DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

The Path to Greatness (Philippians 2:1-11)

Introduction

Scene from "Changing Lanes" - uncomfortable dinner conversation

Have you ever been in a social gathering in which there was underlying tension that everyone was afraid to talk about?

What happens - "Elephant in the room" - everyone knows it, but nobody wants to address it

Emotions like fear, blaming, avoidance techniques

Open Bibles to Philippians 2

Paul is addressing a church that he loves. The passage we're about to read is gentle and full of emotion.

Context

Paul and the Philippians lived in a culture in which it wasn't safe to follow Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul was in jail for following Christ. Paul had been addressing this issue.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. (Philippians 1:29)

Although the church was facing possible persecution, that wasn't the primary danger. There was a problem in the church just as serious.

The problem was disunity. We don't know the details. We get a hint of it later on in Philippians 4:

And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. (Philippians 4:2)

Our Problem

From the moment of birth, we think that it's all about us. Our natural tendencies, plus a world that tells us that we're number one, conspire to make us think that it's all about us.

This is selfishness, and the problem is that selfishness is a form of pride - the top of the list of the seven deadly sins.

The issue is never the issue. The issue is our hearts. The disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem. It's a problem that can't be changed by rules or threats.

KEY: Change of heart

Acting on relationships with each other because of what God has done for us.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? (Philippians 2:1)

How does this change work? It changes our attitudes in a radical way.

This can't happen apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.

Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. (Philippians 2:2-4)

The most important phrase here: "agreeing wholeheartedly" or "same mind" in other translations. The idea isn't that we are the same. It's that a group of individuals, despite their differences, are willing to show love for one another by putting others first.

This is the road to greatness - putting others first.

"But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)

Giving rather than getting

Serving rather than being served

Obedience rather than dominance

Example: Jesus

Point: that a God who is infinitely powerful and eternal could give up his rights to identify with the powerless and slaves in their fate. He suffered the cruelest form of execution for us.

Early Christian hymn:

Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Questions

Principles from Life Together (by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) - Christians should:

Hold their tongues, refusing to speak uncharitably about a Christian brother;

Cultivate the humility that comes from understanding that they, like Paul, are the greatest of sinners and can only live in God's sight by his grace;

Listen "long and patiently" so that they will understand their fellow Christian's need;

Refuse to consider their time and calling so valuable that they cannot be interrupted to help with unexpected needs, no matter how small or menial;

Bear the burdens of brothers and sisters in the Lord, both be preserving freedom and by forgiving their sinful abuse of that freedom;

Declare God's word to their fellow believers when they need to hear it;

Understand that Christian authority is characterized by service and does not call attention to the one who performs the service.

What issues am I facing in my life in which I feel the problem is with somebody else?

Or, on the other hand, how quick am I to realize that whenever I think that the problem is out there, that thought is the problem?

What is one example of an issue in my life in which I need to show love for others by putting their interests ahead of mine, even if it costs me something?

Identify the issue. Commit right now to taking some specific action in the coming week that will model what Jesus did for me.

"So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you." (1 Peter 5:6)

Developing a Purpose (Philippians 1:12-30)

Last week we started looking at Philippians.? It's a personal letter written by somebody in very difficult circumstances.? Surprisingly, it's a letter that's full of joy.? One of the reasons I want to look at this letter is to try to discover how we - no matter what circumstances we're living through - can live beyond the mundane to live lives of joy.? If you have your Bibles with you today, I invite you to open them to Philippians 1.

As I think back through history, most of the people who were able to accomplish great things did so in the context of very difficult circumstances.

Dr. Martin Luther King
Nelson Mandela
Corrie Ten Boom

Some people are able to accomplish great things in very difficult circumstances.? What's more, they're able to maintain a sense of calm and purpose.? This matters to us because we spend a lot of time looking for reasonably good circumstances before we make our mark.? How is it possible to rise above the circumstances of life?? How is it possible to make a mark and live a life that's not only joyful but significant?? Today, I'd like to look at a passage of Scripture that tells us how.

Paul's Circumstances

I want to begin by giving you my theory about how it's possible to rise above our circumstances.

