Have you ever stopped and thought about all the different cliques we have for people who have failed or been defeated? We have heard many of them since we were children.
• If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
• When you fall of your horse, you need to get right back up again.
• Winners never quit, and quitters never win.
• We may have lost the battle, but we will win the war.
These phrases are so common and clique that we seldom realize the wisdom they actually possess. They teach us that we can’t give up and stay defeated simply because we suffer setbacks. We need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (I still had one more in me lol) and overcome the enemies that defeat us. This is especially true for a soldier in God’s army.
Because we are men with naturally sinful tendencies, there will be times when we suffer defeats from our enemies. Try as we may, we will not always gain instant victory. How we handle our defeats goes a long way in showing what kind of a soldier we will be in God’s army.
In this chapter, we will learn what God expects from us when we do suffer defeats and setbacks in our battle against our enemies. It is an important lesson for all of us to learn as we fully enter into the godly man’s groundwar. Let’s get started.
If at first you don’t succeed…
In the last chapter, we saw how the nation of Israel suffered a devastating defeat against the city of Ai. We discussed the need to guard against committing treason against God. We focused specifically on Achan and his sin. In this chapter, we need to refocus our attention from one man’s sin to the effects the defeat had on the entire nation. In order to do this, we must briefly re-examine Joshua 7.
And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water. 6Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! 8O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? 9For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?”
Up until this point, the nation of Israel had experienced unparalleled military success. No one could stand against them. They defeated any and all enemies they encountered. This streak came to a streaking halt when the people of Ai beat them back in defeat. This loss caused a panic in the camp of Israel. The people felt afraid, helpless, hopeless, and betrayed by God. This is the natural response after suffering defeat.
So how do we overcome and renew our fight against our enemies? Let’s examine Joshua 8 to find out.
…Try, Try, Again
1. We must remove the sin that caused the defeat.
We know from the last chapter that the source of Israel’s defeat was the sin which Achan committed. In order to be able to begin the battle again, Israel had to face the sin and remove it from their midst.
24 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day.
The entire nation worked to remove the sin from among them. Once they did, God’s anger stopped. They were now free to continue the war.
Each of us is like the nation of Israel. The entire nation wanted to defeat their enemies and enter God’s Promised Land. However, they had one part that was corrupt and keeping them from being able to defeat their enemies. Each one of us wants to defeat our enemies. Unfortunately, we all have an Achan inside of us that allows our enemies to keep us defeated. 99% of our heart wants to love and serve God, but the 1 % is sinful. We need to identify the 1% and destroy it.
I know in my life I fully want to love and serve God. I want to follow His will and totally belong to Him. However, because I have a sinful nature, I find myself unable to 100% reach this place in my life. This is because I have hidden enemies that try and stop the process.
Over the years, I have had to identify these enemies and deal with them. Fortunately, we serve a forgiving God Who will speak to us and show us what we are doing wrong. We saw that in the last chapter when God told Joshua that Achan was the source of the sin. Like Joshua, we can show our sin no mercy. It must be completely destroyed and we must begin to go in a new direction. That brings us to step #2.
2. We must accept God’s forgiveness and begin again.
Now the Lord said to Joshua: “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it.” 3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai;”
Once Joshua removed the sin, he had to accept God’s forgiveness and begin fighting again. God saw the earnest desire Joshua had to be free from the sin that held him and the nation back and He forgave them. Then, He encouraged Joshua. Notice what He said.
Now the Lord said to Joshua: “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed;
These are the exact same words God used when He originally called Joshua to the battle. It is as if God was saying, “You were My man then and you still are now. Get back in there and make Me proud!” He wanted Joshua to know he was forgiven. He wanted Joshua to accept this forgiveness.
This step sounds easy enough; however, it is more difficult than one would think. Our enemy will try and convince us that God hasn’t forgiven us. He will tell us that we have no right to get back in the fray. He will try and convince us that we aren’t fit to fight in God’s army. He will try to make us afraid that we will be defeated again because God is still angry with us.
This is why we must accept God’s forgiveness. We must realize He does forgive us and He will help us overcome. Only then will we be able to take it to our enemies.
3. We must fight our enemies with everything we got.
After we face our sin, remove it from our lives, and accept God’s forgiveness, we must take the fight to the enemy with everything we got.
3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night
This time Joshua meant business. He sent 30,000 men to the battle.
Remember, last time he only sent 3,000. He sent only enough to do the job. He toyed with Ai. He didn’t take them seriously. As a result, He was defeated. This time, he understood the risk in the battle and fought with everything he had. We need to learn this lesson. I know I certainly did.
When I first entered into spiritual warfare, I didn’t take it all that seriously. I basically did it in hopes of appeasing God so He would do what I wanted. As a result, I gained few victories and suffered many defeats.
