Sermon: Facing Faith

Delivered on Sunday, May 12, 2002 at St. Paul United Methodist Church

Happy Mother’s Day! This is such a special day in our lives, a day that we want to hold up in high esteem those incredible ladies in our lives that are our mothers. I have three I would like to recognize. A very special mother to my 36 day old daughter Jadyn, my wonderful and beautiful wife, Jennifer. Her mother is also here this morning visiting with her, Carol Jan Cude.

The third special lady in my life isn’t here this morning, she’s in OKC – but I’m making a tape of this service to send to her so she can listen to it and here that her son indeed is really preaching in a real Sunday morning church service. Would you join me in saying hi to my mom… just say ‘hi mom’ all together… hi mom … thank you for doing that. She will definitely love that.

It really didn’t take me very long at all to come up with a topic when thinking of my mother. In fact, there’s probably one word that best describes my mother, and that is the word ‘FAITH’. I can’t tell you how many times in my life that things around me were looking pretty bleak, but mom would always stay the same… cool and calm, at least on the outside.

But it wasn’t being ignorant of the situation, or ignoring everything around her… it was a simple and clear understanding that there is nothing to fear when you have the Lord in your life. Living around my mother was a practicum on what faith was all about. From my earliest memories, I understood what faith was by seeing it in action every minute of every day. In fact, I didn’t know what is was like NOT to live a life without faith. So a scripture came jumping out at me when I started thinking about faith, and it wasn’t Hebrews 11 believe it or not. It’s a passage that has an interesting tie to this part of Texas actually, and we’ll read about it in a minute.

But before we get into that, let’s join together asking God to bless this time together.


Many of you are familiar about the 40 year trek in the wilderness that the Hebrews went through after their miraculous escape from Egypt. You probably remember how after leaving Egypt they fairly quickly came right up to the promised land and sent some men into Canaan to check it out and see if it was all they had heard. You see, it was the report that came back that made them wander around for another 40 years. Otherwise, they could have gone right in. Follow along in your Bible if you would like, I’ll be reading from Numbers chapter 13.

The Lord said to Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders."

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. 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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 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." 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."

But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 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. 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."

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord . And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

The children of God were facing a crisis situation. They understood that God wanted them to go into the land and take possession, but most of them weren’t looking through God’s eyes, but their own. They didn’t see that God had already accomplished the ‘taking’ and all they had to do was move in… they saw giants in the land and strong armies and fortifications that looked impossible to overcome. Their perspective was not God’s perspective. FAITH IS FUNDAMENTAL in the Christian life.

How we take on the situations that we encounter is based totally on our perspective. Do we look through our eyes, or through God’s eyes… do we see what can be accomplished through the power of human ingenuity, or through the power of God.

Caleb had faith in the power of God. To Caleb, God was greater than the biggest problem. Caleb didn’t argue the fact that Canaan had giants and fortified cities. He did not minimize the problems… he magnified God.

It is interesting to note that Caleb did not give in to pressure. After all, the 10 men who saw it themselves said the land could not be conquered, while 2 of them, Caleb and Joshua, believed the land could be taken. Caleb did not sacrifice his own convictions in order to make the majority report unanimous.

Caleb believed in the promises of God because Caleb believed that God was able to keep His Word. God stated that the Israelites would inherit the land of Canaan to three men in the book of Genesis: first to Abraham, then later to Abraham's son Isaac, and again to Isaac's son Jacob.

The promise that the Israelites would receive the land of Canaan was again repeated to Moses in the book of Exodus. Caleb remembered God's promises to the Israelites, and he believed God was able to keep His Word in spite of the fact that the land of Canaan appeared to be difficult to conquer. To him, faith was a fundamental way of life and belief.

We also find that real FAITH IS FEARLESS.

Doesn’t matter what is going on around us, or how many people say that it can’t be done… faith is an action that we engage in on a consistent and ongoing manner.

It’s a lifestyle, not just a one-time thing. We don’t conveniently stop doing faith when it gets tough. It’s not something we do on Sunday morning, it’s how we live and think and act every minute when we’re by ourselves.

Look at this next passage in Numbers 14… this is God himself responding to Moses about how the people rebelled against his instructions and questioned his power.

...not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

Did you notice what God said about people who question him… he calls it contempt. He said that Caleb had ‘a different spirit’ -- he calls all of us who consider ourselves believers to have a different spirit than one of disbelief… one who follows wholeheartedly.

