Summary: In a war between nations each side desires complete victory...the last thing that an army wants to do is surrender. Spiritual warfare is different. Before we will ever experience complete and total victory in the Christian life, we must surrender!!!

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A Battle You Can't Win

Joshua 5:13-15

Have you ever been in a place where you just couldn't seem to get ahead? You know... those times when it seems that you take one step forward and 2 steps back. If you remember the old country song it says (you can't get too far like that!)

Maybe you have made one of these statements:

...I just can't win!

...I am fighting a losing battle!

...It is a lost cause!

This phrase "lost cause" speaks of "a cause that has been defeated or one whose defeat is inevitable." This phrase originated in the mid-1800's and was used to describe the efforts of the Confederacy. Sadly, many people can make the same statements about their Spiritual lives. Maybe you are one that would say (spiritually speaking): I just can't win! ...I am fighting a losing battle! ...It is a lost cause! Maybe you have gone beyond just saying those things and you have quit the fight all together.

In a war between two nations each side desires complete and total victory...the last thing that an army wants to do is surrender. Spiritual warfare is different. Before we will ever experience complete and total victory in the Christian life, we must first surrender!

I have some good news and some bad news concerning the spiritual battle that you may be fighting today: The bad news - "You" can't win the battle! The good news- Jesus has already won the war! If you are born again, you have access to a warrior who HAS NOT and CANNOT be defeated!

I want to consider this subject for a while and preach on the thought "A Battle You Can't Win" Let me clarify that statement before some of you get discouraged and tune me out. I am referring to "A Battle You Can't Win", But I am not saying that the battle can't be won! The battle can indeed be won and you can experience great victory, but it will come through Jesus... not your own efforts! I like what Paul said in - 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.You can have victory... but it will ONLY come through JESUS CHRIST!

In this life we will face great challenges and there are times when it seems that victory is not possible. And sometimes the reason for that is that we are trying to fight the battle alone. Maybe you have been fighting so hard for so long that you just can't go on any more. In order for you to move toward victory you must fix your eyes upon Jesus!

That is what happened in the life of Joshua, Here in Joshua chapter 5, Israel was about to go to battle in the city of Jericho. Before the battle begins Joshua goes to inspect the area. It was at that moment that Joshua had a divine encounter. There on the battlefield he encountered the true leader of Israel. Joshua came face to face with a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. This was a humbling experience for Joshua. But it was an encounter that prepared him for victory!

I believe there is much that we can learn from the actions of Joshua as he prepares for the upcoming battle. Just like Joshua, there are battles that we will fight in this life. The first thing I would like to consider is found in verse 13. Notice:


At this point and time Joshua was all alone outside the walls of Jericho. This may be a picture of how you feel in the battle. There are times when we feel all alone. And at times, other than the Lord Himself we may be all alone. But the battle must be fought. Consider:

A. THE POSITION IN THE BATTLE- v13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho

Joshua was in a position of leadership. God had selected him to lead His people (Israel). We find a great promise from the Lord to Joshua in Joshua 1:5 “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua was faithful to do what the Lord had called him to do! No doubt he clung to the promise that the Lord would be with him and never fail him nor forsake him.

Whether you realize it or not you are in a similar position to Joshua.

You have been called by God

You have been chosen by God

You have been commissioned by God

If you are saved you have been enlisted into God's army. There are battles that must be fought! These battles may be long These battles may be intense but like Joshua you have a promise from your Lord - Hebrews 13:5 ...He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Let's also consider:


The evening before the battle, Joshua goes out to look at the city they are about to attack. Jericho was a great city that was compassed with a large wall. Jericho was about 5 miles west of Jordan. It was the most important city in the Jordan valley Jericho was the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. The Lord had directed Joshua as to where to go and what to do - Joshua 1:1 ┬ÂNow after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

God had a plan for Joshua and it involved conquering Jericho. God has a plan for each of His children:There is a place for you to go... There is a job for you to do... There is a battle for you to fight. And when God says go... you better go! When God says fight... you must fight! You must be like Joshua and go where the Lord tells you to go.

Let us also consider:

C. THE PURPOSE OF THE BATTLE- The purpose of this battle was to conquer the enemy and to claim the land.

Look down to Joshua 6:2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.

We fight battles on a regular basis in the Christian life. The purpose of any battle is to defeat the enemy. We have an enemy that seeks destruction. - 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

He wants to destroy your family!

He wants to destroy your faith!

He wants to destroy your testimony!

He wants to destroy your work for Christ!

He wants to destroy you!

