“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.”
Joshua 8:1 (NIV)
Discouragement over the past and fear of the future are the two reactions that often accompany failure. We look back and remember the mistakes that we made, and then we look ahead and wonder whether there’s any future for people who fail so foolishly. But Joshua’s story offers hope to those who have failed. It shows us how we can turn our failures into success. His story began with a great victory as he led the people of Israel in their first battle – the battle of Jericho. It was one of the most famous battles in the Old Testament. But, as is too often the case, his greatest victory was followed by defeat. The next battle would teach him valuable lessons from losing. Overconfident and self-assured, Joshua sends out only a fraction of the army to handle this little town called Ai. To his surprise and dismay, his men retreated in defeat with 36 fatalities. It was only then we find recorded that Joshua cried out to God in prayer. Failures often cause us to do that, don’t they? How do you handle your failures? Since we’re all part of the human race, we all fail at times. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, we all fail. Learning to handle your failures is a huge part of growing spiritually. God wants us to turn our failures into success. His greatest work in our lives often follows failure. He has an amazing way of turning our messes into our life message and using our pain for His purpose. Satan also has a strategy for failure as well. He uses it to keep us discouraged over our past and afraid of what the future may hold. How can we rightly respond to failure? First, don’t minimize it. Sin is serious business. The sin that created failure in Joshua’s defeat at Ai cost the lives of a family and 36 soldiers. It cost the families of those men as well. It was grievous. Sin always affects others. Part of Satan’s deception in sin is to convince us that no one else will be hurt, it’s our business. Yet no one sins unto himself. Don’t minimize it. Secondly, don’t magnify it. God provided a sacrifice for our sins in His own Son, Jesus, on the cross. Through His death we can be forgiven. His grace is greater than all our sin! That’s the good news of the Gospel! Don’t magnify sin to a point that you allow failures in the past to keep you from victory in the present! 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” That’s exactly what Joshua did and look what God said to him. “‘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.” Just as Joshua turned his failure into success, so can you. Confess your sin to God. Confession simply means to agree with God. Admit your failure to Him and ask His forgiveness. Turn from your sin to Christ and accept His forgiveness. Then, thank Him for forgiving you and get back up. Learn from your past, just don’t live in it! God has a hope and a future for you! Embrace it in faith and God will turn that failure into success.