(*Joshua Chapter 8)
We move forward today.
What held us back, does no longer.
The time has come to honor the gifts we've been given on a level we never knew we could, so that those we are called to do life with can experience a relationship they always wanted...but never knew how to ask for.
It's time for us to lead the way.
It's time for us to go back to our "Ai."
With our spouse.
With our kids.
With our family.
With our neighbors.
With our colleagues.
And with those we are called to be a light to in the world around us every single day.
And so that we don't get to a place in our minds and hearts where we start to feel like God is taking "fun" stuff away for us, or layering rules on top of us...we can refer to Joshua 8...just a few verses in.
"Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart's content." (Italics mine)
I don't know about you, but I can get caught up feeling sorry for myself when I feel like God is prompting me to do something I'd rather not. Most times, if I'm being honest, it's because I don't understand why He'd ask what He is asking. I can't see the end-game, so I complain that the request is even part of the game. And it's in those moments that I can end up like Achan.
I grab onto something God wants me to leave alone like a stubborn toddler who insists they are entitled to something their parent says no to. I throw my temper-tantrum. Not always for others to see...but in the quietness of my frustrated heart, I throw it.
But today we're going to move forward.
We've come clean before God...ready to move forward.
We can go back to our "Ai"...where the initial ending didn't turn out the way we thought it would...so that we allow God to do what only He could...and can.
When Joshua and his soldiers went back to Ai...he gave orders that resonate with me...and I believe they will with you...as you approach your Ai.
"Look sharp now...Get as close as you can. Stay alert."
We get close once we get serious.(*22)
In fact, close proximity to victory comes once specific direction is followed.
Once the Israelites realized they couldn't partake of "the cursed things", they found themselves on the doorstep of their blessing.
Joshua laid out the plans to his soldiers as to how it would all happen. And then something fascinating takes place before the victory. Once everyone was in place scripture tells us this...
"Joshua spent the night with the people. Joshua spent the night in the valley."
We might have to wait on the way. Right before we take the thing God is handing to us...we might have to wait in a valley. A low point. Low points can have perceived connotations of frustration.
Like where we are isn't where we are supposed to be, or want to be.
This serves as a tremendous reminder to simply...wait.
Spend the night in the valley.
Look at the promise that God gave you from a distance, and don't worry about the current accommodations.
Before you know it...it will be yours.
If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...its your destiny.(*23)
The very next morning Joshua walked out what God commanded he do. And piece by piece...move by move...God's promise to give the Israelites the land of Ai, happened.
One last part of their story at Ai...
The moment of the battle that stood to be the greatest test of Joshua's faith for God to act on their behalf came with a command from God.
"Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai - I'm giving it to you."
I suppose that isn't all that crazy of a request.
But what is remarkable to me is what Joshua does with it.
Throughout the conflict Joshua didn't lower the javelin until the battle was completely over. He stood in faith. He acted in obedience. He saw it through...all the way to the end. He was tired. His arm was sore. His body's strength waining. But...
Joshua stood, acted, and was rewarded for his obedience.
And so will you be.
Stay on script.
Stay the course.
I want to share a personal story from our vacation as we close out our time together in this Chapter of Ocean Road.
On Tuesday night of our vacation our family went to dinner. We had spent the day at the beach as a family, and decided we’d attempt to wash all the sand off and have a nice dinner out. It was fun...but what happened after dinner taught me something I will never forget.
I can't remember how it came up, but when we got back to the house, we decided we'd go for a walk on the beach. Still remotely dressed up from our dinner out, off we went. The sky was beginning to look a bit overcast, as the possibility of a storm was looming that day, and into the next. The night air was mild...and as the sun began to set the temperature dipped a bit. The wind was picking up a little as we came over the dunes to the beach...
And then we saw it.
There were two people in the water in front of us...doing what looked absolutely crazy...until we got closer.
They were standing waist-deep in the ocean. Every so often they would plunge into the water with their hands, causing themselves to be covered up to their neck by the cool evening temperatures of the water. They would run their hands quickly across the ocean floor and raise them up with a burst...awaiting what might be, in their hands.
They were searching for Conch shells.
Now that might not seem like a big deal to you...so let me explain.
