Rebounding from Disappointments

Examining The Question, "How Do I Rebound From Disappointment?".

Ross Sawyers
Oct 1, 2023    53m
This message from the Book of Joshua examines the question, "How do I rebound from disappointment?" Even when we faithfully follow God's design for our lives, we will still face challenges and disappointments. This message gives us advice on how to rebound no matter what we face. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:03] What an awesome time in worship this morning. And we just want to continue in worshiping God and unpacking his word and seeing what he has for us and the ways that he ties together, the depth and substance of the songs, the message, that he'll just move through that and the rest of our time together. If you turn your Bible to Joshua chapter 8, we'll be in verses 1 through 29. We'll anchor ourselves more heavily in the first part of Joshua 8, and we'll move a little more rapidly through the rest of it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:32] Years ago, at 16 years old, in May of 1980, God reached down into my heart and saved me, and that's when I became a follower of Jesus. And I began attending a church, Becky Cassel was my youth minister and Randall Everett was my pastor, and both of them took an interest in me and discipled me in a number of ways. And it really set in me the kinds of things that I'm still passionate about today as far as sharing my faith with people and encouraging others to do the same, memorizing the Scripture so that it gets deep inside of us and this constantly rolling around and flowing out, a love for the word, a fervency in prayer, and a desire to see people know Jesus and become full-on followers of his. My pastor also talked often about the persecuted church all over the world, and by that, I mean those who are followers of Jesus in other countries where it's not okay to follow Jesus and they're oftentimes imprisoned because of their faith, killed because of their faith, tortured because of their faith. And I remember in the early 80s, as Randall would talk about these believers in the communist countries at the time, it was the communist era where we were primarily talking about the persecuted at the time. He would give out these brochures, and this is before all of our digital age, so it's just a handout brochure of all these different men and women that were imprisoned in their faith in multiple countries across the world, and that was given to us so we could pray for them. And so I just remember years ago already having a heart for those who are brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:29] And it's really been a desire of mine, we did a series a few years ago called the Underground Church so that our church would more and more understand what is happening all over the world in the global church. And so much of what happens in the world is the persecution of Christians. And sometimes when we talk about that, it feels like that's way over there. How does that relate to me here? And one of the ways it relates is these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a global family of followers of Jesus, and when someone is hurting across the pond, we hurt with them; and when someone rejoices halfway across the world, that's a follower of Jesus, we rejoice with them, it's family. And so for no other reason, that should cause our hearts to ignite, to understand what's going on in our global family of followers of Jesus. I also have found incredible encouragement over the years reading the stories of the perseverance and stamina of these followers of Jesus, it's unbelievable what they go through, and they do not waver from their faith. Does that mean they never worry or are not fearful or concerned? Absolutely they are, and then God in the midst of it, strengthens them to withstand whatever it is that comes their way.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:00] I want to link a story that I read on vacation to Joshua 8 today. I received it in the mail before I left, and I don't have any idea why I received this, but a book called Imprisoned with ISIS: How To Face With Faith Evils In The World. The title intrigued me, it was the story about a man named Petr Jasek. He is currently living in the Czech Republic, that's where he's from, and it's his story of how he was persecuted for his faith. I took that on vacation, and when we go on vacation, I think Lisa would prefer I read lighter kinds of things, but my heart is always drawn to the persecuted. And I could not put the book down, I couldn't wait till I could get to it next while we were gone. But as the story unfolds, Petr's parents, and I don't know this, I just wonder if maybe in those brochures in the 80s, I wonder if sometimes we prayed for his parents. Because Petr's parents were pastors and they suffered for their faith, they didn't waver in their faith. When Petr was 15 years old, both his mom and dad were arrested in Czechoslovakia, again, communist at the time. When they were released and came home, Petr was afraid, as I think any 15-year-old would be afraid if their parents were just placed in prison and arrested. His dad did, I don't know what I would do if I came home and had been arrested and what I would do with my 15-year-old son. But this is what Petr's dad did, he handed him a copy of Richard Wurmbrand's book and his story of how he was tortured for Christ and was in a Romanian prison and was brutally tortured for 16 years. His wife also was in a Romanian prison for three years, all because of their faith. When Richard Wurmbrand was finally released from prison, he spent the rest of his days helping the world to know what happens to those who are persecuted and being a voice for them. He started a ministry that many of you may be familiar with called Voice of the Martyrs, and it is active today. His parents handed him the book and said, read this book. Because they wanted their 15-year-old son to be prepared to face whatever persecution came his way and to learn from Richard Wurmbrand. He reads the book.