Charles Stanley - Experiencing A Faith Failure
One of the most important gifts in your life is the gift of faith. Now, we take it for granted sometime, but the truth is, we live by faith every day. Some people have more faith than others. And yet, faith is a vital part of our life. When you have a faith failure in your life, you suffer the consequences. When I think about all the passages and the scripture in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. And I think about those that are so practical in description, so beautifully illustrated, and yet so tragic when it comes to the failure of faith, this passage of Scripture is it.
So, turn in your Bibles, if you will, to Numbers, chapter thirteen. The children of Israel have left Egypt through the Red Sea, out into the wilderness on their way to Canaan, the Promised Land which God had promised Israel. And so, what happens here is an awesome example and a powerful lesson about what happens when people lose their faith. That is, and this is the title of the message, "Experiencing a Faith Failure". And so, I want to define what a faith failure is. A faith failure is the failure to express faith, to trust God when confronted with a challenge, a trial, or a temptation. When we're challenged to trust Him. We're confronted with some challenge in life, some trial or some temptation. And our text is a perfect example of this.
And what I want you to notice in this passage here, we've been in Exodus all this time. We're going to jump all the way to Numbers, the thirteen chapter of Numbers starting with verse one, says, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel'". He sent a group of men to spy out the land that he and they were convinced of that God had promised to their ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the rest. Canaan was their Promised land.
Then I want you to notice in verse twenty-five of this same chapter, thirteenth chapter of Numbers, and I want you to notice this is their report, "When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, so they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh, and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land". So they had picked up all this fruit, "Thus they told him, and said", watch this carefully, now, "'We went to the land where you sent us, and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it'". And so, they brought back some of it.
So, what they found is what they were promised. And then watch this carefully, "Nevertheless", you might ought to underline that word, because this is where people start their failure and have a faith failure, "Nevertheless, the people who are in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large, and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan". So, they said, "You know what? Everything you said, oh, it's perfect, nevertheless". "Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, 'We should by all means go up and possess it, for we will surely overcome it.' But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us'".
Look at what they're looking at. Not what God said, but what they saw, "So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, and a part of the Nephilim, and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight grasshoppers'". So, they have a choice. They're going to believe what God said, "I've given you Canaan". You're going to believe what the spies said, "We can do it". Or you're going to believe what the unbelievers have said, "No, we can't do it".
And so, as a result of what they concluded, listen to this. What a tragedy. Think about this. All the time they'd spent crossing the desert and through the Red Sea and think about the fact that when they got to the Red Sea, God opened it up, they walked through on dry land. The waves came back, destroyed the Egyptian army, and so what else could God do? And then the Scripture says in verse one of chapter fourteen, "Then all the congregation", watch this. Instead of listening to Caleb and Joshua, "All the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night".
You know why they wept? They had a choice. They could have believed what two godly men of faith said, or they could believe what the rest of them said. "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the whole congregation said to them", listen to this. Watch this carefully, "'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder, would it not be better for us to return to Egypt'"? Listen to that, "So they said to one another, 'Let us appoint us a leader and return to Egypt'".
To us that is absolutely ridiculous. But now watch this. The title of this message is "Experiencing A Faith Failure". Because this is a very, very vivid expression of what happens to people's lives. When God has blessed them and blessed them and blessed them and brought through things and then He gives them an opportunity for another blessing, and because things look a little rough, they forget all that they've been through. And listen, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt". Return to what? Slavery, and under the rule of the Pharaohs. How would they get back? Around through the desert, not through the Red Sea.
Listen, "Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of Israel. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, 'The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land'". That's an expression of faith, "'If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us, do not fear'".
That's the expression of faith, because that's what God had promised. "But all the congregation said", listen to this, "'Stone them, stone them with stones'. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting of all the sons of Israel. The Lord said to Moses, 'How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs that I have shown them'"? I don't know of a passage of Scripture in the Bible that's more explicit when it comes to having a faith failure. Because this is what happens to us. You think of the blessings that God's given you. And think about this also. Regardless of what's happened in your past, you have a future. And part of your future is influenced by your past. But God's future for us when we trust Him is always the best.
So, here's a whole group that go up to spy out the land. And only Joshua and Caleb say, "If God says we can do it, we can do it. And God said we can do it. It's not a, listen, 'Send out yourself men so they can spy out the land of Canaan of which I am going to give to the sons of Israel'". That's the Word of the Living God. I'm going to give them the land. And yet, when they send the spies out, only two of the whole bunch believe. So, what I'd like to do is I'd like to tell you why we have faith failures. And the first one is this: the fear of failure. "Oh, we can't do that. There's no way because those men are so big". And so, they began to describe all that.
