2020 VISION: THE WOUNDED AND EXHAUSTED

RECOGNISING THAT SOME HAVE TO RECEIVE CARE AND HEALING AS PART OF THEIR EQUIPPING

KEYNOTE VERSE

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4: 11-12)

PREFACE

The “people” that leaders are called to “equip…for works of service” are the church family.

As well as being a “family” they are also (as we saw in our last session) an “army” that is called to fight in the daily battles of life against our enemy, the devil – who, although defeated, is fighting with all his might to destroy as many people in this world as he can in his anger and hatred of Almighty and all-loving Father God.

And in our 2020 Vision, in this army we have already identified several tiers of “warriors”.

Firstly, there are the leaders – typified by Moses (and also Elijah) who are being called to not only lead well but also seek out and train-up those who are going to the leaders of the future – their successors – the ones to whom they are to pass on the baton of leadership. Our 2020 Vision challenge to the leaders is to ensure that they “throw the mantle” over the ones who are set-apart by God to succeed them in leadership.

Next, there are the young warriors – typified by Joshua – who should be serving hard in the “army of the LORD” and who should be (like Elisha) committing themselves to follow, serve, and learn from the leaders who are called to prepare them for the future – however long this takes. The challenge to these is to commit themselves to following, serving, learning, practicing, in the direction given to them by the leaders.

Last time we explored the critical role of the third group in this spiritual army – the “support staff” – those who, like Aaron and Hur, stand side-by-side with the leaders and the warriors – praying for them and encouraging them and looking after their needs as they cry out “onward Christian soldiers”. The challenge to them is to commit themselves to prayer and support – knowing that they have, arguably, the most important role of all – for, as we saw, without them the battle will never be won!

But, in this session, we MUST recognise that there is one more group in our Christian army that we so easily forget….those who are SICK, those who are EXHAUSTED by the battle, those who have been WOUNDED in the battle, and those who have been taken PRISONER in the battle.

Our 2020 Vision is that ALL God’s people are to be “equip(ped) for works of service”. The equipping of this last group begins with lavishing care on them. For ALL God’s people are equally important…

WE ALL GET SICK SOMETIMES

9 years ago my life was very much at a point of crisis…and I wasn’t even aware of it. I thought that I was “coping quite well, thank you” – when really I was managing things in my own strength (ah! Mistake!). I was working 12-hour days at my place of employment while playing a full role in my local church. In addition to this I was facing an on-going court case where a lot of money was involved. And suddenly, one day, with no real warning, I just went “ping” – that’s all I can describe it as. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my desk and felt rather weird – as if everything had gone distant. My deputy came into the room and began to talk to me. I looked at her – recognising the words but realising they made no sense to me. I tried to talk but couldn’t get any words out. I began to shake and literally became a “gibbering wreck”. How I got home I don’t know but the doctor told me that I had suffered “burn out” and that only rest and medication would bring recovery. Well, I had no choice but to take the first. I quickly rejected the latter as I found the side-effects very disturbing. The reality was that it was 6 months rest, the daily love and care of Paula, and the healing power of God that got me through this time.

The church? Well, they were very loving towards me during this time – but didn’t really know how to help – and besides I didn’t share much with them…they just knew that something was wrong…

The truth is that we ALL get sick sometimes. And when we do we are STILL very much a part of God’s people, God’s family, God’s army, and our 2020 Vision must be that we recognise those amongst us who are “sick” and do all we can to equip them to get better so that they can get back into the fray.

To get an idea of what all this looks like, let us study the experience of David in 1 Samuel 30

DAVID AND THE AMALEKITES AND OUR 2020 VISION

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured – Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ Abiathar brought it to him, and David enquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’

‘Pursue them,’ he answered. ‘You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.’

David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. 10 Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit.

11 They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David…

15 David asked him, ‘Can you lead me down to this raiding party?’…

16 He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and revelling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. 17 David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. 18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, ‘This is David’s plunder.’

21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. 22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, ‘Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’

23 David replied, ‘No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All shall share alike.’ 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.

THE CONTEXT: IT’S THOSE AMALEKITES AGAIN!

David was himself going through a tough time. He was fleeing from his own king – Saul – who wanted to kill him. He was forced to take refuge with the enemy – the Philistines. Now, while he was away with his warriors, those who were against him took the opportunity to burn his town and abduct the women and children – including his own two wives (let’s not even go there now!) – taking them into captivity and slavery.