It wasn’t until I got serious and realized how pathetically bound to sin I was that I began to gain victories. I wanted to break free, so I gave it all I had. I spent hours in prayer. I made endless lists of sins I had committed. I repented continuously. I went through hours of deliverance. I went after my enemies with everything I had. Only then did I begin to experience victory.
We cannot enter this battle against our demonic enemies lightly. We can’t halfheartedly fight. We must take it seriously. We must realize it is spiritual life or death. It must be our #1 priority. We must attack it with as much force and vigor as possible. This brings us to our fourth point.
4. We must use the defeat to our advantage.
So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night. 4And he commanded them, saying: “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city; and it will come about, when they come out against us as at the first, that we shall flee before them. 6For they will come out after us till we have drawn them from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ Therefore we will flee before them. 7Then you shall rise from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8And it will be, when you have taken the city, that you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the Lord you shall do. See, I have commanded you.”
I find Joshua’s plan fascinating. He made the men of Ai think they were winning again. As the men of Israel retreated, the men of Ai naturally chased them. When the city was empty, the men waiting in ambush attacked. They burnt the city and destroyed it. The men of Ai knew they were done. Israel could now attack them from all sides. This plan never could have happened if they had never suffered a defeat.
We need to use our past defeats to help gain future victories. We must analyze what we did wrong and do it right. We need to use the memory of the defeat to inspire us to gain new victories. Also, when our enemies try to throw lies and attacks at us, we need to remind them that we repented, God forgave us, and He will give us the victory over them. Joshua used the defeat to his advantage, and so should we.
5. We must persistently defeat our enemies.
The fifth step in rising from our defeats is to fight until our enemy is completely defeated. We see this when Joshua and his men finish off the men of Ai who find themselves surrounded.
So all the people who were in Ai were called together to pursue them. And they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. So they left the city open and pursued Israel.
18Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the spear that was in his hand toward the city. 19So those in ambush arose quickly out of their place; they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and they entered the city and took it, and hurried to set the city on fire.
Joshua gave the predetermined signal. The ambushers set the city on fire and quickly helped the rest of the Israelites in the battle.
Then the others came out of the city against them; so they were caught in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side. And they struck them down; so that they let none of them remain or escape. 23But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.
24 And it came to pass when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness where they pursued them, and when they all had fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword.
Israel thoroughly defeated their enemies. They fought until they were completely destroyed. Notice the persistence Joshua and his men displayed.
So it was that all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. 26for Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as booty for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, desolation to this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones that remains to this day.
They left no survivors. They killed everyone and everything. Notice Joshua had his arm and spear raised the entire time they fought. He never wavered until it was done. We must do the same.
We must go after our enemy with everything we got. We do this by not only addressing the way the sin affects us now, but also looking back and seeing the long-term effects.
When did we first commit the sin? Is it generational? Where did I learn this sinful behavior? When do I usually commit this sin? These are all questions we must face. We must make lists and repent. We must make amends. We must go through deliverance so we can kick out the demon. We must be persistent and fight until the demon and behavior are no longer part of our nature. Only then will we gain complete victory and be able to move on to step six.
6. We need to grow deeper in our relationship with God.
Once Joshua and his men totally destroyed the city of Ai, they rededicated themselves to God.
Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal… And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.
34And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.
Joshua and the people built an altar, which signified entering into prayer and worship to God. Then they dove into the Word of God. We need to do the same.
Once we defeat our enemies and gain victory over the area of sin, we must fill the space with a new, godly way of living. Jesus explains the reason why in Luke 11:24-26.
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
We need to fill ourselves with God’s Word. It is truth to replace the lies of Satan. We need to spend time in prayer, hearing God’s voice instead of our enemies’ lies. Doing these things will help us re-groove our hearts and minds so our enemies can’t come back into us. Also, doing so helps us see additional enemies we can defeat. In future chapters we will go into greater detail, but for now we must face this topic head-on.
We began this chapter by discussing the fact that we all lose battles from time to time. Your measure of a warrior in God’s army is what you do after the defeat.
Will you choose to stay down and defeated, feeling helpless and hopeless to begin again, or will you rise up and deal with the defeat?
Will you take action to kill the sin that caused the defeat?
Will you accept God’s forgiveness and begin again?
Will you fight your enemies with everything you got?
Will you take the lessons from your defeat and use it against your enemy?
Will you be persistent until your enemy is totally destroyed?
Will you then take steps to deepen your walk with God so the enemy cannot return? We all need to make our own decision. I have made mine. What will you decide?
1. We listed a lot of questions in this chapter’s Decision Time. Take time and analyze each step. Decide what you will do, and do it with all you have in you.
2. Re-read Luke 11:24-26. Figure out exactly what you need to do so your enemies can’t return.