Cooperating To Do Evil
Cooperation is a virtue of every faithful Christian and Christian leader. But, cooperation in that which is good is not the only kind of cooperation possible. It is also possible to cooperate in that which is evil. Judas cooperated to do evil in betraying Christ (Matt. 26:14-26). Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to do evil (Acts 5:1-12). Felix cooperated with the Jews when he kept Paul bound after determining there was no reason (Acts 24:27). The Jewish council cooperated to do evil in trying to suppress the preaching of the gospel by arresting, beating and threatening the disciples (Acts 4:16-17, 5:28, 40).
You might be thinking that you would never do as these above did. You would not cooperate to do evil. But, it might be that Satan calls upon us to do evil with more subtlety than we know. For example, did you ever stop to think that when you listen to gossip, you are cooperating to do evil? When you hear a man teach truth that proves to be unpopular and you either support others who speak against him (Acts 26:10) or try to remain neutral, you are cooperating to do evil. Consider the attempted neutrality of the parents of the blind man (Jn. 9:19-23). When some unrepentant sin in your life persists (forsaking the assembly, foul language, lying, bitterness, backbiting, etc), you are cooperating with Satan to do evil (1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Pet. 2:2; 1 Tim. 5:14).
We must be careful not to cooperate to do evil (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Jn. 11).
Cooperation Through Faithfulness
Our text on cooperation today is 1 Thess. 1:3-8. Paul went into Thessalonica to preach the gospel. A congregation was begun, but Paul did not have a very long opportunity to stay in the city because of persecution (Acts 17:1-10). However, those who were converted were very dedicated to the Lord. It is that dedication that brings our lesson today. Let’s notice three statements that touch on our subject.
- They received the word in much affliction (1:6). If you read the reference in Acts 17, you read about some of that affliction. Brethren, persecution is personal. We often encourage others to stand strong because we are not the ones suffering. If I am faithful even when persecuted, my faith will encourage another to be strong (Heb. 10:32-34). If I am unfaithful and unwilling to suffer for the Lord, then my lack of faith discourages others. Simply by being faithful to God individually, I will collectively, cooperatively, and sometimes unknowingly, strengthen the hand of other Christians.
- Pursuant to this same idea, Paul says of the Thessalonians that they were an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1:7). Brothers and sisters, faithfulness begets faithfulness. People will hear about our life. They will see our life. The will know about the results of our work and godliness. One individual Christian in one congregation can strengthen and encourage a struggling or a strong Christian in another place. Our character and faith will be passed along on the grapevine (talk, bulletin, article, relatives). When you are faithful to God, you are holding hands with every other faithful child of God in the struggle against Satan. God used this truth when Elijah felt alone. Elijah did not know them, but there were yet 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
- The faithful cooperated in evangelism. Paul’s purpose in life was the same as the Lord’s, to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10; 1 Cor. 9:22). But in regard to Macedonia and Achaia, he had a great deal of help. The Thessalonians “sounded out the word of the Lord” so that Paul “need not speak anything” (1:8). Without Paul being there, they were cooperating with him in the great commission. When we take the gospel to our community individually, we cooperate with every faithful Christian everywhere in saving the world. Great works are going on in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America. But it is no greater than you teaching a friend or relative the truth in your community or family.
Let us determine that the Lord’s church will be a mighty force of “one” by all of us cooperating through faithfulness where we are living. Together, we are more.
The Army Of Gideon
One of the great biblical lessons on cooperation is found in Judges 7:1-25. Please take the time to read the entire account. I want to focus in this paragraph on verses 19-21, “So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.20: And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. 21: And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.”
Here are some very important points about cooperation that are seen in these events.
- Gideon trusted God and cooperated with him. This is the most important point about any human cooperation – we must cooperate with God. We must do things His way (obedience). We must trust his knowledge, wisdom and providence. Many who are great team players on earth never learn or believe in the importance of cooperating with God. What a waste for humans to follow principles of the Creator, but leave the Creator out of their life.
- Every man did his part. No one can be in every place to do everything that needs to be done. But everyone can choose to do his part in the place that he occupies. The very idea of cooperation implies that one person cannot do it all. I can and must do my part or the whole project will be flawed, perhaps fail. Consider how far apart each man was from the next in this strategy as only three hundred men surrounded a camp in which “Midianites and Amalekites…lay along like grasshoppers for multitude: and their camels…as the sand by the seaside for multitude” (Judges 7:12). It would be very doubtful the men of Gideon could see one another in the dark. They knew only to do their job. A gap in the line might have caused the Midianites to rush to that spot thinking it was a way of escape. Cooperation made this battle a success.
- Every man counted on the other men to do their part. That is the essence of cooperation – trusting the others to do their part. Each of these soldiers was depending on each other soldier to blow his trumpet and reveal his light. God, our Commander, is counting on each Christian soldier to do his part in the battle. It is when the church works together, each part of the body providing its strength and cooperation to every other part, that God’s work is accomplished.
