When Safe isn’t Safe
Lots of times we don’t listen to God’s nudging because we prefer to choose the “safer” option. But what if safe isn’t actually safe?
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
Well it’s college football season, and with today’s superior athletes, records are getting broken all the time.
But are you familiar with the one game in college football where more single-game records were set than any other? 13 of them in fact!
It was 1939…Texas Tech was playing Centenary
There was a torrential downpour and incredibly muddy field positions, and rather than take the risk of running or throwing the ball downfield…both teams adapted the same silly strategy.
If they didn’t have good field position, they decided to punt…on first down.
In the hopes that the guy on the other team trying to catch the punt would drop the ball, and they could recover it and score a touchdown.
There were 14 dropped punts in that game…and yet no one ever scored.
There were, I’m not lying, look it up on wikipedia, 77 punts in the game…but the game still ended, tied, at 0-0.
And today I want to talk about how many of us…because we’re afraid of the risk of moving the ball downfield…just punt instead…even on first down.
We are starting a new series today called Nearsighted.
And we’re going to talk about how we often trust in only what we can see at close range…and in doing so…we miss what would be best for us in the long-range.
And this morning, we’re going to look at an incredible story from the Old Testament in the Bible.
One that, in history, comes shortly after the Book of Exodus ends.
I know many of you are new as of this Fall, but we’ve been studying the book of Exodus, in chunks, throughout 2017.
We’ll be coming back to it again, most likely in December.
But the book of Exodus is the story of how God frees his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt.
And the Book of Exodus ends while the Israelites are still out in the desert.
Less than a year after the Book of Exodus ends, and about a year after the Israelites left Egypt, they’ve reached the border of the Promised Land (which is roughly modern-day Israel).
They are getting ready to go into the promised land, but decide to send in 12 spies (one spy from each of their 12 tribes) first to check it out.
We’re going to look at this story today, which is recorded in the book of Numbers in the Bible..
Which believe or not, isn’t all about numbers!
And now you can’t say that you’ve never heard a message in church from the Book of Numbers!
(Page 117 )
By the way, as you get that out…we’re rolling out a new feature today in our App…so everybody get out your phone for a second and open up your app…I want to show you this.
Tap on the “nearsighted” series (our new series)
Then tap one more time on today’s message “When Safe Isn’t Safe”
You’ll see a button on your screen that says “Take a Note”
It’ll ask you to log-in either with your Facebook account or an email (your choice)
But once you do, you’ll be able to take notes each week on the message.
So if you want to write down 3 major points…or a quote…or anything that the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart as you listen…you can now do that!
And the best thing is it will save all of your notes in there.
So when you’re at House Groups later this week, you can go to this week’s message and pull up your notes.
Or, if you’re trying to remember something God said to your heart…3 weeks from now, you can go back and find that note.
I highly encourage you to use it!
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Here’s what Moses says to the 12 spies before they leave
(Numbers 13:17-20) – NIV
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
Definitely a dangerous job…but they’re probably going to see some amazing things, right?
After all, they’re going to the Promised Land!
Well, 40 days later, the spies come back and the people are waiting with bated breath.
They can’t wait to hear the report.
Let’s see what the 12 spies report:
(Numbers 13:26-33) – NIV
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
All 12 spies saw the same thing…but 10 of them have a different interpretation of their observations than the other 2.
2 of the spies (Caleb is mentioned here, and Joshua will be mentioned later) say, “It doesn’t matter! God will do this for us!”
While the other 10 say, “Yeah, that place is really nice…the fruit is great…but you should see how tall the people are! And their cities are huge!”
And if you read carefully at the end of the chapter, as the 10 spies begin spreading their bad report amongst the people, they begin to exaggerate their observations in order to get more people on their side.
We still do the same thing today, don’t we?
What started as…”some of the people there were descendants of Anak” (a race of exceptionally tall people), now becomes ALL the people are of great size…and…we’re basically like Grasshoppers to them!”
So what happened?
How do 12 people see the same thing, but explain it differently?
Here’s what happened: All 12 of them saw that many of the people were tall and their cities were big, but Joshua & Caleb just saw that God was even bigger.
It’s similar to the story of David & Goliath, which will come about 400 years later in the Bible.
All the Israelites quake in fear while looking at 9 ft tall Goliath…
Until the young David walks up and basically says, “Meh, he’s like an ant compared to my God”
This, then, is an important theme throughout Scripture.
When you look at the obstacles in front of you…what do you see?
When God is nudging you to do something difficult…what do you see?
Who looks greater in your view?
The obstacles? Or God?
