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The horse is prepared for the day of battle but victory belongs to the Lord. Proverbs 21:31


For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  1 John 5:4

Wherever we go and whatever we do, we want to enjoy the victory of the Lord. A victory that fits right in to our family life, our work, our relationships. We look at passages in the Scriptures, like Romans 8:31-39, and we read of tremendous victory. We are, indeed, more than conquerors through Him who loves us. Then we look around us, at our relationships and habits. We look into the mirror that James talks about (1:23-25), but are afraid to look too intently. We live lives of pain-avoidance. We do not want to seriously consider the depravity of man—as it applies to our own lives. In such situations, the victory seems to disappear from view.

The Children of Israel faced the same dilemma. They had the promises of God that were amazing. In Joshua 1:5, God promised Joshua “No man will stand before you.” He was probably feeling great. He had that promise of God and believed it. When the Children of Israel got finished with Jericho, Joshua was probably saying things like: “I told you so; I said he would come through. I told you God could do it; we could trust the Lord.” And then they came to the next battle at Ai. It was a little nothing of a city, hardly worth mentioning. “We’ll get over this thing by mid-day. Make sure you do a good job.” And, you guessed it—they faced a defeat. Joshua’s defeat at Ai demonstrates the existence of three key elements to living victoriously: the problem of pride (vv. 1-5), the priority of prayer (vv. 6-9) and the practice of purity (vv. 10-15).

The Problem of Pride

We want to enjoy our pride. We hate it when other people have it. We live with it and tolerate it and think we deserve it when it’s ours. Pride was the problem in Israel and it was based on a false premise; they thought that Jericho was a victory. That was their major misunderstanding. Jericho was a training lesson. They were supposed to take the principles of trusting in the Lord that they learned at Jericho and then apply them to Ai and the other cities they would face. They did not realize what many of us tend to forget as well. We learn wonderful things, but forget the overriding principle: taught, then tested.

We see the problem of pride in verses 1-3. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai and told them to spy out the land. They did what they were told and returned with some good news. Those are the kinds of spies we like. “Do not let all the people go up, only about two or three thousand men need to go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” Hardly worth worrying about.

Most of us have had “big battles.” We have fought our “Jericho’s.” But our biggest battle is not very big to God. In His sight, Ai was just as important as Jericho. But all too often we see in the flesh and think with the wisdom of the world. We judge by the standards of men—“why bother God with this one? Let’s just handle it ourselves.” They never applied the lessons of Jericho to Ai. They trusted in the counsel of men. Self-confidence was self-deception. They did not pray, they did not seek the Lord, they did not try to find out how God wanted them to take Ai. God could have given them Ai, just as easily as Jericho. He actually did it later (Joshua 8:1-2). God told them to take it. God has it to give.

Sometimes there is something in our lives that is like an Ai. We come through many battles, but this one little thing seems to be stumbling us. God can give it to us and enable us to realize the victory, in Him. We need to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God and He will raise us up in victory. We need to learn well the lesson that He is able. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

We should not measure victory by quantity, but by its quality. Does it get us to pray? We have victory. Does it cause us to draw closer to the Lord and depend on Him? Then we have a victory. But if it drives us to pride and self-sufficiency, it is a Pyrrhic victory—a won battle but a lost war.


– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.