Together: We’re Stronger Together

Categories: Together

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

Tonight we are wrapping up our series called Together. The focus of this series is simple: we were never called to do life alone. We are much better together. We are much healthier together. And like we’re going to talk about tonight as we wrap up this series, we are much stronger together.

Let’s pray and then we’ll kick off the last message in this series.

We’ve been in Ecclesiastes 4 throughout this series. Starting in verse 9, Solomon 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)

Together is better. We’ve been talking about that for the last 4 weeks. And as we wrap up the series, we’re going to focus in on the last words in this passage.

“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Throughout the passage, it’s been about the number two. Two are better than one. If two lie down together, they will keep warm. One may be overpowered, but two can defend themselves. Solomon has been all about the two, until he recites this proverb at the end of the passage. A cord of THREE strands is not quickly broken.

Solomon is just ramping up his point even more. Two is better than one. But three is even better than two. The point is, there is strength in numbers. We are stronger together.

When you weave three strands into a single cord, that cord is going to be really difficult to break because the strands are stronger together.

It’s kind of like paper. A single piece of paper is easy to tear. Even the smallest child can tear a piece of paper.

But a book is different, isn’t it? Now, it’s just paper. This thing is not made of steel. It’s just paper…but it’s a lot of paper. It’s paper that is joined together. And there is not a person in this room who could tear this book in two, because the paper is much, much stronger together.

That’s Solomon’s whole point. If you’re alone, you’re vulnerable. You’re open to attacks. You can easily be taken down.

But when you’re in community, you find strength. We are so much stronger together.

There’s a great story in the Old Testament book of Exodus that I want to walk us through tonight. It’s in Exodus 17, starting in verse 8.

“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “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.”

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

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.

So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (Exodus 17:8-13, NIV)

Isn’t that a cool story? It’s one of my favorite stories from the life of Moses.

Let’s go back and unpack it a little more.

Starting in verse 8, Scripture tells us, “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “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.” (Exodus 17:8-9, NIV)

It really struck me this week how matter-of-fact the Bible is here. “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites.” No fanfare. No descriptive adjectives. It’s just stated as a matter of fact. The Israelites were attacked.

And I think one of the reasons why the Bible is so unemotional and straightforward here is because attacks are just part of life when you follow God. It’s just the truth.

That’s what we talked about last week. Attacks WILL come. They just will. If you follow Jesus, you will be targeted. You will be attacked. We have a spiritual enemy named Satan, and he is gunning for us.

But even if it’s not a direct spiritual attack, we can be attacked just because life is hard in this very broken, very dark, very fallen world that we live in.

But that’s nothing new. Well over 3,000 years ago, we see that the Israelites were attacked. And when they were attacked, “Moses said to Joshua, “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.”

The staff of God was symbolic of God’s power at work among the Israelites. This is the same staff that God had previously turned into a snake. This is the same staff that Moses held up as God parted the Red Sea. This is the same staff that Moses used to strike a rock, and God brought water out of that rock for his thirsty people.

Whenever you read about Moses’ staff, remember that this staff was a symbol of God’s power that was at work among His people. And on the day of the battle with the Amalekites, Moses took that staff up on top of a hill. But it’s also important to see that Moses didn’t take the staff up the hill by himself.

Look at the next verse. “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.” (Exodus 17:10, NIV)

Moses took the staff to the top of the hill, but he didn’t go alone. He brought Aaron and Hur with him. And as the story unfolds, we see why that was such an important decision.

Next verse. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” (Exodus 17:11, NIV)

Again, it’s important to remember what the staff was all about. This wasn’t a magic wand or a superstition. Moses’ staff represented God’s power in and through His people, the Israelites. And in this battle, as long as Moses held the staff high, the Israelites were winning in the battle against the Amalekites. But when Moses lowered the staff, the battle began to turn against God’s people.

And as you can imagine, it would be impossible for anybody to hold their hands up in the air all day long. I don’t care how strong you are, you’re not going to be able to do that forever. Neither was Moses.

