It happens pretty much daily, and unfortunately I fall for it every time. I wake up and start the usual morning routine. That perfect cup of coffee, quiet time in my Bible, sweet prayer baring my soul to God. All’s fine in the world. Get dressed, talk to family, do the breakfast thing. Still good. Read my emails, check my phone, figure out my day. Like a prize fighter getting ready for the ring, I feel strong, hopeful, faith-filled. Tackling problems with prayer and pushing back concerns by trusting God with my life and the lives of those I love most. YES!
And that’s usually about the time it happens. I turn on the news.
Oh yah, all is not fine in the world. Story after story of tragic accidents, random crime, natural disasters, political ugliness. Yuck. Those frightening reports have the power to jump from our tv and computer screens and take aim directly at our hearts. It doesn’t take long for my joy to crumble, my peace to dissolve. All too often, and all too quickly, I surrender to the craziness. Fear wins.
Thankfully, though, according to a little story found in the book of Numbers, there’s a way to fight back.
In Numbers chapter 13, as God’s people approached the Promised Land, Moses asked twelve tribal leaders to explore up ahead and bring back an account. Much like today’s on-scene investigators, these guys were sent out by their boss to gather the facts and get the big story. After forty days of exploration, they returned with an update.
Each of the twelve disclosed the same circumstances, reporting identically dramatic eyewitness statements. Yes, the land is beautiful, but the people living there are enormous, powerful giants surrounded by heavily fortified walls.
Okay. Got it. Blessed land. Scary giants. We understand the scenario. No denying it’s bad out there. But here’s where things get interesting. Even though they shared a common circumstance, we find two entirely different responses.
Ten of Moses’ reporters came back in complete despair. They were discouraged, defeated and depressed, and in their dismay, they spread fear and doubt among God’s people. But two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, came back filled with hope, secure in their peace, and sure of a mighty and loving God.
Same situation, same challenges, same giants. Different outlook. What allowed Joshua and Caleb to keep their peace in the midst of troubling news? Here’s how they did it, and so can we.
- Together is better. By one another’s side, Joshua and Caleb came out of Egypt, walked through the Red Sea, and headed into the wilderness. Through tough times, these friends relied on and supported one another. Each gave the other the strength he needed to build confidence and stand firm. We need faithful friends in our lives, as well, to encourage us, not panic us, when things look grim. Just as fear is contagious, so is trust in God. “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh… tore their clothes and said, ‘The land we explored is exceedingly good.’” Numbers 14:6-7
- Be brave. Joshua and Caleb stood up to the other tribal leaders. These were powerful people in positions of great influence; how easily they could have kept quiet. But they chose to put their hope in the Lord, and sharing that truth became their strength. We too have the hope of a sovereign God who is ultimately in control of our lives, our world and our circumstances. Speaking this truth makes us, and those around us, stronger. “Caleb silenced the people and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’” Numbers 13:30
- Refuse to dismiss the character of God. The Lord had already delivered His people from slavery, guided them safely through a desert, and miraculously provided food and water along the way. But after the report of the spies, the Israelites immediately begin to doubt, fret and moan. How quickly they dismiss God’s goodness! Joshua and Caleb refuse to allow their circumstances to change their belief in an all-loving, all-powerful Father. The One who still keeps His promises today. “He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” Numbers 14:8
- Remember how it ends. Joshua and Caleb never denied the reality of their situation. The facts were in, things were bleak. They faced high hurdles, powerful giants, and big problems. But they immediately followed those facts with another, more powerful reality: their God was bigger. Yes, it’s true, our world is full of hazards. Bad reports plague us. Terrible things happen. But that’s not where the story ends. Our God is greater and His promises are mightier than the giants we face. He has a way. “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.” Numbers 14:9
So who’s with me? Who is ready to stand and fight and keep those headlines from winning over our hearts? What a relief that we don’t have to let our local cable news anchors shape our outlook, defeat our joy, or determine our peace. Yes, it’s crazy out there. Yes, the world is filled with giants. But just like Joshua and Caleb, the choice is ours, to give faith a fighting chance.