“See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 1:21, esv).
In the Christian life, faith is so vital and doubt so detrimental that God places regular tests of faith in front of His children. These are not intended for our failure but for our success.
The children of Israel faced just such a test of faith. Poised to enter the Promised Land, they faced a challenge meant for their success. The land wasn’t vacant—other nations occupied the space. If they were going to take the land God had promised, they’d have to go to war and face conflict and hardship. This was their test of faith: Would they trust and conquer, or doubt, despair and be defeated?
God’s Plan A for His people was that they would march straight ahead and take the land. “I have already won this battle for you,” God essentially told them. Moses urged, “See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” In other words, God reminded them, “Don’t doubt! You will win the battles. I will give you this land. Get after it!”
But lack of faith paralyzed their feet, and they stayed outside the Promised Land. God named this choice, and what He called it was rebellion and lack of faith (Deuteronomy 1:26, 32). That’s the bottom line: The reason they didn’t go up and take the land was because they couldn’t trust God.
They failed the test because they wouldn’t trust God.
Did God cast them off for this choice? No! Because of His great love for them, He gave them another opportunity to trust Him. Plan A was, “Go take the land.” Plan B was, “I know you’re weak, but I’m a God of grace. To boost your faith, we’ll send in spies to bring back a good report. Then you’ll be fired up with faith and get on with this conquest.”
God instructed Moses to handpick a twelve-man reconnaissance team to go behind enemy lines and spy out the land. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them’” (Numbers 13:1–2). These spies were the Navy Seals, spiritually speaking.
Twelve people went to see the same thing—but God wanted to see how they would see it. What the spies saw would either shrink or stretch their faith. And they saw a lot: strong cities, powerful armies, and intimidating giants. They also saw evidence of abundance.
Two spies took it all in through the eyes of faith, seeing the opportunity. Their report rang with confidence in God. “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30b).
Ten spies saw it through the eyes of doubt, focusing only on the obstacles. Their report sounded very negative. “‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are’” (13:31b). They chose doubt and swayed the whole nation. Their doubts brought heavy consequences—forty years of wilderness wandering—and necessitated Plan C, when a new generation would conquer the land.
Can you identify what might be going on in your life that’s shrinking or stretching your faith? God places those regular tests in front of you. Either you draw closer to Him and your faith flourishes, or you move further from Him and your doubts grow. In those moments, you make a crucial choice: faith or doubt. Choose the first, and you’ll add another story to your file of the faithfulness and goodness of God. Choose the second, and your faith will shrivel up like a piece of leather in the wilderness sun. Your responses to the circumstances of life either shrink or stretch your faith.
Lord God, thank You for who You are: a faithful God, who never fails me; a gracious God, who gives me second chances and Plans B and C; a sanctifying God, who gives me tests of faith to grow me. Please stretch my faith. When I face a test, help me to see with the eyes of faith, as the two spies did. Open my eyes to the opportunities instead of obstacles. Help me to trust You. I know I can trust You because even when I can’t see what You’re doing, I know You’re good, and You want what’s best for me. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, who is Faithful and True, amen.