Turning Defeat Into Victory – 1

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Scripture Text – Joshua 8

The following quotation runs contrary to what most people today think about life, including people in the church. It was said in a sermon preached on August 12, 1849, by the famous British preacher F.W. Robertson.

Life, like war, is a series of mistakes, and he is not the best Christian nor the best general who makes the fewest false steps. Poor mediocrity may secure that; but he is the best who wins the most splendid victories by the retrieval of mistakes. Forget mistakes; organize victories out of mistakes.

Henry Ford would have agreed with Robertson, because Ford defined a mistake as “an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” Joshua would also have agreed, because he is about to “begin again, more intelligently” and organize a victory out of his mistakes.

A New Beginning

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. And 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.” – Joshua 8:1-2.

Once the nation of Israel had judged the sin that had defiled their camp, God was free to speak to them in mercy and direct them in their conquest of the land. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24. No matter what mistakes we may make, the worst mistake of all is not to try again; for “the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings” (Alexander Whyte).

You start with the Word of God. We today don’t hear God’s audible voice as people often did in Bible times, but we have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us; and God will direct us if we wait patiently before Him.

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The word of encouragement (Joshua 8:1a). Discouragement over the past and fear of the future are the two reactions that often accompany failure. We look back and remember the mistakes that we made, and then we look ahead and wonder whether there’s any future for people who fail so foolishly.

The answer to our discouragement and fear is in hearing and believing God’s Word: “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed.” I recommend that you take your Bible concordance and study the “fear not” statements of the Bible. Note that God spoke these words to different kinds of people in various circumstances, and His Word always met the need. God never discourages His people from making progress. As long as we obey His commandments, we have the privilege of claiming His promises. God delights “to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9.

The word of instruction (Joshua 8:1b–2). God always has a plan for His people to follow, and the only way for us to have victory is to obey God’s instructions. In his first attack on Ai Joshua followed the advice of his spies and used only part of the army; but God told him to take “all the people of war.” The Lord also told Joshua to use an ambush and take advantage of Ai’s self-confidence stemming from Israel’s first defeat (Joshua 7:1–5). Finally, God gave the soldiers the right to claim the spoils, but they were to burn the city. Had Achan waited only a few days, he could have picked up all the wealth that he wanted. God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. When we run ahead of the Lord, we usually rob ourselves and hurt others.

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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