And listen to what the Word of God says. "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind". And we quote that twenty-third Psalm. Listen, we quote that, quote it and quote it and then disobey God. "I will fear no evil". And the Scripture said, "Whom shall I fear? The Lord is my defense". But here's what happens. Fear is a paralyzer. Fear paralyzes your thinking, paralyzes your reasoning. It can paralyze your body. Fear is a tragic, tragic emotion, especially in the life of believers who have the promises of God. They had everything their hearts had dreamed of. They dreamed about the promise of Canaan down in Egyptian bondage. Slaving away for Pharaoh, freed and liberated, and now on the very banks of Canaan, "Oh, we can't do that. We can't do that. Those fellows were so big, and yeah, the land was just exactly like God said, land flowing with milk and honey".
In other words, God didn't give them any false knowledge. He gave them a knowledge of what it was going to be like. And because they listened to the wrong voices, what happens? Think about this. Think about your age at this point and go back forty years and think about making a decision and living the next forty years in poverty, dire poverty, because they had a faith failure. They had, watch this, they had all the reasons in the world to believe God.
Listening to the wrong voices can affect everything in your life. The fear of failure, that was one of the primary things. Secondly, false information. Here are two fellows over here who believe in God and the rest of them don't believe God. And so, these, this group said, "Let me tell you what's up there. I'll tell you what's up there. Large walled cities, big guys, I mean, big armies, there's no way we can do it". Other two fellows over here, Joshua and Caleb, looking through eyes, seeing the same thing and saying, "Yes, we can do it"! And the difference was their faith in Almighty God. Because Joshua and Caleb had not forgotten the Red Sea. They had not forgotten how God had delivered them out of Egyptian bondage. And now, here they are facing this false information. The fact that, "Well, what's going to happen? And we'll be overcome and we'll lose".
Be very careful who you listen to in your life. I want to say that again. Be very careful who you listen to in life. Because of their lack of faith, if you're not careful, you'll let their negative attitude drift over into your attitude. The next thing you know, you're believing what they believe. There's a third reason for their failure. Their failure to recall the power of God in the past. And that is, how can you forget the Red Sea and God's deliverance from Egyptian bondage? How can you forget that when God has promised you, what He's promised you and had given evidence of it? How is it that Joshua and Caleb could say, "Yes, yes, yes"! and the rest of that group said, "No, no, no, no, no".
You know what? Joshua and Caleb, watch this, were looking at the giants. They were looking at them through the eyes of God. And so here we are. We have a faith failure because a fear of failure, false information and failure to recall the power of God in the past. And so, as they looked back in the past, how could they possibly doubt God? And here's the problem, they fixed their eyes on what they saw, but what they forgot is this, those chariots and those armies of Pharaoh, where are they now? They're at the bottom of the sea. If charioted Egyptians couldn't destroy them, what could a bunch of folks who lived behind walled cities do? And besides this, Almighty God said, "I have given you the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I've given it to you", period.
Now, what I want you to see is this. The same thing can happen in your life, whether it's a little issue or a big issue, the issue is this: am I willing to believe God, watch this carefully, am I willing to believe God because He said it, period? Or am I willing to believe God if He'll do the following certain things to insure my faith? By this time, I look at this congregation and see your age and so forth, you shouldn't be having any doubts. If you believe the Word of God, my God, listen, my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus through your relationship to Him. Because if you leave off that part, you say, "Well, my God shall supply all my needs", on the basis of what? Not on the basis of your goodness, your abilities, talents, and skills, because of your relationship to Jesus. That's the reason.
And so, they had all the reasons in the world to believe that God would do it. But they spent forty years in the wilderness suffering because they didn't believe God. Then of course, failure to see things from God's perspective. From God's perspective, Canaan was a sure thing. It was a finished issue as far as God was concerned. When we look at things through the eyes of God, we're going to see, watch this, I want you to get this. When you look at things through the eyes of God, what do you see? You see what Almighty God is able to do in you, through you, for you if you'll keep your focus on Him, not what about them, what about this, suppose this happens, suppose that.
Oh, I know that's what the Bible says. In other words, you can come up with enough reasons not to trust God, but they're not legitimate reasons. Are you getting the message? What does God have in store for your life? You don't look at your past and make judgments on the future. You look at your past and thank God for what He's done. The nature of God does not change. So, you see things from God's perspective. And here was the difference. When Joshua and Caleb looked at the Promised Land, they said, "Ah! Walled cities, we can handle that. These big guys, we can handle that. Because God has told us we can handle it and God has made the promise that we can take it. God is the one who's provided Canaan for us. We've been looking for this for years and years and years, and now we're coming to the very boundaries of the Promised Land".
