Robert Jeffress - Moving From Fear to Courage - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Fear is a natural and even sometimes helpful reaction to danger, but fear doesn't have to control us. In fact, did you know that the Bible includes 366 commands that begin with the phrase, fear not. Well today, I'm going to show you how this human emotion robbed the Israelites of God's promise and how we can prevent fear from doing the same to us. My message is titled, "Moving from Fear to Courage". As we continue our series Invincible on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I want to begin today by asking you three questions. Question number one, do you believe that God blesses those who obey him? Do you believe that? Most of you would say yes, Hebrews 11:6, God is a rewarder of those who diligently follow after him. Question number two. What do you believe God is leading you to do that you haven't done yet? Is there something in your life you feel like God is leading you to do, but you haven't done it yet? The final question, why are you hesitant in doing what God is leading you to do? What is it that's prevented you from doing the thing that you know would result in God's blessing in your life?
I imagine somewhere in your answer is the word fear. Maybe you feel like God's leading you to leave your job and take another job, or even start your own business but you're fearful of failure. Maybe you're a parent, a grandparent, and you have a child or grandchild, who's a prodigal is living apart from God, you know you need to talk to them, but you're fearful of rejection. Maybe you know you need to take a stand for God in your business or school, but the only reason you haven't done it is you're fearful of the blow back you know you're going to get. Fear is an emotion that paralyzes us. It keeps us from moving forward in God's plan for our life. Or to use the metaphor that we're using in this series Invincible, fear is a mountain that separates us from the abundant life God wants us to experience.
Today we're going to look at a group of God's people who forfeited the blessings of the future because of fear. And along the way, we're going to discover some biblical principles for moving from fear to courage. If you have your Bibles turn to numbers chapter 13. As we begin talking about fear today, I need to point out that not all fear is harmful. There is a positive kind of fear. Sometimes we face a threatening situations, we get that adrenaline rush that gives us the strength we need, the boldness to either fight the situation or at least to run away from it. Fight or flight, we've talked about that before, and that's positive, that can be useful. Fear in the short term, conserve a positive benefit, but there's another kind of fear, a paralyzing fear.
Remember there are three possible responses to danger, fight, flight or freeze. And a lot of people, when they face a challenge, they become like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, they freeze. And the fact is long-term fear can have some devastating effects in our life. There are physical consequences to prolonged fear. Doctors tell us that the physical effects of fear include a suppressed immune system. There's a disturbance in the sleep wake cycle, eating disorders, headaches and migraines, and a host of other maladies. There are emotional consequences to prolonged fear. Edith Hamilton has written fear is of all emotions the most brutalizing. It's the feeling of being held under and suffocated. And when you realize you are suffocating, you become even more fearful and panic.
That's what fear does, it induces mood swings, obsessive compulsive thoughts, chronic anxiety, and the prevalent thought that you're a victim. But there are also spiritual consequences to paralyzing fear. Remember the Russian dissident, a Nobel peace prize winning Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He spent years in a Russian gulag and he asked this about fear. He said, "If we live in a state of constant fear, can we even remain human"? The implied answer is no. Even though we'd been created in the image of God, when we allow fear to control our life, we're not like those image bearers of God. We become more like animals that run and hide at every sound in shadow.
Today, we're going to look at a group of God's people who allowed paralyzing fear to keep them from experiencing God's blessings. And the account is found in numbers 13 and 14. Let me remind you of the setting of numbers 13. Remember for 400 years, the children of Israel had been held captive in Egypt. They had been slaves for 400 years, and then God raised up their leader Moses who led the Exodus out of Egypt. God sent those 10 miraculous plagues that struck Pharaoh and all of Egypt. And finally Pharaoh said, I think the original Hebrew is "Scram, get out of here". And so they packed up as quickly as they could, they left God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites passed safely through it and then they arrived at mount Sinai where they spent a year receiving God's revelation.
Moses was on the mountain receiving God's instruction for how they would live in the Promised Land. They left Sinai and came to Kadesh Barnea, an oasis, that was the entry point for entering into the Promised Land. And it's there that the story picks up in numbers chapter 13. As they stand on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to inherit what God had promised to them, God gave this requirement in verse two, this command, "Send out for yourself, men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan". That was the Promised Land, "Which I am going to give to the sons of Israel". Underline that, that's key. God said," I am going to give it to you. You shall send a man from each of their father's tribes, everyone, a leader among them".
