Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 14
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Failure can be and is a tool that God uses many times in our lives to teach us. We live in a world that says you can’t fail. We live with a God who says you’re going to fail and let me take your failure and help you, grow you, encourage you in your walk.|
Failure and How to deal with it (Joshua 9)
Turn with me to Joshua 9. We are going to talk about something tonight that’s a very familiar subject to everybody. Anybody who says it isn’t would lie about anything: Failure. Anybody relate to that at all? Failure and how to deal with it; we’re going to see this in chapter 9 in a big way.
Have you ever asked yourself the question—I have, and I just wondered if you have—have you ever asked yourself the question, “Will I ever get to the place where I don’t have to deal with failure?” Anybody besides me ever ask that question? Well, you know we will get to that place. You know when it’s going to be, when we die—or when Jesus comes first. But we’re going to have to have a glorified body before we ever get to the place that we don’t have to deal with failure. In fact, failure can be and is a tool that God uses many times in our lives to teach us. We live in a world that says you can’t fail. We live with a God who says you’re going to fail and let me take your failure and help you, grow you, encourage you in your walk. Failure is very real.
Israel is the perfect picture of the battle that we have with our flesh and the consequent failure that results in our life when we yield to that flesh. Every time I say yes to Wayne, failure is immediate. That’s with all of us.
We learned from our study in Galatians that the flesh is an enemy of the Spirit of God. We know that, but isn’t it amazing we can hear it in here and say yes, amen, and walk outside and before we get to the car, it’s already got us. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please;” in other words, so that you might fail when you obey the flesh. If we were to add something to it, which you don’t do, but just to make sure we understand it, when we choose to fulfill the desires of the flesh, failure is the result.
It appears from our text that we are going to look at in chapter 9 today that the sin of Achan back in chapter 7. Remember, the old boy that couldn’t resist the temptation and stole some of the valuables when they attached Jericho. Well, they were subsequently defeated at Ai which also happened in chapter 7. They didn’t know that Achan had done what he did. All of this has somehow allowed the inhabitants of Canaan to see that there’s a chink in Israel’s armor.
This hasn’t been good. The very fear that Joshua had is now coming to fruition. Before, we saw in our study, even when they sent the spies over, they came back saying the land is yours. The people are terrified of Israel and their God. And we knew that. We’ve heard that several times in our study along the way. But now, even though Ai has been defeated in chapter 8, it seems like the nations feel like that Israel’s human after all and that they can be defeated because they heard about that first defeat that they had at Ai.
So now a coalition of nations that inhabit Canaan comes against Israel. They begin to line up to come against Israel. Joshua 9:1, “Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the low land upon all the coasts of the great sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it.” Now what did they hear? What is it that caused what we’re about to read take place? What did they hear? Well, obviously, they heard of Ai being defeated and in a big way. But you have to consider that they also heard, because if word travels that fast, they also heard of Israel being defeated by Ai. On that first onslaught to the city, Israel was miserably defeated and they turned their backs and ran like as if they were without their God being with them.
Well in verse 2, “Once they heard it, they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.” They must have figured that there’s more strength in numbers than there is in one group; because Jericho fell, Ai fell, but if we all come together there’s a chink in their armor and we can defeat them. So they formed this coalition against Israel.
Well, that is, all but one group. And that’s the Gibeonites that we’re going to study in chapter 9. They had other ideas. What Jericho couldn’t do with their walls and what Ai could not do with their weapons, the Gibeonites are going to do by sinful deception. They are going to deceive them. They are not going to come against them in battle. They are going to deceive the Israelites. You see, the Gibeonites were the next area to be conquered by Israel. They didn’t want to die. They had heard what had already happened and what they were about to do would bring about a huge failure on Israel’s leadership—that’s Joshua and the leaders of Israel. They are going to make a huge mistake. They are going to fail in a big way.
By the way, isn’t it amazing that after our greatest victories in the Christian life, we seem to experience some of our greatest failures? I mean, they’ve had some pretty good victories in chapter 8. They have conquered Ai. They have celebrated. They renewed their covenant and boom! Failure in chapter 9.
