Remember the story of the twelve spies? You know. The dudes who were sent out by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. It goes something like this: The Israelites were in the desert after escaping Egypt by the skin of their teeth. They were wandering around in the heat and the dust searching for their next water source. Kids were crying. Bugs were biting. Sunburns were stingy. The Lord had promised the land of Canaan to their father Abraham. People murmured, “Is that where He’s taking us? Could this be it? The promise now fulfilled?”
So what do you do when you are standing on the doorstep of your destiny? Enter the first ever search committee. Caleb, man of action, says, “What do we need to spy for? It’s ours. Let’s just go for it.” The others are nervous. They want to make sure. So they pow wow and decide to first evaluate what they’re up against. Caleb rolls his eyes. “I don’t care what we’re up against. I know in my bones that this is it. And the time is now.” But he’s out-voted. They send out the twelve spies and they come back each with evidence that proved their initial conclusions. (Isn’t that so like us? We like the research that proves we’re right.) Two spies, Caleb and Joshua, say, "Let's go for it. God will be with us," but the other ten succumb to fear. And fear wins the day. And all of the Israelites are forced to wander in the desert for another 40 years. That's a lot more bug bites. And a lot more sunburns.
I used to think that the Promised Land was sparkling wine, pure ease, fans and reclining and grapes and all that…or as they said, “milk and honey”—a Paradise just waiting for the Israelites to pass the faith test, like a reward for good behavior or right believing or enough faith. And since they collectively failed the faith test, they were punished by having to die in the desert.
But now I see it differently. The spies all saw the exact same things. They had the same data. They had the same stimuli hitting their five senses. But the ten and the two still somehow came to radically different conclusions. They all saw risk, but one group assumed utter failure, while the others saw promise and success and glory. God wasn't keeping goodness from them as punishment. He was protecting them from what their own fear would have done to them…and to the so-called Promised Land.
We know the Promised Land wasn’t on a silver platter. It wasn’t going to be effortless. There was work to be done. Hard work. We see this in the book of Joshua. The best kind of gifts have to be seen as they can be—as they will be—with lots of hard work and love. Just like having a baby and raising a family. Anything seen this way can become a blessing. And vice versa, anything that may be intended as a gift has the potential to become what fear projects upon it.
This is true of marriage, kids, career, influence, or whatever Promised Land we desire to enter. How it plays out all depends on whether we courageously go after our Promised Land with faith or whether we harbor a heart that seeks excuses. When we see with faith, we won't be put off by hard work. We will be fueled by it. But fear excuses and justifies itself. When bad things happen, it says I told you so. It fulfills its own negative prophecy. Fear is anti-faith. It creates false realities and attracts negative circumstances. The reason the Israelites didn't enter the Promised Land was because they chose to partner with Fear instead of with Faith. The Promised Land wan’t inside them first.
Did you know that Faith actually works? Faith is so foundational to the way the universe works that even if you don't know that God sees you and has real affection for you, when you operate with Faith, doors will open. Things will happen. Resources will flow toward you. Opportunities will greet you. There are countless stories floating out there proving this principle. Faith is a magnet for goodness. It attracts wisdom, revelation, favor, blessing, increase, and breakthrough. Of course, there may be danger and threat and odds against you, but something in you knows to reject those things, to see past those things, to believe in something deeper at work that will turn it into good. There was that something in Caleb and Joshua that saw the promise despite the obstacles.
So, how do we do it? How do we get eyes of faith? It’s easy to take our temperature and say, I don’t feel like a Caleb, therefore I must not have what it takes. I must be like one of the ten spies and my Promised Land will always be out of reach. I believe at the very heart of this issue is a heart issue (haha). We all have to ask ourselves the question, What do we want? Seriously. Pause for a moment and consider that question: What do you want? Find words for your answer. Write it down. Be honest with yourself. Your first answer might be nice and polite. Challenge yourself with this follow-up question: Really? Is that really what you want? For example, a first response may be, “I want to make lots of money and have an easy retirement?” Really? Is that really what you want? I’m not knocking anyone’s dream here. But a dream, a desire, a calling, needs a bit more meat on it than, “money” or “ease.” How many people has money made miserable? Or ease made listless and depressed? Lots. There’s got to be a healthy combination of challenge and desire to make you feel alive. That gets you up in the morning. At our very core, we all want something. We all have dreams. The question is, how do we go after them? By Faith. Ok. But how do we get Faith?
The Bible talks about Faith as a gift and as something we steward. So,
Step 1, Ask for it. Ask to see the world as it could be, as it should be. And then go after whatever role you want to play in building that world. Literally. What part lights you up?
Step 2, Keep it. In other words, when circumstances challenge to snuff out that faith or overwhelm you, just…don’t…let…go. Put one foot in front of the other. And keep moving.
Step 3, Work it. Go back to school. Put in the hours and the sweat and move that thing incrementally forward. You will get there.
Step 4, Talk it up. Talk to yourself and to God. Keep reminding yourself of the vision and talk to God about steps along the way. He will guide you. He will not leave you.
Step 5, Be Patient. The bigger the vision, the longer it should take. When we’re really in our right minds, we wouldn’t want it any other way. We don’t want our kids to grow up fast. There are so many moments in the not-quite-there-yet journey that we ought to linger in. Life is a beautiful, long and steady adventure. Besides, it makes for a better story.
Step 6, Rinse and Repeat. Ask for more faith and repeat steps 2 through 5.
So be encouraged. You are a Caleb. You are a Joshua. You see the vision. You know in your heart there is a Promised Land. And you know God is with you. I give you permission to go for it!