It’s a small city. Two of Joshua’s men report to the leader of the nation that God has blessed, that they can easily take the city of Ai with only “two or three thousand men” (Joshua 7:3, KJV). The children of Israel had just conquered Jericho and witnessed the greatest manifestation of divine intervention yet seen on the battlefield. There were more battles to be won, other victories to achieve, and more lands to conquer. Joshua, assessing that since the city was small, and based on the recommendation given by his spies, decided not to bring all his men with him.
After the victory at Jericho, conquering the other smaller cities should have been easy. However, attempting to take the nearby town of Ai became their greatest nightmare. The spies’ calculations and Joshua’s strategy— made without consulting God— underestimated the small town and relied on previous successes and victories over larger cities. As a result, 36 of Joshua’s men died in a humiliating defeat (Joshua 7:5, KJV).
In our effort to advance God’s kingdom here on earth, sometimes we underestimate what is needed, or we underestimate people whom God has qualified to do the work. Based on recommendations or pedigree, we may choose to select a few college graduates or some sort of elite group, thinking they are specially fitted to do the work God has asked all—not just a few—of us to do. Considering Paul’s words to the Romans, everyone is needed and can serve. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness”—Romans 12:6-8, NKJV.
Everyone who feels called must give an account to the One who is calling. It’s at the point of not responding to His call to service where the enemy will defeat us. As people of God, we should take Joshua’s experience with the small town of Ai as a reminder to seek His will and direction in how the battle should be fought, and never to underestimate the abilities and resources of those who can lend their God-given gifts and abilities. Rather, we should trust God and not dictate who can and who may serve Him, because “as the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333.
Like the Israelites, we have a common enemy and God wants us all to get involved in the battle, so the war can end, and we can all go home. The time to involve all our youth in this spiritual warfare is here; it’s been here for a while. We cannot afford to lose more of our children. Bring on the youth of the church, the college students, and the youth of our communities, to do service for God and humanity.
It’s time to review our methods. It’s time to make relevant changes. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time to empower the youth of our church. It’s time to focus the ministries of our church on future success and not on past victories.
For the church, the importance is not the number of young people we have on our books, but rather, the quality of life they are living in Christ. The memorable words of Ellen White are appropriate for today: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world!”—Education, p. 271.
Elias F. Zabala, Sr., is the Atlantic Union Conference treasurer and stewardship director.
This editorial first appeared in the July 2019 issue of The Atlantic Union Gleaner magazine, page 3.