David has become king over all of Israel, and his kingdom seems to be doing well. In this early part of his reign, he has just defeated the Philistines and the Moabites, and things seem to be at rest. Seems, that is.
In the neighboring kingdom of Amon, the king has died and his son Hanun arose to power (2 Samuel 10:1). Now David had a good relationship with Hanun’s father, so he sent messengers to him to comfort him during his grief. However, some of the Ammonites misinterpreted David’s heart and thought the men were spies. Having persuaded Hanun of what they believed was David’s secret mission, they publicly humiliated and shamed the men and sent them back to Israel (2 Samuel 10:4). This was nothing short than a slap in the face, and David took it that way.
He aroused his entire army to come out and war against Ammon. When the Ammonites get wind of this coming attack, they hire other neighboring armies to come to their aid, specifically the Arameans—who were also known as the Syrians. These armies all come together at the capital of Ammon, and the rumble of battle preparations fill the air.
Yet there is a problem. Joab, the commander of David’s army, finds himself and the men of Israel facing an enemy on two sides. On the one hand, the Ammonites were arrayed in front of the city, but the Arameans were in the field behind them (2 Samuel 10:8). Both armies he faces are quite large—there is no way he can fight both simultaneously. So what are his options?
As Joab considers what to do, he suddenly comes upon a plan that will give them the victory over the enemy. He finds his brother Abishai and sets him and half the army against the one enemy, while he takes the other half and faces the other. He says to him,
“If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come to help you. Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”2 Samuel 10:11-12
Joab’s plan was a complete and total success. He put the Aramaeans to flight, scattering them in all directions (2 Samuel 10:13). When the Ammonites see this, realizing that the army they had hired has left them alone, they too take flight and try to escape (2 Samuel 10:14). The Aram-Ammon coalition was defeated, and Joab, Abishai, and the army of Israel returned to Jerusalem…for a little bit.
As it turns out, the Arameans did not take too kindly to being defeated by Israel, so they gather together again, but in a much larger force. David summons all Israel to meet this new threat (2 Samuel 10:15-17). This time, the Arameans are completely and totally defeated before Israel, and David with his army return in peace (2 Samuel 10:18-19). The Arameans humbled themselves and began to serve Israel from that day forward.
This is an amazing story I was reading a few weeks ago, but one that made a really big impression upon me. Although it is a great account of comradery and bravery, it is far more than just a history lesson. As I considered how this war was won, I thought of the war that we as believers are engaged in. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a desperate spiritual struggle, and Peter reminds us that we have an adversary seeking to destroy us (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8). We cannot simply close our eyes and pretend it does not exist. There is a war for our souls and our testimonies, and we must face it.
Our spiritual warfare is very similar to this Aramean campaign that David, Joab, and Abishai had to face. Like the Arameans and Ammonites, temptations surround us and our siblings in the faith on every side. We struggle with one particular sin, a brother in Christ wrestles with another, a sister fights still another. We do not have the strength or capability to face these enemies on our own, just like Joab did not have the power to fight all the enemies of Israel by himself. But what he did he did can serve as an example for us.
Remember what he told his brother: they each fought the enemy in front of them, but they watched to see if the other needed help. In modern lingo, they had each other’s six. This is a pattern we should adopt in our own lives. Satan is out there trying to destroy believers. He does not care how he does it or who he destroys, he just wants Christians to fall.
To defeat him, we are given the Word of God and told to resist him (Ephesians 6:17; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). We have the power, but sometimes we forget to use it. That is why God calls us to help each other in our spiritual battles.
Just like Joab and Abishai faced their own enemy, but watched to see when the other needed help, so we also ought to be always ready to come to the aid of a brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes we need that other person to hold us accountable with a particular sin we’re struggling with. Maybe it is a problem with anger, or maybe we struggle with listening to music that promotes sins…or even looking at certain cites on line. The temptation can be so real, so strong. We know that God gives us the victory through Christ and always provides the way of escape, but we so often miss it (Romans 7:24-25; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 15:55-57). But when we know that we will have a brother call us up to see how we are doing, it adds a whole other level of accountability.
Now I am not saying we need to be looking at the lives of every person around us, scrutinizing them to find whatever sin we can discover. No, not at all—Jesus warned against that (Matthew 7:1-5). Instead, God calls us to build levels of accountability in our lives. Jesus commissioned Peter to “Strengthen your brothers” spiritually and “feed” the Church by teaching the Word (Luke 22:32; John 21:15-17). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul calls believers to gently help and “restore” those who are caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). Put simply, we are to “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). It is the idea of mutual aid, not to condemn one another, but to help each other in this battle with sin.
What do I mean? Well, this plays out in many ways, but it all begins with honesty. I know it is hard in our culture to be open and share with one another the truth about our struggles, but we will not know how to help one another if we do not know what each other are facing. This is not to promote gossip, nor does it need to be to everyone. Simply seek out a few godly friends to sort of be a prayer and accountability circle for you. With these close friends (preferably from a variety of ages for wisdom’s sake), share struggles that you have with sin and ask them to pray for you, then ask how you can pray for them. I have a close missionary friend who always ends his emails with asking how he can pray for me and sharing how I can pray for him. It gets personal, yes—but how will we know what to pray for if we don’t share with each other?
So once we start praying for one another, it begins to deviate from situation to situation how accountability fleshes out. The goal is to have people around you who will call you out in love if they see you making wrong choices in an area they know you struggle with. For example, let’s say I struggle with a particular kind of music. If I pull up and a friend hears me listening to something he knows I am trying to overcome, I would want that friend to confront me about it. We should remember that we are always accountable to God, but as humans, we so often forget that, but we do remember more easily if we are accountable to a friend.
Some people may want to put accountability partners in place who will regularly ask how we are doing in particular areas, others may choose a looser approach. Whatever works for you and your situation. Yet we do need the help of other believers in our battles with sin, and the scripture commands us to help others who struggle in a “spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1-2). It is going to hurt, toes are going to get stepped on, and irritations may arise. But if this process of accountability is done in a Godly way, it can be such a valuable asset.
For we do not face a particular temptation and then are done with it. No, it keeps coming back. Remember Joab and the army of Israel? They defeated Aram and Ammon by dividing and watching out for each other, but then Aram arose immediately again and came against them. we can become so worn out trying to fight these battles on our own, but we don’t have to. God has provided ways of escape, and sometimes that can simply be shooting a text to a brother saying, “Hey, I’m struggling right now: can we talk?” (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Getting counsel from an older Christian who has faced the same struggle before may be used of God to give us wisdom for a method to overcome that particular battle. There are so many ways God can use other Christians to help us in our struggles with sin.
However we implement this concept of helping one another and seeking help ourselves, let us remember that this is all to be done in an attitude of love and mutual edification. It is not weakness to ask for help or admit that we struggle. Jesus admitted to His friends when HE was troubled and sorrowing (Matthew 26:38). When He was in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His friends that He was grieved, then asked them to keep alert and pray with Him about what He was facing. That wasn’t weakness: it was humility. May we follow His example, seek help from others, and graciously battle alongside our fellow Christians in this conflict with sin.