- The results of the few, working together, was greater than even the many would have expected. Cooperation always brings results that go beyond the original goals. If nothing else, we develop camaraderie, a true feeling of brotherhood.
Please remember or slogan: “Cooperation gets the job done.”
Jesus Feeds The 5000
The text for our Joshua Generation study today is Matt. 14:13-33. Its companion texts are Mark 6:32-52, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-21. I hope that you will take the time to read all four accounts. There are so many lessons to be gained from the events surrounding the miraculous feeding of the five thousand that I cannot know them all. I would like to look at a few touching our characteristic of cooperation and also a few extra. When God sees fit to include an event in all four accounts of the work of Jesus’ life, that event is surely worth considering deeply.
Jesus had gone by boat to a desert place after hearing about the death of John the Baptist (Mt. 5:12-13; Mk. 6:29-30). Perhaps, it was to grieve and pray himself, but also to give the disciples (who had been disciples of John also) a rest from the constant work and crowds (Mk. 6:31). But a great multitude followed him by traveling around the lake on foot. When he saw them, his compassion for them moved him to spend the day teaching and healing (Mt. 14:14; Mk. 6:34). When the evening came, neither the disciples nor the multitude had eaten. This circumstantial fast occasioned the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000. It was after this miracle that Jesus knew the people wanted to make him king (Jn. 6:15). These events along with his subsequent ‘walking on the water’ became a pivotal point in the thinking of the disciples that led to the confession “Of a truth, thou art the son of God” (Mt. 14:33) Let’s consider some lessons.
- Cooperation requires leadership. Leadership provides focus and goals. The goal in this case was feeding the people. The disciples cooperated with Jesus because he was their leader. People follow leaders they believe in, even if they have doubt about the plan as these disciples did. One of the great omissions among God’s people is the growing and training of leaders. Congregations are dying because of lack of leadership. When we find ourselves diminishing in a community that is populating, it is usually a leadership problem. We need leadership if we are to cooperate with each other and with God.
- Cooperation requires leadership to have, not only a goal, but a plan. It is not sufficient to say, Let’s grow, or let’s increase our attendance, or let’s convert 30 people this year. There must be a plan. Even the disciples knew a plan for feeding the 5000 was needed, if nothing more than sending the people into the surrounding cities to get food. Jesus had a plan.
- Cooperation requires organization. Even two men handling one of the old two-man saws to cut a tree needed organization. They could not both pull at the same time or the tree would never be cut.
- Jesus gave the disciples the responsibility to sit the 5000 down in groups of 50 which they did and put two groups in proximity to one another for groups of 100. If people do not know what to do to help a particular project, they cannot cooperate. It takes a plan that coordinates the ability and energy of each member of the group.
- Cooperation requires division of labor. Not everyone can do everything. Not everyone can do the same thing. Once a goal is conceived and a plan is devised, people (our most important resource) must be fitted into the plan. Jesus used the disciples as organizers and servers. No doubt, others helped within the fifties to pass the food and keep order.
If we can learn these points alone of points, we will be far ahead in carrying out God’s will.
Jonathan’s Armor Bearer
Hello everyone. Our lesson today is taken from 1 Samuel 14:1-14. Jonathan and his armor bearer defeat the Philistine garrison of 20 men in this account. For our study on cooperation today, I particular want to focus on the matters involving the armor bearer.
- Jonathan sought the armor bearer’s cooperation. Many leaders simply announce what they plan to do with request, persuasion or explanation of why they chose it. Then they become irritated or despondent if they do not get cooperation. God touches on this principle of seeking the cooperation of people when he says that elders are not to be “lords over God’s heritage” (1 Pet. 5:3). Leaders who dictate may receive obedience, but little cooperation.
- Jonathan gave the armor bearer an explanation of why he thought the project should be undertaken. The armor bearer knew they were at war with the Philistines. But why this particular battle? Because the Lord could deliver even in these circumstances. If we want people to be willing and devoted to a project or cause, they must have reason. Action without reason is mob action. Purpose and explanation gives direction and perseverance to a plan of action.
- Closely connected to the above, Jonathan did not tell the armor bearer that his skill in battle would give them victory. Rather, he turned the armor bearer’s confidence to the One who never fails. If we count on ourselves, we may accomplish much (Gen. 11:6), but it will not be good (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). But if we count on God, no one can be successful standing in our way (Rom. 8:31; Eph. 3:20).
- The armor bearer was willing to cooperate, “…I am with thee…” Don’t we wish that all activities planned to move the church forward received that kind of full cooperation. Do you give such cooperation. Even when you are not convinced an idea is worthwhile, do you give it you best cooperation for successful accomplishment.
- The armor bearer is never named. He is a supporting actor in this drama, but one without which the play would have failed. Many will not cooperate if they cannot be a star. Many stop cooperating if they do not receive continual praise and recognition. It certainly is good to give and receive recognition (Rom. 13:7), but it ought not to be a necessity for our cooperation.
I imagine you may realize other points about cooperation from this event.