Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Just because we are fully dependent on God's power doesn't mean God wants us to do nothing. Nancy Leigh DeMoss looks at the example of Joshua. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We have to fight, but God fights. We fight, but God gives the victory. Joshua didn't just sit back and wait for God to wipe out the enemies. He's actively involved in waging the warfare, in leading the army into battle, but there's that recognition that the victory is the Lord's. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 24, 2014.

Do you ever find it easier to start a project than to finish it? You're full of excitement and energy at the beginning, but you start to lose momentum at the end. As he began his military command, Joshua fought some exciting, dramatic battles, but as the years progressed, stamina was required to finish the job he'd been called to tackle. We'll find out why in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 11): Waging and Winning Spiritual Battles."  

Nancy: Well, we've spent quite a bit of time thus far in the early chapters of Joshua, which are the exciting chapters. Those are the chapters that people read and are familiar with. Now we come today to chapter 10, and from 10 almost to the end of the book, we have a segment of the Scripture that people are not as familiar with. 

It's kind of understandable because as you read these chapters, there are a lot of lists. There are a lot of details, names of people and places that are not familiar to us. They don't mean a lot to us, and these tend to be the pages of your Bible that stick together, especially if it's a newer Bible or you're not accustomed to reading through the Bible. 

 They're passages that I will honestly say, I have a tendency when I get to them to read more quickly or to want to skip over, to think, Well, this isn't very exciting. There's not a lot of plot here. There's not a lot of drama. But there is a lot of plot; there is a lot of drama.

I found in recent weeks as I've been meditating on this portion of the book of Joshua that there are a lot of treasures hidden in this portion of the book—which take a little more effort to mine, but it's really worth the effort. I hope you'll agree with that.

Now, just to give a context and a frame of reference here, the first 12 chapters of the book of Joshua are the story of the entrance into the land of Canaan. They had to cross over the Jordan from the east side over into the west side. God had promised this would be the land. This is after forty years in the desert, wandering around, which is after 400 years as slaves in Egypt, so you kind of get our setting here.

This is the land that God had promised to the Israelites hundreds of years before, beginning with Abraham, and now that promise is coming to fruition. This generation is reaping God's promises, seeing them fulfilled before their very eyes. They're now in Canaan, and these first twelve chapters of Joshua, under the leadership of Joshua, they're entering the land and starting the conquest in a systematic taking over of the land, beginning with the central region where they entered, then into the south, and then into the north until the whole land is in the possession of God's people.

Chapters 13 to 21, which we'll look at starting in a few days from now, talk about the distribution and the settlement of the land as the tribes take their positions, find their territory, and what that was all about. We'll come to that shortly, and then the last three chapters of the book, chapters 22, 23, and 24, form kind of an epilogue as we see a farewell from Joshua. 

 We see him pass the baton on to the next generation, so we're coming here to the end of the conquest and to the chapters 10 through 12, which is really an overview and a summary—chapter 10, the conquest of southern Canaan, chapter 11, the conquest of northern Canaan, and chapter 12, a summary of the whole history, starting with Moses taking the land east of the Jordan and then Joshua taking the land west of the Jordan. 

What I want to focus on in these next couple sessions—and I want to pick different verses from this segment—to illustrate some insights and principles that we can gain from these chapters about our own Christian lives and about this whole issue of spiritual warfare. We are in a battle. If you are a child of God, you have become a part of a battle that is going on between God and Satan.

It's a cosmic warfare. Satan hates God. He wants to do everything he can to dethrone God. Satan is jealous of God's authority. He wants to rule where God says it's His right to rule, so there's this conflict that's going on.

It's cosmic. It's generations and centuries long, and we know as we get into the New Testament that the last chapter has been written. We're just seeing it play itself out.

At the cross, Satan was defeated, but he won't admit it yet. He keeps attacking, and one of the things he does is to attack God's people. He knows when he gets at God's people, he's really throwing darts at God Himself.

In these chapters, we find some insights that will help us as we're caught in the crosshairs, so to speak, of this war, this battle between God and Satan. Now, our enemies are spelled out in Scripture for us. We know that one of our enemies is Satan himself. He moves around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

  • He uses sometimes outright frontal attacks.
  • He uses sometimes deception.
  • He comes, as we saw in a recent session, sometimes as a roaring lion and sometimes as a deceiving serpent.
  • He is a liar.
  • He's a deceiver.
  • He's a destroyer.