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:57] Fast forward to 2002 and Petr Yosuke becomes a worker for Voice of the Martyrs which Richard Wurmbrand had founded. For several years he is actively going into African countries in the Middle East, encouraging pastors and others who are being persecuted for their faith. In December of 2015, Petr showed up to the airport after a visit to Sudan, headed back to the Czech Republic to be with his wife, his son, and his daughter. His daughter who would soon graduate from her medical training, and his son soon to graduate school as well. He was looking forward to going home. But in December of 2015, he didn't go home, he was arrested and detained and spent the next 445 days in different Sudanese prisons. In those first two months, he was fearful, he was placed in a cell, it was him and seven ISIS members. They persecuted him, they beat him with a broomstick, and they made him do the most indignifying things you can imagine around the toilet, it's just story after story of brutal persecution of him. He was fearful in those first few months; he was not sure what would happen. He was disappointed that he wasn't with his wife, couldn't see his kids’ graduations, that he assumed he's not going to be able to see them. How does a guy like this who's been so faithful in God's will to help others who are being persecuted, and now he, himself has become the persecuted? How do you work through when there are things that are disappointments in life and how do you rebound from those? How does Petr Yosuke rebound from being in a Sudanese prison in brutal conditions, and part of how the security and police would taunt him, is they would give him false hope that he was going to be released? One time they let him clean up, gave him his clothes, took him out of the prison, and started driving towards the airport, and he thought this is for sure I'm being released, only to drive past the airport to the next prison where they would take him. And then they just laughed at him. How do you rebound from disappointment after disappointment after disappointment?

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:49] In Joshua 8, we can tether ourselves to God's Word today and learn from Joshua in the Israelites how today we can practically rebound from disappointment, and we can see how Petr Jasek's story can be incredibly helpful to us today, could be an encouragement for us, as we think about our own disappointments and the difficulties that we face and how we rebound from those. If you're new today or you've come the last few weeks, we're working our way through the book of Joshua, we're in chapter 8 today, and we've basically gone chapter by chapter. We'll do the bulk of today's chapter, and then we'll do a smaller section next week.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:31] But just a quick recap. At the beginning of Joshua, Moses has died, leadership is transferred, and Joshua is now the leader to take the people into the land that God had promised long ago. Initially, you see victory, they get across the Jordan River into the land. They have an immediate victory at Jericho in a really unusual way. And then they keep moving to the next city. And when Paul read it, he said, Ai, which is exactly probably right. All my life I've said Ai, so I'm just going to butcher it today if that's okay and call it Ai. But they go to that second city, Ai and they face defeat.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:15] Now, Eric Estes preached last week, he did a fantastic job on it. He also noted in the sermon that I took that as a specific vacation day so I wouldn't have to talk about how serious sin is, and he's probably right. He did an amazing job handling Joshua chapter 7 with great clarity and great grace, so I'm grateful for that. But there was sin in the camp, and because of that, the Israelites lose in their battle at Ai, and now they're discouraged and they're disappointed. They thought God had given them the land, and now they're defeated. Why did this happen? It's explained to them because of the sin. And by the way, just to reiterate what Eric said, sin never affects just the person who sins. We may think we have some hidden secret sin that affects no one else, and it affects everyone around us. Sin affects the community that is near it and oftentimes beyond it. We can't fool ourselves at that point.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:36] Well, the sin is eradicated from the camp as we get into Joshua 8, and its rebound time from that disappointment. How does he rebound? There are four things I'd like us to note, and the first is needed encouragement. He's able to rebound from encouragement that comes from God himself. And God does the same thing today for you and for me. Chapter 8, verse 1, "Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2“You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:24] Let's go back to verse 1, this is the pattern throughout Joshua. God is speaking to him, and once he speaks to him, then Joshua will take it to the people and say, here's what God is telling us to do, let's go do it. If the Lord says to Joshua, do not fear or be dismayed. Now the theme of Joshua was set in Joshua chapter 1, verses 8 and 9, and in 1:8-9, God tells Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” God gave Joshua that promise at the outset of going to take the land, he needed to hear that he did not need to be fearful or concerned or tremble or dismayed. But when we face defeat, when we have obstacles come, it's easy for us to get discouraged, and we need encouragement to be able to go do it again. And they've already been defeated at Ai, Joshua needed some encouragement to go at it a second time.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:49] Joshua is not the only one, throughout the scriptures, we're told again and again not to be afraid. The number that goes around, I don't know who does this, but somebody counts, and they say 365 times in the Bible it says, Do not fear. I don't know if it's 365 or 400 times, I've just kind of trusted, it's a lot. So we can know today that oftentimes in scripture we're told not to fear, that can be the encouragement we need to step into the next thing God has, and to rebound when it looks like it just went awry.

