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We Are Going On

Numbers 14:23-24

23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.


Would you open your Bibles to the book of Numbers 14:24, and then in a moment we will look at just one line out of verse 24, chapter 14.  This past week newspapers all over the land carried the news that Henry Ford II had died. You know that he was the grandson of the man who founded the Ford Motor Company. He was hailed by Automotive News as the last of the great American industrialist tsars. It is generally agreed that if he had not taken over the Ford Motor Company in 1945 that there would be no Ford Motor Company today. For at that time they were losing ten million dollars a month. But because of his drive and his ability and his determination Henry Ford II brought the Ford Motor Company into its golden years. Even still, he apparently stayed at the helm too long and so toward the end of his presidency they said that he spent much of his energy in not making mistakes. And the longer he stayed as president of the Ford Motor Company the more conservative it became. 

I want you to underscore in your mind that thought that he spent much of his energy trying to not make mistakes. When I read that it reminded me of something similar that I had read about his grandfather Henry Ford, who had established Ford Motor Company. He without a doubt was one of the great industrialists of America. He implemented the first moving assembly line. He was the first man to pay laborers the outlandish wage of $5 a day so they could buy his Model T automobile. But as the years went on the Henry Ford who founded the Ford Motor Company became increasingly obsessed with his Model T Ford. He developed a fixation for that automobile that was almost unhealthy. And even though as time went on and General Motors began to gain more and more of an edge in the sales market, Henry Ford refused to consider altering the Model T, to update it, to make it more acceptable to the American people. It was only at great effort that they were able to persuade him to change from the Model T to the Model A. 

I say that because there seems to be a tendency on the part of people as they grow older, as they get more established and sometimes more successful, to become rigid, inflexible, and less prone to change and oftentimes that rigidity is the final blow to their success and to their progress.

One of our men told us years ago that most organizations go through three stages. They began as risk-takers, they become caretakers, and they wind up as undertakers. They begin with a sense of daring and mission and purpose and they are willing to risk and to attempt new things and great things in order to achieve their goals and then when they have achieved to a certain point they settle down and decide to play it safe. They are just going to hang on to what they’ve got and they become more and more conservative, more and more resistant to change, until eventually the stench of death and decline set in. 

Change is all about us. And if the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is going to keep up and minister in today’s world, it must never become rigid and inflexible. It must never get to the place where it is resistant to change—it must ever and always be looking for new ways to preach the old truth of Jesus Christ to an ever-changing world. 

Let me give you an example of how the world is changing all the time. If you had wanted to travel from coast to coast from New York to California in 1850, you would have traveled in all probability by wagon train and it would have taken you 166 days. If you had wanted to make that same journey in 1860 you would probably have traveled by stagecoach and it would have taken you 60 days. If you had wanted to make that same journey in 1870 you would have traveled by train and it would have taken you 11 days. If you had wanted to make that same journey in 1930 you would have traveled by airplane and it would have taken you 26 and a half hours. If you had wanted to make that same journey in 1970 you would have traveled by jet and you could have made it in less than five hours. And if it were possible for us to travel today by space shuttle you could make that same journey in less than eight minutes. 

Now, dear friends, the world is changing. Change is inevitable, progress is not. And if we as the people of God are going to minister to our world today, we must never settle for the status quo. And I think maybe the whole purpose of my message today is to say to you that we do not intend to spend our energy trying to not make mistakes. We do not intend to fixate upon something that we have accomplished in the past or be unwilling to change in order to move forward and meet the needs of our world today. It is a way of saying to you that we have not bought our last piece of land. We have not built our last building. We have not paved our last parking lot. We have not called our last staff member. We have not inaugurated our last program. We have not established our last mission. We haven’t saved our last soul or baptized him. I believe that God has been saying to me in recent days through things I have read and experiences that I have had that we must be careful lest we get a fixation on the past and spend our energy trying not make mistakes, just hanging on to what we’ve got. The greatest days of growth and ministry and potential for this church are out ahead of us if we in the name and in the spirit of God will seize that opportunity and that privilege and will be equal to it by the spirit that is within us. 

When I think about the kind of spirit we need, I find it in the life of Caleb. The verse I want you to focus on in Numbers 14:24 is this: “Caleb … had another spirit.” Just underscore that in your mind if you will, perhaps in your Bible: “Caleb had another spirit.” Now you must understand the context of that statement in order to catch the full impact of it. The children of Israel were 18 months out of Egyptian bondage and they come right up to the borders of the Promised Land. The Lord instructed Moses to chose 12 spies to go in and search out the land and determine the way that Israel should go in. Their mission was not to determine whether Israel should go in, but the way they should go in. The spies stayed in the land for 40 days and they came back with glowing reports about the land. It is a wonderful land that flows with milk and honey. We have never seen fields so fertile. But, they said, there is another side of the picture. You must realize that there are walled cities in that land and the people are like giants. In our own eyes we were as grasshoppers and so were we in their eyes. 