The New Testament tells us we need to be on our guard against him. We need to be alert. We need to be not ignorant of his devices and his strategies but prepared and equipped to face them, so that's clearly an enemy we have is Satan.

Another enemy is this whole world system that is in bondage to Satan, that is a servant of Satan. The whole way that the world thinks about things and looks at life and perceives things, the whole value system of this world, is set against God. That becomes an enemy to our souls.

It's always trying to seek to pull us down into its vortex and to suck us up into its way of thinking, and you see this in culture. You see it in magazines. You see it in television programs. It's all around us. The world system, its way of thinking, is an enemy of God and therefore and enemy of our souls.

Then there's that little matter of our own flesh, indwelling sin. We now have the presence of Christ within us, but there is that battle between the flesh and the spirit. If you've been a Christian more than like three minutes, you are aware that there is a battle going on. The flesh says, “Have it your way,” and the Spirit says, “Wave the white flag of surrender. Let God have His way.”

So these are some of our enemies, and how do we deal with them? How do we confront them, and how can we be victorious over those enemies while we live down in this Canaan land?

Canaan is not heaven. Canaan is here and now where there are battles. There are enemies to be fought and to be conquered, and how do we do that successfully?

Let me just pull out in this session and the next, several principles that I see from this section of the book of Joshua. Number one, we need to realize that God had promised to give Joshua and the Israelites the land. God had given them the land. He had said, “It is yours,” but the Israelites had to take possession of what God had already given them.

It was theirs by title, by right. Actually, it was God's. God said, “I'm giving it to you,” but they had to take possession. That took an effort. It took time. It required war. It required battles.

There are no shortcuts. We cannot have possession of all our inheritance in Christ without going through some battles. One commentator says it this way, “God gave them title to the territory, but they had to possess it by marching in every part.”

God has given us an inheritance in Christ. Every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ according to Ephesians chapter 1, but we have to strive and labor and wrestle against our enemies, against Satan and our flesh and this world's system. We have to strive to take possession of that which God has given us.

I think this comes as something as a surprise to a lot of young believers. Maybe it's because of the way we've preached the Gospel in the last several generations. You know, if you're having a hard life, come to Jesus, and things will be good. You'll be happy and wealthy. This is not the Gospel of the Scripture.

The Gospel of the Scripture is:

  • Take up your cross.
  • Follow Jesus.
  • Come and die.
  • It's a call to be a soldier.
  • It's a call to warfare.

We want heaven. We want sanctification. We want the crown. We want the joy. We want the fullness, but we don't want to go through the process to get there.

As we read the account in Joshua, we see that they had to take possession of the land by going in and fighting for it. Now, as they did that, they did not take a haphazard or a random approach. They took a logical, step-by-step strategy and progression.

The first city after they crossed over was Jericho, so they took that first. The next city was Ai. There was a little bump in the road there, but God ultimately gave them the victory over Ai. Then they dealt with Gibeon, and then we're going to see them in these chapters dealing with this southern coalition.

As you read these chapters, it's really helpful to do it with a Bible map in front of you. You may have one in the back of your Bible. You may not have one that has all these cities on it. You can find this on Google. You can find it on Bible software programs, in a Bible dictionary or atlas.

If you can follow the cities, trace the progression, you'll see it's a very logical progression that God led them in. There were no shortcuts. They had to go one city after another, one king after another.

Now, in our age, we want shortcuts to everything—shortcuts to parenting. You want your kids to just get to first grade and be godly. We want shortcuts in our own personal life, in our spiritual growth.

We wish God would just give us deliverance over these besetting sins, over sinful patterns that we struggle with in our lives, areas of defeat. That's why you have a whole industry today of casting out demons and deliverance ministries and healing ministries and calls for this once-and-for-all consecration. It doesn't work that way.

Now, there are some points where God may give us—take us to a crisis. There may be a crisis of faith or a crisis of surrender that does move us forward significantly, but by and large, the Christian life is lived and fought and won one step at a time, one day at a time, no shortcuts, no such thing as instantaneous sanctification—just doesn't happen.

We want to avoid—whether it's in our own lives or in parenting or in discipleship ministry with others—we're trying to avoid the long, slow, hard work of spiritual growth, of training, of mortifying the flesh, renewing the mind, learning to walk in the Spirit. That just is a day after day journey.

Then we see that Joshua and the Israelites suffered some defeats early on, the defeat at Ai—the reason for that was Achan's sin and probably some other reasons as well, perhaps—the defeat at Gibeon when they were deceived. What I love about Joshua is that he didn't allow those defeats to keep him down. He didn't allow them to detour him from pressing on.

