How to Be Faithful in Adversity
I’m going to invite you to Numbers, chapter 13. That’s where we’re going to be today, Numbers, chapter 13. I’m going to read a part of this narrative story to us because this is a significant place in the scripture. We’re in a series together called The Kingdom Come, and we want to see how God has really created everything to belong to him as the King of all things. The Lord is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and he created all things for his glory, and he intends to make all things new knowing that creation has rebelled against him and that all of creation rests under this curse. And so, he has come as the great rescuer to bring all things in his kingdom back to him. And what we’ve seen together as we’ve gone through this story is in the Book of Genesis, if I just highlighted one thought, is that God called his people. In the book of Genesis, you see the story of rebellion that God highlights a particular group of people that he is going to bring his Messiah through to redeem all things.
And so, Genesis God calls his people. Exodus God redeems his people. He brings them out of slavery which we’ve talked about together. And then, in the book of Leviticus, which is also shared, is that God is present with his people. He teaches them how to worship and walk with him. And what we’re going to find in the book of Numbers as we dive into chapter 13, chapter 13 is recognizing that God has commissioned his people. And so, when you start the book of Numbers, if you read through it, if you’re going through our Bible reading plan as a church, when you start the book of Numbers, what you find in the very beginning is God is talking to his people, Numbers, chapter one, through Moses, and then, God calls them to count their people. That’s why it’s called the book of Numbers, count how many people that you have, because God wants to number their military capacity because God is about to commission them to go into the promised land for battle.
Now, I realize when you start in the Old Testament, and you begin to see these battles that God calls Israel to, it raises sort of a theological question in our mind that I’m going to tell you, I’m going to answer more of next week. But it deals with the idea of how in the world can God call people into a land to kill other people, right? A little bit of a conundrum there to deal with theologically, but it’s an important question to ask. So, we’ll deal with that more next week, but God does commission people. He commissions his people to go into this promised land, and you see that in the book of Numbers through the numbering of God’s people as he leads them into what he desires in the land of Canaan for a battle. But while God calls them into this battle, this is also where the struggle comes in for Israel and this wilderness journey that they’re on. They’ve left Egypt. They’re going into the land that God has promised them, and they’re struggling with the idea of being faithful to follow after God.
When, if you look at the journey that Israel’s been on from Egypt to Israel, some people have estimated that it would take Israel about somewhere around four days to make this journey from Egypt to Israel if they had just walked by straight line, but if you follow the course that Israel takes by map, it’s sort of this spiraling, circular motion that … They didn’t go the short way. I should just say this. [inaudible 00:02:53] the only other short way in the land, and they’re going about 250 miles of a journey, and when you get to Numbers, chapter 13, they’ve gone all but maybe 10 miles of this journey, and they’re about to make those final steps into this promised land, and God calls them to grab a group of spies and send them into this promised land. And what this book ends up being is really a tragic book, the book of Numbers, because it’s a book of faithlessness. The result of life when it’s lived apart from the Lord, and we choose, rather than walk in faith with God, we live contrary to that, and we don’t trust in him.
And so, Numbers, chapter 13 is where we’re going to pick up. I’m going to read just the beginning, a couple of verses in chapter 13, and I’m going to skip all the way to verse 25 and read really the rest of this story as it unfolds and then pepper it with a couple verses here at the end. But if you look at chapter 13, verse 1, I’m not going to throw this on the screen because it’s a lot of verses, and you can just listen if you don’t have it open in your scripture. But in chapter 13, verse 1, it says, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Send it out for yourselves men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan.'” Okay. Canaan’s going to be important. We’ll come to that in just a minute and talk about it, but he says, “Which I am going to give to the sons of Israel. You shall send a man from each of their father’s tribes, every one of a leader among them.” So, God’s not just calling these pansy people from this group.
He’s saying, “I want you to go through your 12 tribes. I want you to pick the person that when they walk in the room, it makes other people pee their pants.” It’s those kind of powerhouse people, right? Those sort of large, great warriors. In verse 25, “When they return from spying out the land at the end of 40 days,” so, they go into this land. Moses, actually, in verse 17, gives them some special rules. He says, “When you go to the land, here’s what I want you to do while you’re spying around and doing different things.” And so, they go into the land, and one of the things that Moses tells them to do is grab some of the produce of the land and bring it back so that we can take a look at it. In verse 25, “When they return from spying out the land at the end of 40 days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all of the congregation, the sons of Israel, and the wilderness of Paran and Kadesh, and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus, they told him and said, ‘We went into the land where you sent us, and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.'”
