David Jeremiah - Risk: Get Out of Your Safe Zone
Jean Hanson and her husband Steve were celebrating their anniversary at a beautiful beach resort in Saint Lucia. One morning, they decided to walk the resort's wellness trail, a one-mile path with stations for exercises like pull-ups, a balance beam, and even an elevated rope bridge. At each station, they did the activity. Then they came to the rope bridge. Steve crossed it easily, but Jean, she hesitated. "All I could see", she said, "we're big gaping holes on the sides, large enough to fit my entire leg through with one slip of the foot". Fear overcame her, and she backed off and walked away frustrated and disappointed in herself.
The next day, she and Steve took a trip on a 24-foot sailboat. It was Jean's first time sailing, and she was thrilled and exhilarated even when the boat was in choppy waters. Experienced sailors were in charge, but Jean knew this adventure was far more dangerous than the rope bridge she'd backed away from the day before. So, the following morning, Jean and Steve took the wellness trail again, and this time she said, "I didn't say anything. I just walked up the ladder, and I went for it. I didn't stop to look at it and wonder how I was gonna accomplish it. I just paused for a second on the platform, grabbed the rope and started putting one foot in front of another. Before I knew it, I was across, feeling very victorious about myself".
Most of us, if we're honest, think of risk as a negative situation we should avoid, but risk is a part of life, and it's a big part of faith. Not every risk is worth taking, but if you're too overwhelmed by fear to correctly assess a situation, you'll miss many opportunities for growth. Have you been playing it safe? Too safe? If forward is the direction you want to go, be prepared to take some faith-based risks. I'll be honest. Left to myself, I probably would've erred too often on the side of safety and security, but there's a man in the Bible who inspires me to keep stepping out and taking risks with wholehearted confidence in the Lord. I'm convinced you'll be able to go forward, unafraid to take risks if you can embody his spirit.
That man is Caleb. Do you know him? In this message, I'm gonna show you how this Old Testament hero left a legacy of courage for you, a powerful example of risk-taking, future-grabbing grace. In the book of Numbers, Moses sent 12 men (Joshua, Caleb, and ten others) as an advance party to reconnoiter the Promised Land. These men left the safety of their encampment for the Jordan River, slipped into Canaan, and their mission was to make notes of the land, observe the enemy, study the fortifications, estimate the population, and bring back enough intelligence to aid Moses as he planned the coming invasion of the land God had promised to the Israelites.
The Bible tells the story this way: "So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin. And they went up through the South and came to Hebron. And the descendants of Anak were there". The city of Hebron had been the ancestral home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now it was inhabited by an evil tribe of huge warriors known as the descendants of Anak. The site of these warriors terrified these spies, and they quickly harvested some pomegranates and figs from the orchards of Canaan, and two of them lugged back an enormous cluster of grapes, carrying it on a pole between them. Imagine the excitement when the spies returned to Kadesh Barnea. Their mission had taken 40 days, and nobody knew if they had survived or perished and, day after day, centuries at Israel's parameters, watched for them, and now they're back, all of them safe and sound. But as you know, they were not united. Most of them wanted to live in the safe zone.
So, let's take them and some other stories along the way, and let's talk about how to live in the safe zone. Have you ever heard of these names? Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel? I haven't heard of them before. Have you? No, because these are the names of the ten spies who risked their lives in an espionage mission, only to lose their heart and forget to trust in God, and they came back with a negative report. They discouraged, they disheartened the people of Israel. Those men made three terrible mistakes, and we can make these mistakes ourselves if we're not careful. They fell into three traps, and you and I have to avoid these at all costs. First of all, they maximized the opposition. Oh, how we love to do this. God wants you to go forward. He has adventures, challenges and victories, and meaningful tasks for you, and as you look at the bridge to your future, are you looking at the ropes, or are you lookin' at the holes?
In Number 13, the ten spies magnified every threat they looked at. They looked at the bridge God had designed for the future, and they saw only the holes. The Bible says, "The men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against these people, for they are stronger than we.' And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it were men of great stature. There were giants of the descendants of Anak, who came from the giants, and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'"
Notice all the holes in the ten unbelieving spies. Here's what they said:
1 - We are not able to go against these people.
2 - They are stronger than we are.
3 - The land devours its inhabitants.
4 - The men are of great stature.
