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D  E  V  O  T  I  O  N  A  L

BY EDWIN COOK

OD HAS CALLED US, SEVENTH-DAY Adventists, out of the world by the preaching of the three angels' messages and has promised to lead us to the Promised Land of heaven. What lessons in faith can we learn from the experience of ancient Israel? Numbers 13 and 14 provide several hints.

Of the 12 spies Moses sent out to assess the challenge facing the nation, only Caleb and Joshua brought back a positive report. The other 10, as we know, brought "an evil report" to Moses and the people (Num. 13:32).

Upon hearing the account of the 10, Caleb quickly realized that the hope of taking the land now depended on the response of the people, and that it was crucial for him to counteract the damaging testimony they'd just heard. It was a decisive moment. Caleb well knew the first principle of faith--that "without faith it is impossible to please . . . [God]" (Heb. 11:6).

In the spirit of faith, therefore, "Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess [the land]; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num. 13:30).

A Time to Speak
In our walk with Christ, precious victories often hang in the balance, and the way we respond to God's leading in our lives determines the outcome. When God speaks, we should respond with the same spirit of faith that characterized Caleb. Paul tells us, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13).

Has God promised you eternal life? Yes, He has! (1 John 5:11, 12). Then by faith resist the devil when he comes to you with doubts that you are too sinful to inherit salvation and heaven's Promised Land. Claim the promises of God in your heart and give expression to your faith by speaking out the Word of God. As Paul states, we believe "with the heart," but it's "with the mouth [that] confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10).

Are there occasions when our associates speak words of discouragement, or present temptations to lead us away from the path to the heavenly Canaan? At such moments it's important that we respond as did Caleb--with a word of faith. By the Word of God doubts are dispelled, temptations lose their strength, duty is made plain, and the devil flees. By speaking the Word of God in faith at the right time, the tide of battle between the forces of light and darkness may be turned so that defeat to the cause of God and the loss of souls can be averted.

Jesus aptly demonstrated this truth when He headed to Jairus' home to heal his sick daughter. As He was nearing the place, a company met Jairus with the message "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?" (Mark 5:35). The Scriptures state: "As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe" (verse 36). Before the negative words could fasten upon the mind of Jairus, Jesus immediately spoke words of faith to counteract their evil influence.

To speak a word of faith at the right moment is like bidding a higher price just as the auctioneer is saying, "Going once! Going twice! . . ." To speak a word of faith at the right moment is like standing in line at the airport and telling your spouse "I love you" right when the flight for your honeymoon has been rescheduled. To speak a word of faith at the right moment is like casting the only "nay" vote during a business meeting improperly determined to jeopardize the membership status of a wayward brother or sister. To speak a word of faith at the right moment is like speaking a word in favor of your pastor or conference leader in response to unjust criticism of them.

Seeing by Faith, Not by Sight
Although Caleb gave a faithful testimony and tried to persuade the people to venture forth in faith upon God's promises, the evil report of the 10 spies counteracted his efforts: "We came unto the land whither thou sentest us," they said, "and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. . . . And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" (Num. 13:27-33).

The 10 had stated conditions as they were in reality. They'd reported what they saw--but they lacked the element of true faith.

By contrast, Caleb (with Joshua) declared in the spirit of faith, "The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not" (Num. 14:7-9).


Questions for Reflection
or for Use in Your Small Group

1. How do you react when your future or that of your family is at stake and the odds seem stacked against you?

2. What strategies do you find most effective for confronting the "giants" in your life? How do you seek to share these strategies with others?

3. What aspects of the present article do you find most helpful for you at this particular stage of your Christian walk?

Faith born of God does not deny reality, but it does believe in the God who "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17). Such faith accepts adverse circumstances as opportunities for God to exercise His sovereign power on behalf of His believing children. Such faith sees hope in the worst situations of life. Such faith admits of no failure or defeat. Such faith enables us to be masters of circumstances, rather than allowing circumstances to master us. Such faith leads its possessor to exclaim, as did Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). Such faith comes only from God as a gift and is available to all who exercise it (Rom. 12:3).

But it comes with a price. Caleb and Joshua would have been stoned by the people had God not intervened on their behalf (Num. 14:10, 11).

Complete Consecration of Heart
During His dialogue with Moses regarding the rebellious nature of His people, God commended Caleb (and, by implication, Joshua also) for having a different spirit: "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" (verse 24). God saw in Caleb a man who took Him at His word and was willing to follow all that God commanded. In other words, Caleb had fully given his heart to the Lord.

True faith leads us to surrender ourselves fully into God's hands, believing that all that He commands is for our best good, and that all God has commanded, He will perform for His believing followers.

Have we fully surrendered our heart and life to God? Do we trust Him so fully as to believe that all His commands are for our eternal good? Do we follow God with all of our heart, so that duty is a delight and sacrifice a pleasure?

To all who, like Caleb, follow God fully, God has promised to bring into the Promised Land of heaven. Such persons show by their life of obedience (which is the fruit of true faith) that they can be entrusted with the gift of eternal life. Such persons show that by surrendering fully to God, their hearts are knit in close fellowship with the heart of God; that by a life of willing, joyful obedience they would not mar the purity and happiness of their heavenly home, nor cause a discordant note to sound among the heavenly inhabitants by complaining about God's requirements.

God had covenanted with Abraham to give his descendants the land of Canaan. But at the very borders of the Promised Land they became stricken with unbelief. Unbelief paralyzes the spiritual faculties of the soul and leads to disobedience. But faith frees us for proper action at the proper time. Said the apostle Paul, speaking to the church about the Lord: "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

God invites us to exercise true faith by accepting the gift of salvation He offers so freely and abundantly. At this moment let us cry out to Him in our hearts. He will hear and answer us in our time of need. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:13).

_________________________
Edwin Cook currently serves as chaplain at Uchee Pines Institute, Seale, Alabama.

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