We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Small Defeats

In the book of Joshua, God challenges His people repeatedly to “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Along with this challenge, God seeks to bolster their courage by affirming that “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life . . . I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

For a while, everything goes well for the children of Israel. Following God’s commands at Jericho, they watch the strongholds of their enemies fall. Faith and obedience are rewarded. Scripture reasserts what has already been evident: “So the LORD was with Joshua . . . .” (Joshua 6:27a).

But then suddenly in chapter 7 everything starts to unravel. A handful of the men are killed in battle. After such a glorious and decisive victory over Jericho, Joshua is perplexed. So Joshua and the elders of Israel fell on their faces before the Lord.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the accursed things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings . . . I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the accursed things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people’ . . . for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, ‘There are accursed things in your midst . . . You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed things from among you'” (Joshua 7:10-13).

As I ponder this story I am reminded that small defeats are often big reminders of sin in our lives. It would behoove us to begin a self-evaluation to see if there are any accursed things in our midst that are restricting the blessing of God. An accursed thing can take many forms–but it is always that which provides temporary satisfaction for an eternal, God-shaped void.

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