“HOLDING HIS HANDS UP”                              By Pastor YAU

Text: Exodus 17:8-12                                             March 6, 2011.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Teamwork in ancient time: On the way out of Egypt to the Promised Land, the Israelis encountered countless problems, hardships, attacks from the outside and conflicts on the inside. Exodus records the event of an all out attack by the Amalekites at Rephidim. While Joshua and his men were battling their enemy, Moses and his helpers, Aaron and Hur, were working together to defeat the Amalekites. When Moses lifted up his hands with the staff of God, the Israelis were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands were unable to hold up any longer because they were tired, Aaron and Hur helped him by holding up his hands so the Israelis eventually defeated the Amalekites.

2)   Teamwork in modern time: When our church moved out of The First Baptist Church in the summer of 1988 to our property on Stratford Road, we didn’t expect to move again soon. But when we ran out of space in 1993, we moved to borrowed space at Berclair Church on Summer Avenue in 1994 on a promise that we will relocate to our own building in 3 years. On the first Sunday of April 1998, FCBC moved to this new building before the gym/fellowship hall was completed. The Lord protects us from internal conflicts, but we encountered many challenges in the process. It was the teamwork of countless faithful men and women who put in their utmost sacrifice and hard work through all these years, we have arrived where we are today.

 

LESSONS FROM THE EPISODE: (Exodus 17:8-12)

1)   It is more than progresses: “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelis.” (17:8) From the starting of Exodus in chapter 13 to the text we have today, 17:8-12, we see Moses and the Israelis had made some progresses but also had faced many challenges. Some of the challenges came from the natural environment, others from within the people. This is like any typical life experience of all of us: we make progresses, but we also face difficulties and needs. No life is ever trouble free in this world, be it an individual, a business, a church or any entity.

2)   It is all in the staff of God: “Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” (17:9b)Since the day Moses was called by God, his staff of a shepherd had become the staff of God. This staff of God became the symbol of God’s presence and power which was able to divide the water of the Red Sea. This staff of God was able to call water flow from a rock. This same staff of God will bring power and courage to God’s people to defeat their enemies. It was never the empty hands of Moses that brought victory to the Israelis but it was the presence and power of God in that staff.

3)   It is more than just Moses: “So Joshua (and his men) fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.” (17:10)There is never such a thing as a “one man army” that will win a battle, much less a war. In this case, it took Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Hur and many warriors in the people of Israel to fight and win a battle over their enemy. Same principle applies to God’s work. Not any single hero will win this war against the Amalekites. It took a seamless work of many dedicated warriors and helpers to win a victory. As much as we revere Moses as the most capable leader, he alone will not and cannot win this battle.

4)   It is also the hand holders: “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 this side, one on the other side, so his hands remained steady till sunset.” (17:12)As much as Moses wanted to hold his hands up all the time so the Israelis may win over the Amalekites, his hands grew tired in time. You may want to try holding up your hands for an hour and see how your hands may feel. Moses needed help. He needed Aaron and Hur to hold his hands up and keep them steady so the Israelis will win the battle. We may not know much about Aaron, much less about Hur, but they are the important supporters to Moses and they contributed to the over all victory they won that day.

 

THE LORD HAS BLESSED FCBC:

1)    God added to the numbers: “And the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Some may think that God doesn’t care about numbers, but He did. There are many listings in the Bible about God and numbers. When we were meeting at Stratford Road, a property of less than $100,000, we ran in the 70s in worship, 50s in Sunday  School. When we moved out of Berclair to this place, we had about 120 in worship. Now we are about 170s in worship and 130s in Sunday School. We had a budget of $67,000 in 1993, our receipts in 2010 is over $200,000. These numbers indicate how much the Lord has blessed us.

2)    God adds to our dimensions: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into the body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, we were all given one spirit to drink.” (1 Corinth. 12:13) FCBC is the only church in metro Memphis area ministers to those who speaks any of the 3 main languages, English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Among these, our English part of the church is the strongest group of people who shoulders most of the leadership and service to the church. The newest Mandarin group brings in the most new believers to our church membership. The original Cantonese group plays a very important role in caring ministry and provides many invaluable supporting services.

3)    God keeps us in harmony: “And they continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house and eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” (Acts 2:46, KJV) “One accord” and “singleness” means unity or harmony among people. This is by far the most significant blessing God has bestowed on FCBC. With people came from all over places, speak different languages, holding different values and culture but can work together, respect each other and support one another in many areas of church ministry is nothing less than a miracle. No one can keep people from fighting each other for their rights unless the Lord is among them and blesses them.

4)    God calls people to serve: “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11) Most churches were said to have 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. But in our church we have 80% of the people doing 100% of the work. With a 24,000 sq ft building and a 9 acres of land, with a kitchen that cooks food almost every week of the year and all other necessary service support, we have volunteers who serve God and the people year in and year out. This is a clear sign of spiritual maturity and sacrifice on the part of the people.

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR FCBC? Learn from Moses and the Israelis.

1)   We have a Promised Land: A Promised Land is a land God has assigned to a person or a church where God is exalted and people live according to the His law. We all can see that FCBC is not yet in that Promised Land in many ways. God has a goal for us to pursue in the future, and we need to continue advance toward the goal as did the Israelis. We cannot just sit back, relax and enjoy all the good things God has blessed us. We need to expand our horizon to seek God’s direction what we may do more to reach out to more people. We have the space but we don’t have the manpower to use the space more effectively to reach people for Christ and to grow our church.

2)   Be prepared to face challenges: The Lord has granted us peace and growth in the past 20 years and we are thankful for that. But no one knows what our future may hold in the next 20 years. We need to be spiritually prepared to keep the unity to face any and all challenges we may face down the road. We need all parts of the church to work together in cooperation in good faith to overcome challenges as the Israelis did. Be careful not to seek personal interest but the interest of the church. Without a strong spiritual base and sense of unity and humility, any small issue could explode to divide the church.

3)   We need to support Joshua: Joshua was the one who took the order from Moses to select warriors to fight the Amalekites. The winning or losing of the battle largely depended on Joshua and his men. In our church, most of the work is on the shoulders of the English group because our younger generation is all English speaking and they are our future. The longer a Chinese church exists, the more of the need of English speaking leaders, worker and teachers. We need to seek support to grow the English part of the church. Their growth and contribution to the future of the church will enhance the growth of other language groups.

4)   We need to support Moses: Moses was the one who was given the responsibility to keep the Israelis safe on their journey to the Promised Land. While he was doing his duty to provide focus and direction for Joshua and all warriors, his hands grew tired and he need Aaron and Hur to support his hands so the Israeli army will win a victory. As our church is growing to the next level in the next 10 or 20 years, we need to seek God’s wisdom to add helper or helpers in the near future to support the pastor to lead the church on the right direction and a higher ground.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   History is on the move: In all walks of life from individual to a nation, history is on the move. All who are working diligently to move forward will get to a higher ground. Those who are either slothful or miss the boat will be eliminated in time. Today, February 10, 2011, is the day the history of Egypt is moving forward. God has given us a mission and we need to move on to the next stage so our existence will bring glory to God.

2)   You are part of the history: No one should be left out from the movement of history of this church. Everyone in every language group is called to step up your participation and support in the building of the future of FCBC to a higher level. We encourage all of you to pray, to work, to ask questions and to lend your support to build our church for the new decades to come.