So, they come back, and they show everybody, “Look, this land can definitely sustain us. It’s the land flowing with milk and honey.” Now, I don’t think that this necessitates the land literally has to be full of milk and honey, but rather, what he’s saying is this land has the capacity to maintain what we need in life, and not just maintain. It has the capacity to allow us to flourish at life. What’s really interesting when you study scripture is this idea of milk and honey continues more than just the physical land of Canaan. It continues for you as a follower of the Lord today. In fact, the Bible plays on those words over and over. In Psalm 119 and verse 103, it tells us that the word of God is sweeter than honey. In 1 Peter 2, verse two and three, it tells you to long for the pure spiritual milk of God’s word. And so, while we’re looking Israel, going into the physical land of Canaan that flows the milk and honey, I think it’s important for us to recognize that the invitation from God is to continue to experience him in that land.
But in scripture, what it’s relating to is the idea of your spirit flourishing in the presence of God, that God, as he calls people into this land, God continues to call you in to his presence, in the land of his presence, that you and your spirit may flourish before the Lord. In verse 28, nevertheless, though, so, while they give this wonderful report, it says, “Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. Moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there, and Amalek is living in the land of the Negev, and the Hittites and Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country. And the Canaanites are all living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan. And so, what he’s saying, I want to come back to this word, Amalek, in a minute, but what he’s saying is, “Look, this land is loaded with people. And so, what in the world are we going to do.” In verse 30, “Then, Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should, by all means, go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.'”
But in verse 31, “The men who had gone up with Caleb said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people for they are too strong for you.’ So, they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land, which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone and spying it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. All the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There, also, we saw the Nephilim. The sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim, and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight. And so, we were in their sight.'” Now, some people debate whether or not the sense of Nephilim are even there because of the Noahic flood or just the idea of what the Nephilim represent because in the times of Noah, these were great warriors of giants. And whatever the case may be here, when Israel goes into this land, they just feel like peons in comparison to the people that they encountered.
So, in chapter 14, verse one, “Then all of the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘With that, we had died in the land of Egypt, or with that, we have died in the wilderness. Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword, or our wives and our little ones will become plunder. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt so that … ‘ They said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.'” Can you imagine how short-lived they are in their memory here. They would rather go back and be slaves than live in the promises that the Lord wants to provide. In verse five, “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all of the assemble and the congregation to the sons of Israel. Joshua, the son of Nun and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes, and they spoke to all of the congregation, the sons of Israel, saying, ‘The land which we passed through to spy out is exceedingly good land.
If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them. The Lord is with us. Do not fear them.’ But all the congregation said to stone Moses and Caleb and Joshua. Then, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.” In verse 11, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will these people spurn me? How long will they not believe in me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?'” Verse 17, if I skip down just a moment, it’s a very interesting passage because Moses intercedes for these people, and God is very angry with them. And when Moses intercedes in verse 17, what Moses actually does is he uses these verses or these statements that God had already declared to Moses back in Exodus, chapter 34. If you remember in Exodus 34, God had given Israel the tabernacle. He gave Israel the laws, and right after God does that, Moses goes up on the mountain. Israel disobeys God, and God’s ready to kill Israel, and Moses pleads for Israel, and God finally comes forth and says, “Okay. I’m not going to wipe out Israel. This is my nature.”
And he declares his own nature to Moses. And now, they’re in another place of disobedience, and Moses knows that God’s anger is burning against Israel for their sin, and when Moses intercedes for Israel, he quotes what God had said to him in demonstrating his character, verse 17, “But now, I pray that the power of the Lord be great, just as you have declared, God. The Lord is slow to anger, abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression. But he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers of the children to the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of these people according to the greatness of your loving kindness, just as you also have forgiven these people from Egypt even until now.” And verse 28, if you just skip here, and this will be the last section I read. It says, “Say to them, as I live,” says God, “Just as you have spoken in my hearing so I will surely do to you. Your corpses will fall on the wilderness, even all of your numbered men, according to your complete number from 20 years old and upward, who have grumbled against me.