Has God been bugging you to start a Bible study at your work in your neighborhood?
Has He been nudging you about signing up for House Groups?
Calling you to take a risk and quit your job to move on to something else…or stay at home?
If you’re not sure what God is nudging you towards, then go back to square 1…start asking Him.
I guarantee you…He’s leading you to something!
And if He is…
What do you see?
Just the obstacles?
How would we do that financially?
How would God provide for us?
How would I make it work logistically?
What do you see?
Just the obstacles or do you see your Almighty, Powerful God beckoning you forward?
OBSTACLES ON THE PATH TO PROMISE
The vast majority of the Israelites just see the obstacles.
(Numbers 14:1-4) – NIV
That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
The passage says, the people “wept aloud” all that night after they heard the report.
Because all of this time they had been looking forward to where God was going to bring them…the promised land.
And then they heard…that to actually enjoy the Promised Land, they had to get through a whole lot of obstacles first!
And the mere existence of obstacles caused them to lose faith…as if God had no idea there were going to be obstacles!
This is us…this is me.
We want God’s blessings/good things…we just don’t want any obstacles or opposition on the path to receiving them.
We don’t want to fight any battles…we just want God to hand us our blessings.
And yet, that’s not how He usually works.
Most of the time, when God brings you somewhere significant, He builds up your faith (through the obstacles) on the path to blessing
Some of us are a step further along here, but still not quite where God wants
We can say, “I know…it would be good if I trusted you God…”
“If I did this crazy thing you are nudging me towards…I know it would probably be amazing”
The 10 spies never deny that the Promised Land is a nice place.
They don’t come back and say, “Oh yeah, the place is a dump. They don’t even have a Culver’s”
No, they said it was great!
But like us, they say, “Yeah, it would be great, but the cost to get there…is too high”
And so the people weep all night.
They weep…because God is not going to make it easy for them.
Ever been there?
Ever said to God, “If you were good, you would be making this easy! Why are you making this hard?”
COWARDICE COUCHED AS RESPONSBILITY
And so a lot of us as modern-day Christians live lives that look a whole lot more like the 10 spies than that of Joshua and Caleb who trusted God would give them the Promised Land
There aren’t enough American Christians (yet…give us time!)…that are truly trusting God for amazing things through faith.
But for some of you…it wasn’t always that way!
Maybe when you were a child, you believed God could do anything!
Or when you were in high school or college, you had a vision for what God could do through your campus ministry and through you and your friends!
But getting older, for many people (not all, but for a lot of us) has a way of shaking our child-like faith right out of us.
You experience failure and life knocks you down a few times.
And rather than interpreting that as the “obstacles to build your faith on the path to God’s promises…”
…we wrongly interpret the obstacles as signs that God doesn’t really want to do all that much with our lives.
And some people older than you and supposedly smarter than you, start telling you that you should really be more responsible…and not take such risks.
As Francis Chan says when he talks about aging… He says, “As we age…
“We become more and more cowardly, and we call it being responsible” – Francis Chan
People will, in God’s name, try and talk you out of “the impossible” or situations with foreseeable obstacles…ALL THE TIME
Verse 10 of chapter 14 says the Israelites were beginning talks of stoning Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.
For saying they should go to the Land GOD promised them…just because it would be hard?
You might feel a conviction from God to stop dating someone you know doesn’t feel the same way about Jesus that you do…
And sometimes even supposedly Godly people might try and talk you out of it, “Oh, I don’t know if you need to go that far…”
You might feel a conviction from God that even though every part of you wants to leave your marriage…that you need to stay in fight for it…”
And even supposedly Godly people might try and talk you out of it: “I don’t think God would want you to stay in a loveless marriage”
As if God only wants you on a path with no difficulty
But that’s not the God I read about in the Bible.
That an invented American god who just wants us to do what’s easy, safe, and makes us happy at all times.
And what happens for a lot of Christians as they continue to age (again not all!), but for many their faith gets weaker and weaker.
And they no longer remember what it’s like to live a life of FAITH…of TRUST
And plus now you have all of these responsibilities that you didn’t have when you were 21.
You’ve got kids…a mortgage.
But if God calls you to go into missions overseas, are you not going to go because you have kids and a mortgage?
Is God still God or is He not?
And by the way, this is a really similar line of reasoning the Israelites used.
Did you catch that when we read verse 3 of chapter 14?
They said, “We can’t go to the Promised Land because our wives and children could be used as plunder…they could get hurt”
And God is saying, don’t use your family as an excuse for not trusting me
I’ve seen plenty of men (and women) who say, “I can’t really serve the Lord (here…in a house group…overseas)…because it would be hard on my family”
No, the worst thing for your family is disobedience to God
God is never pleased with cowardice.
