Discouraged by Giants
Text: Num 13:17-33
Theme: Be courageous, God is with you.
Doctrine: Kingly office of Christ
Message: Be courageous, God is with you.
Discouraged by Giants
Have you ever seen the Disney cartoon The Brave Little Tailor? In it a tailor, Mickey Mouse, swats seven flies with one blow. He is so excited that he rushes all over his house, announcing this amazing feat to anyone within earshot. The people in the street are discussing the appearance of giants in their land, and are discussing just what to do about them when suddenly Mickey pokes his head out the window and yells, “I killed seven with one blow!” The people in the street think that he is talking about giants. Before he knows it, the townsfolk have all heard that he has killed seven giants with one blow.
The whole town begins to rejoice. They have now found the person they need to deal with the giants in their land. They rush into his workshop and carry him out on their shoulders, celebrating their good fortune at having such a brave person living in the town. Well, the rest of the cartoon deals with the funny situations Mickey gets himself into when the townsfolk pressure him to deal with the giants. He ends up sewing the giant's clothes together and tying him up so that he can be carried off to another land. Mickey did not want to face the giants, but his big mouth had gotten him into trouble.
Page 1: Israelites are afraid to do God's work.
The Israelites did not want to face the giants in the land of Canaan, either. They had sent out a chief from every tribe to scout that land, and bring back to the people the report they needed. Moses knew what the land looked like, God had told him. He knew it was a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey, good for livestock and crops. But he knew that the people wanted more than his word. They wanted to hear the report from people who had seen the land. So Moses picks a chief from each of the tribes of Israel. He sends a leader from each tribe so that the people will have to listen to them when they all return. He had just been opposed by his sister Miriam and Aaron, who wanted to take his place as leader. God intervened, and saved Moses, but he was not going to take any more risks. He wants to make sure he has enough authority over the people, so he sends these leaders to explore Canaan. As they were leaving the camp, Moses said a little prayer, praying that they would return with a favourable report.
They went out from the camp, and began travelling north. They had been camped in the Desert of Paran, and they approached the land of Canaan from the south east. They travelled for a couple of days before they came upon the more fertile area of the Negev, south of the Dead Sea. They came upon a wide area of fertile grassland. As they continued to walk north west, toward the Dead Sea, they wandered around, staring wide eyed at the abundance of crops and livestock which thrived on the hills surrounding the sea. They continued north and travelled along the Jordan River valley. As they approached the northern end of the sea, they came in contact with more people. There were cities, huge cities with tall, strong walls. They walked past well tended vineyards, producing grape clusters so large they had to be carried between two men on a pole. They ventured all the way up to the Sea of Galilee, and here they met something new. The people around this area were extraordinarily large. They were not simply tall, like Dutchmen, no it is suggested that they were around 10 feet tall. These people were literally giants. They stood almost twice as tall as the men exploring the land. Needless to say, it was rather hard for them to blend in. Everywhere they went, they stuck out like a sore thumb.
The men returned back to the camp to give their report to the people. After travelling for forty days, they were exhausted. They came back and reported to the people all that they had seen and experienced. “It was better than Egypt,” they said. “Everywhere we looked we saw hills covered in deep, lush grass. The people have established a wonderful system of agriculture. Everyone has a plot of ground which supports them and their families. They grow all sorts of things there. The crops are so big, we had to carry this grape cluster back on a pole. They grow pomegranates and figs. The land does flow with milk and honey, it is a great land to support crops and livestock. But, we don't stand a chance. The people there are powerful. They are obviously trained warriors. They have had the privilege of being able to settle, to build massive cities surrounded by walls. There is no way we can get into even the least of their cities. We do not have the strength. The land is fully populated, there are many people there. There is no way that our little nation could go up against the nations of the Amorites, the Jebusites, the Amelekites, and the Canaanites. You know what the worst part is? Some of these people aren't normal people either. The nations in the north are the descendants of Anak. They are so big, we felt like grasshoppers, and they treated us in the same manner. They paid no attention to us. They were not concerned that there were foreigners who were exploring their land. They were not in the least threatened by our presence, nor should they have been. We are about as useful against them as a bunch of bugs. Those people are giants, and there is no way we can beat them.”
Caleb and Joshua were the only ones who gave a different report. Caleb stood up and said, “Listen, we should go up and take possession of the land. God has promised it to us, so we can certainly do it.” But the rest of the people listened to the more “realistic” advice of the others. “These guys have their heads in the clouds,” they said. “They are simply not looking at the facts properly. They are not using their heads. We are faced with obstacles we cannot overcome. We cannot do as God asks.” The Israelites were faced with obstacles which seemed insurmountable to them, and so they were not willing to try.
Page 2: We are afraid to do God's work.
When we are faced with obstacles which seem insurmountable, often we are not willing to try. We look around at our community, and we see how Christ's presence is lacking. We see the money that the country makes of the pornography industry, and gambling, and it seems like we are losing the culture wars. We listen to the reports of horrible things happening in the world from the news anchors on our favourite station and throw our hands up in despair. We cry out to God and ask him, “Why have you allowed this to happen?” I can imagine him answering back, “Why have you? Why have you not done more to stop it? Why are you simply content to sit in your pew and watch the world walk away from me? Why are you putting all the blame on me?”
Why, indeed. Do we do it because we think we can't do anything? Do we do nothing because we are afraid to make the first move? We know we are right here, right now, because God wants us here. Just like Esther, God has brought us here for such a time as this. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, no random actions of chance. God guides everything for his purpose. He is our Lord, and master, and we are to follow his guidance. We are to go into the land, face our giants, and destroy them. We are to trust in God's promises and do our duty. But we are scared to enter the fray. We would rather sit in the desert of our existence, and watch the world go by. We would love to live in the land which God has promised us, but we are too scared to make the move.
One of the giants we face is our fear of rejection, which stands in the way of our evangelistm. We know people in our community who are not Christian, or do not attend Church regularly, and we do nothing. If we do get the courage to do anything, it turns into more of a confrontation than anything else. We must remember that the other person is not the enemy, they are not the giants we are to destroy. The giant is our own fear, our own distrust, our own apathy. We are to go the them in love, present them with the gospel and welcome them into fellowship. We are to present Jesus to them. He sat, ate and drank with sinners and outcasts. He touched those whom his culture had deemed as untouchable. He surrounded himself with the undesirables of the world. Do we have the guts to do the same? God has given us a job to do. He has told us to go and make disciples of all nations. But he also gave us a promise. He has promised that he will be with us, to the very end of the age. This is the promise we have to trust in. We have to trust that God will help us do that which he has called us to do.
Our fear of evangelism is just one of many giants which keep us from doing God's work. Another giant may be our desire for more wealth at all costs, another our desire to 'fit in' with the culture, another our own sinful natures as we find ourselves giving it to the same temptation over and over again. Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Millions have been there before you, and have made it through. God has made a way through our temptations. He has been with millions before us who have faced the same obstacles, and have conquered their giants. We want to make it to the other side so that God can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We should not be content to sit out in the desert and bemoan the existence of the giants. We should take courage, go up and fight them.
Page 3: God gives them the strength to do his work.
After forty years in the desert, the Israelites finally took courage, went up and fought their giants. They entered the promised land and took control of it. Though the original generation had passed away, a new generation had come to face the same giants. They came to the promised land and faced the same fears their parents had. God gave them the strength they needed to trust in his promises and enter into his rest. The forty years in the desert had been God's way of moulding and shaping his people to trust more fully in him. God had remained true to his promises, in spite of the fears of a generation. God got his work done, even though the first generation was not willing to follow him.
Even after all that time in the desert, Caleb had not lost his trust in God's promises. All those of his generation have died, except himself and Joshua. He has seen all those who he grew up with, die in the desert. He saw all his friends grow old and pass away, scattered over the desert floor. After five years of working to conquer the land of Canaan, Caleb approached Joshua. It was a hot summer day, and all Joshua's tent sides were raised to allow as much breeze to pass through as possible. Joshua was surrounded by his attendants. He had been assigned the task of giving every tribe their inheritance. He was so busy that he had not heard Caleb as he approached the open tent. “Excuse me, Joshua,” begins Caleb. “Might I have a word with you?” “Sure,” replies Joshua, happy for the interruption. “What can I do for you?” “Well, actually, its about the inheritance which my tribe is to receive. I was forty years old when Moses sent us to explore the land together. I brought back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers made the people's hearts melt with fear. Since I trusted in the Lord completely, Moses said to me, 'The land on which you walked will be your inheritance, and that of your children.' Though I am 85, I am still strong and I can still wage battle, give me the hill country that the Lord promised me that day. Even though the Anakites live there, and their cities are large and well fortified, God will help me drive them out.” “Very well,” replied Joshua. “May it be as you have said.” (Num 14:6-15)
Caleb had so much trust in God that he asked for the land of the Anakites as his inheritance. He wants to go take on the giants. The very people who had made the Israelites so afraid in the first place. The very people who had caused the Israelites to shake in their boots with such fear that they disobeyed God. The very people who had caused the Israelites to turn and high tail it into the desert. These people Caleb wanted to take on. He is an old man now, and yet he trusts whole heartedly in God's promises. Caleb is eighty five, and he wants to lead his tribe into enemy territory to settle there. He has unwavering faith in the promises of God, and God gives him the strength to complete his mission. Though he was delayed 45 years, he now has the ability to gain what was promised him. God got his work done, even though the Israelites were discouraged by giants.
Page 4: God gives us the strength to do his work.
God gets his work done through us too, even though we become discouraged by giants. We may have to go through trials and struggles. It may appear that we are having little or no impact on the community around us. It may look like all that we do has no effect on what is going on around us. All these giants in the community have made us scared. The giant of wealth or privilege, the giant of materialism, of success, or of apathy are enough to have us running. We may be tempted to see these threats and high tail it back into the desert. We may feel like we cannot stand up to these giants, but we can. We have to remember that he who is with us is greater than he who is against us (1 Jn 4:4). We have already overcome. We have been given victory through the blood of Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Through Christ we are more than conquerors (Rom 8). All we have to do is step forward in front of the giant, and sling a stone at him, trusting in God to do the rest. (David and Goliath)
God is the one who is in control. Yes, he calls us to go out and do his work in the kingdom. Yes, he calls us to invade the strongholds of the Devil, to attack his fortified cities, to tear down the walls which lock people in their sin, to drive out the Devil's minions and recreate the kingdom more in Christ's image. God calls us to do all these things, but we do not have to do them alone. We are given the strength and ability to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
People talk about the amazing things the body can do when put in stressful situations. A single person can lift a car if someone they know and love is trapped underneath. A person can go for weeks with hardly anything to eat and drink if they have a mission they must perform. Most of our most extraordinary feats are done when we find someone we love in danger. The same is true of God. He sees us in danger, his children whom he loves. He knows there are giants around. He knows that there are things which scare us out of our minds. He knows he places a huge responsibility on our shoulders when he calls us to be a light to the nations. He knows that we cannot do it alone.
He knew we would be in trouble and so he had a plan to overcome the trouble. He did the most amazing thing anyone could ever do for anyone else. God so loved the world, that he gave us his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). God knew that we were in trouble, he knew that we were trapped under the weight of our sin, he knew that we were faced with giants so big we thought we were doomed, he knew all this, and so he decided to help. He decided to lift away our burdens by taking them on himself. He decided to help us face the giants in our lives by standing beside us and placing his arms around us to guide and protect us. He did all this because he loves us.
The giants in our lives are almost as daunting as those faced by the Israelites, but just like the Israelites, God gives us the strength to overcome them. What are the giants you face in your life? Do not turn tail and run from them, face them square on with the knowledge that God will be with you to help you. Most importantly, he will overcome all. AMEN!
Let us Pray
Heavenly father, we face giants in our lives which leave us shaking in our boots. You know the difficulties we all face, you know how we struggle daily to follow your leading. Give us the strength we need to face up to our giants, secure in our faith and trust in you.