Faith Is The Victory!
Some years ago I read a story about two men, both seriously ill, and were in the same room of a great hospital.
One of them, as part of his treatment was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon
to drain fluid from his lungs.
His bed was next to the window.
But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back; and both of them had to be quiet and still.
There could be no reading, no radio, and certainly no television.
They talked for hours about their wives, their children, their homes, and their jobs.
Every afternoon when the man in the bed next to the window was propped up for an hour,
he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside.
And the other man begin to live for those hours.
The man described a park with a lake, where there were ducks and swans, children going them bread
and sailing modest little boats upon the water, and young lovers walking hand-in-hand through the park.
There were flowers and stretches of grass, games and softball, people just relaxing in the sunshine,
and in the distance a beautiful view of the city skyline.
The man on his back would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute: how a child was saved from falling
into the lake, how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses, and then an exciting ballgame,
or a boy playing with his puppy.
It got to the place with a man lying on his back could almost see what was happening outside.
As the days progressed the man on his back became resentful that he could not be propped up
next to the window to see all those sites for himself.
He brooded over it, falsely, and became more angry at his condition.
One morning, the man next to the window was found dead, and his body was taken quietly away.
As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved to the bed next to the window.
And when they moved him, they made him quite comfortable; and he was told to be quiet and still.
The minute they left, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully, and looked out the window.
He was shocked it faced a blank wall.
Sooner or later, everyone of us will find that we are boxed in without a door or a window.
A blind wall will appear across our spiritual pathway that will be difficult, if not impossible to remove.
It stands there to taunt us, and also to haunt us.
When we think about conquering that wall, it seemed to shout at us, "I dare you to try!"
We need to remember Joshua.
Joshua stood a few miles from Jericho facing the greatest challenge of his career.
He was facing great high walls that was hindering him and his people from possessing the land.
Archaeologists tell us that the walls were probably 12 inches thick and 20 to 30 inches high.
Soldiers probably stood on the ramparts to report on troop movements and to make sure
that no one would have the courage to scale walls with ladders and ropes.
Behind those walls was a mighty war machine that was enough to make the bravest soldier shutter.
To penetrate this fortification and defeat the enemy was more than could be expected
of the ill-equipped Israeli army.
As Joshua started at those huge walls, he had the faith to see through them.
While many of his terrified soldiers saw a brick-and-mortar, Joshua was able to see the glory of God.
Real faith is not blinded by circumstances; no matter how tall the walls -- God is still taller.
Now that the reproach of Israel had been wiped away at Gilgal, the nation was ready for its first all-out war.
The people could believe again.
As we think about this story, we may see that Jericho figuratively represents Satan's opposition
when we began to get serious with God.
When we cross our Jordan through submission and faith, we are immediately headed for discouragement.
We encounter an enemy who seems larger with each passing moment.
We come to those walls whose foundations are deep, and which seem to ascend into the heavens.
Your Jericho may be your background of abuse, rejection, or emotional pain.
It may be the breakdown of your marriage, a financial collapse, or immorality.
Whatever it is, it stands between you and your life with God.
God is as ready to help us in our need as He was to help Joshua in his.
Winning against our enemies is a gift from God, but it must be received with determination and faith.
God begins by giving Joshua a promise: "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king
and its strong warriors." (Joshua 6:2)
Here is the same promise given earlier, and repeated for this specific situation.
Incredibly, God again puts the promise in the past tense: "I have given Jericho into your hand."
The Israelites might have objected by pointing to the massive walls and the closed gates.
What could God mean when He said that the city was already theirs?
God often speaks in the past tense about events that are yet future.
Even Isaiah the prophet, 600 years before Christ wrote about the crucifixion as if it had already taken place.
The apostle Paul speaks of God as One "who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist."
Just as Israel was given the land by God as a present possession, so we today have been blessed
"with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)
Right now, in the middle of all of our defeats and victories, we have it all.
The promise God gave to Joshua and his people is very specific:
the King of Jericho and his warriors would be defeated.