With people who don’t believe He can do what he says He can do!
Are you going to be cowardly or courageous?
SAFE IN THE SHORT-TERM = NEARSIGHTED
Let me break our faulty reasoning down a bit more
So many of us are afraid to risk anything for God (even if He’s calling us to it) because most people prefer the certainty of misery to the mystery of uncertainty
We can see around us…and it’s not great…but it feels safer than going out into that big blurry beyond
There’s an old story that says that many, many years ago, during one of the wars in the Middle East, there was a unique General in the Persian Army.
He had adopted a strange and unusual custom for when his army captured enemy spies.
He would always permit the condemned person to make a choice.
The prisoner could either face the firing squad or pass through the Black Door.
And spy after spy would continue to choose…(what do you think??)…the firing squad.
Each spy would make it known that he much preferred the firing squad to the unknown horrors that might await him behind the ominous and mysterious Black Door.
And yet, one day, an aide dared to ask the general, “What’s behind the black door?”
The General replied, “Freedom. And I’ve only known a few actually brave enough to take it”
In our nearsightedness, we often do own up to a bit of our cowardice.
We’ll say, “Yeah, I know it’s probably the lesser of the two options…
But see…we also have this false idea that least we are choosing the safer of the two options
Surely death is safer than the black door.
Surely not doing this scary thing God is calling me to is safer than doing it
But that’s not true.
It’s not true at all.
Look at what Joshua & Caleb say to the people in verse 9:
(Numbers 14:9) – NIV _ LEAVE UP FOR 30 SECONDS
Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
They don’t say, “I suppose if you don’t want to go…no big deal…you’ll be nice and safe and warm here”
They say, “Do not rebel against the Lord”
If God has been nudging you towards something, to do nothing, is not the “safer action,” it’s actually rebelling against God’s will.
It’s to say, via your actions, “I don’t trust you God.”
And there are consequences for such an action.
Let’s look at what they were for the Israelites:
(Numbers 14:28-33) – NIV
So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness.
And instead of going to the Promised Land, they will wander in the desert for 40 years, where all of the adults…except for Joshua & Caleb…will die in the Wilderness.
It’s interesting, so often we think we’re doing the best thing, the safest thing, by not trusting in God’s nudging…when it seems scary to follow Him.
But sometimes safe isn’t actually safe.
God’s Word would say, the best place for you…is in the center of God’s will.
If we don’t risk…and we don’t trust…we’ll pay for it later.
There are consequences to our rebellion and unbelief.
I know these are tough words this morning, but hear me on this:
There is not a scenario in which you can disobey God’s calling/nudging, and then have things go “better for you” because you didn’t listen.
WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE AT 85?
So what has God been nudging you towards that you’ve been afraid to step forward because of all the obstacles?
Where have you been choosing the safe option…but you’re now realizing that that may not be the safe option at all?
Or think of it this way...: Which direction do you want your life to go?
Do you want to keep listening to everyone else, and live a life of cowardice couched as responsibility?
Or do you want to start living courageously like the men and women in the Bible we’re supposed to aspire to be like?
Don’t look at everyone else around you.
Look to His Word.
There’s an amazing passage in Joshua 14, that takes place 45 years after today’s passage…after the Israelites have finally entered the Promised Land and have been there for a few years, enjoying God’s victory and continuing to conquer more and more of the Promised Land
Caleb is having a conversation with his friend Joshua, now 45 years later. Here’s what Caleb says:
(Joshua 14:10-12) – NIV
10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
There it is.
That’s your goal.
That’s who you want to be at 85.
Not …”I took no risks…kept my head down…went to church once a month and now I play shuffleboard in California.”
No, no no…You want to be Caleb.
You want to be saying, “I’m just as strong today than I was at 40…you need help fighting the Anakites??? With the Lord helping me, I could take them!”
Do you remember else who just wanted to be “safe”??
Everybody else who was too afraid to trust God when He told them there were obstacles on the path to blessing.
Everybody else…is dead.
Safe isn’t safe.
Safe isn’t the way to life.
It’s usually the path to boredom, self-reliance, disobedience, and ironically, consequences and thus even more obstacles.
Which direction is your life headed?
What will your life look like at 85?
Will you still be making “safe decisions”…putting the ball on first down… resigned to a scoreless, boring life of regret?
Or, are you going to look like Caleb?
Will you…can you be…the person who at 85…is talking about how, with God’s help, you could do the impossible right now…just give me a sword!”
Live a life of faith.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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