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:26] Paul, he wrote several of the letters in the New Testament, wrote to his young disciple, Timothy. And in Second Timothy 1:7 he says, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." Timothy needed to hear that if he's ever timid, that's not from God. Joshua needed to hear if he's fearful, if he's anxious, if he's dismayed, that's not from God. What's from God is power and love and sound judgment. What that means then, is when I'm fearful or timid, I've stepped out of the safety and the strength of who God is, because in him I have power and love and discipline. We need to hear these words often to not fear.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:30] He tells him not to fear or be dismayed. Then he says, "Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand> That phrase, have given, is past tense, and he's telling Joshua this is already yours, keep moving, go take it. Let's rebound and move forward, we got sin out of the camp, now let's go take it. He's giving it to him, the promise is there. Job would come to this conclusion in chapter 42. I can't imagine anyone facing more trials, more disappointments, or more difficulties than Job in the Bible. But in chapter 42, verse 2, Jobe says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." Ultimately the confidence is that God is going to come through and his purposes will happen. He'll work through the good, he'll work through the bad, he'll work through the disappointments, and he'll work through the challenges. When we have faith in God himself, then we can continue in faith over the failures, we can continue in faith through the disappointments, we continue in faith over fear, and we continue in faith through the good and the bad. Aren't you grateful today that in stories like chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua, that God gives second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, and fifth chances? They're getting another shot at it. They brought this on themselves. but God, in his grace, is giving them another shot.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:27] Peter is one of the lead disciples for Jesus and spent time with Jesus. And it seems by Matthew 18 that he's starting to get it a little bit more of what Jesus is about. And I think I can imagine this happening, here's Peter, he's getting it, he's oftentimes being corrected by Jesus for things that he doesn't get. He's always the headstrong step in there, and he'll figure it out later if he got it right or not. But he's figuring out this forgiveness thing, and he says to Jesus, "How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" And I can just imagine Peter, before Jesus, just so excited that he's willing to forgive a person seven times for the same offense against them. But Jesus looks at him, I'm sure with compassion and tender eyes and says, not seven, but seventy times seven. Four hundred and ninety times, if you're doing the math, that someone sins against you, and you forgive them, second chances, third chances, fourth chances. The good news is, after 490, at 491, you can let them go. No, that's not what Jesus was saying.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:11] He goes on to tell a story about the limitless forgiveness that he's offered each of us. And remember, the magnitude of his forgiveness, so that we, in turn, do the same for someone else. We would do well to keep the finger pointed at ourselves on the sin in our own hearts and lives before we're so quick to get after someone else in theirs. God is gracious and kind. Are there consequences? Yes. Yes. Do we confront people? Yes. Forgiveness, that's one of the ways we can bounce back and rebound from disappointment. Oftentimes, the disappointments are not caused by our own sin, they're caused by the sin of someone else. And it's kind of like, why do I have to deal with this? And then sometimes it's our own. But how do we rebound from it? We rebound from it with forgiveness. It's the 23rd Psalm that so many of us love. In verse 3, "He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake." Why does God forgive and give these chances? It's more for his own name than it is for you and me. We just get to benefit from that forgiveness so we can rebound from disappointments knowing that God is a gracious and forgiving God and gives second chances.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:05] If you struggle with fear or with worry, Joe Sanchez is our executive pastor, and he recommended this book to me a few weeks ago, and I picked it up. And I'm part way through it, working my way through, it's called Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest by Ed Welch. And I think it's an excellent read and a really practical way, from a biblical counselor, of how to work through fear and worry. So maybe that'll be a practical help for you if you like to read.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:34] In verse 2 it says, “You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves." Look what happens here, in chapter 7, we learn that Achan in chapter 6, had taken stuff from Jericho that he wasn't supposed to take. If he just would have been patient, in the second city under God's instructions, there's plunder they can take. But he couldn't wait, so he went after it his own way, and it cost him, and it cost his family and it cost the community. Well, how do we know what God's instructions are? Joshua is getting them very specifically and clearly from the Lord, so he knows what to do next.