Key: To live for something that is bigger than our circumstances

Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge put it this way:

What gets you going in the morning, eager to embrace whatever might be in store?? What motivates you to do your best, day in and day out?? Why do people push their own limits to get extraordinary things done?

A lot of us have tried to answer this question in a lot of different ways:

Our jobs
Our families
Possessions
Pleasures

The problem with all of these is that they're not big enough or permanent enough to overcome the obstacles we face in life.? The problem is - most of us have nothing bigger to sustain us, give us purpose and joy even in incredibly difficult circumstances.

Paul's circumstances:

12And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.

"Everything that happened to me":

This is about more than just prison.? There were likely some other more recent circumstances that Paul was writing about.? Perhaps Paul had been moved from house arrest, or his trial date was approaching.? It was something that was considered bad news.? Paul's problems included:

1. PRISON

Paul's prison was a literal one.? We may be facing circumstances we didn't choose, which don't into our plans, from which we can't escape.

2. OPPOSITION

15Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16They preach because they love me, for they know the Lord brought me here to defend the Good News. 17Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

Some preachers in Rome weren't responding to Paul's imprisonment with the highest of motives.? They were doctrinally sound…yet mean and selfish.? They were using his imprisonment for their own benefit.? It would be a little like an associate pastor pulling a coup while the senior pastor was away.

  1. POSSIBLE DEATH

    20For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. 21For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. 22Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don't know which is better. 23I'm torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, 24but it is better for you that I live.

    We do know that Paul was released from this imprisonment, and even anticipated this release.? When Paul wrote, the outcome of the trial was still uncertain.? His thoughts turned to the possibility of death.

What would give someone in jail, betrayed by his friends, with his own life in danger, be filled with joy?? What would cause him to see himself as part of a pioneer advance ("helped to spread" in verse 12) of the Gospel?? To see the good that was coming from people who were promoting themselves at his expense?? To view even the possibility of death without alarm?

Paul had a purpose that was bigger than his circumstances.

If we live as if earth is all there is, and we live for only what lasts here - money, popularity, pleasure, prestige - we won't have enough to live for.

We don't have something worth living for until we have something worth dying for.

There's freedom in coming to the place at which our purpose is so huge we've got nothing to lose.

"But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus-the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love." (Acts 20:24)

How to Rise Above Circumstances

This begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.? Paul's priorities changed when he met Jesus on a road to somewhere else.? Meeting Jesus changes everything, and it elevates your life from one of temporary impact to one of eternal impact.? (You probably know very little about your great-grandparents; our impact isn't as big as we think.)

Three attitudes that Paul had that helped him rise above his circumstances:

1. BELIEF - God is in control of every circumstance

19For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will all turn out for my deliverance.

Only have two options: to believe that this is all a series of co-incidences and mistakes, or to believe that God is at work in our lives, even in and through (not despite) our difficult circumstances.

Key: Look at the past to see how God has been at work in difficulties.

2. PRIORITY - I'm part of something bigger than my life

Paul didn't measure what was happening in his life according to how it affected his comfort or his plans, or even his life.? He measured everything according to how it accomplished his life mission.

12And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.

18But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

20For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die.

3. PERSPECTIVE - The wider, longer view

Often we live as if this is all that there is.? If this is true, then it does make sense to live like everyone else.? But if you believe in eternity, that changes everything.

Our perspective: right now

A smart perso n's perspective: life

God's perspective: eternity

Our jobs, possessions, hang-ups become pretty insignificant compared to the realization that we're members of and contributors to heaven.

27But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven.

Roman citizenship made you one of the elite with freedom and greater privileges.? It was rare and highly valued.? Citizenship of heaven leads to freedom and a complete change of perspective.

Evaluation (Scale of 1-10)

How would I rate the level of joy in my life? _____

How regularly do I remind myself that God is in control of every circumstance? _____

Do I see the bigger purpose of my life - to join Jesus in what he is doing? _____

How often do I think from a longer (eternal) perspective? _____

Prayer:

That we would rise above our circumstances; realize the power of a life well lived for an eternal purpose

Remind ourselves that God is in control; that we're part of something bigger; that eternity is much bigger than our lives.

Pray that our meeting with Jesus Christ would change our priorities forever.

