April 23, 2012

Step Up: Caleb Taking the Promised Land

When people are faced with something requiring change they respond in different ways. Some people jump right in and run headlong into the changes. Some dig in their heels and say, I will never change! Most of people find ourselves somewhere in the middle.

A group of researchers observed that when an organization is faced with change people responded in one of four ways. These are not political or religious definitions...they are typologies of people as they face change.

Let me give you the four and then explain them.

1. Revolutionaries-emotionally committed to change. If it is stable...they want to blow it up and create change. A stable system is antithetical to their nature. They are constantly seeking to change and change things around them. They have a million ideas about things to do and change.

2. Progressives-committed to change. They lean in the direction of changing things, but want to plan in a rational way how that will take place. They don’t need or have all the details, but recognize the need and the necessity of change and work toward it.

3. Conservatives-resistant to change. They lean in the direction of non-change, but they can be won over with the facts. These are the people who ask the questions like: Why? How are we going to pay for it? What is going to happen? How are going to deal a certain situation?

4. Reactionaries-emotionally committed to not changing. No amount of convincing will work. Things have always been done this way so that’s good enough for them. When they are forced to change they keep harkening back to the “good ole days.”

Revolutionaries and Reactionaries seem rational, but they are not...and both are usually shouting the loudest and complaining the most. Revolutionaries want to change everything and change it constantly, and complain when change isn’t happening. Reactionaries want everything to stay the same no matter what, and complain when things change. One extreme makes it impossible to exist because things are in turmoil and the other almost requires a disconnect from the reality because change does eventually happen.

Most people reside somewhere in the middle. They are either Progressives and lean toward change, or they are Conservatives and lean toward non-change.

Rich Nathan says,
As a Pastoral leader you want to push progressives to the front of leadership while listening to the conservatives because they point out the problems in your plan. You also have to have an ear for the revolutionaries, who will have some great ideas, while dragging the reactionaries behind, because they will never change.
Sometimes, something happens and people are pushed out of the group they would regularly function out of and into one of the other groups...usually in the direction of non-change.

Larry Osbourne, a pastor in California, says once a person states an opinion in front of a large crowd they are less likely to change their position even if it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt they should change. By publicly announcing their belief they have become emotionally committed to their stance and change is almost impossible at this point.

Fear of the unknown, sentimentality, and various external pressures can also cause people them to resist change.

We are currently in a message series titled: Step Up. We are looking at ordinary men and women of the Bible who simply stepped up and met the challenge God laid in front of them, and through their obedience advanced the Kingdom of God.

Today we are looking at a story in the Old Testament book of Number about a man named Caleb. The story may be familiar to some of us. It is the story of Moses sending 12 spies into the Promised Land as an advance team to scope things out; see what lay ahead...and how an entire community resisted the change required of them by God...disobeying His commands...and suffering some pretty tough consequences for their actions.

So let’s look at Numbers 13...we will also be looking at parts of Numbers 14.

Numbers 13:1-2; 17-33
 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.

 17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

 21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

 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.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

After 400 years in Egypt, God sends Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their slavery. It has been about two years since they left, but they have seen some pretty amazing stuff by this time. 10 Plagues, the opening of the Red Sea, The Cloud by day and the Fire by night that led them, water from a rock and manna from the sky, and now they are standing on the border of Canaan.

Scripture calls Canaan The Promised Land because in Genesis 12, God promised that one day He would give this land to Abraham’s descendants. It would be a land flowing with “milk and honey” and a place where they could be a settled people with their own land instead of wanderers and slaves. God would establish a Kingdom in their midst and be present with them. This was to be their Eden.

But as they stand there on the border, there is a lot to be considered. What are the people like? What kinds of food could they expect? What was the layout and how would they need to travel it? What challenges are they going to face?

In Numbers 13:2 God says, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.” Their report to the Moses and the Israelites was to answer the question of how they were going to go about fulfilling God’s desire of taking the land.