In all the years that our family has been to the OBX, we've NEVER...I repeat NEVER seen a single conch shell. Not in the water. Not on the beach. Just the fake ones for sale in every shop on the boulevard...and those don't count.
And as we stood there watching, it happened.
One of the girls came up out of the water and yelled..."I've got one!"
And that was all it took.
Without a moment's hesitation I was in that Ocean up to my neck. I had completely forgotten that I had on a leather belt that was moments away from running all over my neatly ironed, navy blue and white, gingham-check shorts. I had my glasses on...special ones that had been a gift from my dear brother-in-law...forgetting that they would likely be gone forever the first time I plunged to the bottom searching for a conch shell.
My wife stood on the shoreline with the smile she often gives me when I've gone temporarily insane. She quietly reminded me of the aforementioned mental blips on my radar...and I ran from the water to hand her my belt, glasses, watch, and sweater. Yes...I had gone in the ocean in a sweater. I didn't care...I wanted a conch shell.
And here's the thing.
Not because I wanted it for me.
I wanted it for my daughter.
We've been walking the beach...watching the sunrise together...since she was a little girl. We've never once seen a conch shell. And I wasn't leaving there until I found one for her. It's what you do as a dad.
And as the night set in, the sun set...and most everyone had left (including my wife who took the boys back to the house so they wouldn't be cold)...there we stood.
My daughter and I.
Soaked in the chilly-evening...standing in the ocean.
Slamming into the water.
Reaching down into the ocean floor.
Sweeping our hands furiously...grasping...hoping.
And there is one very important element I have to add that makes this whole thing come together. The reason the conch shells were a possibility was because a large storm coming was a reality. (Isn't that symbolic. The greatest rewards come from the hardest times) With a storm over the ocean comes waves. HUGE WAVES. The waves move fast. They hit hard. And that means that every single rock, and broken shell on the ocean floor comes crashing in...TO YOU!
As we stood scouring the bottom of the Ocean for the possibility of finding a once-in-a -lifetime find...we were pelted consistently by the harshness of the ocean.
I literally came out of the water that night with shins that were beaten, bruised and nicked-up. Drops of blood the reminder of what we had to stand in...all for a maybe.
We had gone ALL-IN for a maybe.(*24)
Just like Joshua and his javelin.
Just like you and whatever challenge God is calling you to right now.
And it was worth every single second.
Not only did we find a conch shell...we brought in a haul of them!
But it took going into unchartered, and uncertain waters for it to happen.
On day one of our trip we picked up tons of broken shells, because that is all there was. We didn't want to leave empty-handed, and knew it was possible that the beach wouldn't have any more shells the rest of the week. So we collected them.
On day two we were amazed to find shells that were HUGE and completely intact. All of a sudden the previous day's finding didn't look so amazing.
And on day three...the conch shells.
Do you see the pattern?
It's not lost on me that...
The more rare the moment...the greater the challenge and commitment it would take to receive the reward.
And that's the point.
It was for Joshua.
It was for my daughter and I.
It is for you, too.
Picking up what we saw (shells on a beach) made us happy at first. But then...when we saw what was possible (the conch shells) we went ALL-IN for a maybe. We searched many times...over and over...and came up empty. Broken ocean pieces slamming into us. But that didn't deter us.
It was harder work, for fewer results.
But those results were worth more than what we had found before.
And because of how it had to be done?
They meant more.
Sometimes the journey will remind us that obedience trumps preference.
Just like it did for Achan, Joshua, and the Israelites.
Sometimes the journey is going to toss us back and forth in a storm.
Just like it did for my daughter and I.
No matter what the journey brings...
"Look sharp...and stay alert."
Your victory is coming.
22. We get close once we get serious.
23. If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...it's your destiny.
24. ALL-IN for a maybe.
22. Is there something you need to do so that you can arrive on the doorstep of your blessing? What do you need to do so that you get serious about your calling?
23. Are you more focused on the frustration of your current accommodations, or the promise found in God's promise?
24. What's holding you back from going ALL-IN for a maybe?
I'm praying for you today. I believe in you! Trust HIM.
Make today the day...that you move forward. You've got this!
About the book
Brett W. Gould
Author. Speaker. Teacher. Coach.