Charles Stanley - The Consequences of a Faith Failure
Isn't it strange how oftentimes God blesses us and then we don't respond correctly? And then we wonder why we go through difficulty and hardship; wonder where God is. He's where He's always been. Willing to bless us, express His love toward us, forgive us of our sin, write our name in the Lamb's Book of Life, and one day take us home to Heaven. Why don't we get the message early in life? Well, that's true all the way through the Word of God.
The Israelites had been in Egyptian bondage for some four hundred and thirty years. God has set them free; He took them down through the desert. And then finally at the right time, He took them through the Red Sea over into the desert again on their way to the Promised Land, Canaan. They'd heard about it many, many years, that God had a Promised Land. He had a place for them, their country, not Egypt. And so, the Scripture begins with their response to God's awesome blessing in their life. I want you to listen carefully because this passage of Scripture pictures us so many times in our life when we are sometimes on the brink of blessing; when we have been blessed and how we respond.
So, I want you to turn to Numbers chapter thirteen. And what has happened here is that Moses sent spies into the Promised Land to check it out. So, they knew they were going to have to do battle and take it by war. And this is their response. So, he sends somebody from each tribe and verse 27, they're giving a report of what they saw. "It certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is the fruit". And then you have this group of people always in any group, "Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, the cities are fortified very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there", big guys, "Amalek is living in the land of Negev the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites", all kind of -ites, "Canaanites living by the sea and by the"... In other words, they had everybody tabbed.
"Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, 'We could take this land. We could possess this land, for it will surely be overcome by us'. 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.' So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report, 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 are men of great size.' There also we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak part of the Nephilim; and we became like grasshoppers in their sight and so we were in their sight'".
So, you've always got these two groups of people. You've got the "nevertheless" group and you've got the faithful group. Where do you think you are? Are you in the "nevertheless" group? You are negative about things, negative, "Well, I know the Bible says God answers prayer". Or, are you with Caleb and you're seeing what God has provided and you're looking at it from the perspective that it's a done deal?
And so, what I want you to see, and I'm reading a few more verses, the fourteenth chapter begins. Having listened to this report: "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; and the whole congregation said to them", listen to this, "'We wish we had died in the land of Egypt. Or would that we had died in this wilderness that is where we are. Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little children become plunder; would it not have been better to return to Egypt?' So they said to one another", listen to this, "'Let us quickly appoint a leader'", they already have Moses, "'and return to Egypt'. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of the Lord the congregation. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of 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. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey'".
That was their way of describing it had everything. "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 them. But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to this in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. The Lord said to Moses, 'How long will this people spurn Me? How long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them'".
So, what I want us to see in this passage is this. A very, very important principle that you and I are confronted with every day in our life, or most days in our life in some way or the other. And that is, the consequences of having a faith failure. You trust God about this, you trust Him about that. What causes us to fail in our faith? A faith failure is a failure to trust God when you're confronted with a challenge, a trial, or a temptation. Now all of us are going to be tried and tempted at times, and we'll be tempted to turn back, and there're consequences for that.
And so, they find themselves saying no to the promise of Almighty God that had been searched out by two faithful servants; and now they're on the brink of it and they're about to make the biggest mistake of their life. And oftentimes God has His best spiritual blessings and other blessings waiting for us if we will walk in His way, follow His timing, wait upon Him, trust Him, and move when He says move. "Oh, it's too good". Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm. How many times have you suffered a faith failure? That's the whole issue here. That is, a faith failure. And that can happen in small things as well as large things.
So, what was their response? Bitter disappointment. "All the congregation lifted up their voice, cry, and the people wept that night". Listen, here they are standing on the on the border of the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey; a land that they dreamed of and prayed for and believed God for all these years. And now, because somebody said, watch this carefully, "Nevertheless, the people who are in the land are strong and cities are fortified. The people are large". Mm, mm, mm, mm. Watch out for those people in your life: the nevertheless crowd.