Deep Impact (Philippians 1:1-11)

Do you ever have the feeling that your life is out of control?? Sometimes it seems that the pace of life is so rapid that it's hard to even hang on.? Every day blends into another day, and sometimes we want to just scream "Stop!"

It's not just the speed, it's also the problems that we face.? Almost every we encounter problems - some small, some big - that sometimes cause us to lose hope.? Just yesterday I got a call from someone in the church who had just experienced an unbelievable tragedy.? Even when life is going well, it's hard to feel in control.? When something tragic happens, it's becomes almost impossible to do anything more than survive.? Never mind joy.? For a lot of us, we've given up on ever wanting to experience a life of joy.? Sometimes it's enough just to feel that we can hang on and keep going.

Today, we're going to start looking at a book in the Bible called Philippians, because it talks about how to live a life of joy no matter what's going on in your life.? Philippians is actually a personal letter from the apostle Paul to a church that he founded.? Out of all the letters that Paul wrote, this is one of the most personal.? It was actually written while Paul was under house arrest for a period of two years. ?I get a flat tire and I lose my joy.? Paul is imprisoned for two years, and all he can write about is joy.

This letter is going to touch on a lot of issues that we face.? It covers some topics relevant to our church right now, as well as many issues in our personal lives.? The main question we'll wrestle with is this: how is it possible to sustain joy in the problems and complexity of life?? How can I live a life of joy right here, right now?? Joy is different from happiness.? Joy is better.? Happiness comes and goes; joy can remain.? Happiness depends on what's taking place around us.? Joy is internal.? You can have joy no matter what's going on in life.? We're going to begin to discover how we can live a joyful life even when our circumstances are against us.

Where Joy Begins

If you have a Bible with you, let's look at Philippians 1.

One of the keys to a joyful life: RELATIONSHIPS

We've all had people who have walked with us at a time of need.? Personal examples.

The Philippians & Paul had developed a deep relationship through riots, beatings, jail, and hardship (Acts 16, Philippians 4:10-19).

10How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me… (Philippians 4:10)

The warmth of this relationship is evident in this letter.? Paul and the Philippians had obviously developed a relationship that sustained them, even through adversity.

3Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy…7It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart…8God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

The problem today:? Over time, that which was central to the early church - relationships - has become secondary.? Our emphasis on other things, even good things, has led us to de-emphasize the importance of relationships.

That's what church is about: not buildings, budgets, committees, programs, sitting in rows, but in eating together, serving together

Not an event or a program, but a relationship built over time

Church can be about more than relationships, but it can't be or do anything unless relationships are at its core.

More Personally

The time will come that we will need these relationships to sustain us.

We need these relationships to encourage us, hold us accountable.

There's a longing in our hearts to belong to this kind of community.

How?

How do we develop that kind of relationship??

1. Partner together

3Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy 5because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

Partner = a two-sided relationship - includes not only faith, but more

Working together, financial support, hospitality, service

This is why it's important to serve God - not just for your benefit, not just for the ministry you will accomplish, but also for the relationships you will build.

Illustration: Foodfest - workers got to know more people in one night than they had in a couple years of attending

How to partner with others: work together, provide practical help, financial support, prayer, hospitality.? The result, the byproduct: strong, abiding relationships

2. Suffer together

7It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart. We have shared together the blessings of God, both when I was in prison and when I was out, defending the truth and telling others the Good News. 8God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

Had become partners not only in working together, but also shared his suffering

When your association with someone costs you something, then you have a genuine relationship.

Was dangerous to associate with Paul.

They treated his misfortunes as their own.

When trouble hits, some friends go into hiding.? Some take on your troubles as their own.? We need people who will walk with us no matter what we go through.

Personal illustration: leadership crisis; friends who cleared the calendar, could call on day or night

Need to say, need to hear, "I am committed to you, no matter what"

3. Pray

9I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. 10For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until Christ returns. 11May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Paul's prayer for these people he loved was essentially that they would love even more

Love never reaches the saturation point.? We never get to the place of "Enough love already!"

What happens when we commit to praying for others, specifically and purposefully: God not only honors those prayers, but he changes our hearts so that we love others even more.? That's why it's good to pray for our enemies.

