At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

What the spies saw drove fear deeply into them. As we read on in the account in Numbers, we read that the spies’ report got into the people who grumbled and rebelled — even to the point of saying “we would have been better off in Egypt”, so, for example, Numbers 14:3 says “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

Fear had overcome faith in God in the hearts of His people. This actually wasn’t a good thing, its angered God and Moses and Aaron had to intercede on behalf of the people. God relents from summarily destroying them, but does judge, and the result is that they spend another generation wandering in the wilderness. No-one over the age of 20 with the exception of Caleb and Joshua would ever enter the promised land. This event is the root of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

I want to start by making a couple of initial thoughts and comments which may or may not come up as I preach.

  1. God did not call the POG to decide whether it’s right to enter the land of milk & honey. He just said, “enter the land”. Our challenge is that we sometimes try to judge whether something is right or wrong. When God calls us to do something, that’s not our call – our role is to obey Him. (Obviously this brings up all sorts of issues about discernment, because we don’t want to follow our own desires, we want to follow God).
  2. 10 spies returned with bad report v 2 spies with good : Fearful people usually outnumber faithful ones. And when we look at what Jesus says about wide and narrow roads and wide and narrow gates, this transfers right into righteous and unrighteous. Unrighteous people outnumber righteous ones. (Which kind of explains WHY democracy tends to lead a society towards sinfulness, since it works on a foundation of voting and majority consensus).
  3. Caleb and Joshua were the only ones to bring a good report. We must sow faith where there is none. No
  4. As Christians, fear of our circumstances which cause us to balk at doing what God has called us to do may very well result in us NOT inheriting the blessings God has planned for us.

Understanding how fear impacts us is particularly important at the moment – there are so many things to alarm us. We are barely out of the corona virus pandemic after 2 years of virus and lockdown, normal life is still a way away and there is still a threat (however small) of catching it.

We have the very upsetting and alarming news as Russia invades Ukraine. We watch on our TVs images of attacks on a civilian population, refugees and children are fleeing in their millions and we hear threats from Putin about not getting involved or he will see it as an act of war and act accordingly, everywhere we look we see and find that many people are having escalating feelings of fear. What should they do?

The fears about climate change and the future of the world haven’t gone away, people are still desperately worried and anxious about fossil fuels and such like, advocating for forms of power which are “clean”, yet the technology for producing clean power is in its infancy and unreliable. What can WE do?

We are still gripped by a worldview which is seeking to destroy our way of life and impose what is being described as cultural marxism on the west. In some ways, we are already there. Governments are taking all sorts of action in all sorts of fields ways despite the wishes of their people. Free speech certainly does not exist in our country any more. We are free, it seems, to say anything we want to say — as long as it is not something the Government has said we shouldn’t say. Canada has actually enacted legislation to compel speech — which is what made Jordan Peterson so well known (he opposed the compulsion of speech), it bothers me that this is coming to the UK like a freight train.

  1. Corona virus for many people is still a giant in the land!
  2. Threat of and worry about World War 3 is a Giant not just in the land, but throughout the earth.
  3. Worry about the planet and fear of climate change is really affecting people

What happens when we see with eyes of fear

5 things which happen when we start to give in to fear:

1. Exaggeration

We exaggerate our problems, which then obscure our view of God! We look at them so much that we lose sight of God.

  1. Illustration of squatters in our house at Moorlands
  2. Gideon, hiding from the Midianites, is called to free the people, and his response?
“I am the smallest man in the smallest family in the smallest tribe – what on earth can I do?”(Judges 6:15)
  3. Abraham looked at his age (as did Sarah) and initially they both questioned God’s promise of children
Genesis 17:15-17 “God also said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her. Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
Genesis 18:10-15 “Then one of them said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure? Then the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say, Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son. Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, I did not laugh. But he said, Yes, you did laugh”. 

If we feel fearful, we need to regain our perspective. This can be achieved by focusing on God — worship can be especially helpful in this regard.

2. Underestimation of our abilities

In addition to exaggerating the problem, fear also drives us to underestimate our own abilities and think we can’t do it.

The spies didn’t just look at the size of the people in the land, (“they are bigger and stronger than we are”), they looked at themselves and said “we’re too small” (grasshoppers) & Numbers 13:31,33.

I’d go so far as to say this a biggie for us. I have met so many people not doing what they think God is calling them to do – not because they think the task is too big per-se, but because they don’t think they are up to the task.

  1. Moses looks at himself and says, “who am I?” (Exodus 3:11), “I’m not a good speaker” (Exodus 4:10), “I won’t know what to say” (Exodus 3:13), and “they won’t listen to me anyway” (Exodus 4:1).
  2. Jeremiah looked at himself and says, “I’m too young & I wouldn’t know what to say” (Jeremiah 1:6).

The truth is, our ability to do God’s will doesn’t depend on our abilities – it depends on God. Don’t get sidetracked by worrying about whether you can do it or not! In fact, if you are confident you can do it, then when you do, you’ll think it is you who are doing it. Think of Gideon again …
Judges 7:2 “The LORD said to Gideon, You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, My own strength has saved me”.

There is a fine line between allowing our self assessment stop us from ministering and getting so over confident in our own abilities that we think we did it!

Paul says, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).

3. Discouragement.

When we get frightened, we get discouraged.

Job 4:5, “But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed”.

Joshua 1:9 “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”.

Deuteronomy 1:2 “See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”.

I believe that one of the reasons we are called to encourage people lies in this very arena. Fear removes courage – it dis-courages us. Encouragement is the opposite, it means “to put courage IN”.

The antidote to discouragement is encouragement. Where does encouragement come from?

It comes from God himself, directly, through the Scripture and from Christ

Romans 15:4-5, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus”

Philippians 2:1-2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”.

It comes from each other

Acts 4:36 (Barnabas – the epitome of encouragement),

1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”.

Hebrews 3:12-13, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”.

Paul tells Titus to encourage with all authority.

Titus 2:15, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you”. (A primary role in leadership is and should be encouragement).

If you are discouraged, the last thing you should do is withdraw from the very place you will find encouragement, so Hebrews 10:24,25 says …

 “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”

4. Dissatisfaction

We start to gripe about where we’re at, we complain, we look back to the “good old times”. The Israelites show this very well.

Here in this account, we read in Numbers 14:2-4 that, “all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

It’s not the first time they were dissatisfied and looked backwards though, just a couple of chapters before in Numbers 11, we read that they did exactly the same thing, God had provided miraculously for them and this is their assessment of His provision … “the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:4-6).

Aside: (and nothing to do with fear) but a good point and warning to be careful about how you handle the blessings and gifts God gives you!

Fear of the future can cause us to look back at the past, particularly to a time when the thing we are fearful of wasn’t there. At the very least, the threat was in the past and is no longer a threat, so the temptation to live in the past is very strong.

5. Missing out

We miss all the good things … I remember many years ago speaking to someone who was working practically in France when he knew God had called him to do something in French North Africa. The problem was that he had bottled out at the last minute and God had sent someone else.

This happened to Barak in Judges 4, he was asked by Deborah to go out and fight a battle, but his response is one that I believe was based in fear …

“Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go”. “Certainly I will go with you, said Deborah. But because of the course you are taking, the honour will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman”. So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh”.

That is exactly what happened, Sisera was killed by Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. You can read the account in Judges 4.

Ray Comfort from Living Waters has written a book titled “here I am — send someone else”. I do wonder how many people over the centuries have missed out on the blessings God has had for them because of fear. How many of us have?

If we are not to miss the blessings God has for us, we must learnt to live with and overcome our fears.

How do we respond to fear?

How do we cope with fear? It is based in the future and things based in the future are unknown and unpredictable, it is always about something which may or may not happen. It is usually about something which we anticipate might not be as we want, or will be a danger to us in some way. Our challenge is to understand that although the future is uncertain, although there is no way any of us can know what will happen in the future with 100% certainty, we can have confidence in it because of God. Fear may be a giant in the land, but we have a giant slayer on our side!

  1. In 1 Samuel 17, David faced a giant — Goliath, There was real fear in the camp. What if God didn’t act? What if Goliath won? The Israelites might be subjected to slavery all over again. No one wanted to take the risk – quite apart from the fear of physical death the one who would fight Goliath would have to face.
  2. Here, in Numbers 11 the spies come back with reports of giants in the promised land. What if they can’t overcome them? What if they get beaten back? What if they are killed in the attempt? What if? What if? What if?

In both cases, faith in God was needed to overcome fear! So what I want to do is look at the characteristics of fear and of faith and to help us to appropriate faith into our spirits and not succumb to the fear which threatens to engulf us …

What is it in Caleb and Joshua, what is it about them which made them full of faith and not full of fear like the other spies?

We have the account of Joshua waiting at the Tent of Meeting which Moses erected and not leaving it…

Exodus 33:7-11: Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the tent of meeting. Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

This puts me in mind of someone who hangs about after an event on the off chance that something else might happen or they will get to see one of the stars. Suggest Joshua was a man who was hungry for the presence of God, and he had learned that from Moses.

Similarly, Caleb had responded uniquely to God, he was unlike the other spies in his inner being … Numbers 14:24 says: … my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, … I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

Both Caleb and Joshua had something in them which meant that their response was different to the other spies around them.

It wasn’t developed in their circumstances, because they faced exactly the same circumstances as everyone else, they had experienced passover and exodus, they walked with the people of God through the wilderness, they had been fed with manna and quail, they had witnessed everything exactly the same as everyone else had.

What they had, though, set them apart from the other spies. The Bible is quite clear that once we walked in the same way as those around us, and that when we became Christians, when we bowed the knee before God we made a choice NOT to be like them. We are following in the footsteps of Joshua and Caleb, choosing to follow God and not following the crowd.

Jesus says that the way we live should be different in oh so many ways, from talking about things like building a house on the rock and not on the sand, through to saying that we are not to be like the pagans who love to Lord it over one another (you’ll find that in Matthew 20:25,26 for example).

It is vitally important to understand that we are held in the hand of God. One thing that will separate us from people around us at a time like this is that we don’t have to live under fear. We KNOW that our lives and our future are not under the control of the enemy or of coronavirus, or of the risk of nuclear war, or of a rising ideology which is increasingly antagonistic towards God. My future and my eternal security is, like yours, in God’s hands.

What happens when we see with eyes of faith

1. Faith shrinks our problems

To Abraham … Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son”.

Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God”. // Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.

Job 42:2 “I know you can do all things”

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you”

2. Faith opens the door for God.

Psalm 91:14 “Because he loves me, says the LORD, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”.

1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever. But now the LORD declares: Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained”.

3. Faith unlocks the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. And so through him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.

4. Faith enables us to hang on in tough times.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”.

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Sum—up.

Nowadays, there is so much fear around us, both in society at large, but also, sadly, in the church. Not in THIS church I’m sure! But one thing we CAN do is to model and be an example of faith to those around us and to show that even in such uncertain times, we can have good reason for hope and even for confidence because we serve and follow a God who stands above and holds us safe through the all the storms of life.

God is all-powerful. He created the world and knew about the empires of the earth long before they came into being. He knows how nations will rise and fall, Paul says He, “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).

And Job declares, “He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23).

I’ll leave you with one of the first Bible passages I ever learned. Wendy’s favourite.

Romans 8:35-39, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.