Speech to FFA Executive Council Dinner
The message that I have for you today comes from 2 Samuel 10:11-12. Now you might ask, it is not Sunday why is this guy going to teach us something out of the Bible? Which is a good question, so my response is: First of all, I believe that this is God’s Word. Therefore, believing that it is God’s Word I want to tell you about what God says about teamwork, instead of what Joe Gunter thinks about teamwork. Second, God’s Word says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
I want to use this passage to paint a word picture this evening of a relationship between your fellow FFA members. It is a picture that should shape your goals and your prayers for each other. The picture comes from the words of Joab, David’s mighty man of battle.
BACKGROUND OF THE TEXT: In 2 Samuel chapter 10 the king of the Ammonites has died and his son, Hanun, ruled in his place. David wanted to show kindness to Hanun so he sent his delegates to express his sorrow to the new king for the loss of his father. But Hanun was convinced by his council that David’s intent was evil, so he humiliated the delegates and sent them away. David was very angry about this, and when the Ammonites heard about his anger, they sent for help to the Syrians to build an offensive against Israel. When David heard this he sent Joab and all the mighty men against the Ammonites. As it developed, the Ammonites were arrayed at the walled city to protect it, the Syrians were gathered in the open field, and Joab, with the Israelites, were sandwiched in the middle.
So Joab took charge of one group of men and set himself against the Syrians, and the rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai, his brother, and set them against the Ammonites. In verses 11 and 12 Joab gives this great word of challenge and faith to Abishai, and it is my word to you the Executive Council of the FFA:
“If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.”
In this passge we get our vision for teamwork. There are six things in the words of Joab that I think should characterize every effort in the FFA. I’ll mention them and then hold up each one briefly to challenge us all.
3) mutual helpfulness;
4) strength in numbers;
5) be a benefit to other people; and
6) How to Run to the Battle
First of all, humility. “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me.” Joab was a mighty warrior, but not so foolish as to think himself wholly self-sufficient. ” Joab says to his brother, I might be inadequate for the task today.” And he was not ashamed to ask for help. Humility willingly acknowledges its own weaknesses and need. A humble person is open to being helped, and is open to being taught, and does not resent good advice or counsel.
One of the reasons that humility is an absolute essential in teamwork is that no lasting unity is possible without it. This is taught, for example, in Ephesians 4:1–3:
I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The sequence of virtues in this text is significant. One leads to the other. The goal is unity in the bond of peace. But you cannot have unity unless you can endure each other’s failures and quirks. But you cannot endure each other if you are not patient; you cannot endure if you have a hair-trigger temper. But you cannot avoid having a hair-trigger temper unless you are meek and lowly. The proud person will always be resentful and impatient. Therefore, humility is essential for patience, and patience for enduring, and enduring for unity. If the FFA (and all the rest of us) are to be united, we must, by God’s grace, be humble.
Now we often confuse meekness with weakness. You might think that if someone is strong that they cannot be meek. However that is not true. In order to be meek you have to be strong. Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, not because he was weak, but because he humbled himself to die for our sins so that we could have fellowship with his father and eternal life. Now that is a strong leader that leads with meekness and humility. Strong leaders show meekness inorder to help their weaker followers. A good leader instead of display is power every chance he gets will display meekness in order to better help his followers grow.
The opposite of humility is pride. One of the dangers of being an executive officer is pride. This will manifest itself often by you looking for credit or taking offense when you feel overlooked. This often sabotages team efforts. However, someone who is humble will realize that Credit is free and works best when given away. That helps individuals focus on the needs and accomplishments of others and of the group, instead of selfishly worrying about their successes.
The second characteristic of teamwork illustrated by Joab is diversification. Abishai was sent against the Ammonites; Joab went against the Syrians. It is wise battle strategy, when the enemy is widespread and diverse, that we not engage all the troops in one place. It is also wise to have everyone doing most of the time what they are best at.
Joab cannot say to Abishai, “I have no need of you.” You cannot say to your fellow FFA members, “I have no need of you.” There is diversification in gifts and, therefore, diversification in teamwork. Therefore, everyone on the team is essential.
3) Mutual Helpfulness
The third characteristic of good teamwork is mutual helpfulness. “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.” Diversification in teamwork is not so ironclad that we cannot leave our appointed jobs and help one another. Fundamental to all successful teamwork is that the team members be for each other, not against each other. Competition in teamwork is a curse. At the top of our list of priorities must be a zeal to help each other fulfill their duties.
