Many of our current generation do not remember that Sergeant Alvin York was the most famous soldier of World War I. Neither do they realize that Alvin C. York was a most unlikely man to become a legendary hero. York felt that his Christian faith barred him from killing anyone, even in war.
After being drafted, York went home on a ten-day leave and considered the scriptures a Christian captain had shared with him. Finally in a crisis of faith, God showed York that he could obey God and defend the helpless in Europe at the same time.
He wrote, “As I prayed there alone… I knew that He was there. He understood I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man… He took pity on me and gave me the assurance I needed… It was His will and that was enough for me.” Sgt. York had to win the war in his mind before he could win the battles that lay ahead of him in the trenches of France and so it was with Joshua.
[John Perry. Sgt. York; His Life and His Legend. (Broadman and Holman Pub. 1997) pp. 30-31
The Visible Battle
The first thing Joshua observed was a visible battle that lay before him. The city of Jericho was a walled city. The walls towered from six to eight stories high and were several yards thick. Inside were well-armed and fiercely warlike people. What Joshua saw with his eyes was indeed a giant problem. Jericho was not a fictitious place. It was major, fortified city.
Everyone has some kind of visible giant in their life. These battles are very real. Whatever that giant is for you, it is real and stands right in front of you.
The Invisible War
As great as the visible giant of Jericho appeared, it was not Joshua’s real problem. The larger issue was the invisible war he had to first fight in his own heart.
First, he had to overcome the challenge of past failures.
Being Moses padawan apprentice, Joshua brought all of his past negative experiences with him. He must have remembered when Israel refused to follow Caleb and him into the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:6-10) Joshua had to wait forty years to defeat this giant because of the failure of others. Our failures in the past have to be given to God or they will cripple us in the present!
Paul gave us a formula for dealing with past failures in Philippians 3:
- Realize that no one escapes failure of some kind (v.12) – “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.”
- Leave the past where it is – in the past (v.13) – “forgetting those things which are behind.”
- Focus on those things you can do something about (v.13) – “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
Secondly, Joshua also had to overcome his own preconceived notions of how the battle should be fought.
Joshua was not going to be able to fight this enemy with his own notions of how to fight. He would have to learn to do things God’s way (Joshua 6:1-5).
Too many of us approach the issues of life with our own grandiose ideas. It is hard to remember that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). God often has to remind us that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). God probably has a very different way of handling the giants in your life than you would imagine on your own.
Like Joshua, we all face visible giants. But also like Joshua, we face a daily war within our hearts. As we win the war over our past, our ideas and our attitudes, we become ready to fight the battles that lay before us. Are you ready?