So ask yourself the question, in your family, who's the nevertheless one in your family? I hear some of you. You know who they are. Somehow, they just can't accept the fact that God wants to do it for you. This has nothing to do with whether you deserve it or not. Is there anybody here who's sinless? No. Watch this, that's why you call it grace. Ha, ha, grace, not something you deserve. Grace: the awesome, wonderful love of God. And so, they had a faith failure. They developed a very distorted view of their circumstances. Well, we know what, we know what God has done.
Isn't it interesting how quickly we can forget answers to prayer? And this is why I think everybody should have a time in the day or the night or some point, every day to come together with the Father. Ask Him Lord, "Speak to my heart". In other words, every believer needs a worship period in their life whether it's small or long. Whether it's with somebody or by yourself. Think about the fact you're planning to wake up tomorrow morning and go to work, amen? Suppose you wake up and can't go to work? Suppose you don't wake up. The truth is, all of us are dependent upon God for every breath we have.
And think about this. You're sitting right here, one heartbeat away and you won't be here. We all are dependent upon Him. And so, when He wants to bless you and give you guidance and direction in your life; when you back off from God's blessing, it's an insult to who He is. We call Him a God of what? A God of grace. A God of grace; God of love and goodness and mercy and kindness. And I think there are many people who have trusted Jesus as their Savior who cannot believe that God would give them spiritual gifts; that God would strengthen them; answer their prayer; give them joy, peace and guidance, direction in their life. They just can't believe it.
And so, they want to live sort of muddled down in there. Well, I think I'm saved, but sometimes I don't know whether I am or not. And for us to doubt God, and to live on a level that's less than what He's planned for us is foolish and unnecessary. A faith failure. The third thing that you have to look at here is they cause others to suffer. The whole nation suffered from their faith failure, all the congregation. And you can go from chapter fourteen and verses one through ten, all the families and, watch this, let me just read this because I think this is what we have to see. This is the choice they made. God is now speaking. And verse twenty of this fourteenth chapter. And I'm going to read this because I want you to get this in your mind.
"So the Lord said, 'I have pardoned them according to your word, but'", listen, they're forgiven but "'indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. Surely all the men who have seen My glory'", and they've watched it, "'all the men who've seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, bringing them through it, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants and take possession of it. Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites lived in the valley; turn tomorrow, set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.' The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 'How long shall I bear with the evil congregation which are grumbling against Me? I've heard the complaints, the sons of Israel, which they are making against it. Say to them, "As I live", says the Lord, "just as you have spoken in My hearing. I will surely do it to you"'".
Listen to this, "your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years of age old upwards, who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey, I'll bring them into the land, they'll know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in the wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until the corpses lie in the wilderness".
When God offers you something, when He calls you to do something that's righteous and good, and holy and promises you a blessing, there is a severe penalty, often times, for not accepting what God's given. Listen, this was such a blessing God said, "Alright, forty years, forty days you said no. Forty years you'll die in the wilderness".
You say, "Well, that sounds rather harsh". No. "According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. For I'm the Lord, I've spoken this: 'I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.' As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report. Even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died of a plague before the Lord. But Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh remained alive and of those men who went to spy out the land".
This is a warning. It is a divine warning to every child of God on the other side of your salvation experience, what are you doing? Are you living a godly life? God's provided a godly life; He's provided everything you need. In other words, we sometimes as believers want to blame God for something going on in our life when the truth is, we fail to live up to the promises that He's made us, and so therefore, we suffer the consequences. So, what I want you to see here, making things worse by trying to correct our disobedience without the help of God. That's what happened.
So, "When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly". Watch this, "In the morning, however", having made this decision not to obey God, "in the morning, however, after hearing God's judgement, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, 'Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go to the place which the Lord has promised.' But Moses said to them, 'Why are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before the enemies, because He's not with you. For the Amalekites, the Canaanites will be there in front of you. You'll fall by the sword, inasmuch as you've turned back from turning to following the Lord. And the Lord will not be with you.' But they went up anyway".
See, this is what happens. Watch this. When you deliberately disobey God and then you want to avoid the judgement or avoid the penalty, and you decide, "Well, here's what I'm going to do, now. I know that was wrong, but here's what I'm going to do". Listen. "But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant the Lord or Moses left the camp. Then the Amalekites, the Canaanites who lived in that hill country who came down and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah".