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:30] So how do we today know that we can be encouraged to not be fearful? We can know that God makes promises, but how do we know what we're supposed to step into? And I really believe that the way we know is through one word, and it's the word abide. The word abide means to remain, and the way we walk in God's instructions and eliminate fear and worry is to abide and remain in Christ. To carve space with Him in His word and in prayer, and then to constantly be dwelling, thinking on the things of God, seeking him, abiding in him. On our vacation, we were in Florida, on the beach. On the first day, I spent time with the Lord, and I said, God, I'm just going to look at this as one giant quiet time, and I think that's what abiding is. it's just one giant time with God as we're going.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:46] This week I was reminded as I was in one conversation, and then when I was at the Red Rail rivalry on Friday night between Colleyville Heritage and Grapevine High School, I was reminded of a couple of things. And one is this, we are today, right here, all of us gathered, the people here, we are the church, this building is not the church. When I walked into the stadium on Friday night, I was a little bit late and I walked over to the end zone rail and I looked and this is the way I think, I'll look at the band and the drill team and the cheerleaders and the football team and the parents in the stands and all the people that came to cheer for their team. And I wonder how are we going to get the message of Jesus to all of these people, that they might be transformed from the inside out. How will that happen? And I saw Jermaine, our youth pastor, and that's one way it's happening, and Jermaine's church was that stadium, that's church. And I started looking afresh, okay, what students do we have in the band? Who are cheerleaders? Who's on the football team? Which parents are at our church? That's how we do it, with a mind for Christ, and a desire to reach everyone God puts around us. I was standing next to Jermaine and of course, the kids were constantly flocking around him. But a parent of one of the players came up to him and he said, hey, I just wanted to tell you that today when you spoke this morning at the breakfast of champions with the dads and with the players, that was a phenomenal message. You see, the church, in that moment, was the breakfast of champions when Jermaine brought the gospel and the good news of Christ. And then he said to me, he said, you know, he said my goal with our students is to take an ancient text that they think has nothing to do with them and help them see how it comes alive in their life today. That's what abiding is, it's taking an ancient text, hanging out in it with Jesus, and watching it come alive, and we watch it happen in student after student.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:42] I thought about this as well when we were on vacation, we went out on wave runners to look to see dolphins, and then we went to an island and there were shells and so forth. And the guy said, there's a lot of sand dollars here, and I thought, I don't see them. And we've spent our whole lives, my wife and I, trying to find a whole sand dollar, and somehow, we never find a whole one, you get like a quarter of one, or you get half of one, but we've never found a whole one. So I was all ears when he said, here's how you find it. And he said, take your foot and walk through the water and put it in an inch and a half below the sand and just drag your foot, and then you may come across one. We'll try it. So I start dragging my foot through thinking, we've seen stingrays, we've seen jellyfish, I wonder what else I'm going to discover an inch and a half below the sand. But I get in there and my toe hits something and I think, that feels like a sand dollar. And I reached down and got it out, got it up, and it was about yay big, it was alive, and it was a whole sand dollar. We've been trying this for years, but apparently, I was never going deep enough. The way will be encouraged and rebound is to go deep in God's Word. Not just standing on the seashore hoping that a shell is going to come in, or the part of a sand dollar is going to make it, but actively digging below the surface, and as we do that, we'll grow deeper and deeper and we'll understand the ways of God. Let me cheer you on today and be encouraged in that way.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:49] What are disappointments for you? If you just think about it in your own life today, is your marriage a disappointment? You just thought, you know what, I thought it would be something different than this, and how did it end up being this? Is it a friendship that's betrayed? Is it a dating relationship? You're thinking, really, this is the fourth one that I thought was the person, how does this keep happening? Are you disappointed? Have you been hurt in the church that somebody said something to you, or you expected to receive something, and you didn't receive it and you're hurt by the church? Did you go on a 15 out of 20 game losing streak as a professional baseball team, and there's disappointment when it was a winning season for the Rangers for the longest time, and then it kind of goes into the tank? Or is there disappointment when you go to work and you think, I'm supposed to stand for Jesus at my work, and it just seems like things don't go right when I do that? What are those disappointments today? For Petr Jašek, in prison, it was disappointment after disappointment in those first few months, and then he got some needed encouragement. He was finally allowed for 30 seconds to talk to his wife. And just hearing her voice for 30 seconds gave him a fresh wind and encouragement.