Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Anyone can praise God when they can see the outcome. If they can see a good outcome and say, “Oh, praise God. Isn’t God good?” that doesn’t take faith. It takes faith to praise God when you can’t see a good outcome.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

There are plenty of things all around you that can cause fear. You can dwell on those fears today, or you can cultivate faith. Nancy will show you how in this series, "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 3): Trusting God for the Promised Land." We’ll be studying the life of Joshua in several teaching series from now through November.  Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I think we’ve all known people who seem to flounder in their Christian life. You look back over a period of years and they seem to deal with the same issues, the same struggles year after year. They never seem to make much real progress.

That’s a burden. That’s a concern. That’s a frustration for them and sometimes if you’re trying to disciple or help a person like that, you say, “Why don’t they get it?”

Then you have other people who are growing spiritually. They’re maturing spiritually. They become more fruitful. They’re becoming conformed to Christ.

What makes the difference? Why do some flounder and why are some fruitful? We want to look at another incident in the life of Joshua and the Children of Israel starting today and over the next several days. This is one of the most familiar accounts that relates to the life of Joshua. Let me summarize it for you here and then we’re going to take the next several days to plumb into some of the depths of this passage.

It’s a story that we read about in Numbers 13 and 14. Turn to Numbers 13 so you can be ready to follow along there. Let me give you an overview. Do you remember when the Children of Israel got ready to go into the Promised Land, they came to a place called Kadesh? Sometimes it’s called Kadesh-barnea, same place.

They sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan to see what the land was like and to come back and give a report. When they came back, ten had a negative report and said, “It’s a great land but there are giants in the land. We can’t do this.” They discouraged the people of God from going into the land.

There were two of those twelve whose names were Joshua and Caleb who had a minority report and they said, “Yes, there are giants. Yes, there are issues. But God is with us and we can do this. We can take the land.”

Remember how the people sided with the majority report, ended up rebelling against God and ended up wandering in the wilderness for forty years until that whole adult generation had died off. Of all those hundreds of thousands of adults who stood at Kadesh-barnea and looked into the Promised Land, only two, Joshua and Caleb, lived to go into the Promised Land.

That’s the nutshell version. That’s a story we’re all familiar with. But I want us to unpack that story just a piece at a time and see what we can learn for our lives. We first read this account in Numbers chapter 13 and 14. It’s a passage that’s easy to skip over because we’re so familiar with it. But this account is recorded at least four other times in the Scripture.

There’s a repeat reference to it in Numbers chapter 32. There’s a reference in Deuteronomy 1, another in Psalm 95 and then Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 go back to this very same experience. There are approximately 160 verses in the Bible that are devoted to this one incident.

The more I studied it, the more I thought, This is important. God repeated this in the Scripture multiple times because there are some really important lessons we need to learn, things we need to understand about the heart and ways of God. So we’re going to park here for several days and meditate on this event. There are important insights into the life of Joshua and into the Christian life as we get into this story.

I want to say that God has used this account in my own life in a fresh way in the last several weeks as I’ve been studying it. It has helped me to understand; it has shed some light for me on a very difficult time of struggle that I went through in our ministry not too long ago. I may share some bits and pieces of that along the way with you as we get into this story.

But as we jump into this passage, let’s first pray and ask God to open our eyes and our understanding.

Lord, I want to thank You for how You’ve used this familiar passage to shed a whole new light in my own heart over these past days. I pray that You would teach us by Your Spirit, that You would instruct us, that You would open our eyes and our hearts and change us because of what You show us of Your heart and Your ways in this passage. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now again to set some context here, you realize that the Children of Israel had recently been delivered out of slavery in Egypt where they had been for 400 years. They came out of Egypt, they went across the Red Sea, they went into the wilderness down to Mount Sinai where they spent eleven months getting the law of God, and God was getting them ready to go into the land.

But God’s goal was not for them to be in Egypt. It was not for them to stay in the wilderness. It was not for them to stay at Mount Sinai. Where was God wanting to take them? To Canaan, to the Promised Land, the land that He had promised hundreds of years earlier to give to His people.

God had told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I’m going to give you a land.” This was the land. God’s goal was to get the people into the land. The desert was just part of the journey to get from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was a place of abundance, a place of rest. It was a homeland. That was the goal.