I've heard pastors make this tremendous error in preaching this passage. They said, "If the people had to had more faith, they wouldn't have sent spies into the land. They would have just gone in and possess what God had promised to them". They missed the simple point in this passage that it was God's idea to send the spies in. God told them to send spies before they tried to take the land. What was the purpose in that? Well, he gave two purposes for the spies. Number one, that they could report the benefits of the land in order to encourage the people. They were to do this reconnaissance mission, so they could come back and tell them how truly productive the land was. And there's an important part of leadership exhibited there.
If you're ever going to lead people into the future, you need to paint a picture of the future that motivates them. God understood that. He said the people before they invest their lives in fighting for this land, they need to know the benefits of the land, help people visualize the future. Do you remember back in 2000, around that time, it seemed like churches everywhere were installing these iMAG Systems, these image magnification systems. We call them big screens and they'd have them in the churches in order to help people worship more freely, not have your head buried in the hymnal, but you could see the words and sing. Churches everywhere started doing that. This church did it. Our church in Wichita Falls did it. We all had the same name for our special offering it seems like vision 2020, help people see the words more clearly, vision 2020.
We had the similar effort in our church in Wichita Falls, but I had another reason for wanting to put that iMAG System in. I told the people it was so we could worship more freely and sing the songs and so forth and that was all true. But I also knew that in a couple of years, I was going to challenge them to build a new worship center. And they had been bolted in their pews for 83 years in the old worship center there. And I knew it was going to take something to get them out of that pew and into a new pew. They needed to see a visual depiction of what a new worship center would actually look like. And it worked when people saw that vision, they got excited about the future.
If you're leading a company and you're trying to move your employees and your organization somewhere, give them a vision of the future. Parents if you're trying to move your children and teenagers to be more obedient to God, learn how to paint a verbal word picture that helps them understand the benefits of following God. That was the first purpose to encourage the people. There was a second purpose, and that was to identify the obstacles they would face in possessing the land. They sent their spies to report on what obstacles there were. Look at verses 18 and 19. "See what the land is like and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, how is the land in which they live? Is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live? Are they like open camps or they with fortifications"?
What's interesting is God promised that he was going to give the Israelites the land. Remember verse three? "The land which I will give them". But he also told them, "You're going to have to fight for every square inch of it". I'm going to give it to you, but it's not without your effort. Again, parents, if you have a teenage child and they want a new car, you may have the financial needs to give it to them outright. But if you're a wise parent, you'll make them pay for part of it that way they have some skin in the game. They feel responsible for that automobile. It's the same way with God, throughout scripture you find this principle that is that God uses our effort coupled with his power to achieve his purpose. I mean, God could have removed all the obstacles in the land if he wanted to, without any effort on the part of the Israelites. He could have given it to them without any effort, but that's usually not how God works. God wants us to cooperate with him and any worthwhile achievement.
You see that throughout scripture. God said to Adam and Eve, "I'm going to give you this perfect garden, the Garden of Eden, but your job is to cultivate it and to keep it". God said to Noah, "I'm going to send a flood and destroy the world. I'm going to save your family, but guess what? You've got to build the ark to put your family in the ark". God said to Rahab, the harlot said, "I am going to destroy the city of Jericho and give it to the Israelites". But her responsibility was to hide the spies. It's the same thing with the Israelites. God said, "I'm going to give you this land, but you're going to have to fight for it".
By the way there's only one significant accomplishment that God refuses to allow us to participate in at all, and that's salvation. God not only doesn't require it, he doesn't allow us to exert any effort for salvation. It is all of grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith that not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast, but for everything else, God requires some effort on our part. He said, "I want you to go in and spy out the land so that you can see what obstacles you can have and plan for it". There's nothing unbiblical or unspiritual about planning. I heard people say, "Well, we need to just pray and not plan". No, the Bible says, pray and plan.
Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent will surely lead to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty". Well, they sent the spies in, it was a 40 day reconnaissance mission. And after they finished looking north to south, east to west, they came back to give their response. Beginning in verse 25 of numbers 13, "And the spies came back with pomegranates figs and clusters of grapes". Clusters so large they had to carry them on a pole. And all the spies said the same thing they said, "Yes". Verse 27. "The land is flowing with milk and honey and fruit just like God promised". But they also reported the obstacles. Verse 28, "Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified and very large. And moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there".
