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Setbacks are part of life. We’ve each experienced delays, faced interruptions, encountered postponements, and suffered disappointment. In fact, Jesus told us to expect trials and tribulation. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Setbacks are part of life.

We have a choice. Will we allow our setbacks to define us? Or will we accept the setback as an opportunity to let God help us leverage it into a comeback? Every setback is a battle we can ask God to help us win. And in battles, we have tension or conflict. The battle for our minds, our time, our families, our churches, even our ministries is a series of battles that are at work in our world. Disappointment, rejection, and loss of direction or control can bring discouragement. If we learn to lean into it and trust God, it can deepen our faith. And when we overcome, we can share the victory with many others! I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

We can learn how to change a setback into a comeback by looking at the battle strategy of the mighty warrior Joshua. We’re familiar with the battles he won, especially the supernatural victory in conquering Jericho in Joshua 6:27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” So, God has given Joshua and Israel huge favor in the victory at Jericho. Israel seems to be unstoppable. To change a setback into a comeback is to:

1. Be Mindful – Examine or Pay attention to areas of your life that are prone to neglect.

God had commanded Joshua and the people to destroy everything in Jericho. God wanted Israel to be set apart from other nations – through their unquestioning obedience to His commands. And this meant not taking any of the spoils of the battles. Achan ignored this command, and one man’s disobedience affected all of Israel. Sin has a ripple effect, we may think that it’s just impacting us, but it does affect other relationships. One man’s sin, the sin of Achan, impacted the whole community and this was a major setback. But the underlying problem here is neglect. Achan was disobedient, he neglected doing what God commanded. But not only was Achan careless, but so was Joshua. Joshua, the incredible leader, had lead Israel from the Jordan, to victory against five kings of Canaan, then settled the tribes in the New World.

Up until this point, Joshua had been very intentional, setting aside time to seek the Lord. Remember how Joshua prepared before crossing the Jordan? He took three days to prepare, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Before conquering Jericho, Israel, the new generation renewed covenant before the battle of Jericho and Joshua spent time face down before the presence of the Lord. Now, Joshua’s victories made him vulnerable — he became overconfident. He thought he could handle things in his own strength. Every battle needs fresh anointing. Mark Batterson in his book, Not Safe, says, “The anointing is the difference between what you can do and what God can do. It’s the difference between the temporal and the eternal. It’s the difference between success and failure.” Joshua had neglected this vital step.

Joshua starts with a familiar strategy. Joshua sends spies into Ai, this was the same strategy he used in conquering Jericho and the same strategy that his mentor, Moses had used 40 years before. But there are also some noticeable differences. The spies were self-confident, inflated with pride at the victory of Jericho. They thought Ai as a soft target. ‘The people of Ai are few,’ they said. They sized them up and thought they could easily take them. In other words, let your troops rest and recuperate and save their strength for the bigger battles ahead. The problem is that there is a huge difference between faith and presumption. Depending on God and making human assumptions. Rather than faith in God, presumption is presuming that believing is enough. If we have faith, we will overcome this obstacle. Faith is not just believing, it’s hearing…the word of God. Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Joshua neglected prayer and consecration, instead of devoting himself and the people so they can prepare themselves spiritually, emotionally, physically. Joshua went with the advice of the spies. If Joshua had taken the time to seek God, it wouldn’t have taken very long to discover that God was not very pleased with Israel and that there was sin in the camp.

One of our biggest setbacks is in our lives can be in the area of neglect. Things we neglect always lead to a place of regret.  Neglect, defined is, “A lack of attention to one’s thoughts and deeds, or a failure to give adequate thought to the consequences of one’s actions, often leading to disturbing results.”

The results were not just disturbing, they were devastating. Joshua 7:4-6 “So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.”

What happens when we neglect things like our relationships — spouses, children, family, finances, walk with the Lord? The consequences? We may end up in regret.

God has an answer for our neglect and lack of follow through. When Joshua gets the news of the defeat at Ai, he goes into mourning. In Joshua 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there all evening. In vs 7. He is confused by God… And so, the questions begin…” Why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites?” —Joshua says we would have been content on the other side of the Jordan. Really, they would be content – living in the wilderness again? I don’t think so.

2. Be Intentional: Don’t settle for superficial change – weed out the deep roots of sin.

Getting up is the tipping point in allowing your setback to be your comeback. We are defeated when we are knocked down and stay down. Joshua 7:10-12 “The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you.”

For Joshua, the answer was to feel depressed and sorry for himself. Depression can impact individuals and groups of people. The Lord’s response to Joshua’s and the elders’ mourning was to get up. Staying down was actually not going to solve the issue, it was much deeper and had to be dealt with as a community. God gives Israel the command to hand over all the spoils of war to destruction. But the temptation is too great for Achan. Achan took the treasures and buried them in the ground. They were well hidden. Achan could hide his actions from everyone near him, but he could not hide his sin from God. God tells Joshua to have the tribes come before him one at time. Then individually — this was quite the process. God instructed them to go tribe by tribe and then… individual by individual.

Joshua 7:18- 20 “Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me. Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia,[a] two hundred shekels[b] of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels,[c] I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

It’s only when Achan is caught does he admit that he had stolen the coat and the gold and silver. Achan was given many opportunities to confess his sin, but he remained silent. God longs for none to perish, but Achan like Jericho, hardened his heart and was given to destruction. Our sins can have a huge impact on our lives and others. Sin can stop what God is doing in the life of a community. We need to be careful that we settle for the superficial rather than dealing with deep roots of sin. “Reminding ourselves that the battle takes place in the heavenly realms is crucial to overcoming the enemy. We behave according to what we believe.” Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner [1]

Like Adam and Eve, he lost sight of the character of our generous God and thought that satisfaction required taking. Achan’s greed was his downfall.

How do we change a Setback to Comeback?

1. Be mindful – Examine areas of your life that you Neglect – praise, thanks, confession, prayer.

2 Be intentional – Don’t settle for superficial Change – weed out the deep roots of sin.

3. Be Encouraged – God can use your Setback as a set up for your comeback – a new fresh start.

God can use your Setback as a set up for your comeback – a new fresh start.

After Israel returns to the Lord and they deal with deep sin, God speaks to Joshua and reveals a strategy. Joshua 8 begins with similar encouragement as given in Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and Courageous — don’t be afraid or discouraged. for your Lord is with your wherever you go… It’s interesting that the phrase “Don’t be afraid’ or don’t be ‘discouraged” comes up about 70 times in Joshua. Discouragement is always the biggest challenge when facing life’s battles. Israel accomplished the defeat of Ai through God’s supernatural intervention. God shares the plan that God has laid out. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.  What is different is that this time God is fighting battle and God is going to use the thing that set them back to perform a victory.


Israel pretends to flee from Ai. Just like the first battle, but this time 30,000 men who have been waiting all night on the Northern side of the city occupy the empty city and burn it to the ground. Ai is caught in the middle and is defeated. The success of the battle of Ai was dependent upon God’s blessing. As long as Joshua stretched forth his javelin in petition to God, the victory was Israel’s.

Early in our ministry, my pastor husband, the late Pastor Paul Giesbrecht, and I experienced a huge setback. We experienced a very painful departure from a church staff where he had been a pastor. Others may be part of an organization which requires following leaders we don’t like or trust. Some may be struggling with forgiveness because an illness or accident has horribly interrupted your life. Each of these situations and others, may cause us to feel snagged or snarled by unhealthy attitudes of bitterness and anger. Because of unresolved personal and spiritual conflict, toxic habits, and infectious sins, may have become coping mechanisms. The good news is we can learn to cooperate with God and invite Him to perform a sacred surgery. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can open ourselves up, as we vulnerably choose total honesty and dependence, we can face our pain, and show God our hurt. It’s amazing what happens when we declare God’s Word, submit to His plans, and rely on His power. He removes the toxic emotion of bitterness, cuts away an inflamed attitude of resentment, and roots out the infectious habit of overindulgence. When we ask God to reveal to us untruths and areas of unforgiveness for what they are, and we can step over the trap the enemy has laid for us. “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).” Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the strength of the Holy Spirit, God will help us find and remove any spiritually toxic infection. Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

We can learn from every battle that we face. There are some battles we’ve lost but the good news is that it’s not over. God is not through. He is not finished.

Maybe you are stuck, and you need a breakthrough.  Real change can only happen when we get specific. Are there areas of neglect? Are you experiencing regret? Take courage that this is not the end of the story.

Don’t settle for imitations. Seek out real change. Deal with the roots of sin. Weed it out. Be confident. Determine to have faith that God is going to take your set back and us it as a setup for your comeback. Understanding how to access God’s truth ushers us into a place of peace and into increased God-confidence. As we step into new territory by faith, we can actually move forward from setback to comeback.

Ask God to change your setback into a comeback. He is waiting to be invited to divinely intervene. None of us look forward to going through any time of trial. But I encourage you, take time to ask God to show you any way in which you are being deceived by holding onto bitterness, hurt, or anger. And when He does, you can permit Him to have His way to remove the toxic emotions. You will find joy and peace of the truth in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What are you waiting for?

Prayer: Dear Lord, please show me any area where I am being deceived. I declare James 4:6,7 “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I choose to submit myself to you. Because I choose to resist the devil (say no), I believe he will run away (leave me alone). God, I want to be close to you. I believe you will come near to me and give me peace and strength. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Declaration: I declare God will use my setback as leverage for my comeback. I declare no weapon formed against me will prosper. I declare God will change the delay into a deeper dependence on His power.

[1] Unraveling the Lie-Knot: Finding Freedom From the Tangles of Discouragement, Deception, and Depression, Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner (May 2021 – Freedom In Christ International Publishing, Reading, UK) pg 102

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