Nothing makes me crazy quite like when my kids whine for breakfast in the morning. It’s as if they have so easily forgotten the endless amount of mornings in the past that I have risen and provided them with food without fail. As I’ve pondered why it is that this bothers me so much I’m reminded of a story from the Bible.
The Israelites are preparing to enter into the Promised Land. Moses, their leader, had sent spies into the land to ensure that it was good and that they could enter it safely.
Ten of the twelve spies had returned and instead of giving the people hope about the land of Canaan, they gave a bad report.
Only two people were courageous enough to return with a message of hope. Caleb and Joshua spoke boldly reminding the Israelites what God had said was true. God was with them and the land was flowing with milk and honey.
The story ends with the people rebelling, revolting against leadership, and disobeying God. Their entire generation was sentenced to wander the wilderness making no progress towards the promised land. Only two from the entire generation, Caleb and Joshua, would enter the abundant life God prepared for His people.
My kid’s blatant forgetfulness of my faithful service to them was a teeny representation of the slap in the face God must have felt when the Israelites doubted His promise. God had gone above and beyond to rescue and guide these people. Yet they still didn’t believe.
Unbelief caused them to doubt God’s goodness. Unbelief kept an entire generation from the abundant life God had for them. Unbelief lead them to aimlessly wander until their death. And the consequences of their unbelief would hold back their children for years delaying their inheritance too.
So why does it matter what we believe?
When my kids don’t believe that they’re getting breakfast they allow their hunger and emotions to dictate their mood. They begin to grumble and complain against the hand that faithfully feeds them. Not long after that happens any unity that existed is out the window before we even get into the day.
When the Israelites did not believe the land was good or that God would provide a way for them to defeat their enemies they began to grumble and complain against leadership and God. The people then rebelled and all unity amongst the people was gone resulting in death, disobedience, and an aimless existence for the generation.
And when we don’t believe that God can meet our needs, help us overcome our obstacles, and give us victory in our lives we respond to God and others with ingratitude. And it isn’t long before the enemy has our sin as a tool in his arsenal to steal kill and destroy the abundant life God has for us too.
God designed our bodies to act based on what our minds believe. At the root of every sin, there is some unbelief we hold as the truth about God. And when we live and act in sin we are an instrument in the hands of our enemy the devil whose only goal is to rob us of abundant life (John 10:10).
There are several practical examples we can follow and learn from the mistakes of the Israelites to foster belief in our lives.
- Instead of allowing fear to overwhelm, we can allow it to prompt us to remember who God says He is.
The bad report paired with the Israelites own fears drove them into a complete panic. It is normal to feel apprehension when we are walking into unknown territory. However, we have a choice in how we respond to our feelings. Instead of entertaining the doubts and all the possibilities of what could go wrong we can take captive those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). The gospel tells us that out of pure love for us God withheld nothing so that we could live an eternally abundant life with Him. Are your thoughts, fears, and feelings in alignment with that truth?
2. Be careful who you allow to speak into your life.
Caleb and Joshua saw the same land that the ten who had a bad report saw, but they saw it through the lens of God’s truth. We too can build and establish seeing the world through God’s lens of truth by reading and learning His word. When we know His word we know how to filter with a grain of salt whether those around us are being truthful or fearful. We have to learn to identify what is the world and what is God’s voice. God’s voice is usually the still small voice, not the screaming and shouting voices (1 Kings 19:12). Are we going to listen to the ten who doubted God’s goodness because their voices are the loudest or are we going to listen to the two who quietly but boldly proclaim the truth of what God says?
3. When in doubt give thanks.
If God showed us anything through His dealings with the Israelites it’s this -He does not tolerate ingratitude and grumbling. When we are tempted to complain because life feels hard or uncertain we can choose to give thanks instead. Complaining leads to death and disunity. Gratitude leads to joy, unity, and reminding ourselves of the faithfulness of God. When we remember all the good things God faithfully does for us by offering thanks consistently we live a more joyful, abundant life that steps boldly into the promises of God without a shadow of a doubt. Are we praising God more than we’re complaining about our circumstances?
Throughout the Bible, we see that God deals harshly with unbelief and rightfully so. Unbelief is a gateway that opens a plethora of sin, rebellion, and disunity much like my kid’s whining does. God has an abundant life for us, but to receive it we have to believe.