When confronted by the Reubenites and Gadites saying that they wanted to stay east of the Jordan, Moses told them of the discouragement that could come to the people of God through their action. To reinforce his point he reminded them of the discouragement which came to the nation of Israel through the report of the ten spies (see Num 32:6-15). As we look at this example of discouragement caused by the ten spies, we can learn how much damage can be done as a result of us taking an “it cannot be done” attitude.
We will start with the passage in Numbers 32:6-15 which gives a revealing review of what is recorded in Numbers 13-14. The details are this:-
- God has promised to give the nation of Israel the land of Canaan.
- Twelve spies went in to spy out the land. Ten came back and said the land was good, but it was impossible for the Israelites to go in and posses it.
- They thereby discouraged the people who did not go in and possess the land.
- God was displeased with the faithlessness of the people.
- God’s judgement fell so that they wandered aimlessly in the wilderness until all of the faithless who would not go in had died.
So what was it that hindered the Israelites from moving forward to take the land? It was the ten faithless spies and their discouragement of the rest of the people. They said “it cannot be done”, even though God had said it should be done because He had given them the land.
So are you an “it cannot be done” kind of person? In answering that question it has to initially be made clear that there always needs to be a proper assessment any situation when considering moving forward with a project. A proper full assessment has to be made of the pros-and-cons of moving ahead with a venture for God. We are not to be reckless and rash in our approach to the ways of the Lord. There should be a sense of sitting down first and considering a situation. The Lord commends this approach in the context of the demands of discipleship (see Luke 14:25-33).
What is at issue here though is the inclination that many have to always be opposing initiatives which advance the cause of Christ. There is a difference between realism and faithlessness. To oppose a movement of God is very serious. You may have lots of justifiable reasons for saying “it cannot be done”. The ten spies, for example, saw that there were giants in the land (see Num. 13:33) but remember it is God’s call to take on a certain initiative then to oppose it is to be with the ten spies. And when the people went with the ten spies they fell under the judgement of God.
You may think you are being clever to see deficiencies in a plan, but be very careful before opposing something which is clearly of the Lord. Perhaps we can think here of initiatives in evangelism. You discern an issue which will be a difficulty and you think you are clever in opposing the proposal. If this is the case, don’t forget to be aware of the impact that you can have upon others. Your negativity and discouraging spirit can prompt a malaise which spreads to others. Everyone is soon feeling that it cannot be done. “No point evangelising today nobody listens” becomes the general view, “no point going into that area; no one has ever been saved there.” With all the talk of “it cannot be done” around, evangelism and a desire for church planting is squashed and the church loses all energy. Everyone is discouraged, and progress for God is thwarted.
Rather, what we need is people like Caleb, who after proper assessment and most importantly with their eye on the Lord, says “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numb. 13:30b). Let us be careful to encourage any development which is of the Lord and for the Lord.
This principle of encouragement also applies generally in the life of the church. It is interesting to observe what Paul did after the tumultuous events in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He travelled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months (Acts 20:1-3a). Paul always wanted to encourage believers in the ways of the LORD.
Let us be careful to think about our own behaviour and influence. As church members we all have influence on one another. Are you a discourager? Through your behaviour are you discouraging others in the pursuit of the Lord and fulfilment of His purposes in their lives? Perhaps you think what you say and do is irrelevant to the cause of Christ in Feltham. It most certainly is not! You can be a force for good or ill. Remember even the great apostle Peter was once discerned by the Lord to be an instrument of the devil. The Lord said to him “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt 16:23).
Let us then be an encourager. Always let us be on the look out as to how we can encourage forward the cause of Christ. And finally, let us heed the exhortation to the Hebrew Christians let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of July 2015)