Our flesh should never be taken for granted. You know, when I say this, I’m talking to me as well as you. We’re all in the same boat. We’re here to encourage each other. The victories of yesterday never ensure the victories of tomorrow. Have you discovered that? How many of you already figured that out? That’s right! Yesterday can be walking in the glory of God and today can be one miserable failure because we cannot take the flesh for granted. Deception is always lurking around every corner ready to trip us up. In our study today we want to try and understand what to do when we have failed. Now listen, remember this, every time we listen to our flesh, which is what they did, and do not consult with God and His word, every single time we will end up in failure.
I love the emails that some of you send me. I really do; the humorous ones that are so funny. Keep sending them please. From time to time you’ll hear them again. I won’t give you credit for it, I promise. Unless you want it. I’ll even put a footnote on it if you tell me to. But some of the emails are just so funny. To illustrate this point in a humorous way, there was a man driving down the road. And there’s this lady, this woman, that was tailgating him. Have you ever had somebody do that in traffic? And they will not get off his bumper. They’d be a foot and a half or two feet behind him. Every time he’d hit a yellow light, she’d go through with him. You know how that works. If he’ll try it, they’ll try it. And he went through several lights that way, and it was just irritating him to no end.
And so he came up on a light that was green and was turning yellow. He said, “I’m not running that light, I’m going to pull up and stop and let’s see what she does this time.” Well, she had to stop and almost ran into his bumper. And when she had to stop and wait on that light and realize what he had done, she began to curse him and just yell all kinds of obscenities out the window. She beat on her roof and just began to flap the wind. She was livid. She was so upset. While she was doing this, suddenly there was a knock on her window. Tap, Tap Tap. She looked and an officer was standing there with his gun pointed at her and he told her to get out of the car and get up against the car with her legs spread and her arm out.
Well, he put handcuffs on her and read her her rights, put her in the police car, booked her and took her to the jail. Booked her on car theft. And she’s sitting in the cell wondering what in the world is going on. About two and a half hours of her sitting in that cell, finally had an embarrassed trooper walk back down and let her out and apologize. He said, “Madam, I’m so sorry. You have to understand, I was following you as you were tailgating that man for the last seven red lights. And when he stopped and I saw you going into that tantrum and I heard all the things coming out of your mouth, I couldn’t help but notice the three bumper stickers that were on your car: One says ‘I’m PROLIFE;’ the one in the middle said ‘What would Jesus do?’ And the one to the right of it said ‘I (heart) Jesus.’ He said, “So naturally, I just figured you’d stolen the car.”
I enjoy telling those kind, because it’s in traffic that I find out what failure’s all about. I guarantee you, you put me in traffic, I’ll tell you what failure is all about.
Well, we’re going to see the leaders of Israel—now listen, this is not just the nation, this is Joshua, the man and the leadership, the elders of Israel—we’re going to see them make a huge mistake and we’re going to see the reality of failure and how to we can learn to deal from it as we study them. They got in heavy traffic. They failed. But what do you do when you fail? Alright, we want to look at three things that come out of this text that might be an encouragement to all of our lives tonight. The fact that they encounter failure in chapter 9, teaches us so much.
Failure is assured
First of all I want you to see, failure is assured. The reason I say failure is assured is because we are still dealing with the flesh in our life. Every day we deal with the flesh. See I’m not just pointing at you, I’m pointing at all of us. All of us are going to have to deal with failure. It is assured in our life. When we listen to the logic of our flesh, it’s always the prerequisite to failure. Logic and our flesh—when we listen to what it’s telling us, when we listen to its reason, without checking with the word of God, it’s always a prerequisite to failure. Not only have I done it but, you’ve done it, and we’re going to do it again. This is a part of our spiritual vocabulary. Just accept it. Once you become a believer, failure will be in your future.
All the nations mentioned in verses 1-2 have declared war on Israel, but the Gibeonites have another plan. Look at verse 3, “When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they also acted craftily and set out as envoys and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wine skins worn-out and torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled.” Now, what are they up to? What’s going on here? Sounds like a group of high school students going to school. What are they up to here? Why do they have all the worn-out clothes and worn-out sacks and all this kind of things with them?