The what was clear.
The how was not.
Once again, Joshua was forced to trust God to do a miracle.
God gave him detailed instructions as to what he had his armies were to do, but he knows nothing
about what God is going to do.
Obedience does not mean that we understand how and when God will work
God's instructions are found in Joshua 6:3-5:
"You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once.
You shall do this for six days.
Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark;
then on the seventh day you shall, march around the city seven times, and the priests
shall blow the trumpets.
It shall be that when they make a long blast with the rams' horn, and when you hear the sound
of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,
and the people will go up every man straight ahead."
Obviously, these instructions do not apply to us literally, for our Jerichos are quite different
from the ancient city three miles west of the Jordan.
But we do have some important principles that will help us to understand how our particular strongholds
can be captured.
First, we march defenseless.
It is true that Israel had an army, but they were vastly outnumbered by the enemy.
As already pointed out, their weapons were inferior and their strategy strains our credulity.
As one pastor wrote, "The uniform witness of military history is that the foe is conquered by force.
City walls are cleared by bombardment.
Then they are scaled by ladders and ropes.
Gates are destroyed by battering rams, and troops are taken by the sword."
That's not the plans that God had defeat the Canaanites.
The Canaanites had a lopsided advantage no question about it.
Even apart from the inferior weaponry of the Israelites, the odds always go to the army that is entrenched
behind a fortification.
We have learned that it is much more difficult to capture an army position than it is to defend one.
Even today, we march with God alone as our shield.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves" Christ said to His disciples,
"therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
Unless God defends us, we are doomed.
Joshua's experience at Jericho is a reminder that no fortification is too strong for God to overcome.
We must march with confidence that God will give us the right strategy to overcome the enemy in our lives.
Blessed are those who can see beyond their fortified walls to God.
Secondly, we march patiently.
For six days the Israelites marched around the city without any evidence that they were close to victory.
Even as they began the journey on the seventh day, they appeared no closer to their goal of victory.
Imagine the conversations the preceding night as the children when asked why this weary
and boring routine had to be repeated.
Despite all the marching, the walls had not become smaller, the enemy had not become weaker,
and the Israelites had not become stronger.
Joshua cannot offer a shred of evidence for obeying God.
An explorer, Fredtz of Nansen and one companion was lost while exploring in the Arctic.
By miscalculation they ran out of all their supplies.
They ate their dogs.
They ate the harnesses of their dogs.
They drank the whale oil for their lamps.
Nansen's companion laid down the die, but Nansen told himself, "I can take one more step."
As he plotted heavily through the bitter cold step after step, he suddenly came upon an American expedition
that had been sent out to find him.
We do not know what God might do for us when we take that extra step.
One pastor has suggested that many people don't see answers to their prayers because they have stopped
at round six in the conquest of their personal Jericho.
We may be doing all the right things, and must simply keep doing them and the walls will fall.
Thirdly, we march silently.
There was a time to shout, but there was also a time to be silent.
The Israelites could not even encourage themselves with shouts of victory.
Most likely the Canaanites shouted cat-calls over the walls jeering at the hopeless troops below them.
But they were not to retaliate with their cheers or shouts, they were to remain silent
and they would see the glory of the Lord.
Psalm 46:8-11 says, "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder;
He burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Let us be still, and know that the Lord is God.
Fourthly, we marched unitedly.
The people were well organized as they made their journey around Jericho.
First came the men of war, then seven priests followed, carrying seven trumpets, and behind them
came the ark of the covenant.
The people followed this procession as it wound its way around the city walls.
This was not to be a victory just for Joshua.
This was "people power"; or more accurately, the power of a unified nation in dependence on God.
Together they would live or die.
If you are confronting a particularly strong Jericho, you cannot deal with it alone.
The body of Christ is to function in unity, and there is spiritual strength in numbers.
If those numbers are totally committed to God there is reason to believe that our Jerichos will fall.