5 - The men are giants.
6 - They are from Anak and the land of the giants.
7 - We are like grasshoppers in our eyes, and we are like grasshoppers in their eyes.
If you propose to move forward in life, especially if you aspire to leadership, you're gonna have to learn what it means to take risks to live by faith. One of the things we do, when we refuse to risk when we try to keep from losing instead of trying to win, is we maximize the opposition. Number two, we minimize the opportunities. While the ten spies maximized the opposition, they also minimized the incredible opportunity that God had given them. They only had a dim perception of what God had in store for them. They believed in their hearts that God was setting that up for destruction, and their unbelief was contagious.
You can read it for yourself in Numbers chapter 14: "So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'"
You see, their perception of God would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. After all the Lord had done for them: he had delivered them from slavery, he had parted the wide waters of the Red Sea, he'd accompanied them with cloud and fire, he'd given them his law, he'd given food and drink in the wilderness, he had promised to make them a great nation in a land flowing with milk and honey, and all they could do was quickly forget. When we forget all the blessings God has provided for us in the past, we're apt to minimize his ability to guide us in the future. We may even dread the future and where we think God is leading us, and so we're exactly where the devil wants us. He puts us in a place of avoiding risks and playing it safe. Oh, we of little faith.
What I'm telling you is this: Go forward with confidence and courage, and do the task God has set for you. Don't maximize the opposition. Don't minimize the opportunities because, if you do, you will jeopardize the objective. In their unbelief, men and women, the Israelites discarded the precious, powerful future that God had for them. Their act of defiant unbelief incurred a terrible penalty.
First of all, the punishment for bringing back an evil report to the people of God was meted out in two severe sentences. First, the ten men who gave the evil report were killed immediately by a plague. Numbers 14, "Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, they died by the plague before the Lord. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land".
Second, not only did the men who brought the report die, but all the people who listened to the report, they were sentenced as well. Listen to Numbers 14:29 and 30: "The carcasses of you who have complained against me shall fall in the wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from 20 years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in".
Let me ask you a question today. What is your Canaan? What does God want you to tackle? What does he want you to possess? What does he want you to accomplish for him? Unbelief forfeits your opportunities and jeopardizes your objective. So, let's keep seizing the moments God provides for us with childlike wonder. If God said it, I believe it, and that settles it, and I'm gonna do it. How to live life in the safe zone. So, let's talk now about how to risk life in the faith zone. That brings us back to Caleb. He and Joshua represent the minority opinion among the spies. Caleb had pleaded with the people. He said, "Let us go up. Let us take possession. We are well able to overcome it".
Imagine Caleb's frustration when the whole nation shouted down his words. But God heard, and as the decades passed, one by one, the older Israelites passed away, and their bodies dotted the desert. Even the aged Moses ascended Mount Pisgah and died. Joshua and Caleb were the sole survivors of their generation. When the day came to lead Israel into the Promised Land, they were as young in spirit as 40 years before. Joshua succeeded Moses. He led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. And as we read through the book of Joshua, we find conquest after conquest and allotment after allotment. And then we open our Bibles to Joshua chapter 14, and who should we meet again but my favorite man, Caleb? He made a trip to see his old friend and fellow spy, Joshua, and this is what he said to him.
He said, "You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was 40 years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me, the heart of the people, they made them to melt, but I followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.'"
Now, friends, with the passing of years, Caleb's faith had grown. Mind was sharp. His spirit was strong. His enthusiasm was like a child's. The promise of God was still the obsession of his heart. I believe there are four reasons for this, and they help us understand what is involved in living a life of risk. If you don't get anything else out of what I'm saying today, get these four things because these are the key to your living a life out of the safe zone. First of all, risk-takers stay exuberant about their lives. The first reason has to do with Caleb's exuberance. He told Joshua, "The Lord has kept me alive these 45 years and ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness. And now", listen to this, "here I am this day, 85 years old, and I am as strong this day as I was on the day that Moses sent me".
In other words, Caleb said, "I'm 85, but I should be 40, 'cause I have the same energy, the same enthusiasm, the same exuberance about life that I had 45 years ago". That same joyful eagerness is available to you and to me. "For me"? you say. Yes, it is. You can't lose the wonder of the worshipful, promise-filled life Christ died to give you. You can ask God for joy. You can choose to be exuberant in life, based on his promises. It's not a matter of conjuring up emotions. It's a matter of saying, "Lord, with your help, I'm gonna be like Joshua. I'm gonna be like Caleb, not like the other ten who came back from Canaan". So, risk-takers stay exuberant about their lives.
