Going to college was one of the scariest things I ever did.
I was 17. I had lived in one city and gone to one church and had one automatic group of childhood friends my entire life. Plus I was introverted. Plus I was shy.
And now I found myself at a school where I knew no one, in a state where I had no family, for the next four years.
My MO up to that point had been to keep my head down and only speak to people I was comfortable with.
So I knew it would be hard to make friends. It would be excruciating to try and make them myself. The easiest thing to do would be to sit back in my comfort zone and wait for the friends to come to me.
So I had a choice to make.
It seems like the only choice Joshua and the Israelites make in this chapter is to attack. Fight. Destroy. And plunder.
It’s honestly a bit repetitive. It seems like this and a few other chapters could be summed up with “And Joshua led the Israelites to defeat all of their enemies.” The end.
So why are these stories, in all their gory detail, here? What’s going on behind the scenes? And what does it mean for us?
Two fights, one enemy
This question feels especially necessary because we are not soldiers in the Israelite army. We haven’t been ordered by God to fight nations and take all their money and cattle and land.
But that doesn’t mean we have no one to fight.
As we’ve explored before, God didn’t have the Israelites destroy nations because He liked watching things go boom. He commanded them to destroy evil nations.
Nations that hated God and His creation.
Nations that were sacrificing their children to false gods.
Nations that were full of people who never restrained themselves, who always did exactly what they wanted when they wanted, no matter who they hurt.
The Israelites were waging war against sin. And, unfortunately, that fight didn’t end with a few leveled cities. It didn’t end with Jesus’ death on the cross. It still hasn’t ended, to this very day.
That’s because the fight with sin is an individual battle. It was symbolized by the wars the Israelites waged, but all of it points to you and me. It points to our own fight.
We also have cities of sin to destroy.
To fight or not to fight? That is the question.
And just like a real battle, our sin battles are bloody and painful. They’re repetitive. They’re intimidating.
And just like real battles, it is way easier to sit our sin battles out than face them head on.
The excuses are so easy to hide behind! “No one can be perfect.” “God knows how I am.” “Everyone is going to struggle and stumble.” “We won’t overcome until Jesus comes back and makes us new.”
These things sound good. They’re comforting. Some of them are even true! But the devil uses them to lull us into a dangerous sleep.
I can’t be perfect. You can’t be perfect. I will keep making mistakes. You will keep making mistakes.
But that’s not what sin is. Sin has never been casual imperfection. Sin has never been a mistake.
Sin is a choice.
Leave behind accidental sins for a second, things you realize are wrong after the fact. We’re talking the moments when we’re tempted, and we know that what God wants and what we want are opposites.
But we choose to do it anyway.
That’s the sin we have to battle and fight and seek to destroy as if our lives depend on it.
Because if we keep choosing sin, we will never be able to choose Jesus.
So just like Joshua, we have to suit up. We have to put on our spiritual armor.
We have to attack one city of sin. And then another. And then another.
We have to leave wreckage in our waste. Not one stone can stand on top of another. Everything has to be burned. Everything has to die.
It sounds awfully hard. But what we often forget is that after the battle comes the rewards.
Joshua and his men raked in cash, literally, as they fought their battles. They sucked up land like vacuum cleaners. And then they rested (verse 23). They enjoyed. They reaped the benefits.
God doesn’t command us to destroy sin because He likes to see us suffer. He commands it because He wants to see us overflowing with joy.
He wants to see us mentally healthy, physically healthy, spiritually healthy.
He wants to see our relationships flourish and thrive.
He wants us to find peace and comfort in Him in even the worst of times.
He wants us to be best friends with Him, telling Him everything, trusting Him with everything, looking forward to seeing Him face to face.
The reward. The benefit. This is why we have to struggle. This is why we have to fight.
Because if we don’t, we’ll only know consequences. We’ll only know pain.
“There is nothing I want more than for you to have victory over sin.”
But how? How?
Isn’t that the question.
As someone who is fighting gluttony and sexual immorality and jealousy and pride and unkindness, I haven’t found a perfect answer.
I know I need God’s help, but I also know that He won’t force me to do anything.
I know that when I’m dealing with the consequences, I hate sin. I also know that when I’m faced with temptation, nothing sounds sweeter than sin.
I know that to fight sin, I have to do what I don’t want to do. I know that if I choose Jesus, He will give me the strength to keep choosing Him.
I also know that I have been wanting to choose Jesus less and less.
What does this say about me? And my faith? Isn’t this called hypocrisy? I can say “I’m trying” as many times as I want, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m only getting worse. Especially if I skip prayer and blow off worship!
It’s somewhere in this familiar spiral of thoughts that God reminds me that I’m not supposed to fight alone. I have Him.
Recap: God wants us to have victory. And nothing is impossible with God.
That means that God + our sin battle = victory. Every time.
So we have a choice to make.
We can sit back, stay in our comfort zone, and chill with sin.
Or we can fight.
It may be painful, just like it was for me to make friends. It might be intimidating, just like it was for Joshua to face his powerful enemies.
But just like lifelong friendships, the spoils of war, and the relationship we are blessed with when we choose Jesus, the reward is sweet.
And worth it.
What do you think? How will you tackle your sin battles?