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:15] Well, there's a second thing here that'll be helpful when we're disappointed in whatever those things are for you today, and that's a better strategy. So what is a better strategy when things don't work the way we thought they would work? Verse 3, "So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night." So Joshua chooses 30,000 men. Quick side note here, in chapter 7, the first time they went after Ai, they sent 2-3000 fighters, this time we're not going to mess this up, we're sending 30,000, we're going to overwhelm what's happening here. And I actually think today that's a good battle strategy for us, prayer is not an addition to failures, disappointments, or problems. You know what, I'm going to do this and this and this, and then we're going to pray about it. No, the better strategy is to pray, see what God says, then do that. But from a spiritual side, the warfare is in the heavenly places. So when there are disappointments or problems or defeats or obstacles, I would do well to enlist as many people as possible to get in the battle praying with me, not 2-3000, 30,000.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:50] Petr's church, do you know what they did for him? For 445 days they had a prayer and fasting chain for him. Someone would take a slot, they would pray and fast in those hours, next person up, next person up. People all over the world got in on that chain. When he came back and reflected on what was happening in prison at times, he knew people were praying, he could often tie together this is what was happening, this is what God did in there, this is how God rescued me, this is how God delivered. We battle in the heavenly places in prayer.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:30] Chapters 4 through 6, here's the battle plan, it's clear, here's the better strategy. We're going to bring 5,000 people from the west, we're going to take the rest and come in from the north. We're going to act like, from the north, that we will do exactly what we did the first time so that we can fake them out. So Joshua says, I'll take the men, I'll come in from the north, once they see us, they're going to think that they can beat us. They'll come out, they'll start chasing us, we'll pretend to be defeated. We're on the run, and when we're on the run, the 5000 on the west side who are in hiding, now you ambush the city where the fighting men have left. You come into the city, and when you're in there, set it on fire. And when you do that, we'll see the smoke, we'll stop, look back, and then we have them trapped. So he lays out a better strategy for victory, and they did this according to God's word.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:26] In verses 15 and 16, it played out exactly how God said it would and how Joshua instructed. He pretended to be beaten, they fled, and the people started to pursue. And in verse 17, "So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel." A better strategy, he gave them what they needed to do, and they executed the strategy. What in our disappointments will oftentimes be a better strategy. One of the key things is a perspective change. A perspective on what God's doing, a perspective on the circumstance, that we have a change of perspective in our hearts and minds that helps us to have a better strategy. If you're disappointed because time after time you try to read the Bible and it makes no sense, it's too hard. Or you've tried reading plans for the year and you say, I'm going to read the Bible in a year, and every time you get stuck in Leviticus, there might be a better strategy for you, that might not be the best plan. There are all kinds of plans to get in the Bible, there are people who help, so we seek people out to help us to understand God's Word. I tried sharing my faith a certain way, I do it, I tried it the way, you may say that you taught us to do it that way, I tried that, it doesn't work. There may be a better strategy that God has for you to communicate the message of Christ to someone, and so we just get in there and we keep trying and we're not afraid to fail. If there are addictions and sins we're battling and you say, you know what, I can't seem to win against this one, there might be a better strategy out there for you that God has. And so we work together as a community to help figure out what's the best way to get victory, the best strategy, and how can we be an encouragement. Where marriages aren't where you are hoping they would be, one thing that I encourage couples that are having trouble is to reimagine what this could look like. Because so often when I'm having those conversations, it's not looking back and saying, oh, let's go grab back what we had there in those first few years. Oftentimes there was nothing there either, but what we can do, a better strategy could be to reimagine what can be in the way that God has designed it in looking ahead. We're constantly looking and saying, is there a better way that God has for this than the way that I just did it? And so we get the help we need to be able to move ahead.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:23] Baylor last night, they were losing 35 to 7 going into the third quarter, and they come back and it's their biggest comeback in school history, and they win 36 to 35. I'm keeping my promise so far of speaking well of schools, this is one more time. But there was clearly, I just read the story, I don't know what happened that changed for the second half, but clearly, there was a better strategy in the second half of the game than the first half of the game. Texas Rangers first place most of the year, they go in a skid 15 out of 20, a major disappointment. Most every fan in here, if you're a fan of the Rangers, you've been disappointed. We all thought this thing tanked, it's not going to happen, and then what do they do? They won 14 out of 21, they secured a spot in the playoffs last night, and they have a chance to win the division today and have the number two seed in the American League. Disappointed and rebound, we can learn from sports how to rebound from disappointments.