During the months ahead you can expect that your courage will be tested. It is a constant battle for us as pastors. You’ll face a wall you don’t think you can get over, a battle you don’t think you can win, or an obstacle you don’t think you can get beyond.
You’ve probably thought about that battle today. It may have robbed you of sleep last night or preoccupied your thoughts in random moments. Your “opponent” may be someone in your community, in your congregation, or among your elders or deacons. It may be a battle with pride, or anger, or some habit, or perhaps a secret addiction. Whatever the challenge, the battle you face right now looks impossible to overcome.
You may be right. You may not ever be able to win this battle because you’re fighting the wrong way, using the wrong strategy.
You and I were raised to match strength for strength. If the opponent is strong, we must be stronger. If he is smart, we must be smarter. The only way to win is through intimidation. You must crush or control your opponent and the situation.
All of this is true, of course, unless you’re going to fight God’s way. God’s strategy is altogether different. God specializes in impossible situations. (See Matthew 19:26 and Luke 1:37.) When you are overwhelmed, outnumbered, outmanned, outmuscled, or outsmarted, God steps in, because only He is qualified to be the specialist who can lead you to victory. Only He does it His way.
The courageous Joshua faced a battle that he knew he couldn’t win. God’s charge to him was to go and take the land. “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” God said, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:5–6). I wonder if (in a weak moment, all alone) Joshua thought, Conquer the mighty city of Jericho? No way! Can’t be done. Not by power, not by intimidation. Not by cunning strategy. This is a wall we cannot bring down. You have read about his impossible situation in Joshua 6. You may have even preached it.
All our lives, we’ve been singing, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.” But the song is wrong. Joshua didn’t fight the battle. He marched and shouted just as God told him to, and the walls fell down. But there was no fight to get over the walls! Joshua listened for the trumpet blast, like the other people in the army, and simply stood back and watched God’s miraculous intervention. The odds were against them, and they couldn’t possibly do battle against their fierce enemy all alone. Their only hope of victory was obeying God . . . and the walls around the city fell flat.
From where did such a strategy come? I’ll share that with you next time . . . as well as a few lessons we pastors can learn. But this week is a good time for us to consider: Am I trying to fight this battle in my own strength or in God’s?