On the edge of Greatness
On the Edge of Greatness (Numbers 13-14)
God desires for every authentic church to enter greatness. Greatness means maximum service in that church's own setting. Whether or not a church enters greatness is decided in a very significant location, a place called "the edge of greatness." That edge is found at the intersection of opportunity and choice. There are more than enough biblical and modern examples of churches that faced the choice.
God's Old Testament church stood on the edge of greatness in a dramatic and unavoidable moment. Unquestionably God had brought them to that moment. Jehovah had sent the ten plagues, led them through the Red Sea and provided an exodus. God had promised them a new land. Yet at the edge of greatness they stopped believing. With overwhelming evidence of God's power behind them, they suddenly stopped believing God and pressing forward. Out of twelve spies who investigated the greatness of their tomorrow, ten said that they could not do it. This episode was recorded as an example for us (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 3:17-19; 4:1-11).
Travis Avenue stands at the same edge of such greatness. The evidence of our past shows God's definite leadership. We must decide whether to press on to greatness or retreat to a wilderness of mediocrity. This month of intensive emphasis will be a large part of that decision.
We Ought to Explore Greatness Carefully
God lets us look at the vision of greatness. "Send some men to explore the land . . . " (13:2). They chose representative leaders to look at the greatness God had promised. The function of leadership is to explore the vision of tomorrow and bring back a word for direction today.
We ought to explore thoroughly God's promise for greatness (14:17-22). They examined every aspect of what God had promised. They took an adequate amount of time, forty days. They saw the truth of a land filled with promise. Similarly, Travis Avenue has had years to consider all that God can do. We have seen His past faithfulness and should believe in His future provision.
Leaders ought to bring back evidence of future greatness (vv. 22-23). They brought back tangible evidence that God's promise about the future was as rich and ripe as He had said.
The leadership of Travis has carefully explored the provision that God has made for our future. In April 1987 God opened an unexpected door by providing almost a block of property for additional parking and educational space. In September 1987 the church passed a unanimous joint recommendation to seek the financing to remodel the space and claim the future. In May 1989 we will have space to reach 400 more people in Bible study. This is a step in the direction of greatness.
We Ought to Cross Over to Greatness
Everyone should see the evidence of greatness for the future. All twelve of the Hebrew spies brought back the word that the land was as good as God had said (13:27). It was undeniable that there was blessing ahead if they would cross over and take it. But at this point a difference of opinion emerged.
For many the threat outweighs the blessing of greatness. "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large" (v. 28). Ten came back with a bad report about the people and the situation. They saw the impossible and said the impossible. The first report is always "there are giants in the land." Mere statistics are almost always against advance. Every advance is in the face of facts why it cannot be done.
When their original negativism was not enough, they began to imagine that things were worse than they were. The land devours people, everyone is a giant, and we are grasshoppers in comparison (vv. 32-33).
The essence of their report was to postpone, hesitate, resist, wait, digress, and go back. Unbelief always waits for a more convenient season. They were all for capture, but not now. They were positive as long as they were not confronted with the immediate call to advance.
Travis Avenue could take this attitude. There are giants of economic uncertainty, future unknowns, and shadows of the undetected we cannot see. We could say that we are generally for building a great church, but not right now.
For some the blessings outweigh the threats (v. 30). Caleb said, "We should, . . . we can." It is not what meets the eye but the person behind the eye that counts. Caleb repeatedly said, "He will lead us, . . . he will give it to us. . . . Do not be afraid, . . . the Lord is with us" (14:8-9). Joshua and Caleb also saw the giants, but they saw God as larger than the giants. They knew that the God who led them that far would not abandon on the edge of greatness.
Travis Avenue has always been led by those who said, "We should . . . we can." This is true for our church's early history and our recent history. The mighty, specific intervention of God has led us to this moment to underwrite all He has done for us. It is for us to say, "We should . . . we can."
There Are Results When We Refuse to Cross Over to Greatness
When a church refuses greatness, it turns on itself. Numbers 14 contains a full report of the self-destructive grumbling that characterized that Old Testament church when they refused greatness. A church either gives itself to growth, conquest, and vision or to pettiness and arguments about procedures, policies, and the preservation of the status quo.
When a church refuses greatness, it wants to go back (14:2-4). On the edge of greatness a church may decide to turn around and go back. But Thomas Wolfe's George Webber was right, "You can't go home again." Israel wanted suddenly to go back to Egypt—the good old days of slavery and brick making! But they were caught in a wilderness of wandering for forty years of lost opportunity. It demolished a generation. They murdered their own opportunity. A church does not go back "to the way it was." When a church says no to greatness, there are years of slow death and decline.
Later, the church cannot reach greatness even if it wants to (vv. 40-42). When the realization comes that greatness was missed, God's people may decide to attempt it on their own. There is a time of destiny which must be taken. If we refuse this, God does not go with us (v. 42). In our own city there are churches that missed their moment of destiny, and God no longer opens the door to the future.
The pastor is confident that Travis Avenue will choose greatness. The month of April will go far to indicate that direction. You can respond by three ways: prayer for this program; participation when you are called on to serve and work; and sacrifice when it is time to give.