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:35] What are those things for you that have been disappointing? For Petr Jasek, instead of being fearful after those first couple of months in prison, his perspective changed. He said there's got to be a better strategy for me to survive in here, the fear and the anxiety, all this isn't working. And his perspective changed, and God brought someone in that he was able to talk about Jesus with, a person who believed, and then after that, it was game on. He even said he stopped praying as much that he would get released, as much as he would be faithful to what God had for him in prison to bring the message of Jesus. He would eventually, in one prison, be preaching to 200 prisoners every week. It wouldn't have been a strategy that we would have chosen, but God had a better strategy for him, and he'd been preparing him his whole life for this moment, and now he's walking in that moment with the right perspective.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:53] Third thing, 18 through 27, when we think about rebounding from disappointment, let's think about the decisive victory that comes when we follow the Lord. Verse 18, Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 18 through 27 starts to describe the victory that comes over the way God said it would come. Joshua And the people execute the plan that they've been given, and now they're experiencing a decisive victory over Ai. Verse 18 reminds us of Moses in Exodus 17, Joshua was with Moses, and Moses is going to war against the Amalekites. He raises his staff, this was God's plan, when you're holding the staff in the air, you'll win in the fight, and Joshua is actually the one in the fight. So as long as Moses had the staff In the air, Joshua was winning, when he lowered it, Joshua was losing. Eventually, two men, Aaron and Hur, stood on either side of Moses to hold up his arms, and Joshua wins the victory. Same, Joshua holds up a javelin, it's a symbol that this is God's victory that's coming. That would have been really familiar to them. It plays out again, exactly as God said, and then they utterly destroy Ai.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:34] Again, just to reiterate, we talked about this the last couple of weeks, it's hard to hear the utter destruction of people, and that causes people to have challenges with God. But this was not genocide, and this was not an ethnic cleansing, this was about sin. This was a people that were described in Genesis 16 that their sin was not yet complete, they had been given centuries to repent of sexual immorality and child sacrifice, and this is a judgment on them for their sin, and then it's a clearing of the land for God to establish his people and to eradicate the things that would be hostile to him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:23] When we think about decisive victory, Petr Jasek's story. He had a corrupt trial that took months, he was found guilty of espionage, and a number of other things, and sentenced to life in prison. Now, in the weird diplomatic world that's out there, and I'm sure some of you understand this way better than I would, but he actually needed to be sentenced for the diplomacy to work for him to get released. So while he was given a life sentence, he was actually relieved that he finally had a sentence and then he felt like he could eventually be released, and he was about 30 to 40 days later. It was a decisive victory for him, and he had had victory while he was in there in horrid conditions, and now he had victory in being released. And he goes all over the world now speaking and encouraging people about what God is doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:22] So what about decisive victories? When people ask me about 121, I absolutely love what I get to do and I love our church, I love you. I love who God has brought as 121, and I love the broader church as well. But when people ask me what I love about 121 or what's what God is doing, almost every time, the first thing that comes to my mind is I love that we get to watch lives transformed again and again and again. We've watched this from the very beginning of the church, from people who didn't know Christ, they've come to Christ. You just see the countenance on their face totally changes when Christ enters into their life. We've seen families totally changed because dads have stepped up and they're leading the charge in their home. We've seen single families excel and thrive in following the Lord as moms in really hard situations have just led incredibly well. We've seen marriages that looked like they were on the brink of divorce be reconciled. God is a reconciler today, and at the cross, he has the power to reconcile, and that same power is the same power that can reconcile a marriage. We've watched parents and children come together that once were not together. It is one thing after another of triumph of what God does. We sang that earlier; we see the victory that God brings. We've seen struggles in sin and addictions overcome.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:54] I've often talked about my own story and that my dad was an alcoholic and that for me personally in our home, that created quite a bit of fear that I still struggle with today. At the same time, when my dad was in his early 40s, he quit drinking and was sober until the day he died. Addictions can be overcome, sin struggles can be beaten, and when we fall, God steps right in there. In Psalm 37:23-24 it says, "The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. 