And who did all this? It’s those Amalekites again! The same group that we saw attacking Moses in the desert! We have seen that the Amalekites represent the world – a world that is jealous of us, God’s people; a world that hates us and what we stand for; a world that wants the blessings that we have. We should not be surprised!

Now – have a look at the two reactions that are exhibited by the news:

  • The men wept and then talked of stoning David (v 4-6). What! Was it David’s fault? They were right to weep. It is right to grieve when trouble overtakes us – let us not try any longer to pretend that all is OK. But, it is wrong to blame others for this trouble. When trouble comes on you, take care that you do not look for a scapegoat in your leaders saying “you did not protect me, help me, stop this thing happening and failed to make things better”. Recognise where the trouble comes from – the fallen world in which you live (typified by the Amalekites) and our enemy, the devil, who is behind it all. Don’t “stone the leaders”!
  • David wept and then “found strength in the LORD his God” (v 4-6) and then asked God what he should do (v 7-8). David wept as it is right to grieve when trouble overtakes us. But, he did not panic, blame others and seek to sortt the mess out in his own strength. No! He did not make turning to God his “last resort” when all else had failed but rather made trusting in God and seeking a solution to the problem his “first port of call”. When trouble besets us, let us learn the lesson of David and  go to Father God in prayer, petition, fasting, Bible reading…desperation! And refuse to move until we have the answer!

THIS TIME OF TROUBLE AND OUR 2020 VISION

There is so much we can look at in this passage, but we must focus on its application to our subject at hand.

In this passage we can identify the 3 groups already mentioned in previous sessions:

  • There is David – the leader. He is called by God to have the vision and calling to lead his band against the Amalekites. He can be equated to Elijah and to Moses in our previous sessions. And in the same way he is soon to be called to prepare for his successors. He will become king of Israel and by the middle of his reign he correctly begins to give opportunities to others to lead in the battles against the enemy and then he focuses on his son, Solomon, as the one to whom he will pass the baton of kingship to – training him for his role day-by-day. Is this YOUR role today?

[NB: there is a warning here to leaders as we give the opportunity to others to take up the mantle and learn how to lead. The time came in David’s life when he sent others out to fight. Rather than stand watching those he is training – as Moses did on the hill-side as Joshua fought the battle – David lounged in his palace and fell into adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Leaders: keep doing the work that God has called you to do – work hard in equipping the next generation to lead – watch over them. Letting go and letting them do the work on their own puts you in danger of succumbing to all the temptations that the world wishes to entice you with…I have seen it in the lives of so many leaders…I have seen it in my own life.]

  • There are the warriors – the young men who have gathered around David, who follow him, trust him (as long as all is going well it seems!), learn from him, and do the things that he tells them to do. They can be equated to Elisha and Joshua in our previous sessions. Is this YOUR role today?
  • There are the supporters – Abiathar the priest is there by David’s side – interceding on his behalf before God, encouraging David (and the warriors) all the way. He can be equated to Aaron and Hur in our previous sections. Is this YOUR role today?

But now we focus on another group who are evident in this account. They can be seen in two places: Those who have been taken captive by the enemy (v 2 – the wives and children and elderly – and, it can be implied, the sick and the wounded) and the warriors who were exhausted and had to be left behind before the battle (v 9-10).

In any ancient army the wives and children and elderly were those who supported the army – they cooked the food, washed the clothes and uniforms, and (in many ways) ensured that the warriors had all they needed. As such they are in our third group, already studied, the supporters.

Our interest now is to understand where the others fit into our 2020 Vision to equip the people for service:

  • The sick
  • The wounded
  • The exhausted
  • The captives

THE SICK AND OUR 2020 VISION

Until very recent times the biggest killer in an army was sickness – the diseases and maladies that afflict a fighting unit. It is estimated that 70% of all deaths in Napoleon’s disastrous war on the Russians in 1815 were caused by disease and the cold rather than by battle.

When a soldier is ill they cannot effectively fight.

It was during the Crimean War that a devout woman called Florence Nightingale revolutionised hospital treatment and through tough, but loving, care saved the lives of countless numbers of British troops – restoring them to health and allowing them to return to the battle.

Let our 2020 Vision be this. That we recognise that there will always be the sick amongst us – and that this sickness can take the form of physical, emotional, mental or spiritual sickness. Let us recognise that those who are sick amongst us cannot effectively “fight” in the daily battles of life. They need us to be “Florence Nightingale’s” to them – to love them and care for them. Let us carry our spiritual lamps to them so that they trust in our care and get better. In this way we will equip them to return to service for the LORD.

THE WOUNDED AND OUR 2020 VISION

In a battle many will suffer wounds – some slight, like a nick or a graze; others more serious, like the loss of a limb. Left untended these warriors will find their wounds become gangrenous and they shall die. From the time of the First World War “forward clearing stations” would seek to clean the wounds, cauterise the amputations and provide first aid so that the soldier would live.

In the daily battle of life in which we all fight we must deal with those who are wounded – hurt by the words and actions of those with whom we live or work or relate.

If we, the church army, do not care for these people who are in pain from what has happened to them, then they will spiritually die. Is this YOU? And are WE aware of who these people are? And are we providing spiritual “first aid” to them through binding up their spiritual wounds with our care and love and prayers and service? If we do then we will be fulfilling our 2020 Vision to equip these wounded people.

THE EXHAUSTED AND OUR 2020 VISION

A battle is hard work! It is no surprise that some will be exhausted by it – both mentally and physically. Tolerance amongst generals in armies has not always been evident here. Tired soldiers would be kicked back into line; those suffering mental exhaustion would be considered to have “low moral fibre” and distained. It was only during the First World War that doctors really began to understand the effect of constant exposure to battle on the soldier. “Low moral fibre” was a term thankfully replaced by “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and it was recognised that total rest and much counselling was needed to restore the soldier to health.

And exhaustion can happen to anyone of us and at any time. It happened to me 9 years ago while I was in the “thick of it”. It happened to my best friend, Bill, years after being caught as a London fire-fighter at the bottom of a burning escalator at the “Charing Cross Tube disaster”. Both of us needed a long period of total rest and understanding and spiritual support to recover. And it can happen to you.

If we, the church army, do not care for these people who are exhausted from constant hard work and service for the LORD, then they will spiritually die. Is this YOU? And are WE aware of who these people are? And are we providing spiritual rest for them? Are we taking the load off them? Are we showing them care and love and prayers and service? Are we willing to send them off for R&R – look at the wonderful work of centres like Entrepierres, established to support those who need rest. If we do then we will be fulfilling our 2020 Vision to equip these exhausted people.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER AND THE CHALLENGES THAT FACE US ALL

There is not one of us who has not at some time faced that time of crisis when we know we cannot go on – that point when we have to admit we are not “fit for battle”.

As with so much that we have seen already in this series, care for the sick, wounded, exhausted and captives is a two-sided coin:

9 years ago I was unwilling to confess to my church that I had “burnt out”. I was ashamed and felt a failure. The FIRST thing that I should have done was confess – and confess first to my loving Father in Heaven. Jesus encourages us to do this –

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28)

We have a wonderful, almighty, all-caring and all-loving God who is able to lift you up and wants to see you recover – but who also chooses to work in union with us so…

Secondly, I should have confessed to my church family – the army of which I am a part. And then they have a responsibility towards me (and you) which is so well summarised by the wise king Solomon –

“Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4: 10)

We need to be there for them. The challenge for us is this:

  • Let us care for those who are sick amongst us
  • Let us provide healing for those who have been wounded amongst us
  • Let us give rest to those who are exhausted
  • Let us go all-out to save those who have been taken captive

And let us remember that it is OUR responsibility – individually and corporately. For we are family and a “band of brothers”. Let us choose to stand by and value those who are sick and wounded and exhausted and captive amongst us – for our 2020 Vision is that they too are our people and need to be equipped for works of service…when they  are ready, when they are well, when they are saved.

FOR FURTHER STUDY – ON YOUR OWN OR IN HOUSEGROUPS

  • It is a true saying that “prevention is better than cure”. What can we do as individuals and as a church to ensure that we prevent the following which cause us to be less effective in the daily battle of life:
  • Sickness
  • Being wounded
  • Exhaustion
  • Being taken captive
  • Have you experience of being “taken out” of the battle in any of the ways above? Did you find that God used the experience for your good (Romans 8: 28)? Are you still in trouble now – and if so, what should be done about it?
  • A couple of clips you might find helpful to watch:
  • When trouble comes do we react like David or the young warriors?
  • So, if a person does get “taken out” by one (or more) of the 4 situations listed above what CAN we do as individuals or the church family to help?