The battles must be fought. But you will never defeat the enemy on your own. But we find the directions for victory in - James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. - You have no business trying to "resist the devil" on you own. We must first "submit ourselves to God"

Remember the story of young David just before he fought Goliath. Goliath had been taunting the people of Israel for some time. Then this little shepherd boy comes around and sees what is going on. He sees the enemy intimidating the people of God. Then in - 1 Samuel 17:26 (David asked) the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? - His brother was very angry and he scolded David... but I like David's response to Eliab... Listen to his response in - 1 Samuel 17:29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? - David knew that there was a cause...David knew that there was a purpose for the battle! May we never forget that there is a purpose for each battle that we face!

Not only do we see the position, the place and the purpose but in verse 13 we also see:

D. THE POSTURE IN THE BATTLE- v13c that he lifted up his eyes and looked

The word posture speaks of "the position of a person's body". Notice that is says Joshua "lifted up his eyes and looked". When he looked up there was a man in front of him. What I am fixing to say is pure speculation but I firmly believe that Joshua was knelt down praying. Joshua is the leader of a couple of million men, women and children. He holds a great deal of responsibility. His decisions will have a lasting impact on a vast multitude of people. They are about to go into battle. In battle men are maimed... In battle men die... Children are left fatherless...Wives become widows. As leader of the people Joshua carried a heavy burden. Not to mention the fact that God has given him this responsibility and would hold him accountable.

I think it is very probable that Joshua's posture was kneeling at this very moment. And friend, when you get ready to go to battle, you must have the same posture. As a pastor I make important decisions that impact this assembly . As a parent every decision you make impacts your children. As a husband or wife your decisions have an impact on your spouse. Each position of leadership comes with great responsibility.

-When a preacher fails, a ministry fails.

-When a father fails, a family fails.

-When a mother fails, her children fail.

-When a deacon fails, a church fails.

-When a Christian fails, a testimony fails.

If Joshua were to fail, Israel would have suffered! Therefore it was imperative that he sought the Lord's direction before commencing the battle at Jericho. Dear friend, before you head to the battle, it is vitally important that you find yourself in the posture of prayer! Joshua realized that there was a battle to fight. But he is about to find that even though he was a leader of Israel, he was subordinate to a greater leader. We will find this is true in our battles as well. Notice:


Notice what Joshua saw when he lifted up his eyes...v13d and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.

When Joshua looks up he sees "a man standing in front of him with a sword in his hand". The picture here is of One who is prepared for battle! Joshua confronts this man and asks "are you with us or against us?" This man identifies Himself as "The Captain of the Lord's Host". In the beginning Joshua was all alone outside the wall pondering the upcoming battle. With this appearance he was reminded what God had told him back in Joshua 1:9 ... Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. - Joshua was not alone; the Lord was with Him!

Who is this "Captain Of The Lord's Host"? Most scholars believe (and though I am no scholar I agree 100%) that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some further evidence that this is the Christ: (Wesley's commentary)

1. He accepted Joshua's worship, a created angel would have refused this - Revelation 22:8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

2. This area was made Holy by His presence - Joshua 5:15 ...Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

3. Down in Joshua 6:2 He is referred to as LORD - (Original text literally means JEHOVAH)

There are several occasions where we see Jesus in the Old Testament.

1. He appeared to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14; Gen. 21:16-20)

2. He appeared to Abraham (Gen.18:10)

3. He appeared to Jacob (Gen. 28:12-15; Gen. 32:24-30)

4. He appeared to Moses (Exod. 3:4-5; Exod. 23:20; Exod. 33:22)

5. He appeared to Gideon (Judg. 6:11-24)

6. He appeared to Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-13)

7. He was with the 3 Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:24-25)

8. He was with Daniel in the lion's den (Dan. 6:21-22; Dan. 7:13-14; Dan. 10:5-6)

And even though Joshua was the leader of Israel, he is now standing before the ultimate leader of Israel. There was a leader that he was to follow! Friend, we have a battle to fight, and there is a leader that we must follow! And just as God promised to be with Joshua, He has promised that He will lead us through the battle as well!! - Matthew 28:20 ... lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Israel faced a great battle but they were not alone. Joshua was about to lead them into battle but he was not alone. The Captain Himself was not even alone. Notice that this man identified Himself as "The Captain of the Lord's Host". This means that He was not alone. He was "the Captain of a Host of Warriors" who were ready for battle. And if you read a little further you will find that they would secure victory! There was a Heavenly host that wrought the victory at Jericho... And our Lord is still "the Captain of the Lord's Host" today!