24When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand." God's right there, ready to pick you up when you fall. We have decisive victories.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:44] The last thing I would say is that we need vivid reminders. I've talked about this already in Joshua, we see it play out in verse 29, "The king of Ai is hung, and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day." That's an odd reminder, a king hanging dead outside the city, but it would be a reminder for them of God's measured wrath against sin and the judgment that comes on sin. And one day there will be a great judgment where everything is made right, and those who have refused God, this is a picture of the judgment that will come to those who've refused God and his offer of mercy and grace in Christ. The reality today is when we read this story, and we think about the king of Ai being hung on a tree. And the reason he had to come off that tree by the end of the day in Deuteronomy 21, it says that a man is accursed who is hung on a tree and that his body has to come off, otherwise it's a defilement to the land. You and I are the king of Ai, our sin is so vile before God that we actually deserve is to be publicly hung and disgraced because of our sin against him, we're that king.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:38] But fast forward and there's another king that hangs on a tree, And Jesus Christ would hang on a tree outside the city walls, publicly disgraced, and judged by the very humans that he created of being guilty of sin. The disciples would be disappointed, perplexed, and crushed over watching what they believed was their Savior and their King, only to see him accursed, Galatians 3:13, hanging on a tree. But we know the rest of that story, and we know that on the third day that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is the conqueror, the triumphant and the victorious one, and that sin and shame and guilt have been defeated. And that he actually took our place on the cross so that we wouldn't have to die like the King of Ai, that's the grace and mercy of God today. Do you believe that? And it's the same hanging on a tree and rising from the dead that motivates our hearts today.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:16] In Hebrews 12, verse 3 the writer said, "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." If you need encouragement, go to the foot of the cross. A better strategy, most people say the cross is foolish, but I would say the best strategy for life today is believing in what Jesus Christ did crucified and risen. A decisive victory, yes, he took out Satan's works, he took out sin, he absorbed our guilt, and brought freedom to every person that believes. A vivid reminder, here's one among many on the edge of the stage, every time we see a cross, we're reminded of the grace and mercy and victory and triumph of Jesus Christ. That's how we rebound from probably what in life is a rhythm of disappointments.

Ross Sawyers: [00:50:30] Father, thank you today for our time in this part of your word. And God, I pray today for all of us that for any who do not know Jesus, I pray, God, today that your Word and who you are and the songs we sing would be so descriptive of your beauty and your victory and your triumph that people be drawn to you today. And Father, I pray for those who know you today that whenever we face disappointments, that we would rebound from those and we'd rebound quickly, God. That we would be like Joshua, if we're down on our face, and it's time to get up, would you just get us up and tell us what we need to get it moving right and help us get back in there again? So, Father, thank you. And I pray today that anyway people need encouragement, I pray we'll be encouraged from your word that we don't have to fear or be dismayed today. Father, I pray that all of us would know that wherever the obstacles and disappointments are, your plans will not be thwarted, and we have confidence today that you have better strategies moving ahead. And then, Father, I thank you that we can count on your promises, and we know there's ultimate decisive victory. And I thank you for those victories we get to experience today. And I pray, Father, we'll continue to walk in them. And then, God. I also pray that we'll be reminded often of how those have been secured in you today. Father, I pray you would bring reimagination and healing to marriages. I pray, God, that you would restore broken hearts in people who are single and have sought relationships and they've not worked, I pray you'd encourage their heart. Today I pray, Father, where we've shrunk back at work because we've been fearful, we've tried things that hadn't worked, will you give us a different way to go in and to stand firm and stand strong in you? Father, I pray that we continue to learn from analogies and things around us how to rebound well from disappointments. Where we've been hurt by the church, I pray, God, that we'd forgive and step back in and go for it. And we thank you that today we can do all these things with your help and your strength. I pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:49] Let's be quiet for a moment and any things that have been disappointments for you, that you'd bring those before the Lord personally and tell them what they are, and then ask him to be your help to rebound and to get in the game of what it is that he has for you, your family, your friends, our life groups, and 121 today in the broader church. And then that our friends that are persecuted all over the world, God, today I pray that we'd be a praying people for them and be involved in that however you choose. I pray in Jesus' name.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051