Summary: There is a wayback after defeats in the Christian life
The nineteenth century preacher and writer Alexander Whyte once wrote – “the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.”
I would imagine that like me, you, as Christian, know what it is like to experience defeat in your Christian life. Like me you have experienced the bitterness of defeat when you have given in to some temptation and committed some sin that you thought you had mastered or that you never for one minute thought you would commit.
Peter found himself in such a position you remember. He was fully convinced that he would never, under any circumstances deny Jesus. And yet within a few hours of him affirming his devotion to his Lord in those moving words – though all men be offended because of thee yet will not I. Though I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee – within a few hours Peter had denied Jesus three times with oaths and curses.
Perhaps like me you have experienced that awful sensation of defeat and failure when having perhaps determined that we would once and for all deal with and conquer some enemy stronghold in our life, some area of our heart, our mind, our affections, our behaviour where the devil as it were has a strong fortified presence that has not yet been overthrown, and we have found to our humiliation, shame and discouragement that our efforts to do battle with that enemy stronghold proved to be feeble and we failed Like the Children of Israel after their initial defeat at the hands of the inhabitants of Ai we know what it feels like to fail to overthrow the enemy.
What should we do in such circumstances? Should we give up? Should we allow our sense of failure and weakness and shame and despondency to so debilitate us that we simply accept defeat and allow that enemy stronghold to remain intact? Well if we want to enter into and truly experience and enjoy the fullness of the blessings of the Christian life, if we want to take possession of all that is ours in Christ, we cant simply ignore those enemy strongholds and allow them to remain untroubled. Rather we must renew our efforts to attack and conquer them.
You are all familiar with the old adage –“if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.” Someone once said that no matter how many mistakes we make in the Christian life, the worst mistake of all is not to try again. Henry Ford the former U.S. President once defined a mistake as “an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
In a sermon preached in Brighton in 1849, F.W.Robertson commented – “Life, like war, is a series of mistakes, and he is not the best Christian or the best general who makes the fewest mistakes…but he is the best who wins the most splendid victories by the retrieval of mistakes. Forget mistakes; organise victories out of mistakes.”
In Joshua chapter 8 we see God’s people beginning again more intellignetly. We see Joshua having learned from the defeat he had experienced, putting that defeat behind him and going on from that defeat to victory.
Despite the fact that Israel had sinned, God did not totally forsake them. Yes, His blessing had been withheld from them because of their sin, but his covenant relationship with them had not been annulled. And because Joshua and the people, in the wake of their humiliating defeat had listened to God, had identified the root cause of the problem which caused their defeat and dealt with the problem in the way in which God Himself had prescribed, the way was now open for the blessing of God to be restored once again, for miserable failure to be turned into marvellous victory and for this enemy stronghold of Ai to be conquered.
Lets consider this chapter together. I want you to notice with me first of all
1) God’s Word To Obedient Joshua:
As I have already intimated, Israel’s victory over Ai as recorded in this chapter was inseparably connected with and indeed conditional upon their dealing with the sin that had been in their midst. In relation to this Joshua had been faithful and obedient to God. Once the source of the problem had been identified and the divine will revealed as to how this problem should be dealt with, Joshua faithfully and obediently carried out the steps that were necessary to punish the sinner and purge this sin from Israel. And it was against this backdrop, the backdrop of Joshua’s obedience that God comes to speak to Joshua again. Notice the link word which connects the first verse of chapter 8 with the events recorded at the end of chapter seven. It is the word “then” Not “and” as KJV. And this is important – “Then” , that is after Joshua had been obedient, after the sin had been dealt with and after, as a result of the purging of that sin the anger of God had been turned away from the people, THEN God came and spoke to Joshua once again.