Sermon: What Happens When We Fail? - Joshua 7

We make choices that can lead to victory or failure. Too often we choose to go our own way, and sin is the result. But remember, a failing in life does not make life a failure. When we experience failure, it does not have to be a lasting defeat.

Sermon series: Make Your Life Count

  1. Abraham, Called of God - Genesis 12
  2. You Can Be Forgiven - Exodus 34
  3. What Happens When We Fail? - Josh 7
  4. Fuel for the Journey - Hebrews 11

Scriptures: Joshua 7

Introduction

To this point Joshua and the people of Israel had experienced only victory. Chapter 7 is the story of defeat. Thirty-six men were dead, and the army was frightened. No doubt, Joshua was confused and puzzled. Certainly he expected an unbroken string of victories, a winning season, as it were.

Of course, that was God's desire, too - for Israel then and for us today. God provides every avenue to make victory possible. At the same time, though, He does not make defeat impossible. We make choices that can lead to victory or failure. Too often we choose to go our own way, and sin is the result. But remember, a failing in life does not make life a failure. When we experience failure, it does not have to be a lasting defeat.

I. The curse that is here (v. 11)

"Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions."

Joshua reminded the Israelites that all of the gold, silver, and bronze was to be kept holy to the Lord (6:19). But Achan took a portion of the treasure from Jericho, violating the commands of God (7:1). Even though God's command was clear, somehow Achan rationalized his sin.

As a result of Achan's sin, God removed His hand of blessing and protection from the Israelites (v. 12). God never honors disobedience.

II. A cause that is clear (vv. 2-3, 11)

In verses 10-11, God told Israel that they had sinned. What caused this failure?

A. Overconfidence (vv. 2-3)

An attitude of overconfidence reduced the size of the army. The people's thinking went like this: Since we did so well at Jericho, let's not worry much about a small place like Ai. But they did not do the work at Jericho; God did. The people simply walked around the walls, and God brought them down. How often do we succumb to this kind of thinking? Christians and churches are susceptible to being overconfident and forgetting that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:47). Standing in our own strength without dependence on God through prayer leads to defeat.

B. Disobedience (v. 11a)

Notice that the failure of one man led to implication of the entire nation. When we harbor sin in our hearts, we affect those around us. The failure in our own lives touches our families and churches.

Are we, then, left without help or hope in the midst of our failure? It has been said that it is bad to fall but worse to wallow in it. The good news is that something can be done.

III. A cure that is near (vv. 19-20, 25)

What do we do when we fail? We kneel at the feet of Jesus, the one Who paid our penalty, confess our failures, and seek His strength to go on.

A. Confession (vv. 19-20)

Achan's personal confession details the event. He confesses that he saw the treasure, coveted it, and took the items. Then he confesses that he hid them. How many times have we had to say that? I saw it, I coveted it, I took it, and now I'm trying to hide it. God calls for a confession of our failure, our sin. He desires that we see it in the same way He sees it, as disobedience.

B. Correction (v. 25)

God said in the beginning that sin brings death. Sin brought defeat in the life of Israel. Joshua and the people of Israel took Achan, his sons and daughters, and all that he had to the edge of the city and stoned them. Achan's sin brought tragic consequences.

But before we think that God was too harsh, remember that the same God who punished Achan sent His Son to deal with our sin problem through His death. Failure broke the heart of God to the point that He sent His Son as the solution to our sin.

Michael Rochelle is pastor of Shadow Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.