In Psalm 119:67 we read, “Before I was afflicted I went astray. But now I keep Your word,” and in verse 72 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
Defeats never have to be the end. They may in fact be the beginning if we will just respond to the grace of God as a loving and caring heavenly Father who works to produce spiritual growth and Christ-like changes in us. This doesn’t minimise the consequences of sin, however. In the Ai incident, God’s name had been dishonoured, people lost their lives, and a family died. The momentum Israel gained was temporarily lost and God’s people were filled with gloom and despair. But the incident at Ai does not end in Chapter 7; it continues on to Chapter 8 and we can learn some precious lessons from this.
1. When sin is judged and dealt with, the favour of the Lord returns. The first words Joshua heard were, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” The Lord reassures Joshua of His presence. With the sin of Achan judged, God’s favour toward the nation was restored. The next thing we read concerns God’s new revelation to Joshua to both encourage him and give him directions for victory. Joshua had heard these words before. These are special words to encourage God’s people when facing the enemy: This serves to remind us that God is a God of comfort who wants to comfort and encourage us through His word.
Even when your heart says, "God has left me hanging," let your faith say, "God has made a promise."
2. Whenever the heart returns to the Lord, new directions are given that leads to victory.
God gave both Jericho and Ai to Israel, but He did it in two totally different ways. The methods of God often change. His character, nature and message never change, but His methods do, and so should ours in our changing world!
What is important is not how God works, but that He works.
3. When God gives us the victory it is important to give thanks to God immediately. After the victory at Ai, Joshua did what seemed to be foolish humanly-and militarilyspeaking (vv.30-31). We may think that it would seem best to immediately pursue the military campaign and move quickly ahead to capture and take control of the central sector of the land. But Joshua did not do that; instead, he led the Israelites on a spiritual pilgrimage for a special time of worship. Why did he do this? It was because God had commanded it through Moses in Deuteronomy 27:1-8 because of what this event would stand for in the lives of the Israelites.
This again illustrates the principle of first priorities: our capacity in life is always dependent on our spiritual capacity and orientation to the plan of God. Many Christians continually face defeat in their walk because they fail to take time to get alone with the Lord and reflect on Him and to put on their spiritual armour.
Campbell writes: “From this point on, the history of the Jews depended on their attitude toward the Law which had been read in their hearing that day. When they were obedient there was blessing; when they were disobedient there was judgment (cf. Deut. 28). It is tragic that the affirmations of this momentous hour faded so quickly.”
James Abram Garfield was born November 19, 1831, in a log cabin in the back woods of Ohio. His father died when James was just 2 years. Young James somehow earned enough money to go to college. He graduated from college in 1856 and became a professor and president of Hiram College in Ohio, the college of his denomination, The Disciples of Christ, in which he was also a lay preacher.
Eventually, he chose to enter politics, and in 1880 he was elected president of the United States. After only six months in office, on July 2, 1881, however, he was shot in the back with a revolver by an attorney who had grown bitter by being overlooked for an important position. Garfield never lost consciousness. At the hospital, the doctor probed the wound with his little finger to seek the bullet. He couldn’t find it, so he tried a silver-tipped probe. Still he couldn’t locate the bullet.
They took Garfield back to Washington, DC, and eventually to the shores of New Jersey, to keep him comfortable in the summer heat. He was growing very weak, even though teams of doctors tried to find the bullet, probing the wound over and over.
In desperation they asked Alexander Graham Bell, who was working on the telephone, to see if he could locate the metal inside the president’s body. He came with an induction-balance electrical device, hoping to find the bullet with this invention of his, but he too failed. The president hung on through July and August, but on September 19, 1881, James Garfield, the last of the log-cabin presidents, finally died. But he didn’t die from the wound. He died from infection and internal bleeding. You see, it was the repeated probing, which the physicians thought would help him, that eventually killed him.
You need to understand: how you handle failure might turn out to be worse than the failure itself. How you deal with a loss may hurt worse than the hurt. What you do with a defeat in your spiritual life determines if the defeat is temporary or permanent.
Have you allowed the failures in your life to lead you to success or have you got stuck up in your failures? Get up and get going.