Verse 6, “They went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far country, now therefore, make a covenant with us.’” Now it immediately comes clear the deception that they wanted to get into their minds. They wanted to get Joshua and his leadership in Israel into thinking they were foreigners from another place, not Canaan, and they’ve come a long way by their worn-out items such as the wineskins and sandals. They want to make them think that they’ve been on a great journey. They want to covenant with Israel as a friendly people. Why? So that they might be spared in battle. They’ve heard about Jericho. They’ve heard about Ai. And they don’t agree with this other coalition. They’re going to go and see if they can’t get them to make a covenant with them, try to deceive them as to who they are.
In our lives there’s nothing that could please the devil any more than for you and me to make a covenant with that which he hates. You think about that for a second. What have you covenanted with that your flesh has desired that has already become a huge problem in your life? What have you covenanted with? What is trying to peacefully coexist with you as you seek to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ? You see, our flesh is so easily deceived. And if we’re not careful, right when we think we’re walking in victory is immediately when sin will deceive us. And when we choose to have our flesh pleased, then it will seek to peacefully coexist in our lives. And there is no peaceful coexistence with sin and the Spirit of God.
Back in Deuteronomy, to help you understand what I just said, Moses told the Israelites something. Now understand what God told them and listen to His wording in Deuteronomy 7:1, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you. And when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.” Destroy them. Now listen, this is God’s command to them, before they ever got into the land. “You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.”
It’s a picture of our life and walk with Christ. Sin cannot have an entry into our life. We have got to understand that. God was very clear how the enemy was to be destroyed. I mean, that’s what He said: you destroy them, don’t you make a covenant with them, don’t you become friends with them. No sir, He says later on because their pagan ideas will get involved and it will make your walk with Me impure.
Joshua and his leaders made a serious error. They judged on appearances. They saw the worn-out sandals and the worn-out wine skins and they didn’t consult God on the matter. They trusted their human logic.
Let’s follow the story. Verse 7, “The men of Israel said to the Hivites.” Now, why does he say Gibeonites and Hivites? Let me explain that to you so you won’t get lost. The Hivites were descendents of Ham, who was a son of Noah. And the Hivites lived in an area that ranged from Shechem all the way to Gibeon. So even though they were Gibeonites, they were also Hivites. They were in that particular range and they were descendents of one of the sons of Noah. Verse 7 continues, “Israel’s leaders said to these people, ‘Perhaps you are living within our land.’” When they come and they’re talking to them, “How then shall we then make a covenant with you?” If you’re in this land, we can’t make a covenant with you. Verse 8, “But they said to Joshua,” oh man here we go, “We are your servants.” You see, that’s the way it starts off. We’re here to please you. We’re here to serve you. What would you like for us to do? Oh, how our flesh loves to hear those words. “We want to serve you. We are pleasure for you. We have come to be at your bidding.”
Verse 8, “They said, ‘We are your servants.’ Then Joshua said to them, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ And they said to him, ‘Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the Lord your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan which was at Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us—take provision in your hand for the journey and go meet them and say to them, we are your servants. Now then make a covenant with us.’”
Now this is exactly the way it happens. Nobody’s checking anybody out here. Our flesh wants to be pleased. They are looking at the obvious physical appearance of these people and the fact that they’ve proclaimed they’ve been on a long journey. You see, sin stands at the doorstep of all of our lives and offers all of its pleasure. And we have to be so discerning. Particularly when we’ve just walked in victory we become more vulnerable than any other time before, because we almost feel like sin can’t bother us anymore. That’s exactly when it all sets up in our life.
We studies Galatians for a year, many of you were with us. Isn’t it interesting that the religious mindset that the Galatians bought into came in this very way? It came in as a servant. “We’re just here to help you,” these false teachers told them. “Religion is simply a great way for you to relate to God better. We’re here to serve you. We’re here to please you.” But the lie behind it was that it circumvented everything that Christ was wanting to do through their life; because Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship. And it’s the same. They didn’t intend to do it, but they dropped their guard and the deception was set. The trap was set. The hook was in. Failure is always assured when we listen to our flesh to see to it that it is pleased; then there’s always failure as a result.
The deception is really cleaver. Verse 12, “Our bread was warm when we took it out for provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you, but now, behold, it’s dry and become crumbled.” We’ve just traveled so far. They weren’t but three days journey from where Israel was. They are trying to make them think they are coming from another country.
