Have you noticed it can take thirty minutes (or less!) to get outside the will of God, and thirty years (or more) to get back to the place you were before sin invaded your life? When we lose spiritual ground, when we retreat before the enemy, when we revert to our old ways, it is tough going back.
We may confess, make restitution, and start over again with a clean slate, but somehow we don’t feel the presence of God like we did before. Joshua experienced this. He led Israel to a great victory at Jericho. Then God’s people suffered a crushing defeat at Ai. When the sin at the root of that defeat was exposed, Joshua dealt with it. Then he humbly received instructions on how to win back the city he had just lost. It was nothing like the way he won Jericho. Joshua learned that following a holy, awesome, powerful God is not a cookie-cutter proposition.
One day is not just like the next. One victory does not become the prescription for all victories. Not only did God have a plan for the re-capture of Israel’s lost ground—He had a word of tender encouragement to his defeated leader. “Do not fear or be dismayed,” He told Joshua. Defeat is no cause for fear or depression. We will experience defeat in the Christian life, but it is not a permanent condition. It is only a temporary setback. Even when a Christian loses the battle, his God has won the war.