And God has a goal for us as Christians. He didn’t intend for us to stay in slavery to sin or to self. He doesn’t intend for us to wander around in wilderness experiences, though there may be some of those that God ordains for purposes of training and maturing us. But God’s goal is to get us to the Promised Land.

The Promised Land is not heaven. Heaven will be the ultimate Promised Land. We are promised that land. But there is a Promised Land for us here on this earth. It’s a place of spiritual freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ—the whole reason Revive Our Hearts exists—calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

This is the place God intends to take us. He doesn’t want us to stay wandering around in the wilderness or in bondage to our sin. He wants to get us to Canaan.

The Children of Israel had traveled south from Egypt to Mount Sinai, which is in the southern portion of the Sinai peninsula. After eleven months there, they journeyed north to Kadesh-barnea, which is right at the southern border of the Promised Land.

They can see it. They can taste it. They can smell it. They can touch it. It is right there! They are right on the border of where God has been intending to take them.

From Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea—Mount Sinai where the law was given, to Kadesh right at the border of the Promised Land—is 150 miles or so. According to Deuteronomy 1, this is an eleven-day journey on foot. But that journey—they come to Kadesh but they end up being in and around Kadesh and not getting into the Promised Land for another thirty-eight years.

God intended they go from Sinai to Kadesh and into the Promised Land, an eleven-day journey; they should have been in. Why did it take them another thirty-eight years before they got in?

Numbers 13 and 14 tell us the story. It tells us why it happened to them that they ended up wandering for an unnecessary thirty-eight years, never really making progress, going in circles, never getting into the Promised Land. It also tells us why it happens to so many of us in our Christian lives.

Look at verse 1 of Numbers 13.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them." So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, [which is where Kadesh is located] according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel (Num. 13:1–3).

When I first started studying the life of Joshua some months ago, I came to this account and it sounded to me (what I had always assumed to be the case) that this was God’s idea, that God was the one who initiated sending the twelve spies into Canaan. But as I was studying I learned something that I had not ever thought about before.

When you come to Deuteronomy chapter 1 a generation later, Moses is reviewing this period of history for the Israelites and in his retelling of this account, he gives additional insight into what actually happened. Listen to this passage from Deuteronomy 1. Moses says,

Then we set out from Horeb, [or Mount Sinai] and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said to you, "You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 1:19–22).

So Moses is saying, “When we got from Sinai to Kadesh, I told you what God had told me to tell you and that is, ‘The land is yours. Go in and take it.’”

Then he says, verse 22,

Then all of you came near me and said, "Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.”

Get the picture. Here they are, right on the border of the Promised Land. God says, “It’s yours. Go in and take it. I’ve given it to you.” But rather than taking God’s word for it and going in to take possession of the land, the people go to Moses and say, “Whoa. We’re not ready. First let’s send in some men to explore the land and tell us what it’s like.”

The evidence here is that they were hesitant to step out and obey God. God said, “You don’t need to see the land. Sight unseen. I’m telling you it’s a good land. I’m telling you there are enemies there. But I’m telling you I am sending you in to take possession.”

And they said, “We’re not ready.”

I think they were afraid. Moses had said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed.”

And they said, “We’re not ready. First send in these twelve men.” They were afraid of the unknown. They were afraid of what they couldn’t see.

So they were saying in effect, “We don’t want to walk by faith. We want to walk by sight. We have to get our questions answered. We have to see all our facts for ourselves. Then we’ll decide what to do.”

That was their first major mistake. They made a lot of major mistakes down the road. But the first one was sending in these twelve spies, which they didn’t need to do. God had already told them, “You can go in. You can take over the land.” They chose to walk by sight rather than by faith.

The sin wasn’t that they wanted to prepare for the conquest. It wasn’t planning and making preparations. The sin was in a heart of fear and unbelief that prompted them to test the waters rather than taking the plunge. It was really a control issue.

Isn’t that true for us so many times? God says, “Do this. Go there. Do that.” God has clear direction in His Word. He has led us. We know what He wants us to do. But we say, “Let me put one foot in the water. I’m not ready to take the dive. I’m not ready to take the plunge. Let me check it out. Let me check out the details. Let me see what’s going to be involved. Let me plan it out.”