Verse 13, “These wineskins which we filled were new and behold they are torn. And these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey.” You see, in order to enhance their point, they kept berating the fact that look at how old these things are, and it was fresh before, and we are just worn out. We’ve come a long way. We couldn’t possibly be an enemy to you. They wanted to coexist with Israel. And Israel’s leaders bought it hook, line, and sinker. You would think Joshua? Not Joshua! Yes, Joshua. He bought it hook, line and sinker.
Verse 14, “So the men of Israel [that means the leadership of Israel] took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.” Can I read that again, “and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.” And let me read it again, “and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.” Israel made two huge mistakes: They judged them on their appearance. Why? Because they’re saying, “We’ll serve you. We’ll please whatever you want.” They judged them on their appearance. They took some of their provisions. What does that mean? They tasted to see whether the food was as old as they said it was. And instead of demanding more proof, then what they did with the foreigners, they accepted shallow evidence.
Can you imagine? When God says, “Don’t you dare make a covenant with anybody in that land; this land is your land. You have to go in and get rid of it all because they are pagan and they’ll pollute your worship with Me if you leave them in the land.” And yet, here they are without any more proof than just tasting some stale bread and looking at the physical appearance of what they had took place before them.
But the second and the most major mistake they made; instead of consulting with God to find His discernment, they made their decision based on what they had found. Feeble proof. And now it’s going to cost them.
How many times have we done the same thing. God’s word is the grid that everything’s got to be run by. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard somebody say something and I’ve said that is good, and I’ve written it down. And I’ve come to God’s word and God’s word said, it sounded good, but it’s wrong; because the word is the grid. It’s the grid. Everything has to filter through the word. It’s God’s breath. It’s what He’s given to us. And what happens so many times, our flesh wants to be served; if there’s some pleasure we find in something and we tend to overlook. I don’t really want to read the word there. And so instead of checking it out the way we should have checked it out, sin gets in. It finds an entry point. Our logical conclusions are not to be trusted until we consult with the word of God.
I don’t know how many times in my life I have really missed the will of God. I mean, I’m telling you—you say, “Wayne, if we knew that we won’t have called you.” Well, if I had known what’s going on in here, maybe I wouldn’t have come. So we’re all in the same boat. You’ve been there, I’ve been there!
There’s four things that I use when I make a huge decision any major decision in my life.
The first thing I do is, what’s the deepest desire of my heart? But I have to be very careful about that because the flesh can get involved and want to be served. And boy can it pull me in a lot of directions.
Secondly, what opportunity has God raised up for me to fulfill that desire? Well, Wayne, that’s pretty good, but doesn’t that lean over to what the flesh wants? No, no, that’s just two steps.
Thirdly, when I’m alone with God in His word, is He confirming that desire and that opportunity? I want to tell you something, folks, when you get alone with God and you confess the sin in your life and you lay down your agenda and you say, “Oh God what do You want?” I tell you, it doesn’t take anybody’s discernment at all to figure out whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong. In your heart God will let you know.
And then fourthly, what supernatural thing has God done to just confirm the whole thing and put the lid on top of the bottle? I’ve done that for years. But you know what I’ve also done? I’ve also stretched those first two points. Oh, what I do I want to do. And then you stretch it and you stretch it and you leave out any one of those and you’re in disaster.
It’s like a ship. I just came back from Minnesota. I was up on Lake Superior. How many of you have ever been on Lake Superior? I was up on the North Shore. Is that beautiful or what? I don’t know if it’s in America or not, but it’s beautiful. My goodness, we were 52 miles from Canada. But you know, they had these ports and they had these harbors, huge ships up there. They had iron ore. And they pull in there. But sometimes it gets fogged in. And they have a huge lighthouse called the Split House Rock lighthouse. And when I got up to it, I wondered, why do you have a lighthouse on such a big lake? And they said, duh! I mean, Wayne, there’s a harbor here. And you have to make sure that that lighthouse, that’s the key, that’s what the pilots of the ships key off of to make sure that they can enter safely into the harbor. There are rocks on both sides. It can be 1,600 feet deep but it can be four feet deep right over here and drop straight off.
I look at these four things as four harbor lights. Until all four of them are lined up, I’m not moving. Why? Because I have learned something, my flesh wants to be pleased and I can stretch it on the area of its desire. I can even stretch the area of opportunity. But what does God say about it? That’s how easy sin gets in, because the flesh wants something, but it’s not willing to check it with the word of God.
