All of us know what it is to be defeated and discouraged. More than once we’ve spread our wings only to get shot down in flames. Welcome to the club — it’s called the human race!

Consider the biblical character, Joshua. Moses was dead, and the mantle of leadership had fallen upon him.

The children of Israel had crossed the Jordan River, and the first city they came to was Jericho. There they experienced a noted victory. And, of

course, that victory was set to music: “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling.”

So, the people celebrated and rejoiced at the goodness of God and the smashing triumph. In addition, Joshua himself received congratulations all around.

But the next city they came to was a smaller city, Ai. This looked easy compared to Jericho. No need to send the entire army there, just a company or two can take care of the situation. Tragically, however, the Israelites suffered a terrible humiliating defeat at Ai. These Israelites were routed and many were slain as they sought escape.

And Joshua didn’t handle the situation well! Being very discouraged, he threw himself on the ground with the elders and threw dust in the air — a sign of deep mourning — and that’s where God found him.

God said, “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face?”(Joshua 7:10). Then God wants Joshua to search out the reason for his defeat.

With Joshua’s story in mind, I want to share three thoughts.

First, defeat is inevitable! A young man was caught robbing a bank some few months back, and during the interrogation the police officer asked, “Why did you want to rob that bank?” The young man replied, “I just wanted to be somebody.” He went on to explain that he had been out of work for several weeks and didn’t have any money. He felt utterly defeated. “I just got to thinking,” he said, “if I had some money in my pocket, I would feel like somebody.”

To be sure, some of us have much harder defeats than do others — but along the way everyone of us meets a defeat or more. Especially is this true if we dare to dream.

Second, defeat has its causes! One of the best things we can do about defeat is to discover why it happened — let it be our teacher.

A famous golf champion said that he learned from his defeats, never from his victories. After he had been defeated in a tournament, he would go to some golf teacher or teachers and say, “Tell me what I am doing wrong.” Then he would work to correct his mistakes.

Third, defeat doesn’t have to be fatal!

An employee in a large corporation made a mistake that cost the company a million dollars. The man was called to see the boss, and he fully expected to be fired. But his boss had a different approach.

“Do you know the secret of making a million dollars?” asked the boss. “It’s making good decisions. And do you know the secret of making good decisions? It’s making bad decisions and learning from them. I’ve just invested a million dollars in you, so learn from your mistake…” (story told by David Jeremiah).

Failure is never final unless we allow it to be.

And God’s promise to Joshua is also God’s promise to us, “As I was Moses; so I will be with you…” Joshua 7:5).

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The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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