by Phil Enlow

From the transcript of a service preached at the Bible Tabernacle in December 2012.

I’m just going to begin by faith this morning. I don’t have any great icicles running up and down my spine, to say the least. Anybody else here have icicles running up and down your spine? Are you just in a place of exhilaration and everything is great and grand? No! I believe many of us are in battles and many times they’re battles that only you know about. And, I believe the Lord wants to encourage me. I believe He wants to encourage every one of us to understand, to go forward with an understanding and with a greater faith that we’re able to push through instead of drawing back.

Turn, if you will, as a starting point, to Joshua, chapter 1, a familiar scripture. I believe there are many things in the scriptures that illustrate truths that the Lord would share with all of us, starting with me.

The situation here is that the Israelites have been delivered from Egypt. They were brought out with a tremendous, miraculous deliverance: the miracle of opening the Red Sea; they went to Mount Sinai and saw the whole mountain shaking and on fire with God’s presence. And they were given the Law, and the whole nation was supported for 40 years in the wilderness.

They wouldn’t have had to go 40 years if it hadn’t been for a generation that just didn’t believe God in spite of all this. But anyway, the time came when Moses himself passed off the scene and handed things off to Joshua.

And so it begins, “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them…” That’s not insignificant, is it? “…To the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory…” — and He gives the dimensions of the territory.

He says in verse 5, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Does that sound familiar? That promise is repeated in the New Testament. I believe it applies to every child of God. He’s promised never to leave us, never to forsake us.

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

So they were responsible for the truth that God had given them. We know that all of that, and the giving of the Law was only meant to be a preparatory thing. It was a transition. It was part of the grand plan to get a people ready so that when Christ came, they had an understanding that would have, should have enabled them to recognize and receive Him. And it did for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.

But anyway, it says, “Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Over and over again, you get the same thing. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be afraid. Do you suppose there was a reason for that?

Yeah! The Lord knew that they were going to be in many situations that looked totally hopeless. And they were going to be called to, nonetheless, do what God had given them to do, and respond in faith, and go forward anyway. Now is anybody in a place like that right now where you’re looking at something that has a strong tendency to cause you to be dismayed? I see smiles and nods and waving hands, and yeah, I would go like this too. Yeah.

You know, I really believe with all my heart, it is the very nature of things that it is that way. And there’s something about us that thinks it shouldn’t be, that we should just simply be able to waltz through to heaven, to simply “proof-text” the devil away, whenever he comes, just haul out a scripture and — poof — he’s just gone like there’s no real opposition, everything is straightforward and easy, every battle takes five minutes.

But you know as well as I do, it isn’t that way. And, sometimes it is. Sometimes God just moves in and we’re able to speak a word and we see the devil just turn-tail and run. Well, thank God! That’s appropriate. But to suppose that, therefore, is a principle, a formula by which we should just take that and apply it to every situation, and, oh God, if it doesn’t happen, something’s wrong …!

There are many, many kinds of battles that we fight in many kinds of situations. And if you will look ahead into the actual historical record of the conquest of the land, you will notice that it wasn’t a one or two-day affair. This was something that took years, and there were many battles they drew back from and wound up compromising and not fighting. So I’ll tell you what, the Lord was not blowing smoke when He warned Joshua about the danger of being dismayed, basically looking at a situation and saying, “That’s impossible. I give up.”

And I believe with all my heart, God is wanting to encourage us to look things in the eye and not give up, and to be able to move forward. Now, you know how the Lord began to deal with them and prepare them. They crossed the Jordan River, and they did that supernaturally. God absolutely dried it up. All they had to do — the priests, acting in faith and on the Lord’s instruction now, they didn’t just presumptuously do this. The Lord told them to do it — was to put their feet in the water, and as soon as they did the waters parted, they stopped upstream and dried up, and everybody walked through on dry land.

Of course, that had quite an effect upon the people of the land who were aware of this. They said, “Oh Lord, we are in trouble now!” But anyway, the Lord brought them through, and just began to prepare them. They had to reinstitute parts of the covenant that they had not observed during the wilderness wanderings.

And then, you remember how at the end of chapter 5, Joshua is drawing near to Jericho. That was the first battle. That was the city that was nearest where they crossed. And in verse 13, “He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, are you for us or for our enemies?”

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious from the context and the way he reacted that he understood this was not an ordinary man. This was someone who was supernatural. And therefore, it was a pretty important thing. “Hey, are you for them or for us?” And of course, the (paraphrased) answer was, “I’m not for either of you. I’m here on behalf of the Lord. I’m the Commander of the Lord’s army.”