I know that there are perhaps some listening to this program who may find yourself in a position where you have failed spiritually, or you've been tripped up, or you had a bump in the road. The tendency, perhaps, after a series of those, is to get discouraged, to get defeated, to give up. Let me just say, you can't give up. You've got to press on.

Proverbs says the righteous man falls down seven times but gets up again each time. Press on. That's what Joshua did. I love the fact that he kept going even after those early defeats.

Then you realize as you read these chapters that there are lots of battles to be fought, many battles, many enemies to overcome if you're going to take possession of the land. Again, what I appreciate about Joshua is that he didn't get caught up in how many more battles there were yet to come. He just faced the one at hand.

While he was going into Jericho, he didn't say, “Oh, what am I going to do about Ai and Gibeon and Jerusalem and Jarmuth and Lachish and Eglon and . . . ?” He just fought the one in front of him, realizing there are lots more to come. This isn't the first one. It's not the last one. There will be others, but you deal with the one at hand.

Now, each battle is different. There are different kinds of terrain in Canaan. There was hill country. There were the western foothills. There were mountain slopes. There was desert. There was coastland, and there were different cities.

In fact, in Joshua 12, you read a catalog, a list, of the thirty-one different kings who had to be conquered west of the Jordan before the Israelites could take possession of the land and settle into it. In each of those battles, there were different obstacles to be overcome, but the victory in each one was sure.

God was sufficient for all of it. I think sometimes as we look at the different areas of our lives, we see that there's so many battles to be fought, and they're different. They require different strategies, and they have different lay of the land and different enemies that we're dealing with.

The goal of the Christian life is to bring all things into subjection to Jesus Christ, every area of my life. Every particle of this land of my life belongs to Him, but in order to get to that point, I'm going to have to fight battles on different fronts.

There are different strongholds that need to be overcome, and let me just read to you a brief excerpt from my own journal where I listed some of the different strongholds in my own life. I'll let you make your own list. But this is a list of things that came to mind as I thought about all the different kings, the different battles that Joshua had to face. I thought, here are some of the battles that I deal with, some of the strongholds in my own life.

The Lord has given me some victory in some of these. Some were still really just on the threshold of dealing with, but I look back earlier in my Christian life, and I see a lot of moodiness, temperamental. That's been a battle in my life.

Anger, lack of self-control—that's an ongoing battle in many different areas of my life. Physically, my time, my tongue, my emotions. Slothfulness has been a battleground in my life, is at times still. Quick to speak, slow to listen, love of the praise of men, self-protection, self-sufficiency, independent spirit, fear, unbelief.

Okay, what's your list? Those are some of mine. You say, “I have some of the same ones,” perhaps. Each of those fortified cities, each of those kings, each of those territories, needs to be taken in the name of Christ and in the power of His Holy Spirit.

We have to be actively involved in the battle, but we need to remember that as we walk in the Spirit, as we seek God's direction for the strategy, and as we follow and obey Him, that He is the one who will fight those battles for us.

Now, how you blend those two together—that we have to fight, but it's God who fights for us—I don't know how to explain that, but they're both true. You see that throughout the story of Joshua that there were different battles, different terrain, different kings, and each one had to be fought.

That leads us to this point, that God gave different strategies, different game plans for those different battles, and we've seen some of those. We'll see some more, but here was the one constant. The one thing that was always the same is that they could not win the battle unless God fought for them and that they did win the battle because God did fight on their behalf.

Then we see as we read this account of the conquest of this interplay between God's effort and human effort, and that's, I guess, what I've been referring to here just in the last couple of moments. We have to fight, but God fights. We have to surrender. We have to move forward.

We have to. God didn't just say, “Go into the land, and all the enemies are going to just fall down dead.” He said, “You have got to go, and you've got to really fight.” Now, sometimes God said, “All you got to do is walk around the walls,” but sometimes we have the account we read not too long ago of Joshua holding in his hand that javelin from morning till night for as long as that battle was going. It was an intense, fierce battle.

We have to fight, but God fights. We fight, but God gives the victory. Joshua didn't just sit back and wait for God to wipe out the enemies. He's actively involved in waging the warfare, in leading the army into battle, but there's that recognition that the victory is the Lord's.

We don't fight alone. We fight following the Captain of the Lord's host, who we have met earlier in the series. We see that the hand of God was actively, sovereignly, involved, engaged in the entire process. From start to finish through this book, you see the hand of God.

