In Numbers 13, a famous chapter, the spies are sent out from Israel to survey the territory of Canaan, which God had said he was giving to the Israelites. They go and spy out the land and then bring back their report:
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. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
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.” (Numbers 13:26-31)
They all have experienced the same reality, yet their perspective on it is quite different. Most of the spies are intimidated by the current inhabitants of the land, and even exaggerate their size (“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” v33). How would they know that? Did they interview the inhabitants about their perceptions of the potential invaders? Of course not.
They extrapolated their fears to the point of failure.
They did not want to act in the light of their perspective.
But Caleb was there, and Caleb had a different view of the matter. “We can certainly do it!” I think the difference between these two voices is that Caleb factored God in. His equation was:
Current Reality + God = Success
Theirs was: Current Reality (with an overwhelming focus on the negative) = Failure.
My question for us this morning is this: which reality do we live by? Really. Which one? Though we profess faith with our mouths and may be faithful in our attendance at church, do we make decisions which factor God in, or not?
I think for many of us, the area of finances is a real litmus test on this. There’s a very real struggle between fear and faith. We look at our numbers, work out our budget, extrapolate through to retirement (or some other major expense) and we just don’t see how the numbers add up. And so, in the light of this reality, we cling more tightly to what we have got.
But where is + God in this equation? For me, I’ve had to ask the question of whether I really believe God will take care of me financially. With my retirement savings not exactly “on track” due to various circumstances, do I panic and hoard? Or do I seek to live a life of generosity, honoring God and trusting him for the future?
I remember a year in our marriage where we were definitely trying our best to honor God with our finances, even when things were financially tight. That year we received so many blessings, most of them material and financial, that I created an Excel spreadsheet to record how much more God had given to us (just in financial terms) that we had given to him. I think I’m going to do this again, not because I doubt God, but because I want the “evidence” to be able to brag about his faithfulness.
I’ve been challenged lately by reading the book Fields of Gold, by Andy Stanley, which addresses the key issues of fear and finances, and paints a beautiful picture of what it is like to honor God, and live generously, trusting Him, without financial fear. If you’ve never read it, or if you honestly admit that fear plays more than a “walk-on” role in your thinking about finances, I highly recommend it. You can click the link to get it on Amazon. It’s cheap, and could revolutionize your thinking about finances, and deliver you from fear.
So, dear readers, what is it going to be?
Reality + God,
Reality + extrapolating my fears to the point of failure.
The choice is ours to make.