Action Steps

This doesn't require a program. It requires two things:

A change of attitude

Redefine the checklist of what church is - attend service, financially support

Church isn't essentially about programs, budgets, services.? It's ultimately about two relationships: with God, through his Son the Lord Jesus, and with others.

A specific action

Invite somebody to your house

Meet somebody at work for lunch

Join a couple of others who get t ogether

Get involved in a ministry

Schedule it

Take a risk - trial and error

25And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

He's not talking about church services.? He's talking about community, relationships, eating together, getting together in houses.? Not encouragement and warning from the pulpit, but from person to person

Need support of the community - Encouragement ("I'm with you") and warning ("I won't let you get too far off course.)

Prayer

We want this - to have joy, to have these sort of relationships.

Help us to take one of the action steps

May we be a church known by its love.

Rekindle the Flame (2 Timothy 1:5-7)

INTRODUCTION

Welcome back from the summer

As we come back, it's a very different time from last year

ReFocusing's over; implementation just starting

New challenges - financial deficit; busyness; implementation; heightened expectations

Regrets - some mistakes; lost people; some hurt

I've been thinking of how to kick off this year; I believe God has led me to something he wants me to communicate today.

DON'T FEAR

As I was preparing for today, my mind went back to one of the low points of my summer.

Camping - the joy of having a Sunday off

Woke up Sunday throwing up; spent the entire day sick and sleeping

Negative thought cycle - when I was sick, everything I thought of was too much to handle; wanted to die

It's a serious thing to lose heart. When we give in to circumstances, give up, we lose our effectiveness and influence those around us.

Transition

Does anyone here have challenging circumstances? Do churches ever reach that point at which it's easier to lose heart, give into discouragement?

It's possible for people - and churches - to do this, and to stop living long before they die.

Personal story: wanting, at times, to give up when challenges come

Today's passage is for you, for me. Turn to 2 Timothy 1:5-7

Timothy was a young, timid pastor in a challenging situation. He had a good spiritual heritage, and special gifts from the Spirit to enable him to serve the church. The problem was that Timothy had lost heart.

I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother, Eunice, and your grandmother, Lois. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. (2 Timothy 1:5-6)

Question: Why have you lost heart?

THE SOLUTION

What I know about you

God didn't make you to lose heart, to give up

That is why we never give up...So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

God didn't make you for easy circumstances.

John Ortberg: "When in revelation has God ever given a leader an easy assignment?"

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Timothy's circumstances were caused by a combination of his personality, criticism, and opposition.

When we allow fear and doubt to extinguish the gifts God has given us, we not only lose our effectiveness, but we affect those around us.

"Fan into flame" = rekindle the fire and passion of giftedness that God has given you

"The tendency of fire is to go out. Watch the fire on the altar of your heart." (General Booth)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I believe God has called us to three areas of focus this year:

1. POWER

"Then he said to me, "This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

The way our church will prevail is not by our abilities or strengths, but by God's power.

"A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-13)

2. LOVE

"There are three things that will endure-faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Recent book - "Love is the Killer App"

There is never a reason not to love. Love is the first commandment, the mark of the church.

1 Corinthians 13 was written not in the context of marriage, but of church life

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

"Don't grumble about each other, my brothers and sisters, or God will judge you. For look! The great Judge is coming. He is standing at the door!" (James 5:9)

3. SELF-DISCIPLINE

Self-discipline = the power to keep oneself in hand, free from distraction and hesitation

Often the deciding factor between and success and failure

At Richview: following through on commitments, implementation and communication

MY LIFE - ACTION STEPS

You probably already know what it takes to rekindle your flame. Most fires go out by neglect. Fanning the flame is a choice.

What specific action can you take to rekindle the flame of your giftedness?

Remember when you received the gift, discovered when you had it.

Remember when God used your giftedness.

See the situation with fresh eyes, as if it's your first day.

Remove influences that extinguish your flame.

Power

Pray

Love

Get right with someone

Refuse to join with others who grumble

Self-discipline

Give God the best; giving; refuse to give in or give up

Make a practical action step.

CLOSING COMMITMENT

I am my church . . .