Let me read you a verse in this passage that's an example of that. Chapter 11, verse 20 says,

It was the LORD's doing to harden their hearts [that is the hearts of the enemy kings], that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should . . . be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.

It was the Lord's doing. The Lord stirred up these enemies to come against Israel in battle so that the Lord could cause them to be destroyed and could give His people the land.

When the forces of evil rise up against God's people, it's natural for us to wonder, where's God? Did He leave the scene for the day? Is He absentee? Has He fallen off His throne?

Now, we wouldn't say that consciously, but it's easy to wonder where God is. But the very attack itself may be God's work, drawing the enemy into the conflict, causing them to pick a fight, so to speak, so that we will be moved to come against those enemies in the name of the Lord and will work on His behalf for their utter destruction.

We just see the sovereign hand of God in ways that we can't really explain but ways we have to acknowledge are true. That should encourage and strengthen our hearts in the battle.

In the next session, I want to pick up on some more insights from these chapters, but one thing I want to notice today. That is that they did not take possession in a day. Chapter 11, verse 18 says, “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings,” a long time.

We know as we put the figures together in the book of Joshua that the conquest took about seven years, and actually, it wasn't over then. That was the major thrust of the conquest. Once the major cities were conquered and the land was divided up, then God said to Joshua in chapter 13, “There remains yet very much land to possess” (v. 1).

The individual tribes still had lots of work ahead to subdue their territory, but the Scripture says it took a long time. They had to make war for a long time. They didn't take possession in a day, and don't think that, "If I can just get through these hard teenage years or these hard twenties or these hard thirties or these hard forties, then it will get easier. Then I can coast."

When I was in my teens, I used to wonder, what did people do after they got godly? What did you do with the rest of your life? How foolish of me! Now as I am over fifty, I'm saying, “Sometimes the battles are more intense.” Sometimes they get harder.

There's no settling down and in and avoiding the enemy until we are through with this life, but don't expect it to be easy. Don't expect instantaneous growth, instantaneous victory. There are besetting sins and issues in my life that have been a battleground for years. Anger has been one for many years.

Now, by God's grace, I can say that is not nearly the issue in my life that it used to be, but I'll tell you one that still is a huge enemy that I have to face almost every day of my life. That's the issue of self-control, and it comes out in many different areas.

Then I read, “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.” Lord, however long it takes, I'm committed to stay in this battle for the long haul, as long as it takes to finish the job until Jesus has taken possession of every square particle of land because it all belongs to Him.

Leslie: Some of Joshua's battles were big and dramatic, the stuff of classic Bible stories. Others were less descript and required more stamina. You might be fighting that kind of prolonged battle today, and I hope those words from Nancy Leigh DeMoss have encouraged you. 

We want to encourage you to focus on the truth even when you’re in a battle or a storm. And one way we want to do that is to send you a copy of the 2015 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. It includes thoughts from Nancy and some other godly speakers about being at peace, even when the world is whipping around you. Timothy Botts conveys the idea of peace through tough times in the artwork he created just for this calendar.

When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you this wall calendar. Ask for the “Peace in the Storm” calendar when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and ask for your copy. When is the right time to rest? Joshua wasn’t too eager to retire. Learn from his example about patterns of battle and rest.

Nancy: Rest follows battle. First the battle, then the rest. We want the rest of heaven—our ultimate, final rest. But we want it here and now. But in the story of Joshua we see that first you had to have the battle and then came the rest. Look at chapter 11, verse 23. "Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken according to Moses [that's the conquest]." Then we see the distribution and the settlement of the land, "Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments and the land had rest from war."

See the progression there? First the conquest, then the settlement, then the rest. That's when you can put down your sword. That's when you can take off your armour, when the battle has been fought. After all the battles, there came a time a time when the land had rest from war. They could sit back and enjoy the inheritance God had given them. But before that, they had to wage war for an extended time, before they could settle into the ultimate rest that God had intended for them.

Between here and heaven, there are still battles to be fought. I think a lot of depression, a lot of discouragement among believers comes because we expect to have here and now what is not intended for here and now. It will only be then and there.

If you expect the Christian life to be a piece of cake, if you expect it to be a Sunday school picnic, if you expect it to be battle-free, then you are going to be disappointed. Keep your eyes on the finish line, realize there is a rest waiting for it—that's the hope that's been promised. Here in the midst of the battle, we can rest in Christ. But there are still battles to be fought from here until we get to heaven.

That’s Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Now, here's Nancy.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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