I’ve always told my kids, everything is a lesson. A lesson on either what to do or what not to do. We all like the examples of what to do, show me what works. But I believe even more powerful are the lessons on what NOT to do. Let me know in advance what doesn’t work, then I’ll make sure that’s not what I’m doing. Today we’ll dig into a story in the bible and learn from a few mistakes that will save us a year (or 40) of walking in circles with no progress. This is a lesson on what NOT to do.
God has a plan for each of us. A life he envisioned from before he ever formed us. Then he created us equipped with everything we would need to step into the life he made us for. His plan is always complete. His way is always good. And the path is always ours to choose … or not. While we are guaranteed that God has a good plan for our lives, we are not guaranteed that we will follow it. We may be wasting time on a path God simply can’t bless. We may be creating obstacles for ourselves. Our being stuck may be of our own doing.
That was certainly the story of the Israelites. These were God’s people whom he cared about. These were people who God had personally rescued from slavery in Egypt and set free. He had a beautiful plan and a great destination in mind for them. A promised land flowing with milk and honey was waiting for them. And God had given them a great leader in Moses. Moses had just parted the red sea with a stick and saved them from the army hunting them down, so they had fresh proof God was with them and for them.
They had an 11 day journey through the desert to their promised land. 11 days is what it would take if they would trust God and keep moving forward. But they didn’t. Instead of 11 days in the desert, they go stuck there for 40 years. For 40 years they wandered around miserable in a place they didn’t want to be, in a place they were never meant to stay. An entire generation died in that desert. How did this happen? How did they turn an 11 day journey into 40 years of wandering? Let’s learn this so we don’t make the mistake. I don’t want to miss the promised land in my own life. I don’t want to miss God’s plan. I don’t want to wander and get stuck. What caused this?
FEAR. Fear of opposition. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear they weren’t good enough. Fear God wouldn’t take care of them. This is what kept them stuck and caused them to miss out. This is what caused an entire generation to miss what God had available for them. It was FEAR. And the same will happen to you and I. This is what NOT to do!
The land the Israelites wanted to go to was Cannan. It was only 11 days away, but it was the land of the unknown. Moses being a wise man sent out 12 leaders ahead of the crowd as spies to see what they were up against. How hard would it be for them to get to Cannan and what were the people like? For 40 days the 12 men stalked out the city. They tasted the grapes and the pomegranates, indeed this place was way better than the dessert, but there were obstacles. They would have to fight to get what they wanted. It wouldn’t be easy.
After 40 days the 12 leaders return and make their report to Moses. 10 of them said it was impossible. The people there were giants. They were so big they looked like little grasshoppers in comparison. But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb said in Numbers 13:30 – “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”
So 10 said, “nope, don’t even try it’s too scary” and 2 said “let’s go now, we’ve totally got this.” 10 were filled with fear, 2 were filled with courage. 10 could only see the obstacles ahead, 2 remembered what God had just done at the red sea.
I wonder what you would have said? How do you view obstacles? Impossible, or just difficult but worth the fight? Unable or able because God is on your side? Are you ruled by fear or filled with courage? Deep down, do you really believe God is for you and has good things planned for you, or do you still battle with thinking he is against you and at any moment the rug is going to be ripped out from under you?
In fear of the defeat that COULD happen, the Israelites chose not to go and take the land God had promised them – the land available to them, only 11 days away from them. Instead they wandered in the desert for 40 more years. It was a FAILURE to remember what God had already done for them and a FEAR of the future that left them stuck. They sat in a desert and complained about how bad it was while the entire time they had the power to walk right out of it.
I wonder if there’s anyone listening this morning that’s sitting in a bad place and too afraid to do anything about it? Hasn’t God proven himself to you in the past? Hasn’t he provided for you before? Hey, I’m pretty sure you’re listening this morning and that means you have a 100% track record of making it through! You haven’t died a single time. God has always brought you out and kept you alive. So why would you sit in a miserable place, settling for less than God’s best, just watching your life pass you by? Why would you do that? Oh yeah, FEAR.
You’re afraid, and that’s normal. 10 out of 12 people will tell you it’s impossible. But 2 will tell you you’re more than able to conquer this. You only need 2! One is me. I’m telling you today I have no doubt you CAN move forward. You can get out of this. You can step into the life available to you. I’m not going to promise you it will be easy, but I will promise you it will be worth it. So me, I’m one telling you you’re able to conquer this. Who’s the second?
Not your husband? Not your boss? Not your BFF? Everyone is doubting you? Everyone seems to be against you? Hey, let me whisper a little truth in your ear this morning … they’re not against you. The people you love hold you back and tell you you can’t because they’re trying to protect you. They’re either afraid you will fail and they don’t want to see that … or they’re afraid you will succeed and with all your new found success you might not need them. They’re just afraid and they project their fear on you.
But I have nothing to lose here so I can tell you the truth. YOU CAN DO THIS. You can move forward. There is so much more available to you. You don’t have to stay the same. You don’t have to walk in circles. You can walk right out of this.
But much more importantly than my voice, you need to hear the second voice that tells you to move forward and conquer this. That’s God.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
I’m just throwing around scripture like confetti this morning. Don’t let fear stop you. Listen to me, go afraid if you have to, just make sure you go. Feel the fear and start walking anyway. God is for you and he is with you. He has a great plan for your life and you can’t just wander around in circles and expect to live it. It won’t be easy. You have an enemy who constantly tries to defeat you and keep you stuck. You will have to use every ounce of courage you have and remember YOU ARE MORE THAN ABLE TO CONQUER THIS!