Faith Over Fear

Faith Over Fear

by Casey Norton

The book of Numbers highlights the Israelites’ departure from Egypt and their journey toward the Promised Land. Numbers 13 displays themes of faith, courage, and the repercussions of doubt. This chapter unfolds a crucial moment in the Israelites' wilderness wanderings as Moses sends twelve spies, each representing a tribe of Israel, to explore the land of Canaan. Promised to the Hebrews as an inheritance flowing with milk and honey, Canaan symbolizes the culmination of God's covenant with His people. However, when the spies return, they share conflicting perspectives, mixed reports, and something that should encourage us as believers of all different ages and walks of faith.

Numbers 13 reveals faith and fear, the power of perception, and courage in the face of adversity. If there is one thing that we can learn from this chapter, like many other parts of the Bible, it’s that we can always trust in God’s providence. We should stay far away from leaning on our own understanding.

The contrast between faith and fear is shown in the response of the Israelite spies from their report of the Promised Land. The majority gave in to fear, focusing on the perceived obstacles rather than trusting in God's promises. When Pastor and author John Piper discusses the difference between faith and fear, he highlights how fear distorts our perception, leading to a loss of confidence in God's faithfulness. However, faith as shown by Caleb and Joshua sees beyond the challenges, anchoring itself in the unwavering trust in God's sovereignty and provision. Piper emphasizes that true faith is not without fear but confronts it with the assurance of God's promises. Numbers 13 serves as a reminder of the transforming power of faith, urging believers to choose faith over fear in navigating life's uncertainties.

It’s no wonder that when we spend more time learning about God’s faithfulness to His promises, we start to see our own faith takeover when fear would usually have its place in line.  This is similar to how my daughter has grown more and more accustomed to jumping off of the toy box and onto her cushions with little regard for pain.  She’s recently added a spin move and a kick in mid-air.  She’s practiced and knows that the cushions will break her fall. That has built her confidence.  

On that same note, we see in this chapter how our perception helps shape our reality. Here, perception plays an important role in shaping the reality of the Israelites' journey to the Promised Land. John Calvin, speaking to the danger of relying solely on human perception, writes, "There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence." Similarly, C.S. Lewis states, "What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are."

In Numbers 13, the majority of the spies viewed themselves as insignificant in comparison to the inhabitants of Canaan. This led to a distorted perception of their ability to conquer the promised land. However, Caleb and Joshua's perception, grounded in faith and trust in God's promises, enabled them to see the situation from a different perspective.  

This is why, again, it’s so important that we as believers spend more time listening to God and not the world.  As Romans 12:2 reminds us, “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I pray that we take courage in trusting God’s Word, relying not on ourselves or worrying about what stage of life we’re in or what trial we’re going through. Let's consider instead that we have a God that “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”. (2 Tim 1:9)

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