It’s a fascinating picture, isn’t it? As long as Moses holds his staff aloft toward the throne of God, Joshua and his army prevail against the bad guys. But Moses, though a galactic superman, got tired. Exodus 17 tells us his buds Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. Then they began to hold up his arms! I know you’ve heard this story since you were a kid, but think about it for a second: They used their arms to hold up his arms. I suppose Moses got tired of holding the staff, but how long until Aaron and Hur got tired of holding his arms, holding the stick? Couldn’t have been long. Yet they persevered through sun, fatigue, and smelliness … and it worked. Come evening, Joshua prevailed on the battlefield below.
Now maybe it’s a stretch to equate missionaries and mobilizers with Moses. If it doesn’t totally feel like you’re cheating on your hermeneutics prof, try this on: We have the opportunity, through prayer, to be Aaron and Hur for our friends who are holding up the staff of God for the advance of his kingdom among the least evangelized peoples on the planet.
When I think of you who read this column, I realize that (unless you were assigned to read this as a “bad example” of persuasive writing) you probably have some stake in the completion of the Great Commission. You’ve made sacrifices in an effort to see the good grace of Jesus go to where it hadn’t before. So I asked myself, how I would pray for you? How would I hold up your arms so that the dreams of your heart might find success?
Here it is. Here’s what I pray for you. Maybe these things would be good to pray for every last one of us, but I think they have particular relevance for those who have laid it on the line for the “sheep of another pen.”
Freedom from Fear
Perhaps more frequently than any other command, the Bible tells us not to fear. At the same time many of us live in cultures both saturated with and fueled by fear. I know I fear failure. I fear discomfort. I fear the loss of my health, security, and status. But this is not normal life for a follower of Jesus. John tells us that “perfect love drives out fear.”
E. Stanley Jones, a world-class missionary who lived most of his life in India, encourages, “Then discipline yourself against all anxiety and fear. Fear is the enemy – not the thing of which we are afraid, for most of our fears are never realized. They never come. Those that do come can be used in the purposes for which we live.”
May God add his grace to our discipline, resulting in lives free from fear.
If you’ve been a Great Commission groupie for a while, perhaps you’ve wondered from time to time why the job’s not done yet. Maybe (on dark days) you struggle to believe it ever will be. God’s promises are huge. His commandments are extensive, and the effort exerted to obey them has been epic. But there’s so much still undone. So much pain. So much despair.
As you add days to days and years to years, may you look increasingly like your father Abraham who “against all hope, in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.”
My God fill us with hope. May he rekindle within us the conviction that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
As that hope grows, I pray big faith for you. Faith that allows you to pray audacious prayers. Faith that compels you to ask for the nations. Faith not content with one Muslim here and one there following Jesus, but that asks God for hundreds of millions from the sons of Ishmael to find life in Christ. Faith that asks God for what you not only can’t accomplish on your own, but can barely imagine.
May you have eyes to see what’s really coming at you. May you have wisdom to discern between the focused attacks of your enemy and the normal challenges of a world that produces thorns and thistles. May you have the kind heart of the truest Mennonite with the fighting skills of a Navy Seal (or their spiritual equivalent). Let these skills be deployed under God not only for the protection of your family, but also for the release of many captives from their prisons and the rolling back of the work of our enemy.
A True Band of Brothers and Sisters
As you exercise your faith and hone your spiritual warfare skills, may God gather around you a team like Moses had in Aaron, Hur, and Joshua. May he give you, as he sees fit, a husband or wife, colleagues, pals, counselors, and mentors – people who will speak the truth to you even at great risk, love you even through great failure, and accept you even though they know you deeply. May he bring you a band of people for whom you would gladly die.
I pray for you to grow in authority. May God fill you with such spiritual authenticity, such power, such tangible presence of Jesus that though you never raise your voice, the room is quieted. May men and women of power care what you say, even do what you ask, because the scent of Jesus is strong on you. May no pain you experience be wasted, but rather captured for the maturing of your character, readying you to prevail in the next challenge ahead.
As your authority grows so will the trickiness of your problems. Get wisdom and keep on getting it. May God push that wisdom into the depths of your heart and all the way out to the edges of your consciousness. May you understand how to humbly love people, both submit to and lead people, inspire hope and great sacrifice in people. May you have sufficient wisdom to hear and follow the voice of your shepherd and thereby give your youth, your energies, and your very life in the place of your greatest usefulness.
May you walk all the way to the end of your road. Though it seems the road will never end and for long stretches you walk alone, don’t stop walking. May the resilience and perseverance we imagine, or know, to have been in our ancestors also be found in you. I ask God for your strength, determination, and commitment. Keep walking.
Stop walking from time to time. Obey the fourth commandment. Rejoice that you are a creature and not the Creator. Accept his gift of rest with open arms. As you pause, I pray God will restore your soul, that he will speak to the core of your being, and that he will give you strength to get up and walk again.
Finally, I pray for joy for you; for a radical love for God and a daily, intimate connection with him. May Jesus be your shepherd and friend. May the Holy Spirit empower you and counsel you. May abundant life be yours. Right now. And forever. May you breathe in God and radiate out the peace, power, and purpose of a God intent on defeating every evil and winning the whole world.