Great Faith for New Places
‘So now give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke on that day… Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance’. (Joshua 14:12-13).
The Pain of Waiting
What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait for a promise? When I was six years old, I began praying for a piano every night. Every Christmas, when we would go to my grandparents, my grandmother and my uncle would play the piano. My uncle was good, and I would be captivated by the sounds he could evoke from that instrument.
And so I was motivated to learn how to play. But the problem was that my family didn’t have a piano, and we didn’t have enough money for a piano. But as a six-year-old, I wasn’t daunted! That was the year I first heard the gospel and gave my life to Christ, and in my young child-like faith (child-like because it was, literally, the faith of a child), I began to pray for a piano. Every night. It was part of my prayer routine before I went to sleep. Every night. Praying for a piano.
Three years later, after praying for a piano – every night for three years, some friends of our family gave us a piano. They had no knowledge of my praying. Three years of praying, and BOOM! A piano. It was an extraordinary moment of learning several key lessons:
God answers prayer.
Perseverance pays off.
God delights in blessing his children.
More than Three Years
In looking back, three years seems like a long time to wait for a piano, but compared with how long Caleb waited, it seems like nothing. Caleb is one of the heroes of the Promised Land episode in scripture. In Numbers 13 and 14 we read about his return with the other spies to give a report to Moses.
Ten of the spies brought back an evil report – that is, an unbelieving report (Numbers 13:32). But Joshua and Caleb brought back a good report – that is, a report about God’s greatness, a report about God’s capacity to do what God has promised:
But Caleb quietened the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it’ (Numbers 13:30).
Please notice this key phrase: we are well able to overcome it. Caleb believed God could provide, and this is exactly what He experienced. God responded positively to Caleb’s faith:
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it (Numbers 14.24).
Notice the two phrases that the Lord spoke about Caleb: 1) I will bring him into the land; 2) his descendants will possess it. The promises of God to Caleb form the background for what happens in Joshua 14.
Look at the key points of his speech to Joshua:
- Moses made promises to me (v. 6)
- I was forty years old when I went out as a spy (v. 7)
- I brought back a report as it was in my heart (v. 7)
- The other spies made the people’s hearts melt with their bad report (v. 8)
- I wholly followed the Lord my God (v. 9)
- The Lord has kept me alive these forty-five years (v. 10)
- Now I’m eighty-five years old, and ‘I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming’ vv. 10-11).
- Therefore, GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN (this hill country) that the Lord promised (v. 12)
Caleb tells his story, reminds Joshua about his faith and God’s promises, and Joshua responds by giving Hebron and the surrounding area to Caleb.
The Art of Asking Boldly
Obviously, Caleb was not British. If he had been, he would have said something like, ‘Hi Joshua, sorry to bother you in the midst of this whole possessing the promised land operation – I know that’s a lot of work, but if it’s not too much trouble and wouldn’t put you out too much, would it be possible, if it’s not too much bother, to consider giving, or allocating, or letting me borrow – this land, or some land, or any land really – just a couple of acres would do – if it’s not too much trouble?’
There comes a time and a place to extend our faith and boldly ask for what God has promised. In faith. In boldness. Daring to believe God’s word. Daring to ask. Daring to receive. It’s one thing to receive a promise; it’s another thing to possess what’s been promised. Caleb possessed what he confessed forty-five years earlier.
There are mountains for us to possess: there is gospel advance for us to accomplish – in our neighbourhoods and cities and into new towns and cities and nations. We will not lay hold of our spiritual inheritance by shrinking back in timidity, but by asking and moving forward in faith. Even if it takes forty-five years to see the promised fulfilled.
Every Generation has to possess new places. There is always new territory to possess; there are always new gospel advances to be made. Whether it is believing for people to come to Christ, for disciples to be made, churches to be planted – or even something as seemingly not ‘spiritual’ as new buildings getting built. We don’t help the cause of God by adopting a posture of timidity; rather, like Caleb – and like a six-year old who wanted a piano – let’s learn the art of bold and persistent asking.