All of us have felt defeated and discouraged. More than once we’ve spread our wings, only to be shot down in flames. Welcome to the club — the experience is called the human race. Nobody succeeds every time.
Most of us are aware that the great baseball player Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs. But how many of us are aware that he struck out 1,330 times?
And many of us are aware of the success of the biblical character Joshua. He took over from Moses and led the children of Israel successfully into the Promised Land. But what about his defeat?
The children of Israel had crossed over the Jordan River, and the first city they came to was Jericho. There they experienced a great victory. And, of course, that victory has been set to music, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.”
The people celebrated and rejoiced at the goodness of God and their smashing triumph. Joshua himself received congratulations all around.
However, the next city they were to come to was a smaller city, Ai. This looked easy compared to Jericho. No need to send the whole army. Only one company would be necessary to accomplish the mission. Result? Tragically, the Israelites suffered a terrible defeat.
And Joshua didn’t handle the defeat well. He was deeply discouraged and fell down on the ground in despair.
God, however, didn’t allow Joshua to wallow in his defeat and self-pity. “Stand up!” God said. “Why have you fallen upon your face?” Then God advised Joshua to search out the reason for the defeat.
As the late seminary professor Ellsworth Kalas put it, “God wanted Joshua to let his defeat be his teacher.”
For the rest of this article, I want to share a few thoughts about defeat.
First, defeat is inevitable. With culture’s prevailing philosophy, “Winning is everything,” many view defeat or failure as the worst thing that can happen. Yet, because we are human, all of us suffer defeat or failure at one time or another.
Truth is, if we start out in life to accomplish anything, sooner or later we are going to experience defeat. If we run for political office, there is always the possibility that we will be defeated. If we develop our skills and compete in sports, there is always the chance that we will lose.
As a teenager playing in a state golf tournament, I remember well the 16 I had on the final hole. Ouch!
But the old adage is still on track, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Second, defeat has its causes. One of the best things we can do about defeat is to discover why it happened.
A famous golf champion said that he learned from his defeats, never from his victories. After he had been defeated in a tournament, he would go to some golf teacher and say, “Tell me what I am doing wrong.” Then he would work to correct his mistakes.
The causes of defeat are numerous but can include human beings, the lack of preparation and an attitude of defeatism.
Third, defeat doesn’t have to be fatal. In terms of defeat, we can divide people into two categories: learners and non-learners. When learners make a mistake they are less likely to repeat it. When non-learners make a mistake they are destined to keep on making it.
In conclusion, here are four possible suggestions for dealing with defeat.
Acknowledge what went wrong and own it.
Dedicate the defeat to God. God has a stake in all our life, including our defeats.
Forget the defeat and move on.
Remember the promise of God. Upon taking over from Moses, God said to Joshua and also to us, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you,” (Joshua 1:5).
Good news, indeed.