(Back in October, I began a three-part series on “Pastor, You’ll Have to Show Them How.” It reminded the Lord’s shepherds that congregations do not come by great faith, strong compassion, and devout courage automatically. The pastor needs to teach these qualities to their people. I envisioned this as three articles, and did the first two–on how the pastor can teach faith and compassion to their people. For some reason, though, I neglected to do the third one. So, here it is, a few months late. The two earlier articles are found on my blog by scrolling down the archives (right side) to October 22, 2010.)
What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart. (Deuteronomy 20:8)
God did not want cowards in His army.
There’s something about faintheartedness that spreads from one person to another like wildfire. Better to go forward with a small fighting force made up of champions than with a massive one infiltrated with cowards.
Fear and courage are brothers, we are told. They show up at the same time, often hand in hand. But, like the brothers in my family and maybe yours, the competition between them is fierce. They struggle to see which will rule the day.
Fear and courage are both contagious.
Let someone start the conversation by pointing out how strong the enemy is and how weak our side is and how foolish we would be to go forward, and soon, his solo is drowned out by a chorus of like-minded fearmongers.
They had been waiting for an excuse to go home.
Let someone stand up and speak faith and courage, and often–not always, alas–others will step out of the crowd to stand with him. Ten warriors with courage–strong of heart and dead-set on victory–can do more than a thousand who are ruled by fear.
The twelve spies had returned from their forty days in Canaan. Israel’s multitude gathered around, eager for their report. There was good news a-plenty: the fields were fertile, the crops abundant, the orchards loaded, and the barns filled. But there was another side to the report: the land was well-populated, the cities were walled and protected by standing armies equipped with the latest technology. And if that wasn’t enough, there were giants in the land.
This could go either way.
It all came down to leadership.
Immediately after the report, faithful Caleb spoke up. “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
To his dismay, ten of the twelve spies responded: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” They continued, “That land devours its inhabitants! We were like grasshoppers in the sight of those people!” (Numbers 14)
Caleb, you were outvoted, sir. Sorry. The twelfth member of your team, Joshua, seems to have kept quiet. We wonder why.
All night long, the sleepless congregation tossed in their beds, dwelling on their fears. By sunrise, they had hatched a plan. They would abandon Moses and this invisible “God” of his and return to Egypt. There, they would apologize to Pharaoh and act like none of this ever happened.
Now, at last, Joshua spoke up.