At Ease In The Land Of Giants

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Over the last several months I’ve been a participant in a missions coaching course. Now, as we get to the nitty-gritty and think about what the possibilities and opportunities might be for our church to be more effective in reaching those who have yet to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the task looks daunting—at least as far as the big picture, the need around the world, is concerned. The specific interest rising to the surface in our discussion seems to be to reach those people who are the most difficult (even dangerous) of all to reach, and those who live in countries to which we have limited, or no, access.

Throwing in the towel and concentrating on something easier seems to be an option here. Who are we to think we can make much of a difference under such challenging circumstances? Then Numbers 13 came up on the schedule for this morning’s Scripture reading.

Ever have that moment when the Lord taps you on the shoulder to remind you of something important? Here it is.

Moses sent out the twelve spies to explore the land of Canaan. They were to report back on their findings and bring back samples of the abundance in the land (13:17-20).

You know what happened.

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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak [giants] there…We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…The land we explored devours those living in it….We see like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them’” (13:27, 28, 31-33).

Sounds like…?

Then Caleb, one of the twelve, stepped up and said: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (13:30). Joshua, another of the twelve, stood with him.

What made the difference between these two and the other ten? They had all gone on the same exploratory mission and had all observed the same things. Caleb and Joshua, both seasoned warriors, were not naive. They knew the task was daunting. But they saw something else beside giants and fortified cities. They saw God. They remembered the promises He had made. And they believed that in following His orders to take the land that their God would deliver it—not because they were stronger or bigger than those who opposed them—but because their God was greater than all the obstacles that could be placed in their path.

We know that this particular generation of Israelites refused to enter the land and trust God to deliver it to them. They lost out, dying in the wilderness without ever seeing the promise fulfilled.

I am praying that we, as a church, will not suffer the same consequences. I am praying that we will believe and obey even though the task looks bigger than we are. It is! But our God is greater. As the prophet Zachariah once said: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). That makes the impossible, possible.

I was also reminded of the famous words (borrowed, I believe, but none the less true) of one of our veteran missionaries in the province of Quebec, Bill Phillips, when he asked us what the best approach was to eating an elephant. The answer? One bite at a time.

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