Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Have you ever determined in your life that you were going to do better at something? That you were going to break a bad habit or work towards a goal that you’ve been putting off? That you were going to set a boundary in a relationship or break one off entirely? That you were going to obey God and go do that thing He’s asked of you?
You made this decision in your head, and you started working to make it reality in your life. And all of the sudden, things just start falling apart…everything working against you. Your car won’t start. You get sick. Your kids lose their minds. Your responsibilities at work multiply. You can’t understand why, when you are trying to do something really good, your life is getting really bad.
My time with the Lord in the mornings has led me to the book of Joshua. Yeah. I thought it was a weird place to contemplate too. Shouldn’t I be in the Gospels? Or in the Psalms and Proverbs? Or in Paul’s letters? Or, goodness, in these days of crazy realities like the Havana illness, Revelation? Instead, I’m sitting here in Joshua.
And I thought it would be redundant. I mean, we all know the crux of Joshua, right? “Be strong and courageous.” The fight to take the Promised Land. A bunch of names of Canaanites tribes that nobody can pronounce. Israelites still being Israelites and teaching us how NOT to mess up.
Like always, I’m wrong. And God knows exactly what He’s doing. I am learning so much, and being so humbled by it. And one of the things that I’ve been taught by Joshua is how enemies operate.
When the Israelites cross into Canaan…the land promised to them by God (its ours if we want it, but He’s not gonna just hand it to us)…the land that they’ve spent 40 years avoiding in favor of wilderness (hmmm, some of us are still avoiding those decisions to take ground in our lives)…their enemies have already heard about them. The Israelites send spies into the area to gain more information about it and people tell them that everybody is already on alert that they are coming.
So the moment they made the decision to step into that territory…promised to them by God, but not belonging to them yet…they were attracting the attention of whoever already occupied it.
Israelite’s enemies watched them as they started with Jericho. They wanted to see how serious these people were and what they were capable of. When Jericho fell in a way that screamed God was with them, the enemies were shaking in their boots.
They watched as Israel faltered at Ai. They had no idea that Israel had lost because of sin in the camp. All they knew is that they’d lost. They probably felt a twinge of hope. The territory wasn’t in danger after all.
But Israel dealt with their sin and got back up. They conquered Ai with a battle strategy so smooth that it should be a plot in one of those satisfying action movies guys like to watch. They won a great victory and their fame spread throughout the land.
You would think that after two battles like that, the rest of the inhabitants would come to Israel, lay down their weapons, and beg for their lives. Instead, two things happened that I think we need to be aware of when we try to take territory that God has promised us.
First, their enemies united with each other. The kings of the fortified cities, some of which hated each other, came together. They made an agreement to fight against Israel for the good of all the territory.
Second thing their enemies did was deceive them into relationship. The Gibeonites, who gave an Oscar worthy performance that I fully recommend you check out in Joshua 9, tricked the Israelites into thinking that they were from some other territory far away. The Israelites didn’t even ask God and made a covenant with them before they knew they were enemies.
Which brings me to my point. Two things that we can expect when we have finally made that decision to stop wandering and take ground in our lives…to become more of what God promised we could be…
Our enemies will eventually unite against us. They aren’t going to step aside and welcome us in. There will be a fight before it gets better.
And there will be those enemies who sneakily try to make agreements with us. They want to survive. There must be open communication with our Savior before it gets better.
But will it get better? If you stick through the alliances against you and reject the alliances trying to infiltrate you, will it get better?
Israel conquered that territory. Those kings who’d united against them attacked. Israel fought, but not alone. God was with them. He and all His resources. He made the sun and moon stand still. He sent large hailstones. It was an epic battle that ended with Israelite feet on the necks of those kings and Joshua’s chill worthy words.
”Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and courageous for the Lord will do this to all the enemies you fight.”
It got better. Israel still stands today because these people took the ground…because they fell but got back up…because they didn’t give up when it got harder before it got better.
What about you?
What new ground are you trying to take in your life? What enemies are uniting against you until you think the only option is to give up? How close are you to the better on the other side?
What future generations could be different because you fought with the Lord to conquer what He’s promised you?
That new territory that is calling to you…that new territory that you’ve stepped into…that new territory that seems to have thrown your life into chaos…it’s worth the fight. And you’ll never take it without one.
Because before it ever gets better, it gets harder. But with God, the hard is just an opportunity to watch Him do epic things.