You know, we had a message about that a while ago. I’m here to fight His battle. And I’ll tell you, I believe that is not a small part of what God would have us to realize. We think of battles that we fight as though they are our battles and God is standing off to the side, shouting encouragement to us to be sure, but basically saying, “This is your battle, you fight it,” when the truth of the matter is, though we have a part to play in battles that are fought relative to the kingdom of God, ultimately it is the Lord’s battle.

You see, you go back into their history: Abraham lived among heathens. But God had a purpose for his life, didn’t he? He called him out of heathen darkness, made Himself known, brought forth this nation, most of whom remained heathen in their understanding. They did not have any faith. They didn’t have a clue. This was God’s initiative, in other words. This was God intervening among the families of lost inhabitants of the earth, in order to bring forth a supernatural, eternal purpose to reach a people for Himself. And so, at this point in history, this was part of it.

And so, Joshua, of course, bowed down, and he took off his shoes because he realized he was on Holy ground. And he bowed down and he began to take orders. He realized, hey, I’m not on my own. God’s just not saying, go do it, He’s saying, I’m on the scene here. And I’m fighting, and yes, it’s going to benefit you, but I’m fighting God’s battle. I’m taking my orders from Heaven. I’m not here to be your servant.

You know, a lot of people try to treat God that way. They’re looking at their life. There are things they’d like to see happen, and so they’re trying to figure out, what’s the formula? How can I get God to do what I want? How many of you think it’s that way?

We need to be bowing our head. We need to be humbling ourselves and saying, “God, I want to be part of what You want. Lord, it doesn’t matter what I think and what I want. I need to lay all of that, just as Jesus laid down His life, as was mentioned this morning. I need to lay my life down and say, oh God, You’re in charge. I want Your purpose. I want to fit in with Your plan. Oh God, just open it up and give me the understanding that I need. But Lord, I’m not here to get You to be my servant. I’m here to bow down to You and be Your servant.”

And I’ll tell you, if we’ll do that, we’re gonna see God work because, again, this is God’s initiative. Praise God! And of course, you saw what happened, that God gave them the rather unusual, to say the least, instructions about how to defeat the enemy there, and they did. And the walls fell, and they took the city, and, of course, there was great rejoicing.

God continued to give them instructions, and one of them was, don’t take any of the stuff. All that nice stuff you see there, don’t take it for yourself. And of course, somebody did. But what happened? The second battle, they look at this little city of Ai. That was the next little city on the agenda. And you know, in the throes of that great victory, I don’t even get the sense that Joshua went to the Lord and said, “Okay Lord, what’s next?” He looked at the city and said, “Well, that’s gonna be easy.” Anybody ever been in that position?

How does that work out for you? Not very good! It amazes me and blesses me how many times the Lord will be dealing with me in a certain area of need, and truth, and it comes from everywhere. I mean, I’ve had things that were said in the prayer meeting the other night, things that were said this morning, things that come into my hand that I’ve read that just, it’s like the Lord’s trying to slap me upside the head and say, “Hey, wake up. I’m trying to get this into your thick head so that you can move forward.”

But I’ll tell you what, we do find: we go through life thinking we can handle stuff. You know? We come up against problems and say, “Well, I can handle that. I can handle that. I can handle that.” And then something bad comes along, and we say, “Oh God! I’m over my head! I can’t handle this one! Please help me!” The truth of the matter is, we’re always over our head. We just don’t know it. The idea that we can handle stuff in a way that really fits in with God’s plans, that’s a bunch of junk!

Now when I say that, I’m not talking about someone who has grown in the Lord and they’ve learned, and in the spirit of, Lord, “I’m depending on you and I’m believing your promises and I’m exercising myself in faith.” That’s one thing. But I’m talking about, “God I’m gonna come when I need you. I’m gonna call upon you when I need you. But the rest of the time I’m just gonna kind of muddle through and handle problems myself, and handle issues, and my wisdom is good enough. My strength is good enough.” No, it isn’t!

And I believe with all my heart, that’s one thing God is seeking to teach us. And one of the ways that He teaches us, of course in this instance, was by causing them to fall prey to a very small bunch of people that ran out of the city, this tiny little city, chased the Israelites, and killed a bunch of them. And of course, God had to deal with the sin, first of all, that had brought that about, but I believe also the presumption.

But I’ll tell you what, I see something in God allowing situations to get out of control, and to get to where they are obviously overwhelming. Now, one example is Gideon. You remember how the Midianites had, in Judges, oppressed the Israelites and defeated them. God had allowed the enemy to overrun them because of the sins of the nation.