So, there're some decisions in life, and I can tell you, I know this is true. There're some decisions in life you don't get but one chance, just one. There're some decisions you make; there is a penalty when you make that decision. And you come back and later and say, "Oh, Lord, I'm sorry, I forgot". No, some decisions you make are irretrievable. Once you step across that line and you say, "Well, name something". No, if I name something, you'll say, "Well, that's never happened to me, so I'm just going to lay it out".
Disobeying God oftentimes puts you in a position where you may repent of that sin and ask God to forgive you and tell Him how ashamed you are and all the rest, but it doesn't correct the penalty. It doesn't. Forty long years back in the wilderness, and you'll remember we'll come to it later, when they were bitten by snakes and all the things that their menu, by the way, was the same thing all the time. And why did they do it? Because they were not trusting God, they were not believing God, they were not accepting God's challenge. Two men out of that whole group. And people, oftentimes, today wonder why they're having such hard times?
So, let me just say this. And you know I say all this in love because I care, but because I know it happens. When you deliberately, willfully, disobey God, especially in very, very important decisions in your life, it does... listen, God is a forgiving God, but He can forgive you without removing the penalty. That part we don't get. Because I ask Him to forgive me and He forgives me, will that remove the penalty? It depends upon the sin. He forgave their sin, but He did not remove the penalty. That's why living an obedient life is so absolutely, very important.
You say, "Well, I look back in my life and think of mistakes I've made so", I'm not saying God doesn't forgive. He says, "If we confess our sin", agree with Him about it, "He's faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". But the Bible also says we'll reap what we sow, period. And it does not say, "If you confess and repent, we'll wipe away all the penalty". Does not say that. God forgives, but He does not erase the consequences, oftentimes. And if you'll think about this also, when I look at all this and think about...
Well, how do you correct this? Well, there is a correction. The first thing you do is get in the Word of God and say, "Lord, speak to my heart, speak to my heart about the passage. Help me to be able to see in Your Word something that applies to my heart where I am at this point. Strengthen my faith. Lord, show me how to keep my focus". And when I think about this, I think about the impact this had upon Joshua. So, I'm going to turn to the book of Joshua for a moment, to what God said to Joshua who now has lived through that forty-years in the wilderness when many of them died.
And now, lot of things have happened. And the Scripture says in Joshua chapter one, "Came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, 'Moses My servant is dead; therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all the people, to the land which I'm giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I've given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses that I would. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, far as the great sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory'".
Listen to this, "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that's written in it. Then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success". Did you get that?
Now, I want to give you one last illustration. Before I preached my first sermon, I was standing in my bedroom, my mother walked in, she said, "I want to give you a verse of Scripture before you go preach". And this was it: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". And I remember walking to church, it was one block, and I stopped on the other side of the street under a light post, and I had memorized that verse very quickly. And I just said, "Okay, God, I'm trusting You".
That was my first sermon, and it's still probably my most favorite verse, because it's true. Listen to this, "Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous"? Why? "Do not tremble or be dismayed". Why? "About any situation, any circumstance be". Why? "For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". The Lord your God who gave us the Word, who gave us the Bible. The Lord, your God who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, is with you wherever you go. You need to get this in your heart because all of us are going to face difficult times. But it's not the times I face, it's how I respond. "Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble. Don't be dismayed". Listen, don't get discouraged about anything. "The Lord your God is with you", listen to this, I love this, "wherever you go".
And I look back at that time when I was about sixteen, and I can tell you, yes, wherever you go, that's where He'll be to help you through it. And I've been through some very difficult times. But you know what? I lived on that verse. And I can tell you whatever you're facing, that verse is a commitment by holy God, written in this holy Book that applies to every one of His children who's born-again, who looks to Him, trusts Him, waits upon Him, and obeys Him. You cannot fail. Amen?
Father, we thank You for placing all of these Scriptures in Your precious Word, and I pray the Holy Spirit will etch this verse in every person's heart. For Lord, You know we all go through difficult times, and will go through difficult times, but we have Your promise. That You'd be with us, You would not forsake us, we'll have the strength and the energy, and the power, and the faith to believe, trust, and be victorious. In Jesus's name, amen.