We must share our burdens with others who can make them lighter, and with others who understand
the power of intercessory prayer.
And when one believer stumbles, another will be there to cushion the fall.
Fifthly, we march expectantly.
As they walked around the city for the seventh time on the seventh day, God did a miracle.
"So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets; and it came about, when the people heard
the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout in the wall fell down flat,
so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city." (Joshua 6:20)
Those huge walls collapsed for one reason: the Captain of the Host of the Lord spoke
and His invisible armies pushed them completely over.
Huge mounds of rubble and dried mud slid down the side of the hill and became the stepping stones
that the Israelites used to go into the city and destroy the terrified population.
The Israelites were astonished at what God had done.
Many times God has preferred to keep His plans a secret.
We don't know what He is going to do until He actually does it.
Our responsibility is to walk in faith knowing that there may be a surprise and a victory around the corner.
Sixthly, we march triumphantly.
Though the walls of Jericho came down, the battle was not over.
Not only did the people have to be exterminated, but all their possessions were to be burned.
Only the silver and gold was saved for the treasury of the Lord.
Everything else went up in smoke.
Many people are troubled because God commanded Joshua to exterminate everyone.
Everyone was exterminated except Rehab.
However, we must remember that these people were extremely depraved and their wickedness
was now filled to the brim. (cf. Genesis 15:16)
They were so corrupt that a pure faith could not coexist with them.
Their idolatry would infect the nation of Israel.
God was serving notice that sin is extremely contagious.
Think of the temptation the people experienced.
There was the temptation to keep some of the oxen, clothes, and utensils for their own enrichment.
They could not understand why God told them to destroy what was good.
In subsequent battles they would be able to keep some of the spoils for themselves,
but in this first military victory, God wanted to leave them with an object lesson.
That lesson was that sin spread so easily that even the items that belong to the Canaanites should be burned.
There are some powerful concluding lessons we can learn from Israel's experience.
First, we must learn that our basic battles in life are spiritual, not physical, emotional, or even psychological.
To the casual observer, it would appear as if the battle of Jericho was a conflict between two visible armies.
But it was actually a battle between two invisible armies, the hosts of the Lord and the hosts of darkness.
This explains why our greatest challenges is to trust the resources of Christ to fight our battles.
The real conflict is not only between husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees
these conflicts only mirror battles in the spiritual world.
The presence of Satan and his evil spirits causes manageable conflicts to become unmanageable.
Satan takes a skirmish and turns it to an all-out war.
Behind our visible Jericho is an invisible foe that can be overcome only by obedience to God
and faith in His promises.
Second, whether we win or lose depends on our focus.
If we stand and stare at the walls, they will only appear greater, more fortified, more impossible to overcome.
But if we focus on God, those walls will turn into windows through which we can see the glory of God.
During World War II there was a young soldier who took his new bride to his base in the desert.
He was stationed there for more training.
Then he was taken away for two weeks and his young bride was overcome by loneliness, the heat,
and the terrible living conditions.
She wrote to her mother saying that she was unable to take it any longer.
Her mother wrote her back and included these two lines in her letter:
"Two men look out of prison bars.
One sees mud, the other sees the stars."
Those two sentences transformed the young woman's attitude.
She began to see God in her circumstances, and to look for opportunities and to make the best
of her situation.
To see the glory of God beyond the blank wall is the privilege of every one of us who know Jesus.
Some do it better than others, but all of us must see beyond our prison walls to God.
We take a glance at our walls, but to gaze at God is the first step in overcoming our personal Jericho.
"Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries." (Psalm 60:12)
It's not where we are, but Who we see that really matters.
"When the hosts of Israel led by God,
Round the walls of Jericho softly trod,
Trusting in the Lord,
They felt the conqueror's tread,
By faith they saw the victory ahead.
Victory ahead, victory ahead,
Through the blood of Jesus, victory ahead.
Trusting in the Lord, I hear the conqueror's tread,
By faith I see the victory ahead."
"Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory,
That overcomes the world."
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White