THEME: Living the Christian Life
This week’s lessons describe another part of the conquest of Canaan, and teach us important qualities of leadership from the life of Joshua.
The third principle of Joshua’s leadership is that he took no short-cuts. Instead he pursued his campaign with logical step-by-step progression. He was a brilliant commander, and when he saw an opportunity he seized it. That was certainly true when he marched to Gibeon and fell upon the armies early in the morning and scattered them. But when you look at the scope of the campaign, things like that were relatively infrequent. You begin to sense, especially as you read these chapters carefully, that Joshua moves step by step to do in a very logical way precisely what needed to be done. God had given the kings into his hand, so the first thing he had to do was overthrow the cities that had been ruled by those kings. He didn’t take a break and rest from his latest victory. After having killed the kings, he moved first against Makkedah. Then he went a little further south and overthrew Libnah. After Libnah he attacked Lachish, and then proceeded to take the other cities, as well as all the villages that lay around them.
Do you and I do that? I think one of the great problems of our day, even one of the great problems with Christianity in our time, is that people always want short-cuts. If you want to be a strong Christian and have a victorious Christian life, we ask, “Well, what’s the secret to it?” You come across a seminar being offered on this subject, and you think the secret must be found there. So you go and listen to the techniques they give you. You try those for a while, but they don’t seem to produce what you want. And so you say, “Well, there must be some other secret.” And somebody says, “Oh, I just read a good book. You ought to read this. This is really the answer.” And so you get the book, and you read that. And you say, “Hey, that’s really good. I never heard it like that before.” But after trying that for a little bit, you see that this approach doesn’t work either. Oh, it may be helpful, but it isn’t what you really need, and consequently you find yourself asking what’s wrong.
Well what’s wrong is that we’re trying short-cuts. Growing in the Christian life is no mystery. Christians have known what it is in all ages. It’s studying the Word of God. It’s praying. It’s fellowshipping with Christian people. It’s worshipping. It’s working for God. It’s witnessing. It’s testifying. Those are the things through which you grow. And then in response to these things, people say that it takes a long time, and that it’s difficult to read the Bible regularly. There are so many interruptions. That’s right, of course. Nobody ever said it was easy, but that’s the way it’s done.
Joshua was involved in this campaign, and somebody could say, “Oh, you know, but it is so tedious to go after these cities. Do you have any idea how many little cities are scattered all over the hillsides of this southern area? Why, I suppose there are dozens and dozens. You mean to tell me that we have to get our armies together and go after these little cities, and surround them, and attack them, and overthrow them, and kill their people one by one?” And Joshua would have said, “Yes, that’s exactly what we have to do. That’s how it has to be done.”
Yet as we will see as we go through this book, they didn’t quite do it. And so it was the case that years later there were still Canaanites in the land. They infested and weakened the spiritual life of God’s people. You see, there just is no short-cut to growth in the Christian life. It has to be moment by moment, day by day, doing the things that God tells us we’re responsible for doing. And as you do that, God builds you up and leads you in His way.
The fourth principle from Joshua is that he did not allow his early previous errors to unsettle him. We read a chapter like this and we say, “How marvelously successful Joshua was!” And it’s true, he was very successful. When you consider the size of his army, the extent of the land, and the entrenched opposition that he was forced to encounter, this is perhaps one of the most successful and extensive military campaigns in history. Yet Joshua was not without his mistakes. One was the error at Ai when he listened to the report of the spies who came back about how many soldiers they would need for the attack, based on their victory over Jericho. Without stopping to pray and asking for God’s direction, he sent only a few thousand men.
He made another mistake with the Gibeonites, when, because he did not consult with the Lord, he made a treaty with some of the very people God had commanded him to destroy. These errors might have been sufficient to discourage and deter Joshua, and cause him to be utterly immobilized by his past failures. And yet the point I’m making is that he didn’t allow those past failures to do that. He said, “It’s true I failed. I made a mistake back there. But I’ve learned from it, and now I’m going to go on, and I’m going to trust God. I’m going to put those things behind me.”
God encourages us to do that. If in your Christian life you find yourself mulling over past failures and sins that you have already confessed to God and asked His forgiveness, and think that they still disqualify you from doing anything in the future, then that is not the voice of the Holy Spirit, but the voice of Satan. Satan loves to drag up failures from the past. What you have to do is be encouraged by the example of a man like Joshua who had his own failures but yet didn’t allow those failures to deter him from obeying the Lord and following him.
What is the third leadership lesson we see from the southern campaign? Why was it important for Joshua to apply this?
Why are people so interested in always looking for special techniques to grow as a Christian? How is this different from what the Bible provides?
What is the fourth leadership principle?
Does Satan ever try to remind you of your past sins in order to make you less effective in your Christian life? What do you remind yourself when this happens? How can you encourage others who might be facing similar temptations?