When you put the two passages together, the one we’re looking at in Numbers 13 with the parallel passage, you see that God acquiesced to their demand. God condescended to their lack of faith. God said, “You want to send in twelve spies? Go ahead. Send in men to do that.” God let them have their way.

But it was at great cost. It proved to be the first step in a downward spiral that ended up with their wandering in the wilderness for forty years. That whole generation never made it into the Promised Land at all, never.

What has God directed you to do that requires faith? But before moving forward you felt, “I’ve got to test the waters. I’ve got to take a poll. I’ve got to do some research. Can we afford to have more children? How will . . . ? What if He doesn’t . . .” Planning this out, plotting this out. Lord, I’ve got to see before I can step forward.

I’m not talking about moving forward foolishly here. There’s a time to check out facts. There’s a time to count the cost. There’s a time to evaluate the wisdom of a decision. But once God has given direction, it’s time to move forward even without being able to see how it’s all going to work out.

If we could see how it’s all going to work out, we wouldn’t need faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. That’s what the writer to Hebrews says in chapter 11, verse 6. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

The step of faith for the Israelites at this point would have been when God said, “Go in and take the land,” they would have said, “Okay, God, we’re going. We can’t see. We don’t know who is in there. We don’t know what we’re going to face. But You have sure led us every step of the way to this point. You have proved Yourself faithful and we know that You will be faithful as we go in. So here we go.”

It’s not foolishness when God has given you the direction. It would have been foolishness for them to do on their own apart from His direction. But God had said, “Go take the land.” I believe that step at Kadesh was the time when God intended them to go right from there into Canaan.

The twelve spies—that was not God’s original plan. God gave into it, but it proved to be a very costly decision because the report that came back was such that it terrified the Children of Israel. As a result of that report, they just decided not to go in.

Continuing in Hebrews 11, we’re talking about faith. You see this thing of faith relating to things that we can’t see. Verse 7 of Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen.” What was that? Rain. They’d never seen rain and God says there’s going to be a flood that’s going to destroy the earth.

Noah was warned by God about events that he had never seen before. Noah could not picture in his wildest dreams what a flood would look like. We can picture it because we’ve got it on afghans and puzzles and pictures. But Noah couldn’t picture that.

But God warned him, and so in reverent fear he constructed an ark for the saving of his household. He spent 120 years building a boat to weather a storm when he had never seen rain. That’s faith.

Verse 8 of Hebrews 11: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

God said, “Go.”

Abraham said, “You’re God. I’m going.” That took faith, and that is what pleases God.

So what direction has God given us that takes faith? God says, “Forgive not just once, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Does that take faith? We say, “I want to see first if they’re going to be repentant, if they’re going to turn around.”

God says, “No, take it by faith and forgive and love your enemies.” That takes faith.

God says, “Wives, reverence your husband.”

You say, “I will after I see if he’s going to be respectful or if he’s going to change.”

No. God says, “You step out in faith. Don’t send the spies in. Don’t try to figure this out. Don’t try to plot it out first. Step out in faith and do what I’ve told you to do.”

God says, “Be faithful to your mate till death do you part.” Does that take faith at times? There are women in this room who have had to walk by faith through a difficult season in your marriage when you could not see how it was going to work out or whether he was ever going to change. Maybe you still can’t see.

But by faith you’ve said, “Lord, it’s Your Word. I will do this even though I can’t see how it’s going to work out.”

God’s Word says, “Rejoice always. In all things give thanks.”

And we say, “Well, I will as soon as I figure out how this is going to work out or how this is going to end up or how I’m going to solve this problem.”

God says, “No. Before you figure all that out, before you can see My provision, before you can see where your next check is going to come from, before you can see how you’re going to pay for your kid’s tuition, you trust Me and rejoice and give thanks in all things.”

That’s praising God by faith. And by the way, anyone can praise God when they can see the outcome. If they can see a good outcome and say, “Oh, praise God. Isn’t God good?” that doesn’t take faith. It takes faith to praise God when you can’t see a good outcome.

God says, “Give the first part of your increase to the Lord.”