And there they were, and it was time for deliverance. There were people beginning to cry out to God for deliverance, and an angel appeared to Gideon while he was minding his own business, and said, “…Thou mighty man of valor.” (KJV). And I know he looked around wondering where this “mighty man of valor” was!

But anyway, you know the story about how God called him. God commissioned this man. Now that alone should tell us that it’s not based upon us and our ability. Folks, whatever God has called us to is a totally supernatural thing that has nothing to do with natural ability. And all we do, when we exercise natural ability, is get in God’s way. And the Lord has a way of teaching us that we need Him, and it’s only in Him that anything eternal can happen.

And so you remember how they sent out word to all Israel. God has appeared to Gideon. He wants to do something about the Midianites. And so 32,000 gathered. And the Lord said, “It’s too many.” Well, they already didn’t have as many as the enemy. What do You mean, it’s too many? But the Lord was wanting to teach them something. And so, “Everybody who’s scared go home.”

Well, 22,000 went home. I mean, they came because they felt like they ought to, they had to. It was a duty kind of thing. But you know, when it gets right down to it, I’m really not very confident here, so I’m going home. So they’re left with 10,000. Well, maybe we can do something. You know, maybe that’ll work.

But the Lord had a little test, didn’t He? And He said, go down to the brook, and tell them to drink water. He didn’t give them any instruction. But, there are two ways they drank water. Some of them were looking like, were doing like this. And others, they got right down to it. And three hundred lapped like dogs, didn’t they? And, I guess that would make 9700 that did it the other way.

And I’m sure, I’m positive, knowing human nature, that Gideon figured, well, okay, we lose 300, that’ll be okay. But the Lord had a different idea. He said, take the 300. Now why did He do that? Who can tell me why the Lord brought it down to just 300?

The lesson is that if you mounted a battle, and you’ve got your strategy, and you had a whole lot of people, you’d figure you did it! And the Lord wanted them to understand, you’re not the one who gives victory! I’m the one who gives victory! Even if you do have a big army, I’m the one who determines the outcome. And so, what I want you to do is just do what I tell you to do, but understand, big or little — I mean the little things we go through every day don’t matter! It’s God’s battle! Period! End of story!

And so God gave them a great victory with 300 people, threw the enemy into confusion, and they just turned tail and ran. And you know, it reminded me of the situation with David. And, particularly when the Philistines mounted a charge and they sent Goliath.

They came up with a strategy, you know, we’ve got something special in our army, and we’re gonna challenge them in a special way. We’re gonna send out a champion and we’re going to allow the battle to be determined by one-on-one combat. But guess what? Our champion is almost ten feet tall, and he’s been a warrior since he was young. So we’re gonna send him out and challenge the people.

Well now, suppose they had had kind of a good warrior, but still just one of the guys. What would the reaction have been? You know, they’d have been looking around saying, all right, who’s our best champion here. In other words, it would have been reasonable. It would have been possible. It would have been something where they might have said, well, you know, this is difficult but we can handle this. But not him! How many Goliaths has the Lord sent into your life?

And you know, a lot of times we think, when we hear this story, we think about external circumstances. We think about this problem, that situation, this thing here: that’s Goliath. Oh, it’s “out there.” Oh God, defeat that terrible giant. Do you know where my worst Goliath is?

Yeah, it’s in here. It’s things that mount up that just seem like, oh, my God, oh, this is a giant. Lord. I am in way, way over my head! And of course, the Lord turns around and says, well, you’ve always been over your head. You just didn’t know it. But I don’t want you to be dismayed or to give up in the face of all of this, because I understand. I knew about Goliath all along.

And of course, it wasn’t just a story about courage. It was a story about somebody who understood what was really going on. He understood that it wasn’t the people that were being challenged. This was God. I don’t even know if Goliath really, really understood it. But maybe he did. He defied the armies of Israel. He defied their God. He just stood there and said, “You can’t beat me. I defy everything that you stand for! You cannot beat me.”

Are there things in your life that are like that right now? Are there any Goliaths that are defying you? Yeah. Well, I see a few heads honest enough to nod. If you’re not right there now, you will be.

But David understood that this was the Lord’s battle. He was the one being challenged. There was a battle going on way bigger than just men on a battle field. There was an unseen realm. There was a God who had taken this rag-tag bunch of heathen people and made a nation out of them.

And here was somebody who was not just a man, not just an earthly giant. This was somebody who was inspired by the other side, the devil. The heathen gods, they understood, were not just figments of people’s imagination. There was demonic power behind them. And that was the inspiration that was causing this man to rise up and defy the God of Israel. You cannot defeat me!