This wasn’t supposed to be a question of ARE they going into the Promised Land. This was supposed to be a question of HOW are they going to go about it. Because God had called them to take possession of the Promised Land. God had promised it to them, and when God promises He always delivers.

He is giving them the land...therefore it should have been a foregone conclusion that despite anything they saw...the land would be theirs. This doesn’t mean it would be easy, but it would be theirs. God placed the vision of their own land in front of them, and they stood on the edge of entering it.

God is in the business of placing visions, dreams, and Promised Lands in front of His people and challenging them to step up in obedience. In fact, God has place a Promised Land in front of each one of us.

He does this on both the corporate and individual level. He challenges every Church community to fulfill a vision to enter a Promised Land He has place in front of them.

We are called to establish a church in Huber Heights that loves and cares for people so they can take their next step closer to God. That is our call as a church. Our goal is that when people think of a church in Huber Heights they think of us because we have loved and served them in Jesus name and they know that God loves them because we love them.

After He challenges the Church, then He challenges each person in that community to use their gifting and skills to accomplish the vision and reach the Promised Land placed before them. Each of you have been given a skill, a gift, a calling that God wants to use to help this community reach its Promised Land.

He challenges each of us individually to make our life count...to do something significant with it. He lays in front of us a Promised Land, and then challenges us to enter it...with nothing more than a promise that He has given the land.

You would think that God’s promise would be enough, but we are human. God calling us to do something doesn’t seem to be enough for us. Just look at the Israelites. They saw the power of the 10 Plagues. They saw the the Red Sea opened and they walked through on dry ground while the Egyptians drowned as the sea closed around them. They saw water from a rock; manna appearing on the ground; a pillar of fire to protect, warm, and lead then at night; and a cloud to protect , cool, and lead them during the day.

You would think all of this would be enough for them to trust God when He says...Go, take the Land, I will be with you...and yet when they heard the report of the spies they were frightened.

In Numbers 13:27-29 the spies report to Moses, “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 there [These are the ancestors of Goliath]. 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.”

For the Israelites the opposition spoke louder than God’s call to take the Land. They looked at the beauty and bounty of the Promised Land but trembled at the challenges and resistance. Rather than look at the power of God that had led them out of Egypt, they looked at the powerful armies, the fortified cities, the giant warriors of the land...and they feared.

When we are faced with the call of God we often shrink back. Maybe we didn’t really hear things correctly. Maybe it was just my own inner voice of desire. Maybe I was wrong or missed it.

The main culprit causing us to shrink back is the same problem the Israelites faced...resistance and opposition. Here is a truth we need to accept: Whenever you are involved in something significant for the Kingdom of God there is going to be resistance. Always!

When things are going good, it is easy to believe that God has called us...that we are headed in the right direction...that yes, this is the Promised Land we were supposed to enter. But when resistance comes...that is when the doubts come and our resolve most tested.

In the early months of this church, we planned for the day when we would have our first services. We prayed. We knew it was God’s plan for us to start this church. And then leading up to the first service...things began to happen. Sickness. Broken down cars. Rebellious kids getting into trouble. One facility became unavailable to us. We faced resistance. At every major step along the way...every significant move we have made as a church has been surrounded with spiritual warfare and resistance.

The Israelites faced armies and fortified cities, for those of us in the American culture we face a different kind of opposition. There are all kinds of opposition, but there are three big forms of opposition that keep from entering the Promised Land. They are comfort, security, and safety.

Comfort and security have been lifted to almost divine status in our culture, and it shows up in the questions we ask. Will my life have to change in order to accomplish this? I won’t have to give up anything will I? I won’t have to go out of my way or be inconvenienced to accomplish this?

When some are challenged and it makes them uncomfortable, or requires them to alter their comfortable life, or asks them to sacrifice...they resist...especially when it comes close to the bank account. How will I make money? What about my future? I really like my life and standard of living.

