Joshua 7:3-5, 8:1
When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
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. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.
Written by: Nathan Smith
I love college basketball for the stories it provides. Even if you don’t like sports, you surely love a good story. Every year millions of Americans watch “March Madness” and get wrapped up in the underdogs, buzzer beaters, and the unpredictable things that can happen. This year gave us maybe the best story of all. The University of Virginia men’s basketball team made history by winning the school’s first ever national championship after a great year and several dramatic victories during the tournament. But that’s not what made the story so great. What made it a great story was what happened last year when they made a different kind of history.
In the 2018 tournament, Virginia became the first-ever number one seed to lose to a 16 seed. Basically, what that means is the tournament committee determined them to be one of the four best teams in the country based on how they had done during the season. For that, they were rewarded with getting to play one of the worst teams. These games usually end up as blowouts as future NBA players run up and down the court and outplay future architects, writers, and doctors. But this time, the big bad team lost to the scrappy upstarts from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. This was like the mom and pop store putting Walmart out of business or the country of Liechtenstein invading Russia and winning. Or the town of Waco, Texas becoming a major tourist destination because of the popularity of a couple with a home improvement show. Oh wait, that one actually happened.
After such a historic loss, the team could have gone multiple directions. They could have just quit. The coach could have taken another job and the players could have left for the NBA or transferred to other schools. Or they could have tried to pretend it didn’t happen and refuse to answer questions about it. But instead, they chose to embrace it and learn from it. Over and over this year, they talked in interviews about how they chose to use it as motivation to come back stronger this year and finish what they started.
Under Joshua’s faithful leadership and devotion to God, the Israelites were riding high. They were claiming territory and winning battles. When they got to the town of Ai, Joshua sent some scouts up and they came back said it would be an easy win. They didn’t even need to send their whole army. But then, they were decisively beaten. It was demoralizing. As you read through all of Joshua 7, it comes out one of Joshua’s men had committed a pretty major sin and that was their reason for losing the battle. After dealing with the sin and refocusing their attention on God, they regrouped and went back to fight against Ai. This time they won easily.
There are times in life when you will face defeat. It’s inevitable. Sometimes the defeat will come from your own mistakes and sometimes it will come from circumstances beyond your control. The only sure thing is it will come. But what you can control is how you respond. Don’t ignore it and try to pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t just give up and never try again. Choose to learn from it, deal with it, and come back stronger.
Thought of the day: For the adversities in life that have brought you trouble, consider forgiving those who need forgiving (including yourself). Understand that failure is never permanent, and that the Bible shows us over and over again God’s long-term plan is victory for those who love Him.
Prayer: God, help me to face life’s challenges in a way that honors You. For the sin in my life that’s keeping me from experiencing victory, I confess it to You and ask for Your forgiveness. I know that Jesus’ death on the cross covers my guilt and shame. Amen.