But David understood this was not a human battle. You have not defied men. You have defied our God, and I’ll tell you, my God is bigger than you! And folks, I believe with all my heart, God is wanting to remind us that we have a God who is bigger than the biggest Goliath you and I will ever face, and it’s Him that’s being challenged. We may be the ones on the battlefield, but I’ll tell you, the battle is a whole lot bigger than you and me. This is something that’s been going on since Satan rebelled against God in the beginning.

You remember the account of Elisha. This heathen king was wondering how in the world his plans kept getting figured out. I mean, he was opposing Israel and every time he tried to do something, it was like they knew exactly what he was gonna do, and where he was gonna do it, and when he was gonna do it, and he said, “Who’s the spy? Let’s smoke out this terrible spy.” And somebody said, “There’s no spy. But I’ll tell you, there’s a prophet over there, and the things that you whisper in your bedchamber, he knows.” I’ll tell you, we’ve got a great God, don’t we?

If we need to know stuff, He can tell us. And that was the case. And so he said, “Well, I guess if we’re gonna defeat them, we’re gonna have to do something about that guy. Where is he?” So anyway, they found out where he was in such and such a city, so while they were sleeping that night, the whole army came in and camped around, and they woke up in the morning, and, oh my God, we’re surrounded.

And you remember how the servant reacted. He was looking at it as we often do, with natural understanding. We are in way over our heads. We are against a foe we can’t possibly defeat. What are we gonna do? Oh, master! And he said, “Lord, open his eyes. There are more for us than there are against us.” And all of a sudden, he saw things in a different light. God did open his eyes and he saw.

Wouldn’t it be something if the Lord opened our eyes today? We could see how things really are. Oh my! Would it change your perspective? But yet, we have a record of a God who cannot lie, who has told us these things over, and over, and over again. And so, when his eyes were opened, he looked and he saw chariots of fire all surrounding the other army, and he realized, “Oh, Lord, they are in trouble!”

What a different perspective. They have set themselves against God. This isn’t just about me! This isn’t about me, and my little life, and my little problems. This is part of a cosmic battle between Heaven and Hell.

And, of course, the Lord gave them deliverance. God blinded the army and said, he’s not here, and led them right smack into the capital of Israel. And all of a sudden, they opened their eyes and realized what was going on. Anyway, the battle was won. The whole situation was totally defused.

I’ll tell you, it is the Lord’s battle. You think about the big picture here, because I believe many times this is what we need. We get so mired in the details. We get mired in our situation, our feelings about our situation, all of those things! And, we forget what’s really going on just like the Israelites when they were looking at Goliath. They didn’t catch on to what was going on.

But I’ll tell you what, we are part of a race that has been totally taken over by Satan! Through the power of sin and darkness, men, apart from the intervention of God, we would absolutely live and die as slaves in darkness! Don’t you suppose that there are good people out there and that God would recognize their goodness? Folks, we have no goodness.

You look at the prophecy of Isaiah that talks about the condition of the world into which Jesus came. He said, “…darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” (KJV). But then he says, upon you there’s a light coming. There was a light that entered into Israel in that time, and God meant for that light to begin to expose and defeat this darkness, and it wasn’t just sent for the benefit of Israel, it was meant to go to the ends of the earth, as it did, ultimately.

There’s a light that’s come into the world. But that’s the only answer to darkness! If you did not have God intervening, concerning our situation, every one of us would die in darkness and that would be the end of it. We would have no clue what life was about. So this is God’s battle to begin with.

You see, God did invade. God sent His Son to the cross to take our sins upon Him, and that was the beginning. There was a tremendous battle. Oh, wouldn’t it have been something to be able to see that battle, what was really going on, not just the physical stuff, not just a man dying on a cross, but to see the forces of darkness and the forces of light? You talk about the battle of the ages, it was fought that day and it was won! We have a Savior who absolutely, utterly defeated the enemy, and the enemy didn’t have a clue what was going on. He thought he was winning! And he absolutely engineered, in the purpose of God, his own ultimate defeat!

Praise God! And then three days later that became obvious when Jesus came out of the grave and he couldn’t stop it! I’ll tell you, the war was won that day!

And you know, you see this pictured in the book of Revelation in symbolic terms of the rider on the white horse riding forth with a sash that says, the “Word of God.” And I’ll tell you, there has been a war going on ever since.

And it’s a war where God is absolutely reaching into the clutches of Satan, the prison houses of sin, and He’s calling out a people for His name! Jesus said, “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” You see, men are enclosed inside gates and Satan is holding onto those gates. He’s got them locked securely. Those are prison gates, folks. But I’ll tell you, God has sent His Son with authority to breach those gates, to go in and to rescue prisoners from the prison houses of sin.

This is God’s battle. That means the battles that affect you and that affect me every single day, they’re not just our battles, they’re His battles, because He has set Himself to fight for you and to fight for me. I need Him to fight for me.

It’s not just that I need Him to fix my life, and make it pretty, and make it comfortable. I need Him to conquer me. There’s stuff in me that doesn’t want to let go. And I need Him to conquer me. I need Him to fight that battle. I need Him to just — Lord, just do what it takes to rescue your people.

But I’ll tell you, when God brings us up against a Goliath, you think of the effect that it has. If we’re looking at it naturally, we will be dismayed. But if we look at it as we ought, God will use that as a reminder of just how helpless and how dependent we are upon Him. And He doesn’t do that to make us feel like dirt. He does it to exalt His love, which has reached to us anyway, and has offered us a door of hope. But it causes us to say, “Oh God, I can’t.”

I mentioned this the other night. I’ve had this experience more than once, where I literally, on the way up to this pulpit, have said, “God, I can’t do this,” and had Him say right back to me, “Yes, I know, but I can. “

But that applies to everything in every life. That’s not just about preaching, that’s about living, because the reality is, I don’t care what it is in your life, you can’t! I mean, if it has to do with serving God, and making progress in the kingdom of God, and walking the path that God has laid before us, running the race — whatever illustration you want to use from the scriptures — we can’t do it! We need Him in us, and with us, and upon us.

He’s the commander! He’s here with Heaven’s armies, and He’s here on our behalf! We didn’t ask Him to do this! He did it because of His character and His love! He shed it upon somebody who is utterly unworthy of any of the least of His mercies, but He’s done it! And He’s here to fight.

And I’ll tell you, He is a commander who will not lose! But oh, we need, every day, to lift up our eyes, and when you’re facing Goliath, you need to say, “Thank You Lord for reminding me that this battle is bigger than me, that there’s no Goliath that’s too big for You. But You’re doing it to remind me to turn my heart to you, and just surrender and stand in faith.”

And the other thing is this, we like the five-minute battles where we “proof-text” the devil away. But there are battles that last years. It’s whatever God’s purpose is in a given situation. There were cities, you know, when they were conquering the land, where they had to lay siege, walled cities. The Lord just didn’t make the walls all fall down every time. It wasn’t a formula. There were times they literally had to lay siege, and wait, and just hold on, and stand.

Is anybody in a place like that right now? Well, don’t be dismayed. Don’t think there’s something wrong. There’s no formula. Every battle is unique. Everything is different. But I’ll tell you, the same Commander is here, and He’s with us, and it’s not your battle alone. It’s His battle! It’s part of something that God has purposed from all eternity to rescue you and to rescue me from the devil’s holds, and the strongholds of the devil in our lives. And I just praise Him today!

As I thought about some of these things this morning, I said, “Lord, I can’t preach this. I’m in the middle of something.” And He said, “Well, so is everybody else.” Let’s just at least point them in the right direction. Lift Me up! Because the point isn’t that, hey, I’ve done it, you can do it too. That’s not the point. The point is He’s done it!

And He’s willing to work in every one of us to make us strong, not in our strength, but in His! And you look at a little young man — well, he wasn’t a boy. Sometimes David was pictured as a boy, but obviously, I believe, he was a young man. He could have been twenty, I don’t know. Whatever it was, he was still he was no natural match for Goliath. But he said, you come against me with spear and sword and whatever, I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord. The battle is the Lord’s.

And folks, whatever you’re facing right now, it is the Lord’s battle. Don’t you forget that it’s the Lord’s battle. Don’t you say, if you fall in the mud, “Oh well, He’s through with me now.” That’s part of the Lord’s battle is you getting up and saying, “Oh God, I just look to you. I’m trusting in you, God, to give me the strength to fight. Give me the courage. Minister the faith to me to stand.”

Lord, if there is a word where I can just dispel this thing, great! That’s wonderful. But if not, help me just to stand my ground, and trust in Your name, and look back to the cross, and continually go back to the victory that was won there. That’s where our victory comes from.

It will never come from you being smart, from you having a strong will, from your own natural determination. You might as well chuck that in the trash right now and say, “We’re in way over our heads.” The simplest thing is way over our heads. God wants us to live a life that looks to Him in everything, and looks to Him based upon His Covenant and His Word. And we have a God who will back up His Word and not fail! Praise God!

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