And most of the folks here are saying, "Oh, we want to go back to Egypt". But Joshua and Caleb looked at the big guys and Anak and so forth. They looked at them and said, "How big is God"? And that's the way you and I ought to look at everything: how big is God? How rich is God? Do I have enough? How rich is God? How big is God? Are my situations and problems big? Bigger than God? No. And so, what we have to ask is: who are we going to believe? How are we going to respond? Am I going to believe, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Or am I going to believe, "Mmm, mmm, things are really tough. What about the stock market? Suppose it does this and suppose it does that. And suppose this election", in other words, that's not the way believers, that's not the way people who are committed to Jesus believes. We trust God that whatever we face in life, He's more than adequate to see us through it. It's a matter of choice.
You say, "Yeah, but at this point in my life", I don't know where this point in your life is, but I know this: the same God who was with you at twenty-one is with you at eighty-one. Same God. So, the issue is: do you believe God or do you not? So, then I think about, when I think of all these causes that are failure, the last one was they focused on the obstacles rather than God. When it says and, "All the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. The sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation and said, 'I wish we had died in the land of Egypt! Or we had died in the wilderness'"! Can you imagine that?
When I look at that passage of Scripture, it just comes off the page to me. Here is Canaan. And the difference is: am I willing to believe God or am I not? And I think there are many of God's people who are living in the wilderness because they've come to a place in their life when God said, "Trust Me, here's what I'll do". "Oh, you may have done it for my brother and my sister, but not for me. Oh, you may have done it for them, but not, no, I couldn't get that kind of an appointment. Mmmm-mm-mm-mm-mm", looking around. You don't weigh your obstacles. You trust God! You put your faith in Him. You believe Him that no matter how bad things look, you're trusting God. And for them to say overnight, "It's better to be back in the desert, dying with nothing. Better to be back in Egypt as a slave than the Promised Land".
When I look at this passage of Scripture, I don't know of any passage that so grabs me like this, because I see what's happening to people. And so, Scripture says, "We went to the land where You sent us and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit". And showed them the fruit. There were giants there, but the, listen, the primary reason for their focus, for example, why do you think they failed? Here's the reason they failed: their focus. Instead of looking at God, looked at Egypt, looked at the wilderness. You'd think, "Well, wait a minute. Compare that with the Holy Land. Compare that with Canaan". But you see, when they looked at Canaan, away from, watch this. When they looked at God's Promised Land, they looked through all the fruit and all the things that they described, how fantastic it was, and all they saw were these giants. Walled cities and giants.
Well, what's a walled city and a giant to God? And oftentimes, we miss God's greatest blessings in our life because our focus is wrong. It isn't that they're not there. It isn't that there are things that we wish were different, but what's my focus? Am I going to trust God, believe God? Because He, in other words, what does God have to do to prove to you anything in your life? Think about that. If God tells you to do something or here's what I'm going to do in your life, what does He have to do to prove it? Can you just take God at His Word? It's a choice we make.
I can look at things from the standpoint of a godly person, or I can look at things from the standpoint of somebody and say, "I don't know about me. I don't deserve that". Nah, you can't look at it that-a-way. But when you're talking to God and praying to God and listening to Him and trusting Him, what happens? All the big obstacles in life, to Joshua and Caleb, they didn't see giants. They saw guys who would die just as quick with a sword. Walled cities, what's a walled city? Watch this, and I just love this. What's a walled city to Almighty God? Is there anything about God that changes? Then you should not doubt Him.
You say, "Yeah, but mm-mm-mm-mm". If God doesn't change, and God loves you unconditionally, and He saved you as one of His children, there are no exceptions to what God can and will do in your life if you trust Him. Maybe won't be the same as somebody else's life. But what about your life? None of us are adequate within ourselves. We're only adequate within God. And you have the promise, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". Can you beat that? The sovereign God of the universe who controls every single, solitary thing that exists, He said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". Now, I want to ask you a question: who you're going with if you're not going with Him? And every decision, that's what we have to decide, I'm going with God. Amen?
Father, we love You and praise You and thank You for all the Scripture. And thank You for placing this in Your precious Word to warn us and to encourage us. And I pray that today somebody listening or watching who's never trusted You as their Savior, help them to understand they're living in a wilderness. They may have gold and silver, and stocks and bonds, and property, but they're still living in a wilderness, because when their heart beats a last time, none of that's going to matter. The only thing is going to matter is their relationship to You. I pray that You'll help them trust the Lord Jesus as their Savior and to realize that even today they can be saved right now. I pray in Jesus's name that that person's watching, listening today, now, would realize it's a wilderness out there without Jesus. And with Him, it's totally different. That they'd trust Christ as their Savior. Lord, let this message sink deep into the heart of every person who hears it right now, in Jesus's name, Amen.