It’s hard to understand what it would be like to live your life without faith. You heard about the atheist who found himself floating in the middle of the ocean after his boat sunk… after staying afloat for hours, along comes a huge shark that appears to be hungry. Just as his giant jaws opened to take a bite, the man yells ‘lord, help me’. Time stopped immediately… the shark froze and the waves stayed where they were. A voice comes out of heaven ‘I thought you didn’t believe in me…’ – I don’t… but maybe you can make the shark a believer. The voice says ‘ok, I can do that’ – then time resumes and the shark suddenly stops his attack and swims backwards a bit. Then the shark says… ‘thank you lord for the food we are about to receive…

Faith is the absence of fear. When we fear the unknown, we lack faith. Did you know that the African impala can jump 10 feet off of the ground over a distance of about 25 feet… think about that – but zoos can keep the animal enclosed with a simple 3 foot solid wall. You see, they won’t jump when they can’t see where they’re going to land.

We are very much like that. Many of us won’t make a move until we see exactly what the out come is going to be. God gives us enough understanding to make a faith commitment. We may not see through the fog what is ahead of us 5 or 6 steps ahead, but he expects us to take the first one… that’s faith – going on even when you don’t have the full picture.

Caleb was that way. He knew from God’s promises what the future would be, and even the uncertainty of the giants and armies didn’t change it.


A wholehearted lifestyle of faith in God’s guidance yields it’s rewards. For forty years the people traveled throughout Sinai because God said that no one would remain alive to see the promised land except Joshua and Caleb. So, when those two were the last ones alive, the time came for the people to take possession of the land of promise. Let’s go on and read Joshua 14…

Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.'

"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 desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 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. 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."

As a result of Caleb's faithfulness, he was promised that he would live long enough so that he would someday inherit the territory he had explored near Hebron. Now... agreed 45 years is a long time to wait for a promise to be fulfilled. That would be like being given a promise in 1958, and waiting for the promise to be fulfilled today. Keep in mind that these 45 years were difficult years including 38 years of the wandering in the wilderness, and 7 years devoted to continual battles to conquer the land of Canaan.

However, the promise that Caleb would inherit the land sustained him during these discouraging, exhausting years. It is interesting to compare Caleb's attitude toward his inheritance to the attitude that the other tribes had toward their inheritances. Forty-five years of waiting had reached a climax, and you get the feeling that Caleb was not going to leave until he was given his inheritance.

The land that Caleb wanted was not going to be easy to conquer. Now Caleb was 85 years old, and you might be thinking: "Caleb, why don't you find a nice section of land and grow a garden with a porch and a nice rocking chair… You can spend time with Joshua and the rest of your friends and trade stories about the conquest of Canaan".

When he said he was as strong today as he was 45 years ago, perhaps he wasn’t talking about physical strength, but possibly spiritual strength. He knew he wasn’t going to win the battle because of his power, but through God’s power.

We right here, today are caught in a battle of our own. Thankfully enough, we don’t have to brandish swords and go out attacking people. Our battle here isn’t against flesh and blood… it is to possess the land and bring people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

You know.. we, here in this 9:30 worship time are the ‘sandwich’ congregation. We are caught between two ‘regular’ worship times. The good thing is that you know what is in the middle of the sandwich, between the two pieces of bread… right. And you also know what is in-between the two outside parts of an oreo cookie… right… how about the middle of the banana split… uh huh – you got it.

I really feel like God is wanting us to take seriously the task of faith in building this contemporary service. I believe with all my heart that he has already given us the victory, and all we need to do is start moving into the land and taking on the inhabitants. Did you catch the theme of Caleb’s plea to Joshua…

...give me this hill country that the Lord promised me.

I really believe that this contemporary arm of the St. Paul’s congregation is in a prime place to make a difference in a lot of lives here in the hill country… so let’s say with the same conviction… give us this hill country!

I’ve had to learn quick how to be a daddy. Some of the most memorable words in my life have come from the mouth of my daughter Jessica. We were in the pool last summer having fun, trying to help her not be afraid of the water and trust that nothing would happen to her. She would be floating in her little donut floaty, and I would come up and take her feet, to see if she would stand up in my hands and trust me holding her. At first, she wouldn’t hear of it and we would hear about it. But, little by little she would trust me a little bit further until I had her balancing in her hands above the water and her floaty…. Then fall in the water knowing that I was there to keep her from going under. Her response was quick and certain… let’s do it again, daddy.

The more we individually and collectively practice letting go of our obscured vision and seeming insurmountable obstacles in our lives… the more we will understand that we can trust in the lord and practice our faith. The more we do that, the more we will say with ever increasing confidence… let’s do it again daddy.

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