Joshua couldn't believe what he was hearing."Let me see if I am hearing you right, Lord.You want us to march around Jericho once a day for six days, right?And on the seventh day, we are to march around it how many times?"(Joshua 7 & 8)
"Seven!Ok, I've got it.Now you want me to go tell my army that this is our battle plan.They are going to laugh at me, God.But I will do it."
That's how the career of Joshua began following the death of Moses.He got the job because he was chosen for it by God, and because he had shown promise as a leader.They had faith in him, and would follow him anywhere.What God proposes seems worth questioning from a warrior like Joshua.But he didn't do that, rather, he was obedient to Jehovah and gave the orders just like he received them.
On the seventh time around Jericho on the seventh day, the trumpets sounded, the people shouted and those walls came tumbling down!It was a great victory in their very first battle in the land of Canaan.Now it was time to go on to the city of Ai, another walled fortress but not nearly as formidable as Jericho.The scouts Joshua sent out reported that it was unnecessary to use the entire army, only 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers were needed in this campaign
Joshua trusted the report and sent out 3,000 men.But this time something awful happened.Because Achan had stolen some of the devoted items from the first battle against Jericho, he brought sin and disobedience to the children of Israel.
When Ai saw the army from Israel, they were ready for them.The king of Ai commanded, "Charge!"They chased the Israelites into a rock quarry where 36 soldiers died in the battle.Word spread quickly about their defeat and the people began to cry out to Jehovah in fear.But God had a plan!It was a scheme of deception.
To the north of the city, Joshua would set up camp with 30,000 of his best fighting men.Five thousand hid in ambush to the West.When the armies of Ai came out of the city, Joshua and his army fled across the desert with all the men of Ai in pursuit, leaving the city defenseless.Those who lay in ambush entered the city, captured it and set it on fire.
"The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers…The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides.Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives."(Joshua 8:20 & 22)
Beloved, there are times when it is appropriate to be deceptive and shrewd in our dealings with the enemy.In War and Sport, we are not to let our opponents know the game plan.That is also true in spiritual warfare.
From these pages in the life of Joshua there are four principles for living a victorious life:
Living victoriously does not guarantee a life without defeat.It should not come as a surprise that valleys come between the mountaintops of your life.As long as we are in this world we can expect spiritual warfare and sometimes we will not win.When that happens, you should shout, "Hallelujah!"God is about to show you something that you cannot learn unless you spend some time on your backside, bruised from the battle.Thank God that He is there to pick you up!
Sin is often the reason Christians stumble.God gave explicit instructions that the spoils of Jericho belonged to Him, but Achan saw something he wanted and took it.His sin caused the defeat at the first battle of Ai.We must not blame God when we step out of line.There are certain consequences for following our way instead of God's way.
When defeat comes you must believe that God has a plan.The defeat at Ai brought fear into the hearts of God's children.Joshua became depressed and cried out to Jehovah, "Why did you bring us here if you were going to make us look bad in the face of our enemies?You should have left us in the wilderness!"God said, "Stand up!Get off your beds of self-pity and prepare for battle.I have a plan."
The only plan that will work comes from the mind and heart of God.No matter how smart we are, how skilled at planning, how far advanced in our career, man's plans are never God's plans! At the second battle of Ai, Jehovah shows us a new wrinkle about dealing with the enemy.It is a plan of deception!!!He told them to pretend to be doing one thing while planning to do something totally different.What is the principle here?When dealing with spiritual warfare in business, school, relationships….it is O.K. to conceal information from the enemy to improve your position.Giving too much information may pass the advantage to the evil one.Jesus told His disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.Therefore be as shrewd as snakes…be on your guard against men…"(Matt. 10:16-17)
The battles we wage are very real.Daily we face an enemy every bit as fortified as the walled cities of Jericho and Ai.God's plan is for you to be victorious in battle but if you are not, He is a God of second chances.This time listen to His plan.It may sound ridiculous and it may place you in the uncomfortable position of trusting Him more than you trust your best friend. But in the end it is the ONLY plan to follow."For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord..."(Isaiah 55:12)Amen and amen!