Next verse. “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.” (Exodus 17:12, NIV)

Moses wasn’t Superman. He was just a man, and he got tired. And again, the Bible is so matter-of-fact here. It just says, “When Moses’ hands grew tired…”

Because growing tired just happens. We are human. We grow tired physically. We grow tired mentally. We grow tired emotionally. We grow tired spiritually.

Some of us are extremely tired right now. And it’s not just a lack of sleep. It’s more than that. A lot of us are tired of being attacked. We’re tired of taking shots. We’re tired of hearing that God is going to come through, but it never seems to happen. We’re tired of believing that better days are ahead, because the better days never seem to come.

Can I tell you something? You’re normal. Growing tired and weary is normal. Moses got tired, and we’re not better than him.

But when Moses got tired, he didn’t just cash in his chips and give up. Instead, when Moses got tired, he leaned into his community.

Read this verse again. “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.” (Exodus 17:12, NIV)

This is the way one artist pictured the scene.

Aaron and Hur saw that Moses was weakening, so they did what people do in healthy, authentic community. They stepped in. They sat Moses down. Then they grabbed Moses’ hands and they held his hands up for the rest of the day.

And we see the result in the next verse. “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (Exodus 17:13, NIV)

God’s people were victorious. Joshua led the Israelites to victory, because the staff of God had been raised. But the staff wouldn’t have been raised if Moses hadn’t been in community.

What if Moses’ had said, “I’ve got this. I don’t need anybody else. I don’t need any help. I know what I’m doing. I’m heading up this hill by myself. I can handle it.”

What would have happened? God’s people would have been defeated. But a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Three men went to the top of that hill. Moses didn’t climb that hill alone. He climbed that hill in community. And that community brought about victory.

Community brings victory. It was true for the Israelites, and it’s true for us. Community brings victory, because we are stronger together.

Think about what we saw in this story. Joshua led the Israelites to victory, but Joshua couldn’t have done it without Moses. And Moses couldn’t have done it without Aaron and Hur. This was a team win all the way around. This wasn’t an individual victory. This victory came through community.

And every win that our church experiences works the same way. Every win we experience is a community win. Every win is something that we experience because we’re stronger together.

Let me just give you an example. And it’s an example that plays out all the time in our church. Someone here at Connect invites a friend to church. As partners, we are committed to sharing the gospel with the people in our lives. And one of the easiest ways to start is a simple invitation to church.

So this partner invites a friend to church. The friend comes. Their friend is apprehensive and nervous about visiting a new church. Those of us who have been here a while can forget how awkward and intimidating visiting a new church can be. But when this person arrives at Connect, they are immediately greeted by our Connect Team, those smiling folks in the green shirts. They check their kids in Connect Kids, and they are reassured because everyone is so friendly and excited to meet their kids. Plus, they see our security personnel and they rest easy knowing their kids are safe.

Then they walk into the main room, and they experience a warm, and welcoming environment that was created by our setup team. Their teenager, who is also feeling really awkward and uncomfortable about this new church, is greeted by some of the volunteers from Connect Students and is invited to join them on Sunday evening.

Then the countdown ends and the service starts. And they are surprised that you can actually sing music that is modern and relevant in church, all thanks to our band and our media techs. And then when church is over, they are given a gift by our Connect Team and they leave thinking, “I wasn’t sure about this church, but I think I might come back next week.”

And Connect experiences a win. More importantly, the Kingdom of God experiences a win. And it is all because we are stronger together. Think of all the people that had a hand in making that win a reality.

Jud Wilhite said, “When you’re a part of the team, you’re a part of the win.”

If you serve in any way here at Connect, you are part of our team. And every time our church scores a win, you’re part of that win.

Here at Connect, we completely embrace the truth that, without our volunteers, we are nothing. If our church staff was gone tomorrow, our church would be ok. If our volunteers were gone tomorrow, our church ceases to exist.

And that’s why we want to take an opportunity to really pour into our volunteers. On March 15, we’re hosting an event called Volunteer Fuel. It’s from 5:00-6:00 pm that Sunday evening. Now, to be clear, this is not another Night of Worship. We’ll be meeting for church that morning like usual. This event is different. We’re inviting all our volunteers back that evening for an event just to thank them. To encourage them. To show them how much we appreciate them. It’s going to be a blast! Our band is cooking up some really fun stuff. We’re going to hear from some of our volunteers themselves. If you miss this, you WILL regret it. I promise!

