Have you ever come out of a situation feeling like you’ve really blown it? We all have. Perhaps it’s a relationship, or a job interview, or an investment opportunity, or a big game situation.Whatever the circumstance, you failed. Part of being human is realizing that we’re not perfect. Part of being a Christian is not settling for that. Yes, we’re not perfect, but we can always improve. We can always move forward towards the man or woman God wants and has designed us to be. Failures are going to be part of that march of sanctification. The key is to remember that even in our failures, God will provide lessons and opportunities for the future.
So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. And he commanded them, “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people. – Joshua 8:3-8, ESV
In Joshua 7 we learn how the sin of one man, Achan, prevented the Israelites from defeating Ai. God was not with them and thus they lost. When Joshua went before God he was told in blunt terms that there was sin in the camp that needed to be dealt with. Joshua responded with obedience, the sin was dealt with, and God told Joshua to attack Ai again. This time around, as we see in the verses above, the Israelites were to lay a trap for the warriors of Ai.
One of the things I find interesting is how God used the situation with the first defeat to Israel’s advantage. Likely the men of Ai felt the Israelites were no match for them. They were probably overconfident because of their previous victory. Three thousand Israelite soldiers went up to attack Ai and were soundly trounced. God tells Joshua to recreate the situation, but this time have men in hiding ready to ambush the men of AI. Joshua’s men would fall back as if beaten, leading the soldiers of Ai to think the rout was on. They would pursue, just as they did before, and march into an ambush. They did just that and not only did they march into the ambush prepared for them, but they left their city undefended. The men waiting behind the city captured it and then the men of Ai were surrounded and wiped out.
Achan’s sin led to Israel’s defeat. However, God used the circumstances of that first defeat for a victory immediately thereafter. God does this all the time with us. When we make a mistake, there’s always a lesson to be learned. This is especially true when it comes to sin on our part. Likely when we make a big mistake we won’t like the consequences. It may mean the end of a marriage or getting fired from the job or our team losing a must-win game. However, while those situations are not what we want, we must learn from them. Also, we should not be surprised when God turns those situations into something He uses in the future. For instance, a drug addict can turn his experience fighting the addiction into counseling others who are trying to overcome the addiction themselves.
This isn’t to say we should take our mistakes lightly. We must try to do our best. When it comes to sin, we should treat sin in our lives as very, very grave. After all, our sin required the death of the Son of God. But a mistake and even a sin isn’t the end of it all, so long as we are in Christ. We must understand the circumstances and take the appropriate lessons from those situations. We must endeavor to do better next time. And then we must move on. God will take our mistakes and our sins and He will use them for the good of all who believe. This is the promise in Romans. God will use our mistakes. Therefore, when you find yourself looking down in failure, take the time to look back up to God and thank Him for being an integral part of your life. If He isn’t, perhaps that’s what that mistake or sin is there to bring you to the realization of. And then praise Him. Glorify Him. Learn and move forward from that mistake. For God will use it for good.