The Israelites stood on the outskirts of the Promised Land, a short journey from possessing their own homeland; a land where they could self-govern and live out their own morals and beliefs. Yet, they couldn’t go in. Why? They couldn't go in because they believed success or failure depended upon them. They were certain they could not take the land on their own power and were just as certain this meant disappointment was at hand. Their inability to believe God could enable them to possess the land and fulfill his promises meant some other generation would have to possess the land. I see a similar process at work in the evangelical church today.
God is ready to release a move of his spirit like the great transformational moves in our country’s history. I believe God wants to deliver this promise in this age; but, as with the Israelites, he awaits a generation that trusts him to fulfill his promises. He is waiting for a generation with the spirit of Caleb.
In Numbers 14, God told Moses the Israelites would not be able to enter the land he had promised them:
...as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers... But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. - Numbers 14:21-24
Caleb would receive God’s promise because he had a “different spirit.” That "Caleb Spirit" knew God could fulfill his promises no matter what challenges were in the way. Caleb's spirit refused to focus on the challenges - he refused to focus on evil and darkness but focused on the possibilities available in partnership with a Good God.
God explained it like this in Hebrews:
"...when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled... even though they saw my miracles for forty years. So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me..." - Hebrews 3:8-10 NLT
God says future generation can follow the ten spies who went into the Promised Land and came back with the wrong focus. Like those spies, we can focus on the giants - on the negative factors around us - and be just as convinced that possessing God’s promises for our country, for our city, for our family is impossible. Spies Caleb and Joshua came back focused on the bounty in the Promised Land. Even though they saw the same giants, Caleb and Joshua couldn’t get over the size of the grapes. Ten spies said “we are grasshoppers,” two spies said “we may be small but God is big.”
Too often the church today follows this same path. A great many people choosing to believe negative reports of what’s happening in the world. The Israelites had disappointment as slaves for four hundred years and had lost their ability to hope in God. They were orphans who no longer trusted in God as a Good Father. This gave them such a desire for the bad news they wanted to kill the two spies who brought back the good report. Not unlike today - many Christians struggle with those who say God is good things in the world today. Too often, our fear leads us to choose the darkness, as well.
The irony for the Israelites is the negative reports were completely incorrect. It took thirty-eight years before Joshua’s spies in Jericho found out that the people in the Promised Land were actually terrified of them. Nothing is sinful in God’s eyes like people who can't trust him despite seeing over and over his desire to provide for his people.
American Christians seem to love the dire reports today and seek them out. We share conspiracy theories and spend a great deal of time searching for evil and enemies. It seems we, too, have lost our understanding that the enemy is afraid of us - not vice versa. Even after we've seen God do amazing miracles for us.
Do we remember that America itself is a miracle? A bunch of ragtag farmers defeating the major military power of the world to form a country which would become THE dominant economic and military power of the world. And it would become this world power in less than two hundred years! It was miraculous. God did that in partnership with a group of people filled with a spirit of crazy vision and faith. Our forefathers saw the insurmountable odds, yet they focused on the possibilities and refused to lose heart.
Four decades ago, the Christian Church in the United States bought into the bad report. We decided we were losing the so-called “culture wars” and began to focus on the negative rather than focusing on God’s plan. We lost sight of his power to provide for us and we turned to our own political efforts in an attempt to maintain cultural influence. We gained political power and we liked it. We became convinced if our human efforts failed, God’s plan for our country would end. God’s blessing pulled back from the Church in the U.S. and we truly began to lose our place in culture. We became convinced we were spiritual grasshoppers unable to overcome the giants of political opposition, the media, pharmaceutical companies, education, the government and any other institution or people group we deemed to be anti-christian.
Jesus lived in a time when the government was far more antagonistic to the governed than today. The religious leaders of that day had determined their hope was a messiah who would come and conquer the government. To get that messiah to appear, those religious leaders stringently implemented religious rules over all the people. They believed if they could make people behave, the government of their land would be given back to them. They married their religious beliefs with their political ones; they tried to solve spiritual issues with man-made solutions. The religious leaders were so focused on their ability to bring God's Kingdom to earth that they missed it when God's messiah appeared.
I see a Church today that needs to get its eyes off the darkness so that we do not miss what God is doing in this season. We are not victims - we are not grasshoppers barely hanging on against the giants. We are children of the Most High God! We don’t have to be a murmuring angry mob; we have his Goodness, Love and Power to see things change around us.
But I understand this is a hard concept and a hard shift. Like those Israelites, we too have to overcome a spirit that is losing faith in God’s ability to fulfill his purposes. For this mindset shift, we have to determine that, like Jesus, our most powerful impact on the world is when we are willing to serve and die for it. We have to understand that our attempts to get the world to obey our rules is not transformational. No, we have to live out the saying “In God We Trust” rather than just fighting for it to be on our coins and on the walls of our governmental buildings. We have to believe that partnering with God’s spirit is powerful and that partnering with a political spirit NEVER has the outcome we hope for.
The spirit of religion demands we look for darkness and evil. The political spirit demands we find enemies. I believe these spirits are anti-christ and are the spirits of this age. To defeat these spirit we have to refuse to partner with them. And when we do refuse to partner with them - they must flee.
This is good news and we are seeing many willing to risk focusing on God’s Goodness. We are getting our eyes off of the obstacles and walking away from fear so that our declarations and efforts will partner with God rather than with man-made efforts. Jesus efforts led to the end of the Mosaic law, the fall of the Roman empire and the transformation of a small group of people who changed the world. God can do the same with us today. He is ready to reveal his glory through us so that we can see hundreds come to know God's love so they can be swept into the Kingdom.
A generation that has seen his glory and miracles, yet still believes more in its political savvy will not be able to see God’s fulfillment of these promises. But when this generation chooses to love reports of God’s goodness more than the reports of darkness, we will be that generation of “Calebs” that will see God’s glory cover the earth as the water covers the sea.
Let the reports of his strength and his goodness overwhelm any fear of darkness. It doesn’t take voter registration drives or election guides to change the world - just partnering with him in our daily lives. God so big and so good that the enemy trembles because of us - not vice versa.