Barnabas Bulletin ~ 0150
Turning Your Mess Into A Message!
By John Fergusson
You have done your best. You have heard and obeyed the Lord. You have taken good advice, and you have stepped out in faith! But then it all went wrong, and the great victory you expected turned into a sorry defeat.
There is nothing more discouraging, and we’ve all experienced it! So did Joshua. After Jericho, word spread throughout the land that this new army was invincible. The walls had fallen of their own accord. Clearly the Lord Himself was working with them, and everyone was shrinking in fear.
But then came Ai (Joshua 7 )! Joshua had done his homework – it was a small town, and his spies said they’d only need a few to take it. It should have been easy. They sent three thousand, but the men of Ai came out of the town and routed them, chasing them for miles, killing thirty-six men of Israel.
Of course we know the reason – Achan had stolen some of the forbidden, ‘accursed things’, and the Lord was not pleased. Joshua and the Israelites wept in self-pity, but the Lord rebuked them, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?’ After they had dealt with the sin, the Lord sent them against Ai again.
But this time Joshua set up an ambush. Some he hid behind the city, while he marched the others to the city as before. They allowed the men of Ai to chase them again, so that the whole city turned out in pursuit. Then those in ambush rose up and torched the empty town, and Ai was defeated.
But notice what the Lord did with Joshua’s reputation. After the first victory of Jericho, the Canaanites were trembling in fear. His reputation was high. But when little Ai had chased them down it was in tatters.
Because the enemy didn’t know the real reason for the mess!
Instead, after the second attack the whole country would have been whispering, ‘How brilliant is Joshua! What a great leader! He must have deliberately set up the first attack to lose, so he could later set the ambush and win. Who would have thought of such a great strategy?’ And of course his reputation was now huge. Still today we think of Joshua as a great military leader, but it all began with a disaster that the Lord turned into glory!
We have all messed up, done things we wished we hadn’t, and missed other opportunities. But be of good cheer! The Lord is there to turn your mess into a message. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 ).
God had given Joshua specific instructions on how to carry out the campaign. “Be strong and courageous; Be careful to obey; Meditate on the Law; Don’t be afraid!” Then God said He would be with him always, and give him everywhere he set his foot.
The Lord is saying the same to you today! Don’t worry about your mess. Don’t give up because what you tried didn’t work out. The Lord will turn it around and make a great victory out of it, bringing glory to Himself, and even to you too!
We often spoil the Lord’s plans by trying to do them our own way. We think we’ll only need a little effort, or a few people. We think a bit of sin on the side won’t matter too much. We think we can send others instead of going ourselves. These were all mistakes that Joshua made at Ai.
But the Lord is gracious. Just keep doing what He told you to do. If there is ‘sin in the camp’ the Holy Spirit will tell you. If He does, remove it, as He instructs. But then listen to His next instructions. Have you tried and failed? The Lord will send you out again, with a strategy that will defeat the enemy and bring a great victory.
“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16 ).
“Father, forgive me that I have messed up Your plans by doing things my way. Examine my heart, and reveal if there is anything there You need me to deal with. But I thank You that You are so gracious! Thank You that you can turn my mess into a message that will bring glory to You. I ask You now to fill me again with courage and faith to stand up and go out again with renewed vision and a heart to win. Amen.”