Surely, you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey, I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.” And let me end there. We are always in a faith battle to trust God’s promises over our problems. This story shows us, really, what’s the result when faith drives … excuse me, when faith hides and fear drives. I think it is reasonable to be afraid of certain things in life. It’s completely okay to be afraid of things. For example, it is okay to be afraid of clowns. That is not natural that grown men would do that, unless you’re a clown. I’m just kidding. We don’t love you. We believe Jesus can save anything but clowns, right? It is natural to be afraid of some things. I am just kidding. If you like to dress like a clown, we love you, too, right? But God gives a reasonable amount of fear for good reason, right? But it’s ungodly when we allow fear to take precedent over God’s promises.
So, everything I want to share this morning, I want us to recognize this, that while we look at the children of Israel that cry out in fear rather than faith, that for Caleb and Joshua and Moses and Aaron, any of them that make a stand against the crowd, that’s not easy either. And it’s not because their absence of fear that they would do that, but it’s ungodly when we allow fear to take precedent over the promises of God. And we look at this story in Numbers, chapter 13, I think it’s important for us to recognize God isn’t calling Israel to go into a land out of the blue. God is not sitting there thinking, “You know what would be a great idea? I don’t know. Let’s just pick this land and send you guys. Looks like there’s an opening here. Let’s take this group of you and put you here since we had no place to send you.” He’s not calling Israel out of the blue into this promised land and hoping that everybody works out. This story that’s being shared in Numbers 13 and 14 is peppered with the promises of God. Let me just show this to you.
When you think back on what God is saying in Numbers, chapter 13, the story has been already told and fulfilled in promises of God in previous passages, and so, look at this. Numbers, chapter 13, verse 29, he says that in this land, the Amalek are living there, right? This is the reason they’re panicking. We can’t go into this land. The Amalek are there. But what we found out even previous to these moments, if you read through the book of Exodus is that Israel has already encountered the people of Amalek. In Exodus, chapter 17, verse 14, “Then, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar, named it The Lord is My Banner and said, ‘The Lord has sworn. The Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.'” Says the same thing in Deuteronomy, chapter 25. I mean, God’s not just … Israel had a battle with Amalek already. The reason God’s saying this is because when Israel walked into the wilderness, and they began this journey to the promised land, this group, these Amalekites came and fought against Israel.
And this is the story where Moses holds up his hands before the Lord, and when he dropped his hands, they would lose the battle. When he raised his hands, they would win the battle. And so, they propped Moses’s hands up so that Israel could win the battle. They had already seen God be faithful to defeat the Amalekites. And on the backend of that victory, God gives this statement, and he doesn’t just say, “Hey, just remember to save me.” He’s telling Joshua, “Look, no, this is a memorial. Build a monument. Don’t forget this. This will become a part of the identity that you need when God calls you to do what he wants you to do by going to the land of Canaan.” And so, when they come back as spies, and they give a report, they’re like, “Amalek is there, Amalekites.” And for Israel, that should be a trigger word, right? The faithfulness of God, we don’t have to worry about that because we’ve already seen a pattern in the Lord and promising this land, and we’ve already seen the Lord provide for us by defeating these people that came against us.
Therefore, there’s no worry here. And so, God gives them … He’s not calling them to go to this land out of the blue, right? He’s giving his promises to his people. And not only that, they’ve seen his incredible hand of faithfulness. You consider Genesis, chapter 15 in comparison to Numbers 13, right? In Numbers 13, verse 2, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy on the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel.” If you remember this statement, this statement of going to the Canaan is not just this arbitrary thought that God’s just like, “Let’s send you here, I guess.” This statement is rooted in promise, all the way back to the calling of Abraham in Genesis, chapter 15. God said that, “Abraham, know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in the land that is not theirs.” He’s talking about Egypt here. “Well, they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. Then, the fourth generation, they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
So, what he’s saying is not only are the Amalekites but also the Amorites that God is coming against in this passage. And he tells them it will be 400 years, and one of the reasons why is because he’s waiting for the sins of the Amorites to reach this place of iniquity in which God will bring judgment. This is part of the answer of how God could allow people into a land to defeat the people that are there. God isn’t just haphazard with life. God loves life. God creates life. The Bible tells us that he doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked. For hundreds of years, he was patient with the people in the land of Canaan, and a common practice in this land was the murdering of children. They would sacrifice human beings on altars to false gods, and God found that detestable. And for hundreds of years, hundreds of years, he patiently waited. And now, he sends Israel into this land. I mean, how interesting. Here they are, Numbers, chapter 13. Abraham is standing on this land in Genesis 15 and says, “Look, I’m going to send your people as slaves into a land, and 400 years from this time that I’m telling you this, I’m going to bring them back to the very place that you’re standing.”
And now, in Numbers 13, here they are standing just a few miles from the border. Interesting that God … Their whole identity is rooted in Abraham. This is where God’s promise comes to them, and they look at their calendars and watches, and they’re thinking, “How long ago was this promise given to Abraham? 400 years. 400 years, and we just happen to find ourselves at the border of this location, right?” God isn’t simply calling Israel out of the blue into this place. I could say the same thing for us. God isn’t calling us as Christians to trust in something that he invented last minute. God is calling you into him through a demonstration of his faithfulness that he has articulated log ago. I mean, you can root the identity from which we step to in Christ as far back to genesis in the very beginning when God created finding our identity in the promise of a Messiah who would bring freedom. When it comes to the idea of trusting in God, a lot of the idea of faith in this world is based off of just this thought of ignorant guessing. But can I tell you?
In Christianity, you have the most tangible faith that you could ever trust in. The evidence of God and the demonstration of his faithfulness through the promises that he’s given in scripture, it is ridiculous the amount that’s available to us. So much so that I think the only reason that would keep us from just trusting in it is, one, pride within ourselves to want to call ourselves king and the fact that we are just simply ignorant to the promises of God as demonstrated in the scripture. I mean, how in the world could you explain this that God would say to Abraham hundreds of years before that they’re there that 400 years from now, I’m going to bring you to this exact spot? That’s incredible. I mean, we looked at some of the idea, the evidence of God through the thought of Temple and what Temple means and the pictures of God’s redemption in the process of Temple and history last week, but it goes on and on in Christianity. And so, when you think about putting your faith in God, it’s not this blindness to the promises of God but rather the demonstration of his promises fulfilled to us and the continuation of us being able to trust them based on the past precedent that he has set for us.
See, if I ask the question this morning, how can I grow in faith rather than fear? Because this is the juxtaposed position within the context of the scripture, right? You see these just few individuals faithful to God, and these other individuals, how quickly their demeanor changes because they go into this promised land. They come back with the fruit. They give this report. They’re just flowing with milk and honey. It’s incredible, but there’s giants, and we’re all going to die. And they go from cheering to, “Oh, no. Everyone’s dead. Let’s go back to the horrible life of Egypt. At least we’ll live, but the conditions, even though awful, are going to be better than death, right?” So, how can I grow in faith rather than fear? I would say this for us in the most simplistic way that faith is cultivated in the soil of assurance. What certainty do you have? If I were to just bring us to the hinge point of this story, for me, it’s Numbers, chapter 13, verse 30 because this is where it contrasts, these couple of verses that follow, the idea of faithful versus faithless.
Now, verse 30, “Caleb quieted the people.” So, they’re all getting worked up over the report, “And Caleb quieted the people before Moses.” And look what he says, “We should, by all means, go and take possession of it for we will surely overcome it.” What certainty does Caleb have to make such a statement, to have this faith cultivated in such assurance? How could he know this? Well, it’s simple in the answer. He rests on the promises of God. He seemed fulfilled. So, he can trust in the promises of God that are to come. How do I know this? Well, I showed you exactly how he knows this. We just saw it as it was communicated within the text of Numbers, chapter 13. The Amalekites are there, right? You’re standing on the precipice of the promised land exactly when God said that you would be here. How do I know? Because I was a part of the Exodus in Egypt that I saw God’s hand rescue us. And so, just as I’ve seen the faithfulness of God and his promises, and God has promised us this land. So, with assurance, I can say that we can go into this land, and we will be victorious.
And the Bible says the same thing for us today because we face challenges, right? We have the opportunity to recognize God’s faithfulness in the past. This is why Numbers is written. Numbers is written so we can look back and say, “Look at God’s hand of faithfulness over and over.” Even when they’re not faithful, he is faithful. That is incredible. Look at what Moses says about God and quoting it in Numbers, chapter 14, that he’s long suffering to us. He forgives us, even in our failures. This God, this is how I know, even I when I fail, he’s not going to turn his back on me. I can get up and keep going, is the past precedence of God’s promises made known so that, in those moments, we can also rest with them in the present. Romans, chapter five, as it relates to the church in the New Testament, and it continues to identify how God works in our life, and he says this. We also exalt in our tribulations. So, he’s saying, “Look, we’re going to face those moments where it looks like giants are in front of us.” We also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance improving character hope.
And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who is given to us. And so, what he’s saying in this passage is, look, you’re going to face trials today, too. There’s going to be some adversity in front you in following after God. There will be, but God’s still with you, just like he was with the children of Israel stepping into Canaan or right on the border. God’s still with you. And what he’s recognizing in this story, the beautiful thing about being faithful is that your faith grows in assurance through the struggles, not in the absence of it. It’s not, “God, hurry up and get rid of this so that we can go back to trust. Get rid of the hard stuff, so we can go back to trusting you again,” right? It’s, “No, no, no. Your faith actually grows in the struggle.” That’s what he’s demonstrating to Israel right here. Here’s some adversity. I want you to talk with me through it. Trust in me in it because you believe I’m better than the struggle, and what you’re going to find in that is that your faith grows because God is faithful.
Same thing for us, right? Tribulation brings about perseverance. Perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint. Hope, today, for us, means more wishful thinking. Hope in biblical times did not mean that. It was absolute certainty. There was a certainty that came [inaudible 00:25:54]. It wasn’t just, “Gee, I hope so.” That’s not how it was intended in scripture when it’s written. That’s how we say it today, but it’s the certainty of this great anticipation in Christ, and it will not disappoint us. And so, he’s recognizing for us that how does faith grow. Well, it’s cultivated on understanding … or it’s cultivated in the soil of assurance, understanding that God has demonstrated himself in the past so that here in the presence, we continue to walk with him. In Romans 8, it moves forward to think about the bigger picture. It says, “And also, as you look towards the future,” past, present, future, God’s there.
Listen to this, verse 28, “All things, and we know that God causes all things to work together for God to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose, for those whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son so that we would be the first born of many brethren.” Verse 30, “And those whom he predestined, he called, and those whom he called, he justified. And those whom he justified, he also glorified.” Here, let me just summarize this by saying this. Not only do you have the confidence of God, seeing God move in the past that gives precedent to the present and his presence in the presence … and the presence in the present, I should say, but you also have the hope that he provides for the future. And here, he’s saying to us that in him, your destiny is secure to the point that God already sees the end picture, and in his mind, you’re already glorified. And why is it so? It’s because God doesn’t operate in time. He sees the beginning from the end. God is not bound by time like we are.
And so, as certain as his promises in the past were made, so is the certainty of the promises for the future. And so, for us, because we’ve seen God move, we can trust. It’s like saying this. When you go to hire someone for a job, if you’re the owner of a company, what do you look for? Well, you want to make sure that they have a past precedent that assures you that whatever you’re wanting them to do for you in those moments or in the future of that position that there’s a precedent made known, right? The more important the job, the more pedigree you want from the individual as it relates to the job. And I would say the same thing’s true with your faith because we’re talking about eternity here. And so, when we’re talking about something of such significance as your life and where you’re going to trust and find your identity as it relates to your life, there better be some sort of precedent and not just some kind of wishful thinking. And so, what Caleb is saying is we’ve seen it with absolute certainty. And so, therefore, our lives can trust in him, and this becomes the soil of assurance for our faith, not self, but God.
So, on the backend of that, we could ask the question, well, how do you lose faith, then? Well, Numbers 13:31 tells us, the very next verse, “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people for they are too strong for you.'” Here, you find within them this critical spirit. A critical spirit will be the first step that will drain you from trusting in God’s promises. Their critical spirit and this critical spirit noticed in this passage as they articulated why they should never go into this land, even beyond this point and even before this verse, they’re not even mentioning guys. Their eye is completely on themselves. And so, I would tell them, I would agree with you, right? Verse 31, “I completely agree with you. We are not able to go up against the people because they are too strong for us.” Yes, you are not able. You are not able. Do not go in there. You are not able, right? But God is. And that’s the point. But God. When our spirit gets critical, here is what the [inaudible 00:29:53] of our life, is that we are looking in ourselves.
But when we recognize that the Lord is with us, that changes everything. Their critical spirit, their complaining, what it led to was complacency in their lives. Romans 8:13, in contrast to this, this reminds us. It says, “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die. But if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” And I would say this is exactly the difference between verse 30 and 31. What’s Caleb trusting in? Well, not himself. He would have nothing to hope in here. But what are the people trusting in? Themselves. And what does it produce in the wilderness? Death. But how is it accomplished, Romans 8:13? By the spirit. Here’s what happens when they look within themselves. They’re asking the question, “What is manageable? What’s manageable here?” But looking at the circumstances, they’re thinking, “What’s manageable? What can we handle? What do I want?” Rather than ask, “What has God called us to? What is it God wants?” The Lord says in verse 11, “How long?” He complains, in chapter 14, this is what he says to Moses, “How long will the people spurn me?”
In other translations, it says, “How long will they treat me with contempt?” So, their obedience is based on the comfort of the couch, honestly. And you think about what do they want. Let’s just go back to Egypt so we can sit on our couches again. At least we’re familiar. We know the circumstances aren’t the best, but it’s our circumstances that we’re familiar with that we’re in control of, right? So, let’s go back to the couches. So, obedience is really based on the comfort of the couch. The moment God puts a cross in front of them, they say no. That’s going to tell you, maybe the encouragement for us in this is you think about the movement of Israel from Exodus to this promised land is to simply say this. If we’re not faithful to God in the small things, we’re not going to be faithful to God in the big things. And what you’ll see if you read the book of Numbers is the continual demeanor in the life of the Israelites was always complaining. They’re always complaining because their eyes were always on themselves, and they never stopped in the middle of that to look at their circumstance and their complaining to just say, “But man, what does God call us to?”
Because what God calls us to, his presence is there, and his promises are true, and maybe we can let go of the past in order to move forward. And maybe we can get off the couch to do something more daring, more life-transforming than just keep this critical spirit of complacency among us. What these two verses should do, really, ultimately, is compel our hearts to know him more and to walk with him, and part of the reason we don’t step with God in the place that he promises us and the land flowing with milk and honey is simply because we don’t know him. We don’t know truly what he calls us to. And here’s both the comfort and tragedy of this story. Does God forgive them? Yes, God forgives them. Numbers 14, verse 17 and 19, that’s a beautiful passage, guys. No matter what happens in your life, when you leave this place, if you fail, God is still loving kind. He is patient. He is forgiving. Beautiful passage to memorize in Numbers 14, verse 17 and 19 because it’s the same passage in Exodus, chapter 34, verses 6 and 7. You get to memorize two sections of scripture at one time, right?
But the identity of getting to know that character of God is so important because it’s what allows us to move forward, but here’s the other reality. There’s still consequences for the decision, and the consequences, they don’t experience God’s comforting presence, nor the fruit of his promises. When you don’t trust in God, there can be 40 years of wondering. Why? Why do we not do what the Lord calls us to do? Often, we find ourselves not doing what God wants us because we’re planted in the soil of fear. That’s where Israel is because they haven’t got their eyes off themselves and into the promises of God. When I think about just the contrast of this idea from other passages of scripture, in my mind, I think often of in the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends, how faithful they are to God in the most adverse circumstances before a king that followed false gods. And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel, chapter 3 are called before the king because they refused to bow down to a statue the king made in honor of himself.
And the king tells his soldiers to set up a fire and bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and when they come before the king, he’s like, “Okay. Bow to the statue or die. I’m going to throw you in the fire.” And I love it, chapter 3, and verse 16 and 17, they say to the king, “Well, we believe our … ” This is [inaudible 00:35:23] summary here. So, they say to the king, “Well, we believe our God can rescue us from this fire, but even if he doesn’t, we’d rather burn than bow down to you.” How incredible. What brings them to such a place as that? The promises that are God and the beauty of who he is, more important than anything this world has to offer. They want to be next to his goodness. Guys, you hear stories like that, and maybe you’re like me and say, “I’m not a giant like that. I’m not a Moses, a Caleb, a Joshua, a Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. I’m not a Daniel.” Well, guys, can I tell you? They weren’t giants either. The only thing they decided to do is trust in the promises of God above their problems.
Romans 12:2 says this about us, “Don’t be conformed to this world.” That’s what they’re doing in Numbers. They’re allowing the world to dictate what they do, but he says this, “Rather, be transforming. Here’s how. Renewing your mind so that you may prove what the perfect will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Look, how do you renew your mind? The promises of God made known in his word because when the world presses against you, what can you hold against it? The only thing that supersedes God’s promises. And it says, “In holding to that and letting your mind be transformed in that rather than the pressure of the world, you’ve proved the perfect will of God,” which means you demonstrated, right? You demonstrate in your life the perfect will of God, and here’s what you’re saying. Regardless, I believe what God has for me is better than what anything in this world can offer, proving God’s perfect will. Maybe as you think about renewing your mind on the idea of God, I think there are just important promises that if we can just saturate our mind with, it helps us.
If you’re getting to know God for the first time and really just starting that journey with him, the Bible’s chock full of promises of the Lord. In Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Psalms 16, verse 11, a great verse to hold onto on that journey. It says, “You will make known to me the path of life and your presence as the fullness of joy. In your right hand, there is pleasures forever more.” As I got to the end of this, I thought, “Well, what would be the tragedy of this section if we walked away and made the wrong application,” right? What would be the tragedy here? And here’s maybe my little bit of a concern but more of what I don’t want to do is that we can look at this and say, “You’re right. I need to have more faith with God in my problems,” and here’s what I hope we don’t do with this story and say, “I want to have more faith, and I need to invite God into my circumstance to show me how I can live with more faith through the struggles that I have,” right?
And that could be true, but I would rather us look at it like this. This is not calling us to have a kind of faith where it invites God into our problems. This is the kind of faith where we’re forsaking that, really, and we’re saying, “God, where is it you’re at work, and I want to trust in you for you’re calling us to be. I want to join you in your kingdom. I’m not inviting you into mine. I want to join you in yours. So, how can I … ” Sometimes, we get so petty in our circumstances that we forget that God’s picture for what he wants to do in this world is far bigger than what I can even cultivate in my own kingdom living. And so, it’s about letting go. And if I could think of all of the examples I could share, I try to think, “Okay. How can I just lay out a place of examples for us as a church in the application of this?” And rather than get real specific, let me just tell you this one thing. I think in America, here’s a lie that we bought into, that faith is personal and private.
And I would say, yes, faith is certainly personal because God calls you into relationship with him, but faith, by no means, is never intended to be private. I don’t think that gives you the excuse to be obnoxious to people or to yell to people. I think, in fact, if you know Jesus, you of all people should better love people. Faith is not intended to be private. Faith is intended to be lived out in a way that displays the glory of God, and I think that’s a lie that we bought into our culture that honestly allows us to be cowards because here’s what happens. Sometimes, sometimes, in our life, we feel, “I think that the Lord would want me to share my faith with him.” But here’s what we can hide behind. But in America, faith is private. So, it’s okay for me not to do that, right? And I would say for us, that’s the couch living. That’s going back to Egypt. That’s no Canaan promises because the land in which you live in with God is the land flowing with milk and honey. Why in God’s name would you not tell people about it?
I mean, even if we can buy into that lie in the context of our own home, “I found God, but with my family, they’re all on their own separate journey.” Baloney, baloney. If this is the true God, and this true God created them to know him, then live that out, not in the way that pastors people or demeans them, but honors the life that God has given them and loves them more deeply for the truth of who God is. That’s promised living. That’s what God calls us to, to dream bigger, and why would we not do that? Oh, I’m afraid. Yeah, but faith is bigger than fear, and faith is cultivated in the soil of assurance of God’s promises and exactly who he is. And the more you live in that, the greater light you become for Christ. I love this quote. Rowland Bingham said this. He was a missionary to Africa. He actually had to go to Africa three separate times. On the first two trips, he saw his friends die, and he had to retreat and go back, but he said this about his life, “I will open Africa for the gospel or die trying.” Hudson Taylor, another famous missionary, said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Every day, there’s a faith battle. What do you trust in.