My church is composed of people like me. We make it what it is.
It will be friendly, if I am.
Its pews will be filled, if I help fill them.
It will do great work, if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.
It will bring other people into its worship and fellowship, if I bring them.
It will be a church of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, and a church with a noble spirit, if I, who makes it what it is, am filled with these traits.
Therefore, with the help of God, I shall dedicate myself to the task of being all the things I want my church to be. (Anonymous)

The Pastor's Most Valuable Player (Exodus 17)

Stan Toler recently wrote a little book entitled, You Might Be a Preacher If

You might be a preacher if you've ever received an anonymous U-Haul gift certificate.
You might be a preacher if you've ever dreamed that you were preaching, only to awaken and discover you were.
You might be a preacher if you find yourself counting people at a sporting event.
You might be a preacher if you're leading the church into the 21st century, but don't know what you're preaching on Sunday.
You might be a preacher if you ever wanted to wish people Merry Christmas at Easter, because that's the next time you're going to see them.
You might be a preacher you've ever wanted to give the soundman a bit of feedback of your own.
You might be a preacher if you've ever walked up to the counter at the Dairy Queen and ordered a church split.

You might be a preacher if you've written a letter of resignation on Monday morning.

Leadership today is tougher than ever before, and it's no different in the ministry

an anti-authoritarian atmosphere pervades the world and the church
people distrust leaders
on top of that, we're exposed to tapes, books, seminars, and television productions of pastors who are all better than we are
and not only that, consumerism has entered the church
if we don't like what we find in one church, we just bail out and go to another

I don't think any pastor is going to find it easy in the ministry

I began to ask myself this past week, who is the pastor's most valuable player?

Giver
Influencer
Encourager/supporter
Faithful, quietly working
Gifted person

I've been blessed by all of these. But I've come to the conclusion that the most valuable player for the pastor is not any of these people. The pastor's most valuable player is the man or woman who comes alongside the pastor and becomes the pastor's prayer partner

THE YEAR: 30 AD

the city: Jerusalem
the evangelist: an untutored fisherman: Peter
yet the secret of that day of 3,000 people being converted was that they had spent time in prayer
you see, in Acts 2, they prayed for 10 days, he preached for 10 minutes, and 3,000 people were saved
today, churches pray for 10 minutes, preach for 10 days, and 3 people get saved

THE YEAR: THE 1700'S

the place: India
the missionary: William Carey
a shoe-repair man; a cobbler
he looked at a map, and under great opposition left England for India
he translated the Bible into 25 different Indian translations, and became the father of modern missions
what was the secret of his great work?
he had a sister; a crippled, bedridden sister, and everyday he wrote to her and shared his prayer concerns and heartbreaks, and she interceded on his behalf
that was the secret of his great work

THE YEAR: 1830

the place: Rochester, New York
the preacher: Charles Finney
the place: Rochester, New York
in one year, out of 10,000 people, 10% or 1,000 people were saved
the secret? Finney's prayer partner, Abel Clary
"Mr. Clary continued as long as I did," Finney wrote, "and did not leave until after I had left. He never appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer"

THE YEAR: 1872

the evangelist: an obscure YMCA worker named D.L. Moody
in just ten days, 400 new converts came into the church where he was preaching
the secret? in London, a bedridden girl, Marianne Adlard, had read a clipping about Moody's ministry in Chicago, and prayed that God would send him to her church, and interceded for him while he was there

THE YEAR: 1934

the place: Charlotte, North Carolina
many people in Charlotte were deeply moved, including a farmer's son named Billy Graham, who was converted
the secret: several businessmen, along with Billy Graham's father, had spent a day at the Graham farm praying that God would touch their city, their state, and their world
little did they know that Billy would be saved, and it would literally change the world

THE YEAR: 1949

the place: Los Angeles, California
the evangelist now: Billy Graham
the results: an extended campaign that resulted in a change to mass evangelism
Graham had held many similar events with smaller results
the only difference between the L.A. crusade and all the others that had gone before it had been the amount of prayer he and his people had given it

Somebody has said that leadership determines the direction of the church; structure determines the size of the church; relationships determine the morale; the personnel determine the potential of the church; but prayer determines the effectiveness of the church.

I want to share with you four reasons why leaders need prayer
the setting is Exodus 17
it's the story of Moses and the battle against the Amalekites

1. Godly leaders come under attack

At the LORD'S command, the people of Israel left the Sin Desert and moved from place to place. Eventually they came to Rephidim, but there was no water to be found there. So once more the people grumbled and complained to Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded.

"Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you arguing with me? And why are you testing the LORD?"

But tormented by thirst, they continued to complain, "Why did you ever take us out of Egypt? Why did you bring us here? We, our children, and our livestock will all die!"

Then Moses pleaded with the LORD, "What should I do with these people? They are about to stone me!" (Exodus 17:1-4)

you know the story: Moses struck the rock, and water came gushing out

Moses named the place Massah—"the place of testing"—and Meribah—"the place of arguing"—because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the LORD by saying, "Is the LORD going to take care of us or not?" (Exodus 17:7)

and when did the Amalekites attack? at a time of quarreling and contention
it reminds me of when Satan attacked our Lord

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 14:3 NIV)

the evil one knows when to attack leaders
godly leaders come under attack, and that's why they need your prayer

2. Godly leaders are to inspire and to lead the people

Moses commanded Joshua, "Call the Israelites to arms, and fight the army of Amalek. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." (Exodus 17:9)

you might ask why Moses had to sit on a hill with the staff in his hand
two reasons: to see the people, and have insight into the battle
but also so that he could offer inspiration
in the middle of the battle, Joshua and the people could look up and see Moses interceding for the people

Moses understood the importance of leadership
he understood the maxim: "Speed of the leader; speed of the team"

the people can go no further than their leader has gone
and if the pastors and spiritual leaders of a church falter, the church will falter
if Satan can defeat the leaders of a church, he can often defeat the church itself

that's why leaders need prayer, because they set the pace, and inspire and lead the people

3. Leaders are human

the Bible teaches us that Moses had to drop his hands because his hands became heavy
he didn't have the physical stamina to keep it up

Moses' arms finally became too tired to hold up the staff any longer. (Exodus 17:12)

you already know that pastors are hu man, and therefore they're limited
our responsibilities are exceedingly heavy; no man or woman is capable of the task
Hebrews 13:17 says of spiritual leaders:

Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God.

no one is equal to this task

let me be honest and tell you up front that somewhere along the line, I'm going to disappoint you; which is why I'm asking for your prayer

listen to some of the struggles that pastors have

according to a 1991 survey of pastors, 75% of pastors report a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job
90% of pastors feel that they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
70% say that they have a lower self-image than when they started in the ministry
40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
33% confess having been involved in some inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
and 70% of pastors do not have somebody they consider a close friend

4. Godly leaders plus prayer partners mean victory

So Joshua did what Moses had commanded. He led his men out to fight the army of Amalek. Meanwhile Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites gained the upper hand. Moses' arms finally became too tired to hold up the staff any longer. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side, holding up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua and his troops were able to crush the army of Amalek. (Exodus 17:10-13)

I thank God for this church
I am asking you to pray for your pastors

In a moment of revelation, Spurgeon discovered that neither his sermons nor his good works accounted for the spiritual impact of his ministry. Instead, it was, as one writer put it, "The prayers of an illiterate lay brother who sat on the pulpit steps pleading for the success of the sermons." It was his partnership with people of prayer that made him effective. (John Maxwell, Partners in Prayer)

Jim Cymbala: "God is not interested in how many seeker-sensitive churches there are, but how many seeking churches there are..."

I'm going to close by challenging you with words from a ministry called "Prayer Partner"

Who is the "MVP"? The pastor's most valuable player is not the financial giver, the influencer, the worker, the loyal church member or even the most talented singer. The pastor's MVP is the PASTOR'S PRAYER PARTNER. Knowing that the most valuable influencers in the church are the prayer partners, [we have] committed to seeing over 1,000,000 Pastor's Prayer Partners raised up all over the world.

In these final years before the new millennium, a significant spiritual movement is underway - an effort to enlist one million Christians to pray for their pastor. The members of this unique, all-volunteer army agree to pray continually and specifically for those who shepherd God's flock. This is without question one of the most exciting, important endeavors ever undertaken and its results are certain to be far-reaching.

Will you be the one? Will you become your pastor's Most Valuable Player? Would you commit to pray for your pastor for one year? If you will make this exciting, strategic commitment, please let us know of your decision.

adapted from a message by John Maxwell (www.equiporg.org)