by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)
Numbers 13:1-15, 17-21, 26-28, 31, 33
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders."
3 So at the LORD's command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These were their names: Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Joshua, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, "Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo a Hamath.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are… We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
“You can’t do it.” “It’s impossible” “You are going to lose” Have you ever been told any of those things. Maybe you were told something like that by someone who was a bit intimidating or by a rival. How did you respond?
At those times we don’t need anyone to tell us we can’t do it or that it is impossible because we have pretty much already convinced ourselves that that is the case.
Feeling overwhelmed is a terrible feeling.
Perhaps you have felt that way when you worked at a job that you didn’t like. You wake up and feel like you just can’t deal with it…maybe you even call in sick…you rationalize that the last week was bad so why should today be any different?
For most of us that feeling can come on rather quick. Everything was fine and now all of a sudden something happens and we are devastated, frozen with fear or anxiety or worry or dread.
I’ve been there and I can relate. Let me tell you a little story:
One of the worst and most eventful times I ever had was during a float trip I took with my dad, sister and God-father. My dad had a great old raft. It was the type that had wooden bench seats in it and it would easily hold somewhere between 6 and 9 people.
So, one day we decide to put in just above the dam on the Grand River. Dad got the small 2 HP motor out and had it leaning up against a tree. My sister and I were standing off to the side while Uncle Bill and my dad got supplies together.
Suddenly the motor shifted and plopped right into the river. I cried out to my dad who instinctively turned and jumped in…not to get the motor, but because he had thought my sister had fallen in.
I suppose the safety of his kids was pretty close to the surface of his thought process…so he had assumed it was my sister who was at peril.
Unfortunately, the motor had fallen in to a pretty deep hole right up next to the river bank.
Dad dove about 4 times and finally got it.
We were fortunate that it started because otherwise we would have to drive several miles upriver and float down towards the dam.
But since the motor still worked we would be able to put in by the dam and troll upstream against the river’s current.
It would be a few hours later that my dad would realize that though he had found the motor that he had lost his wallet while trying to get it.
We spent hours on the Grand River that day.
My God-father had brought a small Hibachi grill and we had hot dogs. We fished a little and then we found some shallow rapids that you could body surf on.
What you would do is find a place between two rock shelves and anchor yourself there until the water pressure built up behind you and sent you shooting off down the river.
It was great fun…until I noticed something best left unnoticed.
I was in one of the shoots, clinging to a rock when I noticed that this particular shelf had a little hallowed out spot right where the water lapped up against it.
Coiled inside that spot was an enormous snake. I don’t know what kind of snake because I didn’t stay there to study it. All I know is I was way to close. In fact I’d have to say that my head was about 8 inches from this symbol of all that I would define as evil for the next few years.
What I did was this. I pulled a Jesus. Do you know how to “pull a Jesus”? It’s quite simple: you walk on water….only I did one better than that: I ran on water.
I ran straight to the raft and I did not get out of it the rest of the day. My dad and Uncle Bill tried to lure me back out into the shallow water, but my idea of the river had changed.
No longer was this a place of fun to frolic in….to my young mind every rock now had a snake under it and the surface of the water merely concealed unseen dangers.
I realize now that this sort of thinking is unfortunate.
Just because something is lost or because a danger is discovered doesn’t mean that we should stop living. Granted we should consider the dangers and we should be wise in living our lives, but we should not let our fears control us.
I think that Caleb realized that very thing. While the other spies that had been sent with him and Joshua claimed that the situation was to grim, to overpowering for them to address it was Caleb who faithfully remembered that God was with them and would give them this victory over what appeared to many to be an un-win-able situation.
Where Caleb was ready to go and seize the land that had been promised to them the others let fear keep them from what was promised to them. Fear also robbed them of forward progress just as surely as it will rob you of forward progress in your life.
Perhaps this story illustrates the point a bit better:
Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky, Ohio has been the home to some of the world’s tallest, fastest and downright scariest roller coasters. There are coasters so tall that on a clear day you can see Canada on the other side of Lake Erie.
Now I love amusement parks.…but I never really had any love for the roller coasters.
I believe that if God wanted us to go upside down that he would have created us to so that we would all walk on our hands. The very first roller coaster I ever went on was the Iron Dragon.
I was with a group who thought that going on the Iron Dragon would be a good idea. Somehow I let them talk me into this. As we waited in line I noticed that as we got closer to the ride that my anxiety level was building.
I was a mess. I thought about excusing myself.
I thought about faking a sickness or just running away. I was at a loss for what to do…I only knew that I had no desire to get on this roller coaster. I nervously scanned the line and noticed I was not alone.
At least a dozen people looked the way I felt.
I made eye contact with a few. We gave each other knowing nods. This would undoubtedly be the end of us all. We were finding solidarity in our fear and panic.
Finally we reached the end of our wait and then the most horrible realization hit. This was not merely a roller coaster with cars you sat in…oh no…this was one of those new fangled coasters; the type where you hung suspended below the tracks of the coaster.
Now I was just a wreck. A park worker led me to my harness like an executioner leading a death row inmate to the electric chair. I was strapped in. All I could think was “Good bye cruel world.”
The park worker flipped the switch, I closed my eyes and we were off.
We corkscrewed and looped the loop, we went up mountains at break neck speeds and down them twice as fast, and we banked left and right and went through artificial fog known as Dragon’s Breath. The wind whipped past my ears as the same wind forced tears from my eyes. People screamed in fear and delight….and then it was over.
I noticed three things as I was unstrapped:
1. I was alive.
2. My legs seemed to be made of jello and
3. I couldn’t stop smiling.
It was the wildest of smiles. I smiled so much it hurt. I’m not sure why, but perhaps because I had survived. Perhaps because the fear had been worth the experience…maybe because I had overcome the fear and realized that all of life’s Iron Dragon’s really aren’t as bad as you may have imagined.
Caleb had it right; he responded from a faith perspective. Where others saw giants and felt like grasshoppers Caleb felt like the giant because he knew God was on his side and I hope you do to.
When they tell you it is impossible let them know what Jesus said, in Mark’s Gospel…that with God all things are possible.
When they tell you you’re going to lose let them know that you are more than a conqueror through God’s love.
You can do it. It is possible. You are a winner. Not because of anything you have done, but because of what Jesus has done on your behalf.
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