Lessons for Life Part 3: Facing Change, not with Fear but with Faith

November 6, 2022

This is the final part of a 3-part series on “lessons for life”, concluding our exploration of the Torah portion ‘Sh’lach’ or ‘Sh’lach Lecha’. This well-known passage in Numbers 13-15 recounts the mission of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore and report back on the land of Canaan as a future home for the Israelite people. 

We have in this series been recognizing the reality that there are seasons in life when God clearly calls us to make a specific change in our personal circumstances—maybe to move to a new location, even perhaps to head in an altogether new direction in life. It is at such times that God’s Word so often proves to be especially helpful. 

Changes in life inevitably confront us with challenges. One specific challenge that we looked at in the previous article (part 2 in this series) is the need to confront and overcome the fear that so often accompanies the prospect of change. 

We saw how ten of the spies brought back what was in effect a negative report on the land of Canaan, a report that resulted in fear gripping the hearts of the Israelites in the wilderness. They declared that the Canaanite people were fierce and intimidating and described the land of milk and honey as “a land that devours its inhabitants.” 

Joshua and Caleb however saw things differently; they saw things from a different perspective—they factored God into the equation! They chose to believe in and focus on the promises of a good and strong God who they were confident would enable the Israelites to overcome the very real obstacles before them. They were true men of faith.

Ultimately, the issue for us when confronted with significant changes in life isn’t ultimately whether we are competent or strong enough. 

The question is really this: Will we take God at His word, and will we trust Him with our problems? The problem with our fears is not fear itself, but what they reveal about our concept of God and our willingness to trust Him implicitly. 

Canaan always comes with Canaanites in it. Obstacles come with the territory. But let’s remember that no matter how big the problems are, God is bigger. Do you believe that? Are you a faith or fear person?

I love how Dr. E. Stanley Jones puts it—“I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. 

“In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, ‘We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.’ 

“But I, who am simple of mind, think I know. We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.” 

Caleb lived in reality! The reality that if God’s people in simple faith obeyed God’s word He would enable them to be overcomers—right there and then. And so we read: ‘Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”’

There is urgency in his voice and passion in his desire! Caleb knew that now, right now was the time to claim the victory. And so it may be for you, perhaps even today! Don’t put off moving forward into your God-given destiny!

The problem with our fears is not fear itself, but what they reveal about our concept of God and our willingness to trust Him implicitly

The fact that Caleb was ready to go showed the genuineness of his faith. Faith and action go hand in hand. As we are reminded in James 2:14-17—“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” That is real Jewish thinking. 

Following the complaining cries of the Israelites, Joshua and Caleb, still very positive, declared: “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” 

“They are our bread”—maybe today we would say, “Hey, this is a piece of cake!” Both Caleb and Joshua were just as confident of victory as the other ten spies were certain of defeat. 

They chose to put their faith in an all-powerful God. In Numbers 14:24 God specifically celebrates two things about Caleb—“he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully.” What an affirmation from the living God!

In Psalm 119:2, the psalmist says, “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” Caleb knew that a life of blessing was a life of total obedience to God. 

And so Caleb, together with Joshua, acted in obedience to the Word of God, knowing that God would be with him whatever the outcome. And God’s promise to be with us in every situation remains true for every believer. Our part is to have faith and obey.

Writes author Eileen Guder: “A ship wrecked off the New England coast many years ago. A young member of the coast guard rescue crew said, ‘We can’t go out. We’ll never get back.’ The grizzled old captain replied. ‘We have to go out. We don’t have to come back.’” It’s so true—we really don’t know the future. But we know the One who holds the future in His hands! 

The command by the Lord at the end of our passage for the Israelites “to make tassels on the corners [fringes] of their garments” is a powerful reminder that the One who holds the future in His hands calls us to be like the two spies Caleb and Joshua, who refused to hold back from obeying the Lord.

Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 

“And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, “and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.” 

The tassels, or tzitzit, are an outward reminder of what God in His Word requires of me—“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Rabbi Jonathan Cohen tells the story of a person thrown from a boat into the sea. “The captain stretches out a rope and tells him to take firm hold of it, for his life depends on it. The rope is like the tzitzit [tassels], and the captain is like God. The tzitzit provide a lifeline.” Fringe benefits, if you like! 

It just may be that, for some of you reading this, obedience to God’s Word and stepping out into the exciting and even scary future that God has prepared for you, will be the very thing that will cause all fears to flee. 

Child of the One True King

I don’t know what changes or challenge or difficulty you may be going through right now, or will face in the future, but ultimately you must make the choice. It’s really an “either-or” thing or, put another way, it’s an “I can’t” or “God is with me” situation.

You may feel that you have blown it completely…. that you are no longer worthy of God’s forgiveness because of your negative outlook on your circumstances…. that your fear of embracing God-inspired change has disqualified you from His blessing.

Don’t go there! As a Christian you are a son or daughter of the King of Kings! I love the worship song “No Longer Slaves”, featuring Jonathan and Melissa Helser, which really speaks to my heart about the importance of facing any fears or doubts that I may have by affirming my faith in who I am as God’s forever child. 

“I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”—so go the words of the chorus of this song. Never forget that as Christian believers we are defined by who we are as His children. 

And hold on to the unchanging truth that He is a forgiving and gracious God, as Moses well recognized when he interceded to God for the people as they complained bitterly at the thought of entering into the land of Canaan:

“And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression’”—Numbers 14:18. 

When fear causes you to baulk at embracing changes that God is calling you to make, never underestimate or undervalue the depth and extent of His forgiving mercy, which as Christians we see demonstrated supremely in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Are you facing changes in your life, even significant and perhaps scary changes, that you have come to recognize come from the heart of God, who only ever wants to bless you? Then declare “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”—and resolve like Joshua and Caleb to move forward in confidence and faith as the forever child of God that you are!



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