This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
Joshua 14:6 – 15
When I was in high school, I played basketball and football. Years ago, I coached thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old boys in Jackson County Youth Basketball. I was probably better at coaching than at playing. One of the reasons I may have been better was because I spent so much time sitting on the bench in high school, learning how the game was played. Several years ago, I was doing a weekly Christian show on WRGC. The deejay who worked with me also broadcast the Sylva-Webster and Cullowhee basketball games. Since I was coaching youth basketball at that time, he asked me if I wanted to broadcast the games with him. I told him that I would try and we did the whole basketball season. Later, he asked me to help him with football games. I was fairly good at that also because of all the time I had spent on the bench in high school watching and analyzing games.
I may not have played all that much, but everyone gets to play during warm ups. While doing that, all of us would sneak a peek at the opposing side which was also warming up. They always looked bigger and faster than we were. We wondered if we could give them any kind of game; yet, we won more than we lost. We may have also looked big and fast to our opponents. It may be natural to think the other team looks better than your own.
Often, when we find out how things really are, they don’t turn out to be as we had imagined them. At the beginning of one high school football season, we were reading about a new high school that had started playing football. Because they were new, they were covered a good deal by the local newspaper. We read that they had two tackles who each weighed over 260 pounds. That was very big for our area. I played defensive tackle and only weighed 165 pounds; our other tackle was even smaller. It turned out that we were the first team they would scrimmage in the pre-season. We were a little nervous and wondered how we would do against them. In a scrimmage game, one team takes the ball at their own twenty yard line and moves the ball as far as they can. This new team ran three plays and we tackled them for a loss on each one. On the third one, we tackled them in their end zone. It turned out their tackles were big, but just fat and not very strong. They were soft to run into. After running into all the angular farm boys we usually faced, it was fun to run into them. When we actually played this team, it turned out to be much easier than what we had imagined.
Something like that happened to the Israelites, only they were fighting a team that really was oversized. Once Moses had led the people out of Egypt and to the edge of the Promised Land, they sent out spies into the land to see what they were facing. This was the land God had promised to them but they still had to conquer it. They sent out twelve spies to look over the land. They reported that the land was a rich land and did indeed flow with milk and honey. They also all agreed that the people in the land were oversized and their fortifications were impenetrable and their weapons were futuristic. Ten of the spies said that the Israelites had no chance to conquer this land. Two of the spies agreed that the people were oversized and that they had great weapons and fortifications. But they said that with God’s help they could conquer the land. Unfortunately, the Jews listened to the ten rather than to the two. We are always prone to see the difficulty rather than the power of God in each situation.
When I was a college student working with Campus Crusade for Christ, we had a training center at Arrowhead Springs in California. We would go out there in the summer to learn how to present the gospel to people. It was not just a matter of classroom experience. We would also take what we had learned, go to a local beach, and present the gospel to people on the beach. That was a good place because the people were not doing anything else and if you did not block their sun, they would usually listen to what you had to say. Nevertheless is was a terrifying experience for us. A couple of evangelism teams would ride to the beach together and the trip there was pretty quiet. Those we would present the gospel to looked like giants in the land and their fortifications looked impenetrable. We had to learn to trust the fact that God was with us. As we talked to the people, many responded. We began to slowly realize that the power of God at work in us and we had some wonderful experiences. The car rides back were totally different. Everyone had an exciting story to share. We could see what God had done when we were willing to speak out for Him.
All the spies accurately reported that the people of Israel had overwhelming odds against them. Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, said that the people of God could go against the odds and still conquer the land. However, the opinion of the other ten won out and the people were afraid to enter the Promised Land. God brought His judgment on that generation and he let them die in the wilderness. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years until only Joshua and Caleb were left. Joshua then led the Israelites into the Promised Land and Caleb was also there as strong as he had ever been.
I try to imagine what it might have been like for those two living for forty years among people who had told them they were wrong. They had to live each day with them. I have trouble being in a committee meeting where everyone disagrees with me, and I can leave the meeting and go home. Joshua and Caleb were surrounded by people who disagreed with them for forty years. Perhaps God was their only refuge in a sea of unbelief. I sometimes find myself in a restaurant or some other public places like that listening to the conversations of the people around me and their conversations are not very interesting. I think about heaven and wonder if I would want to spend eternity with those people sitting around me. At times, I have trouble just sitting there for an hour or so, listening to them griping and complaining about their lives. Joshua and Caleb had to spend forty years with people who saw things differently than they did and probably constantly complained about having to wander in the wilderness.
God usually uses time to bring change, especially in people. He took forty years to change the Hebrew nation and somehow kept the older people from passing on their unbelief to their children. Time is an essential part of life in all creation. When God created the heavens and the earth, He took six days. Many have trouble believing that because they don’t see an all powerful God could create everything in six days. I have trouble with it also, but for a different reason. I can’t see why an all-powerful God would take so long. He could have done it in an instant, but God usually uses time as a major ingredient in all of His creation. I suppose God could have instantly changed the people of Israel, but He usually doesn’t work that way. Time is an important element in all real change. When we become Christians and grow as daughters and sons of God, it takes time for us to grow; we don’t become new in an instant. God was taking time with Caleb and Joshua to grow them as His servants so that one day they could lead God’s people into the Promised Land. That time was not an easy time; the difficulties were a part of the growing process. One of the main ingredients of God’s work in our lives will be time and in this case it took forty years.
Finally, Joshua, Caleb, and a whole new generation of Jews conquered the Promised Land. Caleb got what he had waited for forty years to get, his inheritance. Moses had said to Caleb that he would receive the land on which he had tread as an inheritance. Now that Caleb had finally received his inheritance, you might wonder what he did with what he had waited forty difficult years to receive. He had to fight as an old man to gain this inheritance.
The first thing he did with the inheritance was to share some of it with his daughter and her family. The land she had received was arid and adjoined some of Caleb’s land where there were springs. Caleb gave her the springs so that she could have water on her land. The first thing that Caleb did with his inheritance was to give parts of it away to his children. That is a wonderful use of what it might take years to gain. There is no greater use for what we have inherited than to give some of it away. Sandy and I have received a bit of an inheritance from her family and have enjoyed giving most of it away. There is no greater joy anyone can receive from an inheritance than to give some of it away. Giving and sharing what we have with others is the greatest joy we can receive from what we have, especially if we can share it with our children.
During those forty difficult years in the wilderness, Caleb probably learned how to share the way God shares. He had learned to respond correctly to what he had finally been given. We usually try to move to quickly toward getting whatever is our inheritance. We just want to get the money and don’t want to take the journey it takes to get it. That may be why so many who win the lottery aren’t as blessed by it as they could be. They have not had the time to learn how to handle money the way God wants us to handle it. Over the process of acquiring money the usual way, God has the chance to take the time to teach us how to use it. God took years helping Caleb grow before he finally got his inheritance; when he got it, he did well with it. He received the great joy of giving.