But it’s all because we understand that our church is seeing victories because of our team. Community brings victory. That is true in the church, and that is true in our lives.

Life is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. God designed us to live in community, and we’ll never live the lives that He planned for us if we reject that truth.

That’s why in Proverbs 24, Solomon reminds us, “…victory is won through many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:6b, NIV)

Or another translation says, “…in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 24:6b, ESV)

We need a community of people speaking into our lives. We need to surround ourselves with people who will give us wise counsel. We need to team up with people who will fight for us. We need people who will circle around us, especially when life gets hard.

That’s why we are launching our brand new Connect Groups. Our Connect Groups are small groups of people that will meet in homes throughout the week. They are groups that will share life together. Groups that will celebrate the victories, mourn the losses, and fight through life together.

Christians who think they don’t need to live in community are really ignoring a ton of Scripture. You’ve got to rip a whole lot of pages out of your Bible if you’re going to convince yourself that you don’t need community. It is all over the place in Scripture, Old and New Testaments. Because God’s plan for His people has ALWAYS been community. It’s ALWAYS been about sharing life together. And when we follow God’s plan for our lives, we are always healthier. We are always stronger.

We have been building toward this day for a long time now. Sign-ups for these groups officially opens today.

All you have to do is go to connect.cc/groups and click on “Sign Up For A Group.” If you already have a “My Connect” account, you can sign up right there and you’re done. My Connect is how we do online giving, volunteer scheduling, etc.

If you don’t have an account, you can register for one. It might take up to 24 hours for your account to activate, so please be patient.

And if you don’t have internet access, just see Brian Morrissey after church today and he’ll make sure to get you signed up for a group.

There’s a reason we’re throwing everything we’ve got into these groups. It’s not because we think everyone needs one more thing to do. It’s not because we think a busy church calendar means an effective church. Actually, we work very hard to keep our church calendar streamlined and simple. We only schedule stuff that actually matters…that actually makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

These groups qualify. One of the core values of our church is growth and authentic community happen best in small groups. We love our corporate church gathering on Sundays. And we always will. Our Sunday experiences will always be crucial to who we are. But the life change that happens on Sundays just can’t compare with what happens in smaller groups. Something incredible happens when God’s people live together in community.

In the story from Exodus, something amazing happened because of community. God worked in a mighty way in and through His people. God showed up when His people were in community. And the same thing still happens today.

In fact, Jesus made this promise in Matthew 18. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20, KJV)

Jesus shows up when His people are in community. To be honest, that ought to be the only reason you need to live in authentic community. We shouldn’t have to say anything more than that. If I had to pick one reason above all others to jump into a Connect Group, there it is. Because this isn’t me saying it. This isn’t me trying to sell you on a new church program or initiative. I’m not trying to sell you anything at all. I’m just telling you what Jesus Himself said.

Jesus is the One that gave His life for us on a cross, paying the price for all our sin and setting us free. And then He rose to life again, giving us the gift of a new life. And that new life is fully realized when we live in community.

Jesus promised to show up when His people are together…when they are in community. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

We took our kids sledding this past week. And we had a blast! We started trying to see who could go the fastest and the farthest down the hill. There were a few pretty fantastic wipeouts as we all chased the record. I think Brock and I might have tied for the most spectacular crashes. I had one crash where I’m not even sure what happened. All I know is that I was going down the hill one second, and the next second all I could see was my boots pointed straight up at the sky. Thankfully there is no video evidence. But it was all done as we tried to see who could go the fastest and the farthest.

Ryan and Brock kept trying to beat the record, but they just couldn’t do it. And then they figured out something…they figured out that if they rode the sled together, the additional weight would help them go a lot further.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this illustrates a simple, but critical truth. We go a lot further together.

One more time from Ecclesiastes 4. Solomon 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)

We are better, we are healthier, we are stronger, together.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor