Don’t Let Fear Eclipse Faith in 2019.
Back in the 1800s, someone came up with a new device that ultimately was called the telephone. It was presented to Western Union, and after examining the telephone as a potential investment, they concluded, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
It is all in how you look at things. Some people look at something and say, “That is an opportunity.” Someone else looks at the same thing and says, “That is an obstacle.”
The Bible tells the story of two people, Joshua and Caleb, who saw their obstacles as opportunities. They were among 12 spies who had been sent into Canaan to check things out and come back with a report.
The children of Israel had come from Egypt out of slavery under Pharaoh and were poised to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. The 12 spies were sent in, and 10 brought back a bad report while two brought back a good one. Interestingly, they all saw the same thing, but they reacted differently.
It really came down to the way they saw God. Those who gave the majority report didn’t see God for who he is. They just saw problems. They saw obstacles. They saw challenges. They saw defeat. And they saw giant men. The very idea of going into this land terrified them. That is because they had a small God, and thus they had big problems.
The children of Israel were at the very brink of entering the Promised Land, but they did not enter in. Why? They focused their attention on the obstacles instead of their objective. The 10 spies said, “The people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!” (Numbers 13:28 NLT).
They only saw the problem. They didn’t see how great God was. When you fix your attention on the obstacles rather than the objective, fear always will eclipse your faith.
When you allow fear to grip you, everything is affected. That is what happened with the Israelites. They said, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness! … Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2–3 NLT).
Had they forgotten how bad things were in Egypt? Had they forgotten the sting of the Egyptian whip and what it was like to serve in abject slavery?
Yes, there were giants in the land. There always will be giants in the land, so to speak. There will always be an obstacle, an opponent, a threat, something we’re afraid of.
We all have giants that we face in life. Maybe it’s a person, an obstacle, or opposition that frightens you. Maybe it’s something that looms large in your heart or your mind, something that seems unbeatable, and you don’t feel you can ever overcome it.
What do you do with your giants? You force them into the light of day. Stop rationalizing them. Stop justifying them. Stop excusing them. Realize you can’t defeat them in your own strength. Call on God, and pray for his power. Instead of running from your giants, go after them.
Joshua and Caleb saw the land. They saw the size of their opponents. They saw the fortified cities. But they also knew how powerful God is, and their conclusion was to go in and attack.
The way we see things matters, starting with God. How we view God will determine how we view life. It will affect us in the choices we make, whom we marry, how we live and how we vote. It will form our worldview. In fact, there are no areas of our lives that are not impacted by how we view God.
Take problems or crises, for instance. If you have a big God, you will have relatively small problems. That is not to say that some problems are not big, because some actually are really big. But it is to say that God is much bigger. We need perspective in life.
People look at challenges and opportunities in life in very different ways. There always have been people who aren’t willing to take a risk. They have no vision. They have no faith. They have no interest in change.
Joshua and Caleb looked at the Promised Land as a place of opportunity. They saw what God could do. If I had listened to my critics, I would have never done anything. The church where I pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship, would not have ever existed if we had listened to those who said it would never work.
Back in the early 1970s when the church started, I was a young man. I began preaching when I was 19 and became a pastor when I was 20. Can you imagine having a 20-year-old pastor? I took comfort from the words of the apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).
There were not a lot of startup churches back then, but 40-plus years later we can look back and see how faithful God has been.
Sometimes you look at something with faith and say, “This is what God can do.” Others will look at the same thing and say, “God could never do that.” Which side are you on? Are you in the minority, or are you in the majority? Do you see a big God, or do you see a small God?
Those original Israelites at the brink of entering the Promised Land didn’t want to go in. They listened to the majority report, so God essentially said, “Fine. Go do a bunch of laps in the wilderness.” And they wandered around in circles for 40 years in a self-imposed wilderness.
That is a picture of a lot of people’s lives. They wander around in circles, learning the same things again and again, making the same mistakes again and again. It is one step forward, three steps back. One step forward, four steps back. They are always struggling.
You don’t have to live in a wilderness. You can enter into a land of victory. You can enter into a place of conquering your giants. Remember this: The battle belongs to the Lord. It’s time to attack.
Greg Laurie is a pastor, an author of a number of books, a producer of a few films, and a preacher at evangelistic events called Harvest Crusades.