Ten of the 12 spies said there was no way we can take the land. Only Caleb and Joshua believed that the land could be taken. The 10 on the committee prevailed and they convinced the majority of the children of Israel and they wept all day and all night. They went to Moses and said, “Moses, you take us back to the safety and the security of Egypt. We would rather live there in bondage than to be out here and have to risk our lives in taking a new land.” 

As a result of their decision, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they ever entered into the Promised Land. Dear friends, I know of some churches that have been in the wilderness longer than that for the same reason. They did not have eyes to see. They did not have faith to believe. They did not have the courage to risk and because they lacked vision and faith they were going nowhere, doing nothing because they were satisfied with where they were. 

If you calculate Israel’s wilderness wanderings out, they wandered 40 years. It is estimated that in that 40 years they traveled 700 miles. That’s equivalent to 20 miles a year or 100 yards a day. That is not bad for an NFL running back. But I want you to know that the army of God ought to make more progress than that. And the reason they didn’t go in was not because of the obstacles in the Promised Land. There were walled cities there, but when they went against those cities and marched around them the walls fell down without ever firing a shot. And supposedly there were giants in the land, but if there were those giants fled because they never encountered them. The reason they did not take the Promised Land was not because of the obstacles in the land, it was because of their own spirit. They had no vision and they had no faith and they had no courage. And consequently they went back into the wilderness and wandered for 40 years and every man and woman and boy and girl above 20 years of age died in the wilderness and they did not enter into the Promised Land except for two—Caleb and Joshua. And here the Lord gives to Joshua the supreme commendation of the Old Testament. He says that this man shall enter into the land and his descendants shall inherit the land because he had another spirit. 

What I am saying to you today is that we need the spirit of Caleb. Not the spirit of the 10 spies. Not the spirit of the children of Israel who soon became disheartened at the whole process. But rather, we need that spirit of Caleb who believed that God was in all of this, who believed that God would fight for him and for them, who believed that they could take the land and who urged the people to come and let us go up at once and take it for the Lord will give it to us. 

If we could have in our hearts that kind of spirit, then there is no limit to what we could do and what under God we ought to do in the years to come. 

What is the spirit of Caleb that we need? There are three things that mark it. First of all, we need eyes to see. Second, we need faith to believe. Third, we need courage to dare. 

Eyes to see, faith to believe, courage to dare—that marked the spirit of Caleb and that needs to mark the spirit of every last one of us followers of Jesus Christ today. 

1. We need eyes to see.

Now, progress always begins with vision. And Caleb was a man who had the eyes to see. I want you to understand that all of the spies who went into the Promised Land saw the same thing. That is to say, they all saw the fertile fields. They all saw the walled cities. They all saw the giants who inhabited the land. But while they all saw the same fields, the same cities, and the same people, they did not see the same thing. For Caleb and his friend Joshua were able to see beyond those obstacles and beyond those opponents and beyond those enemies and see the mighty hand of God at work. And they said to the children of Israel, “The Lord shall fight for us.” And they said that behind all of this they saw the hand of God. 

There are some people who look at God through their difficulties. But Caleb looked at his difficulties through God. And, dear friends, there is a vast difference between the two. You know a telescope used in the right way will bring a distant object closer to you. But if that telescope is used in the wrong way, if you look through the wrong end, it will take an object that is close at hand and will make it appear to be a long way off. It just depends on how you look at things. If you can look at things through the eyes of faith, if you can believe that God is in it, that God is with us, then there is no limit to what we might be able to do. 

I believe that God has brought us spiritually to a promised land. I believe that God is saying to us, “You need to take the land for me.” I believe he is saying, “This is no time to settle down. This is no time to relax. This is no time to get a fixation on the past. It is time to look forward and to move forward and if you have eyes to see, then you will know that the land is yours for the taking if you will have the heart to do it.” 

2. We need faith to believe.

We need eyes to see. We need faith to believe. Joshua and Caleb said, “We are well able to take it.” They saw the walled cities. They saw the giants of men. They saw all of these things, but they saw God. And when you see God it changes the picture and it gives to you the faith to believe it can be done. When a man does not see God, then every hill becomes a mountain and every fence becomes a wall, and every opponent becomes a giant. But when you see God behind it, he is able to turn mountains into molehills. He is able to make the walls and cities fall down. He is able to make the giants to flee and knowing that God is there gives us the courage and the faith to believe. 

