Fear does not advance the kingdom of God, but faith does.
Numbers 13-14 has been on my mind a lot over the past few days. If you’re not familiar with the story (or if you need a quick refresher), let me sum it up for you:
The Israelites are standing on the edge of Canaan, the land that God had promised to give them years before. These people had experienced firsthand the delivering power of God when He set them free from slavery in Egypt, the sustaining power of God as He provided for them during their journey through the desert, and the power of God’s presence as He led them through the desert via a cloud of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
In Numbers 13, they finally stood at what could have been the end of their long journey. God commanded Moses to send some men out ahead of them to spy out the land (13:1-2). It wasn’t like God didn’t already know who inhabited the land and what it was going to take to defeat their armies so He needed to send out some spies. I think God sent spies because He wanted to test the Israelites faith. God wanted the Israelites to know what they were up against and to choose to move forward in faith because apart from God choosing to fight for them, they were sure to lose.
So, Moses sends out twelve spies (13:3-20). The spies were gone for forty days and while there they observed two things. First, the land was beautiful and fruitful! Second, the people who inhabited the land were huge and powerful (13:21-24).
When they came back with their report to give to Moses and the people, ten of the spies, in fear, said that the Israelites would be foolish to try and go up against the strong armies that inhabited the land. However, two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb), in faith, said they’d be foolish not to go up and take what God had promised to give them (13:25-33).
As a result, that generation of Israelites didn’t inherit what God had promised. Their lack of faith completely shaped the history of Israel. They spent the next forty years wandering in the desert instead of experiencing the power and faithfulness of God in the Promised Land.
I don’t want to be one of the ten spies. Fear does not advance the kingdom of God, but faith does.
As I’ve reflected on this, I think there are three ways we can be less like the ten spies and more like Caleb and Joshua.
- Caleb and Joshua were aggressive. Read Numbers 13:30. Caleb said, “Let us go up at once…” (emphasis added). He was aggressively engaged in the mission of God. Caleb’s aggressiveness was not based on what he thought they could do but on what he knew God could and had promised to do. We need to, in faith, be aggressive. God wants us to take ground for His kingdom, not sit back and be satisfied with what we have. God wants us to see the “big armies” and get excited about how He will move them out of the way.
- Caleb and Joshua remembered. Read Numbers 14:11. The Israelites had forgotten all of the miraculous things God had done right before their eyes. We are prone to forgetfulness. We need to intentionally keep track of what God is doing around us and constantly remind ourselves of what God has done in the past. God’s assignments are always too big for us to handle but, as Scripture and history shows us, God always empowers us to complete His assignments.
- Caleb and Joshua stood their ground. Read Numbers 14:10. Nobody around them believed it could be done, but that didn’t change Caleb and Joshua’s conviction to move forward. Again, fear does not advance the kingdom of God, but faith does. Way too often we make decisions out of fear instead of in faith. We need to learn to stand our ground in faith.
I can’t help but wonder what would have been different if those ten spies had challenged the people to go up and take Canaan in confidence instead of backing down in fear.
It also makes me wonder, what’s my Canaan? Is there anything that I’m backing down from in fear when God is challenging me to step up in faith and trust His power and faithfulness?
What’s your Canaan?
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow