Summary: If you want to recover from failure, then start your road to recovery when you cry before the Lord. But don’t just cry, consecrate yourself to the Lord. Then continue your journey when you confess your own sin. But don’t just confess it, clean the sin out!
The Book of Heroic Failures contains a story about the 1978 strike of British firefighters, when the army filled the gap for the missing firemen. One afternoon the replacement firefighters got a call to rescue a cat caught high in a tree. The soldiers rushed to the scene, put up a ladder, brought down the cat, and gave it back to the owner. The woman was grateful and invited them in for tea. After a wonderful time, they said goodbye, got in the truck, and backed away—over the cat. (George Sanchez, “How to Succeed God's Way,” Discipleship Journal, Sept/Oct 1983; www. PreachingToday.com)
Oh my! How do you recover from that?
The story reminds me of Joshua. He had a tremendous victory at Jericho. Then immediately afterward, he failed miserably. It’s like he ran over the cat, so-to-speak, only worse, because dozens of lives were lost.
Perhaps, you’ve failed this last year, and you’re hoping to recover in the coming year. So how do you do that? How do you recover from failure? How do you come back from defeat? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Joshua 7, Joshua 7, where we see how Joshua recovered from his failure.
Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel. (ESV)
God had made it very clear that everything in Jericho belonged to Him. No one was to take anything out of the city, but Achan did. One man deliberately disobeyed the Lord, and the whole nation suffered.
Joshua 7:2-5 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. (ESV)
What should have been an easy victory turned into a horrible defeat, which demoralized everyone. I think they were a little cocky going into it. God had given them a tremendous victory over the much larger city of Jericho. So they thought they could take the little city of Ai without much effort. Well, their pride led to a fall!
In 1974, Philippe Petit, a high-wire artist, fulfilled his dream of walking between the World Trade Center towers. In 2015, TriStar Pictures produced a motion picture about Philippe’s story in honor of the 9-11 victims. The film is called The Walk; and in an early scene, Philippe is in a Big Top circus in France tying a rope to a beam. He has not yet performed on the high wire, but whenever the big top was empty, he would practice on the wire.
In the next scene, Philippe is high up just under the tent's ceiling and balancing himself on a wire with a pole. Papa Rudy, his mentor, enters the tent and looks up at Philippe, who was walking carefully but confidently across the thin wire. He hesitates as he is about to reach the platform and then takes a more assertive forward step. But suddenly Philippe and his wire start shaking precariously. He falls to the side, grabbing on to the wire with both hands, barely avoiding falling to his death as the pole plummets to the ground.
As he hangs onto the wire with both hands, the ground a great distance below, he slowly works his way to the platform. Breathing heavily and making his way down the ladder he faces Papa Rudy who tells him, “Most wire walkers, they die when they arrive. They think they have arrived, but they're still on the wire. If you have three steps to do, and you take those steps arrogantly, if you think you are invincible, you're going to die.” (The Walk. DVD, Chapter 5, 25:29 to 27:02, Directed by Robert Zemeckis. 2015; Tristar Productions; www.PreachingToday.com)
In Joshua’s case, 36 people died! The self-confidence of all and the secret sin of one led to defeat and failure. So what does Joshua do?
Joshua 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. (ESV)