It’s hurts when we fail. It hurts our pride, it hurts our progress, and it often hurts other people.
It’s also hard to get over, and that can lead to even more failure, because it starts feeding on itself and multiplying. “Well, I failed there, so what difference does it make if I fail here, too? Who’s going to care now?” If we crash and burn, we figure it must be what we deserve. Why fight the facts? We’re losers. We’re failures. Giving up altogether makes more and more sense with each fall, because we are so far behind now. We’ll never catch-up.
It’s is even worse when we think we have failed God, because we add guilt and shame to our pain. Then, like Adam and Eve before us, we try to hide. We want to disappear. We don’t want to face our heavenly Father, and be confronted with what we’ve done. We want to move on and move away—as far away as possible. With people, we can sometimes avoid confronting our failure. People get mad, and leave us alone. But, God’s love follows us. He never leaves us. We can run, and we can hide, but God continues to reach out to us—even as we sink deeper and deeper into the pit of Despair.
One summer, not too long ago, I experienced one of the most painful failures of my life. I was confronted with my flesh as though I was standing in front of a dressing-room mirror, trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans two sizes too small. Yet, it was a failure I never had to know. The Lord had tried to prepare me for what was coming, but it was only as I tried to drown myself in tears that I finally saw what the Lord had been trying to show me.
It took my breath away.
(2) Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.
(3) Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.
(4) From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.
(5) No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
(6) Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
(7) Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
(8) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
(9) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:2-9, KJV
Moses had just passed on to his Reward, and Joshua was left in charge. He knew God’s plan was to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land, and now that responsibility fell squarely on his shoulders. His first order of business would be crossing the Jordan. Everything God was planning to do, everything He had promised, was on the other side of that river. There was no way around it—or over it. Like Moses, he was going to have to go through.
As I studied this passage, I initially thought the Lord’s commission to Joshua was simple:
Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. (v. 2)
He was just picking up where Moses had left off. Just get up and go, Josh. I mean, hadn’t they all ready come out of Egypt? Hadn’t they all ready come through 40 years in the desert? Hadn’t they all ready dealt with the whole gilded calf thing? Joshua could see with his own eyes the land that lay before him. He’d been mentored under Moses himself, for crying out loud. Joshua was a man well prepared for this position, but it really wasn’t that simple.
Joshua was to take hundreds of thousands of people across a river, during flood stage, without boats or bridges. And, it was just the beginning of what he was to face. Not to mention he was leading the Israelites, who certainly hadn’t given Moses an easy time of it. God knew He was asking Joshua to do something that would be very hard for him.
That’s what took my breath away.
Sometimes, we think God doesn’t understand. We think He is asking too much. We think He is being unfair, unkind, and uncaring. However, this passage of scripture proves He knew, and more than that, He prepared Joshua. He told Joshua exactly how to succeed! He didn’t put him in this incredibly hard place and say, “Let’s see what you’re made of, big boy.” He was not setting him up for failure, but for the most important success of his life.
God had tried to set me up for success, too. God knew I was in a terrible situation, and He knew it was going to be impossible for me to succeed in my own strength. Unlike Joshua, though, I could not put my own thoughts and emotions down long enough to hear His word of instruction and encouragement. I did not obey God’s Word.
Yet, despite my disobedience, He took my miserable failure and used it to show me His marvelous truth.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
God’s instructions begin in verse 6 with, “Be strong and of good courage.” The Lord tells him three more times to have courage, two more times to be strong, once not to be afraid, and five times to obey His Word. In all of this, what really stood out to me was verse 9:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (v.9)
Being strong and courageous are not an option or suggestion, but a command. Yet, He makes sure Joshua knows he does not stand alone. God is with you wherever you go.
What are the challenges you’re facing? Where has Failure been visiting you? Is it a circumstance of life, or the consequence of wrong choices? The Enemy gets us trapped in a cycle of failure, when we fail to see that we are as valuable to God as Joshua—He is on our side, trying to help us succeed. The Lord tells Joshua what to do, “Arise and go,” but then He tells him how he will accomplish this.
When we just do the best we can, in our own strength, we are courting failure. We may work as hard as we are able, sweat and strain and stretch and strive, but if we do it in our flesh, we only have our flesh to count on.
If we will live in Christ, instead, every challenge of life we face can be approached with this simple prayer, “God help me see You in this circumstance.” God means for our entire lives to bring Him glory, and that means everything we do should be touched by Him. Every human life surrendered to God can apply the word of the Lord to Joshua to themselves. And, we can make Joshua our example of to live the successful Christian life—that means living a life that brings Him glory.
When Joshua was near death, he spoke a final word of exhortation to the children of Israel. He must have known they were a lot like me.
“And you know in all your hearts and all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14)
Joshua knew the Lord well, and knew frail humanity well, too. He knew that if we would cease our fretting and instead consider all God has done for us in the past, it becomes very easy to trust Him with our future.
I pray you will be encouraged by the Word of the Lord, just as I was also encouraged. I pray the Lord take your breath away, showing you how present He is in your life, and how much He wants to help you right now.