By 16 or 17, most of us have our drivers' license.Not too long after that, most will get introduced to the "curse of the dead battery."It always seems to happen when we're in a rush or when we're somewhere far from help (or both).Thank God for jumper cables.
Those jumper cables are found in some unusual places - They're not always in the back of the pick-up truck with the gun rack and the Rebel flag.Sometimes, you find them in the trunk of a Cadillac or a BMW.Sometimes the person helping you is not who you would expect: A teenager with tattoos, piercings and pink, spiked hair; and, sometimes, a business man in a $1,500 suit.Help come in all shapes, colors and sizes and sometimes rides a donkey instead of a white horse.
Once you get your car started, your car will run for a while without those cables attached; so, we leave our "rescuer" and drive away.Usually, we never see them again.But, did their "boost" fix us permanently; or, was it only a temporary fix?The next time our hectic schedule puts a load on the electrical system, we'll find out.
Sometimes we know that the "quick boost" wasn't enough; our battery needs to be recharged or replaced.It's very reassuring when we can simply get a new "Heavy Duty" battery because then we know we're safe for a long time to come.Other times, if the battery is in pretty good condition, a fast recharge will work.The interesting thing is, new or recharged, if the electrical load is too high, the "curse of the dead battery" will return.They only way we can avoid it is to continuously replace the charge in the battery.We can do that by what's known as "trickle charging."
That means we are continuously putting some charge into the battery.Not the fast "supercharge"; but, a slow, steady charge that is always enough to overcome the day to day loads our crazy driving schedule requires.
Do you know anything else that requires a slow, steady charge that is always enough to overcome the day to day loads our crazy "living" schedule requires?How about your spirit?
Sometimes, God is in the replacement business.When we come to Christ He makes us all new.We become "...a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2nd Corinthians 5:17)At other times, He simple refills us with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)
Thank God we can go for a while without being "charged" because Satin is coming at us every waking hour.Our spirit and the Word of God can keep our armor up for a while.However, just like our cars, we sometimes get caught with a "dead battery."That's when our loving God sends His angels to our rescue. (Hebrews 1:14 & Acts 12:1) They also come in all shapes, colors and sizes (Hebrews 13:2).
And, like our car batteries, our spirits require a continuous "trickle charge" to stay full and ready.Stay in His Word; Pray daily. (John 8:31)If you're not part of a local church, find one and get involved with the Body of Christ. (Acts 2:42)Get recharged; stay charged; and, keep your armor up!!!
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 2:5
October 12, 2005
"A Blind Man with a Vision"
On August 4, 1987, Jim Dixon set sail from Rhode Island for a trans-Atlantic voyage, alone in a small sailing ship.His story is one of fulfilling a life-long dream while overcoming tremendous odds and numerous obstacles along the way.It was a bittersweet day for his family and friends as they called out their words of encouragement until the crashing waves and soft summer winds no longer permitted.Jim was on his way across the Atlantic.
There is a story in the Gospels about a man with a vision…a dream!(Luke 18:35-43) His name was Bartimaeus and his dream was to receive his sight.He was among the crowd of well wishers who greeted the travelers going to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover.He heard a noise in the streets and asked what the commotion was about."Jesus of Nazareth is passing by," they told him.
Was it possible that this was what he had waited for all those years?Through his darkness he had never lost hope that things could change.He never lost his dream of sight.He had heard about this one from Nazareth who could give sight to the blind.Why not him?Why not now?
He dreamed a great dream.Bartimaeus was the only one in that crowd that believed his situation was NOT hopeless.He never gave up.Some people have ceased to believe in the miracles of God, yet others dare to dream on.Jesus had a dream and he spoke of it more than 80 times.It was the dream of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.What is your dream?Do you dare to believe that God is more than ready to give you the desires of your heart?Bartimaeus had never met Jesus before…he had no personal relationship with Him, but when he acted upon the limited knowledge he had, Jesus rewarded him with healing.Beloved, God doesn't require perfect dreams, just dreams!The early church hesitated to dream at first, but it took the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Saul to shake them from their complacency.Act upon the faith you have and you will be rewarded.
He overcame great obstacles.People who dare to dream the impossible dream have learned to overcome obstacles.Bartimaeus' obvious hindrance was his sightlessness.But there was another obstacle he faced, one which causes many of us to stumble.He depended on the eyes of others to tell him what was going on around him."What's that noise about?" he asked.When he learned that Jesus was coming he pushed his way to the front and cried out to the Saviour, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"The people rebuked him for his outburst, but he yelled all the louder."Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Never allow your dreams to be intimidated by negative Christians who would hush your cries to the Lord!I wonder how many dreamers give up because they have been discouraged by negativity.Harold Ivan Smith said, "There may well be that moment when I conclude my dream is unreachable and I give up.All I know is…..it won't be today!"
He obeyed a great command.Jesus ordered that Bartimaeus be brought to him and Luke records, "he came near" to Jesus.The only response we can give to Jesus when He calls us is to listen and obey without excuse.
When Ian Thomas preached his sermon about the burning bush he said that God was trying to tell Moses, "I don't need a pretty bush or an educated bush or an eloquent bush.Any old bush will do, as long as I am in the bush.If I am going to use you, I AM going to use you!It will not be you doing something for Me, but Me doing something through you."
A dreamer who lacks obedience is like a soldier who has gone a.w.o.l.It isn't good enough just to have big plans and lofty dreams.When God gives His approval it's time to act.Once a commitment is made to follow the Lord and we have suited up in the uniform of God's armor, absenteeism is not a choice.
Immediately upon receiving his sight Bartimaeus "followed Jesus, praising God.When all the people saw it, they also praised God."(v. 43)
What an awesome testimony!Bartimaeus would never have been considered a leader of people.The influence of a blind beggar was nil.But once he obeyed Jesus and received his blessing, his faith impacted all those who knew him and many who did not.He dared to dream and live it out.
What is your dream?It may not be to sail the Atlantic Ocean alone, as Jim Dixon dreamed of doing.Maybe you have tired of dreaming, or perhaps you think you cannot achieve your dreams so you've given up.Beloved, it is never too difficult and it's never too late!
I have a great friend who lives in South Africa and we correspond via e-mail almost every day. Even though we've been doing that for a long time now, I still feel so funny saying "good morning" to her when I begin my morning e-mail, knowing that it is not morning there! As I'm about to begin my day, Tersia's is coming to an end. I jokingly told her once that I don't need to worry about whether there's a tomorrow -- she can always tell me since she "gets there" before I do!
This morning as I thought about that time difference, it reminded me of another friend who is in an even better position to assure me about tomorrow...
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go toprepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2-3, KJV)
A very familiar scripture to most of us, in times of fear, stress and anxiety about the happenings in our own lives, it is really reassuring! Jesus came here just for the purpose of walking ahead of us, to show us the way, to wait for us and then, just when we think "today," with all its troubles, might never end and we start to worry about the future, God sings, "My Son will come up tomorrow....!"
Dear God, How can I thank you for this reassurance about all my tomorrows? Help me; remind me, that I only need to be faithful TODAY; that I need to live this day for you trusting that tomorrow is in your loving and capable hands. Thank you for taking away my fears and anxieties and replacing them with peace! In Jesus' name, Amen.
Let me be real frank with you.I can remember more than a few times when I was at the end of my rope.I had been going through challenges for quite a while and it seemed as though they would never end.My pastor kept encouraging the church to hold on to God, regardless of how stormy the sea of life became, but I had gotten tired. I'd finally reached the end of my rope.
The interesting thing I've discovered nonetheless is that when I've reached the end of my rope and exhausted all of my resources the Lord steps right in.
It's when my plans, devices and strategies fail me and I throw my hands up, that God seems to step into the picture.Why is this?
Perhaps it's because as long as I had my hands on the rope, I could never raise them, and thereby surrender the problem to Him.It's when I've reached the end of my rope (and sometimes fallen into despair) that I can hear Him say, "Let me help you through this."
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that things always worked out the way I wished they would.However, I definitely could sense His hand moving in the situation and working things out for the highest.
When you're at the end of your rope, release it, and give your hand to God.