Remember how the first battle of Ai, Joshua listened to the spies and he didn’t listen to God, he was miserably defeated. You’d think surely he’s figured it out by now. And then you come to chapter 8 and they do listen to God and they have a wonderful victory. And they also go over and renew their covenant at Shechem. Surely they’re walking now and doing it right. Oh super! I can find somebody else to disciple, that old boy’s doing it right now. And boom! Chapter 9 hits. Once again they fall right back into the trap of what the flesh wants. Failure becomes very assured in their lives.
If you’re here tonight and you’ve failed, well, welcome to the normal Christian life. Maybe you’re beginning to have an understanding of why you failed. Where did the failure come from? And it doesn’t take a Harvard graduate to figure out that when I choose to please my flesh, when something is appealing to it and I do not consult with God, failure is immediate in my life.
Failure must be admitted
But here comes the question I want to ask tonight: But once I fail, okay, Wayne, so we fail, alright, now what? The way they handled this failure to me really warms my heart. You see the integrity of the leadership of Israel: Failure must be admitted.
Israel, once they’d made a covenant with the Gibeonites, God’s people could not go back on their word. They gave their word. They entered a solemn oath, a covenant with these people. Yes, they’d failed, but so be it. Now they had to work to let it work for them, not against them. You see, they had used God’s name and sworn an oath that they would be at peace with the Gibeonites. And you see, it’s not their name that’s at stake, now, it’s God’s name that’s at stake. In their life, in their culture, oaths were very important, especially when it was a Christian type of thing or when God’s name was used. And anyone who ever broke a covenant could expect the vengeance of God on their life. If you don’t believe this, study through the Old Testament. Second Samuel 21, King Saul. He chose to break an oath that was made all these years before and God took it out on that old boy big time, because once the oath is made, it stands.
They made it wrongly, they failed, but they made an oath and there’s integrity in this thing which we will see in this leadership. Verse 15, “Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them to let them live. And the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. It came about at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within the land,” just not far away. “Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah, Be-eroth, Kiriath-jearim. The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord the God of Israel and the whole congregation grumbled against the leader.”
Like I said, it only took about three days to figure out they had been duped. They’d absolutely been deceived. When they heard that the Gibeonites lived in their land, as we just read verse 17, it appears they set out to whip them out, but that’s not what happened. Verse 18 shows that Israel’s leaders were men of integrity. They had sworn on an oath. They had made a covenant with these pagan people in God’s name. Now their failure had to be admitted. The whole congregation is grumbling against the leaders, probably because they wanted the spoils of war. You see, they had already taken the spoils at Ai, they couldn’t take it at Jericho. And here were all these cities that they could take in the area of where the Hivites lived and all that big broad, expansive land. Look at all the spoils and maybe they were greedy and wanted more spoils. We don’t know why they grumbled against their leaders.
But I so respect Israel’s leadership. They blew it, but they were willing to admit it and to accept the consequences. And that’s part of learning to deal with failure when it comes. We have to admit it. I’ll be honest with you, many times in my life I’d rather blame somebody else. Isn’t it more fun! It’s a whole lot more fun! “Adam, where are you?” “She made me do it.” “Eve, where are you?” “The devil made me do it.” I mean, just keep passing the buck instead of going on and admitting our failure.
Well, in Joshua 9:19, “But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them.’” And what the leaders are saying is yes, we’ve failed. Yes, we’ve made an oath with these pagan people, but we are going to have to move on. We cannot go back on that oath. We have to protect them now. Therefore, we have to live with it. Yes, we made a mistake, but we will have to learn to live with it. Verse 20, “This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.”
Verse 21, “The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’” They made their mistake work for them, not against them. And verse 21 says, “So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.” The Gibeonites had become slaves to all of Israel for the rest of their days. You know, one of the things you’ve got to understand—they were pagans; and God’s biggest fear was that if they joined with them, that paganism would come into Israel. But not one time is it ever recorded in history that that paganism was a problem. Somehow, with their failure, they still had to head off other problems, but they were honorable to honor the covenant that they had made with these people.
