I need to know that there are people who are willing to jump into the fray and fight for my marriage.

If I am hurting, I need to know that there are people who will surround me and fight for me in prayer.

If I’m ready to just give up, I need to know that I have people in my life who won’t give up on me. They’re willing to jump in. They’re willing to get their hands dirty. They’re going to jump into the fight, and they’ll be fighting for me.

There is an amazing authenticity among people who fight for each other. People who fight for you don’t condemn you when you’re not prefect. They don’t judge you when you’re struggling. They don’t look down on you when you’re getting attacked.

Instead, they step in front of you. They take the shots with you. And they go on offense for you when you don’t have the strength to do it yourself. That’s why we’re launching these new groups. That’s why we’re encouraging you to jump in when group sign-ups start next Sunday.

And by the way, if I didn’t describe you right now, I did just describe you at some point in the future. If you’re not battle weary now, you will be. Life just does that to us all. And when that happens, a lot of people run away from the church. The sad part is that is the exact time when they should be running TO the church. They should be running to the people who will fight for them.

Go back to the story in 2 Samuel. We never talked about how things ended. Joab realized that the Israelite army had marched into a trap and that they were completely surrounded. So he split the army into two fighting forces, one commanded by him and one commanded by Abishai.

Joab said [to Abishai], “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”

Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 10:11-14, NIV)

God blessed the Israelites when they fought for each other. Their enemies fled and they achieved victory.

You’ll never be victorious in your life if you’re fighting alone. The enemy is too strong. The traps are too numerous. The war is too dangerous.

So let’s go back to our original question…who is fighting for me?

You’ve had a while to think about that question. Do you like your answer? More importantly, is God honored and pleased by your answer?

If you’re still kicking against this, I want to tell you something. As your pastor, I love you enough to tell you the truth. You’re not that good. You’re just not. You’re not that good. You’re not that smart. You’re not that strong. You’re not that spiritual. You’re just not that good.

That’s why Solomon reminded us that, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

You are not that good. You are not good enough to go it alone in life. And neither am I. We need people who will fight for us. Who will have hard conversations and hold us accountable. Who will surround us in prayer. Who will pick us up when we fall. Who will warm us up when we go cold. Who will defend us when we are attacked.

I’ll be honest…that’s the kind of church I want to be part of. I want to be part of a church where real, authentic community isn’t just a bumper sticker slogan. I want to be part of a church where it actually happens. And I’m thankful that it does happen here at Connect, but it’s going to happen a million times more when our Connect Groups launch. But these groups aren’t just about another church program or something to fill up our church calendar. We don’t do that here at Connect. This isn’t about a program. This is about our mission. This is about our vision. This is about our lives and our relationships and our marriages and our families. This is about being the kind of people that God has called us to be…people who fight for each other.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor