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Shedding the Grasshopper Complex

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Numbers 13


Shedding the Grasshopper Complex



                One of my favorite Bible stories, that I find myself coming back to over and over again is found in Numbers 13.   This historical narrative is loaded with insight as to how to walk by faith.          Every group of people who have sought to live by faith have come to certain pivotal points where decisions are made, where dreams are begun that shape what happens for a length of time to come.

                Today I want us to observe from the Scriptures a group of men at one of these pivotal times; at a time of beginning in their lives.

(Turn to Numbers 13)

I Corinthians 10:11 tells us that what happened to these, happened as an example to us.

                These men had 40 days in which to assess their situation. A group of  “40 something’s”  (judging from the ages of Joshua and Caleb) - not the same tribal leaders as those listed in Numbers 1,2,7,10 - they were apparently older.

                God had told them to take the land. The people wanted to send in spies, so God agreed to have Moses send in spies.

                You don’t know the names of 10 of these men ( Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi &  Geuel) Ten of them responded in unfaith—unbelief—(albeit, logical and rational) tragic lessons of defeat.

  Of the twelve, 2  of them responded in faith – glorious lessons of victory.

(Not take time to read the entire story – it’s familiar.)

Israel out of Egypt (plagues, parting the sea, led by pillar of fire, cloud, manna . . .)

God is very much writing His presence large.  Season of letting His presence be known.

They come to this test on the edge of the promised land. God has told them to take the land( “the land that I will give you”).

Twelve spies are sent out.  Reports come back divided.

(Read vv. 27-33) - report begins:

3 Principles  for following God in a God-sized task:

The First Principle we must practice if we are going to follow God in God-sized tasks:

1.     Consciously include God in every aspect of life.

                All of life is rehearsal for those “crisis” moments beyond what we think is “logical”. (Chinese character for crisis “dangerous opportunity”)

If we fail to include God in every aspect of  life (work, home, leisure, etc.) one thing will inevitably develop.  It is described in v. 33.

You will somewhere along the way develop a “Grasshopper Complex.”

We will  see: 

Our tents – their fortified cities.

                We’re small – they’re giants (Nephilim).

We will conclude:  we’re like grasshoppers and grasshoppers don’t win wars.

In our lives:

                I’m so weak – temptation so strong.  I am so insignificant - the needs are so overwhelming.  I’m so small – battles are so large.

I’m like a grasshopper; grasshoppers don’t win wars.

Notice:  (v. 33) like grasshoppers in their own  sight; then they assumed the Anakites saw them that way.  Self-image is powerful or debilitating.  (Not more highly, not low and insignificant either)

That wasn’t true!  (Joshua 2:9-11) they feared the Israelites because of the Red Sea, miracles, etc.

But, the ugly truth is that when you have a grasshopper complex, nothing – not even God on your side – makes the slightest difference. We think we can’t! That belief becomes the guiding fiction.

The fundamental error (causes G.C.) is “facing human problems with human resources.”

Ill:  Hoshea (help) to Joshua (whose help is Jehovah) (Num. 13: 16):

                -- sin of the centuries.

                -- reason 85% of churches are not  prevailing churches.


As you look to the future, what sentences go through your mind?

Do you face the future with thoughts characterized by human abilities, human responses, human resources:

                --“What you can accomplish?

                -- What you can do?

If so, “Grasshopper Complex.”

Or do you face the future with an optimism that is far beyond yourself, that is based on God’s abilities and resources?

“By God’s grace . . . I will master this area, reach these people, this can be accomplished.  By God’s grace, victory will come . . .”

                What develops is a walk with God, reinforced with life’s experiences and challenges. Past… future…

Only those who learn to expose each new situation to the living God are delivered from the curse of the Grasshopper Complex.

The outcome will not be good if you choose to not include God in every aspect of your life.

You will follow the progression Israel took.

Step #1:  Negative Thinking (13:31b) – More reason why not than why.

Step #2:  They exaggerated the situation (13:33b) – grasshoppers!

                Unbelief always distorts the facts because you are moving away from revealed truth.   Not wanting to follow God’s leading magnifies the difficulties, minimizes God’s ability.

Step #3:  Desired to return to Egypt (14:2,3).

                State of limbo between faith in God and desires for the world.  We can’t go ahead, let’s go back... Let’s take the known over the unknown.  (Comfort in Egypt vs. the uncomfortable unknown)

                James 1:8 – “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

Step #4:  They became ignorant of and unresponsive to God’s will (14:44, 45).

Stupid thing to do:

                -- Ten leaders (spies) killed by plague.

                -- God instructed them not to go up (read 14:44, 45).

They were beaten as easily as grasshoppers.


1.     Negative thinking.

2.     Little capacity for God.

3.     Large capacity for worldly pleasure.

4.     Spiritually unresponsive, disobedient, defeated lives.


                Consciously include God in every aspect of your life.

The Second Principle if we are to follow God in a God-sized task:

II. Don’t become content with too little; ask God to expand your influence.

God is a compassionate God who set us here to reach this world with the gospel.  He has more for you than you know.   Our reach should always exceed our grasp.

In order to do so, you will have to take some personal risks:

                reaching out - Rejection

                relocating - learn new ways of doing things.  More leadership to surface.  More financial faithfulness than we have ever practiced. Expanded hearts, ministries, influence or

ill. Personal pattern of avoiding personal risk.  Fear of failure was looming way too large.  Fear was the driving force and was an evil taskmaster.  I was in danger of a safe comfort zone becoming my idol.

The Israelites had to take the risk of failing  (enemies in warfare) and . . .

                their fear of failure was greater than their faith in God.

Tragic!  To see how many Christians are either content to fail or content to use only a fraction of their potential for God.

Many of us could do so much more for the cause of Christ but are afraid of rejection, failure – they stay way back in the comfort zone and attempt nothing great for God.

“Attempt great things for God and accomplish great things for God.”  Adonirum Judson

Ill:  Caleb story:

Sequel that testifies to a man’s faith in a great God.

Joshua 14:6-15

They have lived a merry-go-round existence, “They got off where they got on.” -Hendricks

45 years has passed, Caleb is 85 (retire in home on shore with garden?)

Read Joshua 14:12-15.

Caleb wants to press on; his eye is on the promise of God – his heart was fixed on that hill country.  The last victory was the sweetest.

Caleb was not afflicted with the “Grasshopper Complex.”

Reaches for new ministry/experience/opportunities.

This year . . .ask God for the wisdom to see new challenges that can only be met with God’s help.

Very practical insight – if you attempt nothing that can’t be done without God’s help, then practically speaking, you don’t need God.

If everything you attempt can be accomplished without God, you don’t need God!

If your life is merely to:

                -- go to work.

                -- read Bible upon occasion.

                -- try to not kill anybody . . . practically, you don’t need God for that.

God challenges us to God-sized tasks

“Trust God for something that only He can do!”  Ask for wisdom in learning how God would have you trust Him!

II Chron. 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Prayer of Jabez (I Chronicles 4:10): 

“Oh, that you would bless me indeed

and enlarge my territory,

that your hand would be with me,

and that you would keep me from evil.”

There’s nothing wrong with asking God to enlarge the influence of our lives.

                Fear we will make this a protestant mantra, “Bless me!!”  and make it about us and not about God.

What opportunities are before us as a church? Decisions are being made that will influence the next 50 years of ministry through O.B.C.

As we get ready for the fall start-up of ministries, if each of us would ask God to expand our influence, this year would be a flourishingly successful year.

A Third Principle we must put into practice in order to follow God in a God-sized task.

III. Have a positive rather than a negative approach to life.

A life of faith is an overwhelmingly positive thing. It focuses on possibilities not problems.

ill. (story)  A man was losing his memory.  Doctor said, “We can’t help your memory without altering your eyesight.  The choice is yours.  Would you rather be able to see or remember?”

“I would rather have my eyesight than my memory.  I’d rather see where I am going than remember where I have been!”

Some of us use our past performance as an excuse for present failures.  “I can’t teach because I have never taught. I can’t walk with God, because I haven’t done that great at it in the past.”

We’re blinded to the possibilities because we prefer to wear the memories of the past around our necks like an anchor. It becomes the rationale for our failures.

Many Christians find their security in a weakness, such as their personality, appearance, spouse, family, abilities, difficult circumstances.

Can’t see the possibilities of the future because of the failures of the past.

We can develop a habit of dwelling on the negative because that provides a ready-made excuse for failure.

Ill:  Young athletes often develop what J. K. Summerhill has called “a loser’s limp,” i.e., a player will often develop a limp in order to have an excuse for not doing better. There’s not an injury, there’s just a limp.  Without the limp, he’d have to bear the responsibility for the poor performance.  That is more painful than faking a limp.

There are Christians in this room who carry around a loser’s limp; it flares up whenever it seems necessary.

                God can’t use me because...

                I would have been financially faithful , but . . .

                I’d have attempted more for God, but . . .

Lesson from Numbers 13 is:

                There are two ways to look at any given situation.  God asks us to put one arm around Joshua and . . . around Caleb and take a look at the walled cities and giants; then say “By the grace of God, we can!  Absolutely!!

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