And we say, “Before I tithe or before I give my tithes and offerings, I want to see if I’ll have enough left over to pay my bills.” That’s not faith.

God says, “Step out. Don’t pull out your ledger. Don’t try to figure it out. Do it. Give it.” Step out. Step out into the faithfulness of God. Don’t say, “We’ve got to search it all out or check it all out or figure it all out in advance.”

God says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about anything. Be filled with the spirit.” All those things take faith.

It takes faith in other life issues. It takes faith to say, “I do” at the altar and to make a commitment. We’ve got a lot of people today who are afraid of making a commitment, afraid of whether it’ll work out. This whole multiple divorce and multiple generations of divorce era, that’s a scary thing for people today.

They didn’t see their parents’ marriage work and they say, “Can our marriage work?” Well, if it’s just two human beings, probably not. There’s a good chance it won’t work. But if it’s two human beings and God at the head, yes, it can work. You step out by faith and say, “I do.”

For some women it takes faith when they find that they’re expecting a child later in life and every OB/GYN is telling them, “You shouldn’t have this child. You’re too old.” They read you a list of all the things that can and they think likely will go wrong with this child.

By the time they’re done reading the list they say, “Do you want to terminate this pregnancy?” That’s the pressure, isn’t it, in our culture? If you’re over a certain age or you’ve got a certain background, it takes faith to say, “No, God opened my womb and gave me this child, and I will have this child for the glory of God.”

It takes faith to step out and use your gifts in ministering to others, hospitality, discipling younger women. Maybe God is calling you to step out in faith and be in vocational Christian service.

You say, “But how will I provide for my family? How will our needs be met?” We want to send out the spies. We want to see all the fine print before we make a commitment.

Do you know what we really want to do? We want to be in control, and we want to eliminate all risk. We don’t want to have to be out there where, if God doesn’t come through, we’re doomed to failure. We want enough of a limb that we feel comfortable if God doesn’t come through; we’ve got padding. We’ve got a comfort zone. We’ve got extra that will cover us or carry us through.

God says, “No. Step out so far that if I don’t come through, you are doomed to failure.”

So we justify our lack of faith by convincing ourselves that we’re just being cautious. God says, “Step out. Step out in faith to obey. Go in and take possession of the land.”

Let me say if you’re thinking of stepping out and doing something that others are questioning, remember that God will never, ever lead you to do anything that is contrary to His Word. So if you think God is calling you to step out and leave your marriage, that is not God’s will. That is not God speaking to you.

God will never lead you contrary to His Word.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing what a life of vibrant faith looks like. It’s not always safe by the world’s standards, but it is satisfying. Nancy will be back to pray with us.

Bad news comes to you all the time. You look around the world or even around your own home and you’ll see plenty of areas that might elicit fear. Instead of focusing on the bad news, would you fill your mind with God’s truth?

We’d like to send you a booklet called Promises to Live By. It will remind you of incredibly good news about God, the world, and your life. It’s filled with promises from Scripture. When you dwell on these instead of the headlines, you’ll find yourself saying “no” to fear and “yes” to faith.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say thanks by sending you Promises to Live By. We’ll be making that offer through the end of next week, so don’t delay supporting the ministry. We’ll send one booklet per household, but of course you can order additional booklets as well. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Promises to Live By when you call 1–800–569–5959.

It’s never too late to act in faith no matter how old you are and no matter what has happened in the past. Nancy will bring you that encouraging message tomorrow. Now she’s back to wrap things up.

Nancy: As we close this session, let me ask if there is perhaps something that you know God is wanting you to be doing, something He wants you to step out in faith and do, some part of His Word He wants you to obey, some venture He wants you to launch into. You’ve been afraid. You’ve been holding back and resisting and saying, “Let me check this out first.”

God may let you check it out as He let the Israelites send those spies into Canaan. But what you hear when you check it out may be such that it will discourage you and keep you from ever going in to take over the land.

Is there some area of your life where you need to just say, “Right now, Lord, by faith I will step out. I will go without knowing, wherever You may lead.”

Thank You, Lord, that You do know the way and You do lead. Help us to know Your Word, to seek out Your will and Your ways and then not to fear, not to be dismayed but to go in and possess the land. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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