Now, Caleb had more than just the ability to think positively. I believe in positive thinking. I try to practice it myself. I try to look for that in other people. But there is a vast difference between faith and positive thinking. Positive thinking is man-centered and faith is God-centered. Positive thinking is focusing on what we can do and faith is focusing on what God can do. And we need the spirit of a Caleb who said, “The Lord will give us the land. The Lord will fight for us, and thus we are well able to do it.” 

He was a man who not only had eyes to see, but he had the faith to believe that God was with him and that God would give the victory if they would move forward in faith. 

D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, scribbled in the margin of his Bible adjacent to the experience of Jesus feeding the five thousand, “If God be your partner, make no little plans.” And sometimes we are guilty of thinking too small. We need to stretch our hearts and our minds and our pocketbooks and our resources to do whatever God wants us to do and to be whatever God wants us to be for as with Israel of old, there is a promised land to be claimed. But it will be claimed only if we have a different spirit. If we have the spirit of a Caleb who had eyes to see and faith to believe. 

3. We need courage to dare.

One other thing that Caleb had was the courage to try. It is one thing to see. It is something else to believe. It is something else again to try. And this man Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and let us take it.” 

You can never accomplish anything great for yourself or for God without that element of risk, and risk demands courage to try. In California a friend gave me a quotation. He said one of his teachers in school told him once, “If you want to sail a big ship, then you have to get into deep water.” And Caleb was challenging Israel to move into deep water. Risk, changes, danger, all of that was there. But there was also the Promised Land of blessings waiting. And until Israel was willing to get into deep water, they would never be able to take the Promised Land of God. 

You know I am amazed, though I really shouldn’t be, by what God does. What God can do when we just have the courage to try. Several years ago I was asked by our State Convention to go to Brazil to visit the city of Rio de Janeiro and talk with them about our association, the Smith County Association, building a church in that city—buying the land, building a church, paying a pastor’s salary for three years. I made the visit and while I was there I became convinced that we ought to just build that church ourselves. Not to ask the other 50 churches in our association to join with us, but just do it ourselves. So on the flight back home from Rio I jotted down the names of three people in our church whom I thought could pay for that church if they wanted to. The number one person on the list, so far as I knew, had never made a significant gift to this church. He may have been a tither. I don’t know about that. He may have given generously to a lot of other causes; I don’t know about that. But so far as I knew he had never made a significant one-time gift to the church. I put his name on the list. I prayed about it, folded it up, and put it in my pocket and came on home. This was a Saturday afternoon that I flew in. I came by the church office as I usually do. I took that note out of my pocket, pitched it in the box on my desk, and left it there. 

The next day was Sunday and I stood here before you as I am today and I shared that need and that challenge with our congregation. And I said, “We need somebody to pay a pastor’s salary and we need a building built. May God will lay that on the hearts of some of you.” And so when the service was over, some of the people came to me and they said, “We would like to give a certain amount of money to pay a pastor’s salary. We want to give some money to buy that land.” And before the day was over we had a large part of the salary pledged and the land paid for and nobody said anything about the building. 

On Wednesday I got a telephone call from a couple in our church. The man said, “My wife and I need to come by and see you. It is pretty important.” I thought maybe they were having some problems in their family. So we arranged a time. And they came by to visit and after we had chatted for a while the man said, “We have been thinking about this and praying about this and the Lord has laid it in our heart that we ought to give the money to build that church in Brazil.” I reached over in that box on my desk and I picked up that piece of paper I had placed in there on Saturday night before. I unfolded it and I laid it out in front of him and I said I want you to see the first name on the list. Guess whose name it was. It was his name. 

And I was impressed again that God is at work in this world. Not just in this world, but he is at work in you, in your hearts, in your lives. He impresses us about certain things. I had told no one about the list. I had no reason to believe that that man would ever give that money, except that I knew he had it. But somehow what God had impressed on my heart, he also impressed on the heart of that man. And he made the gift possible and that church in Brazil is thriving and prospering to this very day, preaching the Gospel and winning people to Jesus Christ because a church like this one had the courage to try. 

What I am saying to you is that there is almost no limit to what God can do if we have eyes to see, faith to believe, and courage to try. 

Danny Kaye said that he saw a vacant store sometime ago that had a sign in the window that said this, “We undersold everybody, including ourselves.” The biggest danger we face is that we might undersell ourselves as the people of God. And we might spend all of our energy trying to not make mistakes. That we might get a fixation on something we have done in the past and not be willing to change and to launch out into the future. And if we ever do that we will undersell ourselves because we are the people of God and we work not with our own resources, but with his. May God give to us men and women and young people who have another spirit, the spirit of Caleb who dared to go forward. 

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Paul W. Powell - www.PaulPowellLibrary.com

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