This can be easily seen in our passage today. When Joab needed help, his brother could have ignored him because he had enough of his own problems to worry about. However, his brother knew that the success of his brother directly affected his success because if one was to fail then they both would surely fail because then it would be two armies against one.
On this point a warning is in order. There will always be difficult people who are divisive and will try to align themselves with one executive member against another. They gain a sense of power and significance from being in the inner circle of one leader over against another leader. But that will not happen here, God willing. There will not be Lucinda party or Bobby party, because your goal will be to help each other, not to compete with each other.
4) Strength in Numbers
The fourth characteristic of effective teamwork is strength in numbers. “ Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people. More literally, the Hebrew simply says, “Be strong and let us show ourselves strong!” When the battle begins, do not limp away weak and fearful. ATTACK!
Our culture today tries to persuade us that our destiny was won by rugged individuals who stood tall, acted alone, rarely talked and drank their whiskey straight. We see this example in the old westerns of John Wayne. We are taught to admire the rebel, the loner, the maverick. But the facts suggest that the achievements of nations—like those of corporations, armies, universities, sports teams, churches, and families—depend heavily on people coming together to co-labor: to agree on a common goal and then join forces to make it happen.
A study of horses revealed that a single horse could pull an average of 2,500 pounds. The test was repeated with two horses. You would expect the weight pulled to double, right? To about 5,000 pounds. Not so. Two horses working together pulled 12,500 pounds! That is five times the amount one could pull alone. If two horses combined make their effectiveness 5 times greater, think of what you all can accomplish if you all worked together. There would be no stopping you all.
5) Benefit to other People
And now the fifth characteristic of good teamwork: be a benefit to others. Joab said, “For our people and for the cities of our God!” Joab did not appeal to doing this task for more money or for fame, or honor, but for the public safety and welfare of our people. No team lives for itself alone. We strive for humility, we employ our diversification, we live in mutual helpfulness, we maintain strength in numbers not for ourselves alone but for the benefit of others.
Notice that it is not your first aim to please the members of FFA, but to benefit them. If you do that with all our hearts, then you will have the approval of those whose approval matters, those who want, above all, what is best for the FFA.
6) Run to the Battle.
Now there is one final characteristic of teamwork that Joab illustrates: Running to the Battle, he says” Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” May we always approach our work in this way, bowing together before God and saying: “God, we aim to be humble, to be diversified, mutually helpful, strong in numbers, working hard for the benefit of others, but, O God, we acknowledge you are sovereign and we are limited, and we would say no more than Joab: in all our plans and all our labor, you do what seems good to you!”
Sometimes as leaders, we can be bogged down with important decisions. We can be afraid to move because we know if we make the wrong decision, it could be costly. However, good leaders make these kinds of decisions. Not just out of nowhere or irresponsibly, but just like how Joab was a trained warrior and came up with a game plan and said this is what we are doing and let God do what seems good to him.
Passivity is one of the main enemies of leadership and it is most obvious where it is needed most. It is a pattern of waiting on the sidelines until you are specifically asked to step in. Even worse than that, it can be a pattern of trying to duck out of responsibilities or to run away from challenges. Leaders who think conflict should be avoided, or who refuse to engage with those who would harm what they are protecting, not only model passivity but also fail in their responsibilities as protectors.
Running to the battle means routinely taking a step toward the challenge, not away from it. Instead of running and hiding, it means running into the burning building or into any other situation that requires courage and strength. That does not mean being a fool who just rushes in, but simply being a leader with the instinct to go where the need is.
Therefore, show leadership, protection, and provision in your family, work, church, and community by consistently moving toward the action. Demonstrate your availability by consistently asking those you encounter, “Do you need anything? Watch for needs and challenges in whatever situation you are in and cultivate a habit of running to the battle.
Let us be humble with all the lowliness fitting for us limited sinners. Let us diversify according to our varied gifts. Let us come to each other’s aid whenever there is need. Let us be strong in numbers. Let us spend ourselves tirelessly for the benefit other people—for the advancement and joy of their faith. And finally, may we give to the winds our fear and abandon ourselves boldly and joyfully to the sovereign guidance of God and run to the battle. Amen.