Failure must be assessed and the consequences accepted
So failure is assured and as long as we deal with our flesh, we’re going to fail. But the key is, once we have failed, we have got to learn to admit. Just go on admit it. Yes, I have failed. Accept what goes with it. That’s my third point. Thirdly, failure must be assessed as to why it happened and it must be accepted. The consequences of it must be accepted.
Verse 22, “Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them saying, why have you deceived us?” Now he’s already asked this once. “Saying we are very far from you when you were living within our land.” He’s still perplexed. He wants to assess, how is it that they were so convincing that we could make a covenant with them? He wants to know why this failure was there. Why he failed to recognize them as the enemy? What happened in his life?
Verse 23, “Now, therefore, you are cursed and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of God.” So they answered Joshua and said, “Because it was certainly told your servants that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you, therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you and have done this thing. Now behold we are in your hands, do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us. Thus, he did to them and delivered them into the hands of the sons of Israel and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord to this day [when this was written] in the place which he would choose.”
Don’t you know, again, the perplexity in Joshua’s heart? Don’t you know the frustration and the confusion when it dawned on him he’d made such a stupid mistake? They had just stood at Shechem and they said at Mount Gerizim the blessings of the covenant and Mount Ebal, the curses of the covenant. He understands when he disobeys God he’s going to have to pay the consequence. And it’s been such a glorious victory over Ai—Boom! Failure! And a kind of failure that he was going to have to live with for the rest of his life. Failure could not be undone. It would live with Israel forever.
Let me ask you a question? What failure in your life still lives with you today? You’ve made a failure in your life, you’ve made a foolish choice. You obeyed your flesh as all of us have done and maybe the consequences were sort of like this. They were heavy and they still walk with you everywhere you go. Have you learned to admit it? Have you learned to assess why you made the mistake and have you learned to accept the consequences that are now here? Have you learned to do that? If you have, then failure can be a tool in God’s hand to help you grow and help you in your walk with Him. What have you learned from the failures in your life?
You know, I was with a group this past week and I was the youngest by three years out of 83 people. And I really felt good about that. I felt kind of young, I really did. But, you know, what I heard from them over and over again is how God is ministering to their lives and many of them didn’t come to Christ until later on in life. And I think maybe that’s one of the good things about getting older. You’ve had so many failures that you finally get to a point you say, “I’ll just admit it. I’m a failure; but now let me start learning from why I failed. Let me start assessing where this came from. Let me start learning that mercy will help me bear up under the consequences of the choices that I’ve made in my past.” And then it becomes a tool in God’s hands.
Now listen, one other thing I want to share with you, then you have to move on. The apostle Paul, when he had finally dealt with some things in his life, he said, “forgetting those things which are behind,” what does he do, “I press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Don’t let failure drag you down. If you’ve failed, you’ve failed, so be it. You can’t go back and unscramble eggs. But you can admit it. And you can assess it. And you can accept the consequences. Don’t put them on somebody else. And thank God for His mercy that helps us bear up under the consequences of foolish choices and then start learning from it so that you can continue to walk in the grace of God.
Failure is very real. I know in my life I deal with it every day. But don’t let it defeat you. These are godly men, and as you follow them through Joshua, you’re going to see some great victories that are going to come in their lives. Some great things are going to happen, so it didn’t keep them down. It took them down, but it didn’t keep them down. They got back up. And they learned to accept, to admit, and to assess. Failure is a tool.
I thank God that He allows us His grace, don’t you! If I gave you a book story of all my failures in my life, we’d be here for the next year. You can just put on my tombstone—He was a failure. But I want you to finish the sentence—but thank God, God’s grace helped him to get back up on his feet and he learned from his mistakes.
Folks, failure is part of your spiritual vocabulary. We don’t have the luxury of laying around feeling sorry for ourselves. Deal with it! Accept it! Assess it! And then live under the consequences God has given. Two words I want to leave you with: Grace deals with your sin; we’re never told to show grace to anybody. Mercy deals with the consequences of sin; and that’s why we are told to show mercy over and over and over and over again.
My prayer is that if I ever fail, and do something really stupid, that you will love me enough to stand beside me, bring me to the place that I’ll admit it, assess what went wrong, accept the consequences and keep loving me so I can keep on walking as a believer in God’s kingdom. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing if you let it work the right way in your life.