Safety is also a form of opposition. We live in the most safety conscious culture ever! There was a day when nobody wore a seatbelt...and we really need seatbelts...but now we talk of these safety things as though they ought to be a guarantee that no one will be injured. Listen to those around you when you start talking about serving the poor and broken....when you mention the kinds of people you serve...and the questions of safety come up. Things will be safe, won’t they. I don’t want to put my family in danger.

In following God’s will we don’t want to do anything stupid, but following God is not safe or comfortable or secure to begin with. Do you know why the church has grown so much through the centuries? Because God’s people cared more about God’s will and loving their neighbor than they cared for their own safety, security and comfort. In the Middle Ages, while others were fleeing the poverty and the plague infested areas...Christians were going into those areas to care for the dying and comfort them.

One of the most powerful moments from 9/11 came as one news anchor reported on devastation and the terror that was taking place in New York City as the Towers fell. He was telling about the thousands of people fleeing in panic, and how the brave men and women of the police and fire departments were rushing toward all the devastation. Then He mentioned that large groups of priests and nuns were also rushing toward the devastation to comfort and pray with people along the way.

If we want to accomplish God’s will...if we want to enter the Promised Land laid out before us...we have to overcome the resistance and push forward in obedience. We must press forward to claim the territory God has for us.

Only two men, Joshua and Caleb, were willing to trust God. Only they had the courage to believe that in spite of all the opposition and difficulties that might lay ahead they could take the Land because God had said they could. Numbers 13:30 says, “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.’”

Caleb is the standout here. Joshua had become the right-hand man for Moses. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that he would stand with Moses. But Caleb was on his own.

Their fear pushed the Israelites into disobedience. We see here in Numbers 13 & 14 that they went after anyone who stood in their way. Their fear took over and they spread a bad report about the land. They grumbled and complained against their God appointed leaders, they looked back fondly at their years in Egyptian slavery, talked about choosing another leader who would do what they wanted, and then wanted to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. That is some serious disobedience.

In the face of this kind of opposition...what was it that allowed Caleb to stand so strongly for God. In Numbers 14:24 God says, “...because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”

That is what allows us to step up for God when the Promised Land lays ahead of us. We must have a different spirit...we must follow after God wholeheartedly. For Caleb it was never a question of NOT going into the Promised Land. He knew there would be resistance and they would face opposition...but God had said go take the land. Caleb believed God.

Because of their disobedience the Israelites were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. For the next 40 years, these men and women suffered the consequences of their disobedience. Caleb, even though he had stood for God, had to suffer through 40 years in the desert alongside these people.

There are real consequences when we refuse to enter the Land God calls us to enter, and those consequences affect the people around us. When we withhold ourselves...when we resist...when we refuse to go where God is leading...there are consequences.

There is a word here for many local churches. I have seen church after church resist the call of God to take the Land He is calling them to take...I have seen Christians resist the call of God to take the land...to take part in a ministry to serve...and when the pastor or leadership attempts to lead them there they turn on them...talk of replacing them...speak horrible things about their pastors and leaders...leave the church because they “aren’t being fed”...but ultimately they are resisting God and being disobedient.

Our disobedience only hurts us. God will still accomplish His will...His Kingdom will come...The Promised Land will be taken, but our disobedience keeps us from being part of it.

For me on a personal level and for the leadership team of this church, our ultimate prayer is for God to lead us and that we would be willing to sacrifice, to follow, to face any opposition to see God’s Kingdom come here in Huber Heights. There is a Promised Land ahead of us as a church.

The question is How are we going to respond to God’s call on our lives to enter the land in front of us?

Social Psychologist divide our responses into the 4 typologies of Revolutionaries, Progressives, Conservatives, and Reactionaries. These are helpful categories...but Scripture looks at the ultimate outcome and defines it in terms of obedience to God’s Will. Scriptures asks us if we willing to obey and take the territory to which God calls us as a Church and as Individuals?

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