And His power is accessible to us when we go into battle! But we must comprehend the fact that when we go into battle, we must follow our Leader! Many of our brethren have enlisted in God's Army. And for a time they fought well. Then the enemy launched an all out assault and they are now defeated! Maybe you are here and you have suffered a great defeat in your spiritual life. You have the same promise and power that Joshua possessed.But today you find yourself in a place of distress, discouragement, doubt, and defeat. The problem is that you are or trying to fight the enemy with your own power. This is where we see "A Battle You Can't Win"

Without Christ you will never defeat Satan. Satan is much more powerful than you! When you go into battle it must be with the same mindset that young David had when he fought Goliath. Remember what he said when he confronted the enemy? - 1 Samuel 17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

So many of our brethren who once fought along side of us have completely left the battlefield. They went into battle without the proper offensive and defensive armor. They tried to fight the battle alone and they were consumed! In the military there are different ranks. And there is always a leader of the battalion. That leader is the ultimate authority on the battlefield and must be followed. In the battles of the Christian life... Jesus is the ultimate authority! He is the leader that we must follow!! He was there on the battlefield with Joshua, He was there with the people of Israel, and He will be there for you when you go into battle!

Without Him, you are fighting "A Battle You Cannot Win!"

We have seen The Battle That We Must Fight and The Leader That We Must Follow. When we follow Jesus we can have victory in the battle. Notice in verses 14-15:


As I mentioned in the beginning, though we are examining "A Battle You Can't Win" the battle can be won! You can experience victory! Let's see just how we can find that victory. I submit to you that:

A. WE CAN FIND VICTORY WHEN WE ARE SUBMISSIVE- v14b And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

After "The Captain of the Lord's Host" identifies Himself, Joshua humbled himself before Him. He fell to his face and worshipped this great leader! Joshua acknowledges the sovereignty of the Lord. Bowing at His feet symbolized the fact that Joshua was ready to submit to his will. Furthermore he asks The Captain of the Lord's Host what He would have him to do!

Remember, Joshua was the chosen leader of the people of Israel. Here he yields himself and his leadership to the Lord. My friend, if you desire to experience victory in the battle of the Christian life you must do this very thing! You must be submissive before you can experience victory! Do you want that victory in the battle today? The first step to victory is not developing a plan of attack it is not even putting on the defensive armor. Before you do anything else you must lay down your sword at the feet of the Lord! Like Joshua you must be submissive

You must humble yourself before the Lord - Matthew 23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

We can find victory when we are submissive... as we look to verse 15 we will also see that:

B. WE CAN FIND VICTORY WHEN WE ARE SURRENDERED- v15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

Not only did Joshua submit to the Captain of the Lord's Host, he was fully surrendered to Him. Joshua asks... "what would you have me to do?"I seriously doubt Joshua was expecting the answer that he received. In verse 15 we see that Joshua is commanded to “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot.” He goes on to say that Joshua was standing on Holy Ground. This is the same order that was given to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5-8) - This ground was consecrated by the presence of the Lord. To remove the shoes was a sign of reverence.

But notice in this verse that Joshua was told to remove "a shoe". Further study in the Word of God reveals something else about the removal of a singular shoe (or sandal). In ancient times when a covenant was made between two individuals, in which one person possessed power to keep the covenant and the other didn’t, the weaker individual handed the other individual one of his shoes.

* Ruth 4:6 And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. 7 Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. 8 Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. - Removing the shoe was the near kinsman's way of saying, “I can’t, but you can.”

Joshua realized the great task that awaited he and the people of Israel. He knew he was facing "A Battle He Couldn't Win" in his own strength. But he yielded himself and surrendered to the Lord. He said "I can't... BUT YOU CAN!!" If you want to find victory in your life you must realize that "YOU CAN'T...BUT HE CAN!!"

- Some of you are fighting battles with your health and ... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

- Some of you are fighting battles in your marriage and ... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

- Some of you are fighting battles concerning your finances and ... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

- Some of you are fighting battles concerning your job and ... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

- Some of you are fighting battles within your family and... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

- Some of you are fighting battles in your spiritual life and... YOU CAN'T WIN!!

You have been fighting for so long and you have made zero progress. You are depressed, discouraged and defeated. You don't feel that you can go any farther.You don't feel like you can fight another day! You must do what Joshua did... take off your shoe (spiritually speaking) surrender to the Lord and say I CAN'T BUT YOU CAN!!!

Did this work for Joshua??? Go on and read the next chapter. After Joshua surrendered to the Captain Of The Lord's Host... the Lord told him where to go, when to go and what to do. And then... Joshua and Israel experienced great victory - Joshua 6:20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

Stop trying to fight your battles alone! You can't win!! Humble yourself before God! Surrender your all to Him! Say, once for all, “I can’t Lord, but You can!”

------Bruce Larson tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ:

For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. 'Now that's one way to live,' I would point out to my companion, 'trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.'

"On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically.

"We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I give you my world, the whole world.'"

Bruce Larson, Believe and Belong. (source:

Have you realized that you are fighting a battle that you can't win. Humble yourself before the Lord Jesus and say "I can't but You can!!" That is the only way to have victory in "A Battle You Can't Win"