Joshua 8:1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai.”
This verse needs to be considered in context. After their miraculous, total victory at Jericho the Israelites had experienced their first, shocking defeat the first time they tried to attack Ai. Chapter 7 tells the story, and how the Lord indicated that it was because of the sin, the greed, of Achan that they had been defeated. With that sin dealt with, now the Lord is telling Joshua to try again. As many people have pointed out, failures are an important part of success. If we have no failures, we never really learn anything, and we get cocky and conceited. In this particular instance, God gave Joshua wisdom as a general so that he used his forces effectively, and on the second try they had a decisive victory. We, like they, need to learn that if we are listening obediently to God, no obstacle is impassible, but if we fail to listen obediently to God, even small things will trip us up. That story has been played out countless times, as high-profile Church leaders, even, have crashed and burned. No sin is hidden before God, and we need to fear Him enough to do as He says, rather than listen to our flesh. That’s why the Bible says repeatedly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) Today we tend to focus on the love of God, and loving Him in return. That’s not wrong, but if we forget that He is also perfectly holy, and that sin has consequences, we are setting ourselves up for failure. If we repent genuinely, then God will have turned our evil around and used it for good, (Romans 8:28) teaching us to fear and obey Him.
I have certainly had my moments of cocky conceit, and it’s not been pretty. I have been slow to learn absolute purity in my thought life, and that has been a real drag on me. The challenges of ministry in Japan are huge, and I have come to accept failure as normal. That’s no way to be! I need to seek the Lord for the tactics He would have me use, just as He led Joshua. Frankly, in Japan no tactic has been what we would call terribly effective in growing the Church, and that’s even more true outside of major metropolitan centers. I have been called and sent to Omura, but I have not been called and sent to failure. I need to be fully humble but not resigned, not beating myself up but not giving up either. God has not given us a vision of Omura again being the foremost Christian city in the nation for nothing!
Father, I didn’t expect this when I started writing! Thank You for Your encouragement. Thank You that You continue to grow and transform me into the likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18) May I not get in the way of that but cooperate fully, so that as Your agent I may cause many to acknowledge You as holy, bringing Your kingdom as Your will is done perfectly right here, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!