Number two, they stay excited about their futures. Caleb told Joshua, "Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day, for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I will be able to drive them out as the Lord said". Now, I don't know if you get what's going on here, but Caleb has just walked up to his leader and asked for the toughest assignment in the settling of the land. When I read that, I felt like shouting, "Yes". At age 85, Caleb was ready to claim the hill country, to tame the land, provide a lasting inheritance for his children.
There's something here I don't want you to miss. Early in this message, I told you about Hebron and that it was the ancestral home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But now it was inhabited by an evil tribe of huge warriors known as the descendants of Anak. The sight of these warriors had terrified the ten unfaithful spies. They were made to feel like grasshoppers compared to the enemy. This portion of territory was still not taken by Israel. It was unpossessed, unclaimed, and the giants had scared everybody away, everybody except Caleb, who said, in effect, "I want that country as my inheritance, and I'm ready to take care of those daunting super-villains. Let me at 'em".
No matter your age or your circumstance, no matter what hill you need to climb, that kind of enthusiasm is what carries you forward. Caleb didn't use his gray hair to beg off the heavy lifting. He asked for a worthy challenge because he had the wisdom to know that with a powerful quest comes a powerful reward. In other words, knock down a giant, and you become a giant yourself. He still had a vision for the future, and because of that, he accomplished the greatest victory of his life when he was 85 years old. Risk-takers stay exuberant about their lives. They stay excited about their futures, and they stay enthusiastic about their assignment.
As you can see, Caleb was enthusiastic about his assignment. Joshua and the Israelites had not yet succeeded in driving the evil occupants out of the large sections of the Promised Land. The business was unfinished, but Joshua 15, verse 14, says, "Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak". Caleb did exactly what he was told, and he did it immediately. He is one of those success stories who's secret isn't so secret. He just did it in the strength of the Lord. That's enthusiasm.
Today our ministries at Turning Point cover the globe because of the capabilities of worldwide broadcasting. Much of the technological credit goes to Sir Edward Appleton, whose scientific discoveries won him a Nobel Prize in 1947. When asked about the secret of his lasting accomplishments, he said, "It was enthusiasm. I rate enthusiasm even above professional skill". You know the word "enthusiasm", made up of the Greek words for "en" and "God". "En", "theos", "ism", it was coined to describe the zeal of the early Christians.
When we have the God of all energy within us, there's a surge of power that's like an atomic reaction in our hearts. Risk-takers stay exuberant about their lives. They stay excited about their futures. They stay enthusiastic about their assignment, and they stay energized about their God. And that brings us back to the consummation of our story. Only the energy of God within us can keep us barreling forward into the remainder of God's will for our lives. The story of Caleb's life is told in just 30 verses in the Bible, but six times in those 30 verses, we are given the secret to his risk-filled, risk-taking life. I wanna put these before you. I want you to see these. It is really stark. It is really overwhelmingly clear and very powerful, just 30 verses, and in those verses, six times we're told Caleb's secret. And let me tell you something, when you find Caleb's secret, you will find the secret for your life.
Here are these verses: "But my servant Caleb has a different spirit in him, and he has followed me fully. They have not wholly followed me, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord".
Deuteronomy 1, "Caleb the son of Jephunneh, he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the Lord".
Joshua 14, "I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.'" And Joshua 14:14, "Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel".
Now, if you didn't pick up from my voice the key phrases in these verses, you're not listening. "Caleb wholly followed". "He wholly followed". "He wholly followed his Lord". By the time he was 85, most of his generation had given up hope and died, but Caleb still had a bright fire burning in his heart. He still wanted to risk his life on the greatest possible task that God could give him.
What risk is God asking you to take as you go forward? I wanna tell you flat out, you can't go forward without risk. His will for you is not earthly comfort but divine courage, courage in the face of opposition, courage in the face of cultural change, courage when confronted with the unknown. God will never choose safety for us if it will cost significance. God created us to count and not to be counted. This is your time to move forward. This is my time to move forward out of the safe zone into the faith zone and going forward.