While I was teaching on Numbers 13 in my youth group the other night, I had the oddest realization that negativity flourishes no matter the evidence to the contrary. In Numbers 13:27-14:10 the Israelites are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after wandering the desert for 40 long years. So Moses sends in 12 spies to get a lay of the land. Ten come back and tell of all the wonders they had seen to all the people in the camp. Then they drop the other shoe. There’s giants, mean people, walls and fortresses, and they are all armed. They, say it is best we forget it and maybe even return to Egypt. It’s then that Joshua and Caleb give a great pep talk, I mean a halftime speech for the ages, a Miracle on Ice speech, a run through a brick wall speech and do you know how the people of Israel responded? They said these two men should be stoned. So lets look at a few things in this story of Israel and translate them to modern times.
- When we are close to success, we have a tendency to retreat.
The Israelites had wandered for 40 long years, seen God do miracle after miracle, had endured, had victories, and had finally arrived at the promised land. They were so close to the ultimate goal but they thought about giving up. Not only giving up, but going back to Egypt where they were slaves, where they were treated horribly, back to a place God had freed them, back to where they were beaten, tortured and killed. Now as we sit here today, it is easy to shake our heads at them and wonder about them. However, we live in that same state. People go back to what is comfortable. Old habits, jobs, churches, toxic relationships, and anything that is known. It is the uncertainty, the what ifs and the maybes that keep us from finding our own promised lands. We see people almost reach their dreams and goals; they are on the cusp, but then they retreat and go back to comfortable.
2. Negativity is like kudzu.
Kudzu is from Japan and was brought to Alabama in the 1900’s. Here in Alabama it has spread everywhere. If you plant some in your yard, within a year it will be overrun. The same goes for negativity. Negativity spreads like kudzu. Negativity in our workplace can kill morale, job performance, and friendships. It is the leading cause of low workplace moral. Negativity was evident in the spies report back to Moses. Negativity permeates our culture today. Look at social media, the news, Twitter, churches, or listen at the break table. Negativity is everywhere. It can and does destroy jobs, friendships, churches, and can destroy a person. It spread throughout the Israelites’ camp and then when two poor brave souls had the audacity to stand against the negative reviews of the land of milk and honey, they were almost stoned to death. No good deed goes unpunished ehh? If we stand against negativity in our lives we are going to be punished. Why? Because negativity is easy and comfortable. People not being successful are negative people. We all have at one point or another been around a negative Nellie. Remember how quickly we became negative too?
3. We forget victories.
The Israelites had seen God do so many victories and miracles. He provided water and food (aka manna). He delivered them from Egypt, He parted the Red Sea, He lead them day and night, and so many more victories. Yet, when confronted with another hurdle, they simply said, “Well, this is the one God cannot overcome.” In our lives we simply forget the victories that we have had. Sure, some time may have passed between big wins but they do not play the Super Bowl every Sunday. We have to put ourselves in position to get big victories by seeing the little victories. I am a huge Dave Ramsey guy. His plan involves “Baby Steps” which in turn are just little victories on a pathway to huge financial victories. When you pay off that little $7.50 debt in Baby Step 2, it is a little victory. However, when you pay off that mortgage in Baby Step 6, I hear that it is like a Super Bowl celebration with champagne, confetti, and a huge celebration. Okay, maybe that doesn’t happen but it should. It is a huge victory that starts with a very small victory. That is how we should look at our lives and see the little victories and celebrate the wins that get us to the Super Bowl celebrations!!
The Israelites had seen the Promised Land. The spies had been in the Promised Land, tasted it, smelt it, wandered it, and yet did not believe God would give them victory. We do that too. So take a few minutes to remember the victories God has done in your life and prepare for the Super Bowl/Promised Land victories to come in your life.
P.S. The Israelites do eventually take over the Promised Land, as promised.