How often do we encounter a period in our life where we are moving along very much victorious over the problems that come our way, when the bottom suddenly seems to fall out and we fail miserably? No matter what we do, the latest situation that has arisen leaves us defeated and baffled. We call out to God and wonder what happened, or even worse, we start blaming Him for what is our own fault.
You read that right–we actually contribute to our own failure. All it takes is one act of disobedience and we retreat from the enemy. Further adding to our failure, the current problem may be much smaller than any others we just faced successfully. But God is not going to let any transgression slip by unnoticed. When we represent Him, He wants us blameless, not marred and mottled by all kinds of sin.
God gave us a record in the Bible of similar occurrences and their outcomes to keep us from falling into the same trap again. We find one example in the book of Joshua:”…the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan…took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel”(Joshua 7:1). This “accursed thing” was the spoil that God specifically warned the people of Israel not to take when they overcame Jericho. “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it” (Joshua 6:18). Jericho was full of idolatry and things that were sinful. Therefore, God wanted Israel to destroy all of this when they entered in, or they would become cursed themselves.
But a man named Achan couldn’t resist and he later confessed: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them…” (Joshua 7:21). God did not take it lightly or overlook this disobedient act by one of His own.
The Israelites came next to Ai and discovered that it was a much smaller city. They therefore concluded that only a small number of men were needed to take it, unlike Jericho. But when they came against Ai, they were quickly forced to retreat, suffering a terrible setback. Joshua took this hard and “…rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the [evening], he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast Thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall [enclose] us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?” (Joshua 7:6-9)
Joshua was quite upset with God and could not understand why this failure happened. He was not yet aware of Achan’s sin. He thought that God had done this and that it would now make them vulnerable to all those already living in the land. But, instead of crying out to God and inquiring where he and the people had made a mistake, Joshua started telling God what He did wrong!
God did not deal kindly with Joshua over this. He told him to “…get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and [concealed their motives]…and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you”(Joshua 7:1-12). In other words, God was showing them that where sin is present among God’s people, victory is not going to be found.
As believers in Christ, God is not going to bless and allow us to prosper in His name if we also disobey His Word willfully. He will not continue to walk by our side if we will not fully listen to and follow what He tells us to do. If He declares that we are not to touch something, or are to keep our eyes from looking at someone, then we are to do just that. Otherwise, we will have to suffer the consequences.
God is holy and righteous and cannot tolerate any sin in His presence. When we deliberately sin and then try to overcome the enemy in His name, He will not allow it. Nor will He will allow any sin to be attached to His name and nature.
One little sin not only brought the people of Israel to a standstill, but also made them flee from the very ones they were trying to defeat! Therefore, whenever we come up against the enemy and end up failing and retreating, let’s not follow Joshua’s example by crying out to God in self-pity and putting Him at fault for our own misdeeds. Instead of lying on our face in tears of disappointment and disbelief, we need to get up and seek God to learn why this incident happened, and what we need to do to rectify it. God wants us to be victorious all the time. But only when sin is removed from and kept out of our camp will we able to overcome the enemy.