Who are the descendants of Anak? That word Anak means strong neck, powerful. We find out in verse 33, that they were descendants of the Nephilim, that there are only two places in the Bible the Nephilim were mentioned. One is here, the other is in Genesis 6:4. I don't want to chase this rabbit trail too long here, but it is kind of interesting. Remember in Genesis six, we had that unusual passage before the flood of how evil the world was. And it says that the sons of God went into the daughters of men. And the question always is, well, who are the sons of God and who were the daughter of men? And some believe that it is angels who rebelled against God who came and had sexual relations with women. And they produced demonic offspring called the Nephilim that were giants.
The only problem with that interpretation is Genesis six has very clearly the Nephilim were already on the earth when this event happened. The daughters of men having relations with the sons of God. What we can say with certainty is the Nephilim were really big people, they were giants. Maybe Goliath was a descendant of the Nephilim and the descendants of Anak here were associated in some way with the Nephilim. And notice what happened as soon as spies mentioned, Anak and giants, you could hear the murmuring of the people. "You gotta be kidding, we're going to have to fight Anak, and the descendants of Nephilim"?
Look at verse 30. "Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, 'we should, by all means, go up and take the possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it'. That the man who had gone up with him, that is the other 10 spies 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 of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'the land through which we have gone in spying out is a land that devours its inhabitants and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also, we saw the Nephilim and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight and so we were in their sight". When we saw the giants, we felt like grasshoppers. And then they looked at us and they thought of us as grasshoppers as well.
Here's an important principle. How you see yourself is how others tend to see you as well. If you see yourself as powerless, incapable, weak, that's how other people see you. We hear a lot about self-esteem and I know there's a bad side to that concept, that it can be a humanistic viewpoint self-esteem but not when you see yourself, as God sees you. Yes apart from God, we're weak and incapable. But as Paul said, "In Christ, I can do all things who strengthens me". How you see yourself is how others see you as well. They were terrified of the giants here. What was the reaction of the Israelites to these two reports? The report of Joshua and Caleb, that, yes, the land is filled with obstacles, but we should go up and possess it as well as the 10 who said, "No, we can't overcome the obstacles".
Look at verse one of numbers 14, "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried. And the people wept that night and all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. And the whole congregation said to them, 'would that we had died in the land of Egypt, or we had died in the wilderness'". Even though they had been praying for 400 years for deliverance from Egypt, they said, "We'd rather be back in Egypt than to have to face these giants. We would have rather start the death in the wilderness than face this". So what happens? Verse six, Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes as a sign of sorrow and they delivered a pep speech to the Israelites.
They said, look at verse seven, "The land which we pass through to spy out is 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 only don't rebel against the Lord. Don't fear the people of that land for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them. And the Lord is with us, do not fear them". Joshua and Caleb gave a great speech that day. A sermon entitled, moving from fear to courage. And the people responded how, not with faith. Look at verse 10, all the congregation said, "Let's stone them with these stones". They were not a receptive audience. They were ready to kill their leaders, replaced her leaders with somebody who wouldn't put them in parallel like this. And that's when God decided to show up. Verse 10 closes by saying, "Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. God had had it".
And in his rebuke, numbers 14, he chastises them for their lack of faith. And he said, "I've had it with this people, I'm going to destroy the Israelites from the face of the earth. And I'm going to begin with the new people to show my glory through". If God had said that and I had been Moses, I would say seek them God give them what they deserve. Just remember me when you decide to raise up this new people, I want to be a part of that. But interestingly, that's not what Moses does. Instead he begs God to change his mind. In a great intercessory prayer, he says, "God, if you damn Israel and condemn them to eternal punishment, your name is going to be blasphemed among the gentiles. People are going to be saying you're a God who wasn't powerful enough to fulfill his own promise to his own people, don't destroy this people".
And God listened to Moses. Verse 20 says, so the Lord said, "I have pardoned them according to your word, Moses, I'm going to forgive them. I'm not going to damn them eternally, 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 my signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness yet have put me to the test these 10 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". "I'm going to forgive them Moses, but not one of them is going to enter into the Promised Land". In fact, he went on to say everybody, 20 years of age and older will die in the wilderness without possessing the land. They're not going to lose their salvation. But they'll lose the benefit of their salvation in this life. They shall not enter into my rest.