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The Best Focus for Our Future

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Many thanks to Leland Crawford for giving me permission to use his excellent outline. 1. Don't focus on the giants; focus on the grapes. 2. Don't focus on yourself; focus on your Savior. 3. Don't focus on your past; focus on the promises of God.

Notes & Transcripts

The Best Focus for Our Future

Numbers 13:25-14:9

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 11, 2015

*Many thanks to Leland Crawford for giving me permission to use his excellent outline.

BACKGROUND:

*About 3,400 years ago, God sent Moses to deliver the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The LORD had already sent the ten terrible plagues onto Egypt. The Israelites had been freed, and they had miraculously crossed the Red Sea on dry land, as God parted the waters. Moses has been on Mount Sinai to meet with the LORD and receive God's commandments for His people.

*Now, the Children of Israel were just outside of the Promised Land, and at the beginning of Numbers 13:

1. . . The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

2. "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them."

3. So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel.

*The next thirteen verses list the twelve men by name. Then God gives us some of the details of their mission. They were to find out what the land, the cities and the people were like. They were also told to bring back some of the fruit of the land.

*Verses 25-26 tell us:

25. . . They returned from spying out the land after forty days.

26. So they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

*With this background in mind, let's start reading in Numbers13:27.

INTRODUCTION:

*Most people start wearing glasses in their 40s. I started in the first grade. I had no idea how bad my eyes were, but I must had failed a vision check in school. And I can still remember riding home with my dad after I got my first pair of glasses. It was unbelievable! I could actually see the words on the signs. I could even see the leaves on the trees! I had no idea how much I had been missing.

*The right focus can make all the difference in the world. And God wants us to be people with the right focus in life. But what is the right focus for our lives? God's Word can show us today.

1. First: Don't focus on the giants; focus on the grapes.

*It is easy to focus on the negative things in life. That's what the ten wrong-thinking spies did. And we see this starting in Numbers 13:27:

27. Then they told him, and said: "We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.

28. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.

*These ten doubters also gave a bad report in vs. 31-32:

31. But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.''

32. And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.

*In chapter 14, the Children of Israel also focused on the negative. Please look at vs. 1-2 for example:

1. Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.

2. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!

*They focused on the negative. And it's easy for us to do the same thing. It's easy for us to focus on the negative, because there IS so much negative around us: Disasters, crime, corruption, health problems, job problems, family problems, and personal problems.

*These negative things are the giants we face. But if we focus on the negative, we will never be the people God wants us to be. And we have a choice to make: We can focus on the giants, or we can focus on the grapes.

*Joshua and Caleb focused on the grapes. In Numbers 13:30: 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.''

*Then in Numbers 14:7-8, Joshua and Caleb both:

7. . . spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.

8. 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.'

*Joshua and Caleb focused on the grapes. God wants us to be like them, and we can be like them. That's why Philippians 4:8 says this to all Christians: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things."

*"Meditate on." That means "keep thinking on" these good things. God's Word is telling us here that we have to be intentional about positive thinking. We have to intentionally give attention to the good and godly things of life. Paul knew that our tendency is to focus on the negative things in life. And he knew that focusing on the good things is good for us.

*That's what Joshua and Caleb did. And Church: We ought to be like them, because God has given so many good things to us. He has blessed us with friends, family, finances, and freedom. Best of all, God has given us His Word, His life, and His home in heaven!

*The list could go on and on. These are the grapes in our lives, and we ought to focus on them. So don't focus on the giants; focus on the grapes.

2. And don't focus on yourself; focus on your Savior.

*It's easy to focus on ourselves, and that's what the unbelieving spies did in Numbers 13:33. They gave this bad report about the land God had promised to them: "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.''

*Well, the giants of life are bigger than us, but they aren't bigger than God! Our giant problems are the grasshoppers in God's sight! And yes, sometimes God does remind us how small and weak we are. But that is only so we will look up to Him for help.

*Don't focus on yourself. Focus on the Savior. And when we do, one of the most important things we see is how much we need Him. God wants us to know that we cannot save ourselves. But that's exactly what the Children of Israel were trying to do when they wanted to go back to Egypt.

*We cannot save ourselves. Rick Warren reinforced this truth based on his 3-year experience as a lifeguard. And here's what Rick said about trying to save ourselves: "One of the things that all lifeguards know is that you can't save anybody as long as they are trying to save themselves. The reason why is because they will take you under the water with them.

*If somebody is drowning and flailing around in panic, a lifeguard knows to just stay back for a few seconds and wait until they give up. Once they give up it's really easy. You just put their arm over your shoulder, keep their head out of the water, and swim back to shore. There's nothing to it. But you cannot save them as long as they are trying to save themselves.

*God wants to save you. Jesus Christ wants to save you from your hurts, your habits, and your hang-ups. He wants to save you for his purpose and by his grace. But you have to quit trying to do it yourself. You have to relax. You need to let go and let God be God." (1)

*Don't focus on yourself. Focus on your Savior. That's what Joshua & Caleb did. So in Numbers 14:8-9, they said:

8. 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.'

9. 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.''

*Joshua and Caleb had great boldness here, because they kept their focus on the Lord, and that's what we should do. Most of all we should focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

*Richard Nations told about a choir director in Warrensburg Missouri who was getting ready for Easter. That year he enlisted a young man who was not a Christian to play the part of Jesus in the musical drama. The young man's role was to carry a heavy wooden cross on his shoulder, and kneel down while the choir sang about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

*During one rehearsal the choir was having extra trouble with this song, and they had to go over it several times. The whole time that young man was kneeling under the weight of his cross. He even started having muscle spasms.

*The next night, right after the worship service, the young man told the pastor that he wanted to talk with him about becoming a Christian. He said that while he was kneeling under the weight of a cross, he started to realize what Jesus must have suffered on the cross for him. (2)

*The Lord suffered for us too! Our Risen Savior has also blessed us in countless other ways. And he's not finished yet! So don't focus on yourself; focus on your Savior.

3. And don't focus on your past; focus on the promises of God

*It is easy for us to focus too much on our past. That's what the Children of Israel did in Numbers 14. What terrible mistakes they made in vs. 1-4:

1. Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.

2. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!

3. Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?''

4. So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.''

*The Children of Israel focused on their past when they should have been focused on the promises of God. That was because of their unbelief. They doubted God, and it cost them dearly. Numbers 14 goes on to tell us that this is why they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, -- one year for every day the spies spent in the Promised Land.

*Pastor David Legge explained that: "Unbelief has always been the besetting sin of God's people. And it has also been the cause of provocation and frustration to the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews, talking of the Jews' history, said in Hebrews 3:19 that they could not enter the land because of their unbelief. . .

*Now, many of us younger people have been raised in an environment of skepticism of the supernatural. In school and, sadly I would have to say, in church there is a doubt, a cynicism when it comes to God moving in our day and age in a supernatural way, and that can breed unbelief in us. We don't believe God can when God wills.

*But also there's failure in our lives, moral and spiritual failure, there's sin, there's also a slipping of our spiritual disciplines, prayer, scripture reading, fasting, these things that increase faith within us. And because of that, people today are not saying that they marvel at the great things God has done. . .

*Charles Spurgeon said something crucially important about unbelief: 'Every other crime touches God's territory; but unbelief aims a blow at His divinity, impeaches His truth, denies His goodness, blasphemes His attributes, and maligns His character. Therefore God, of all things, hates first and chiefly, unbelief, wherever it is.'" (3)

*Because they doubted God, the Children of Israel focused on their past in a most unhealthy way. And it is always a temptation for us to focus on the past.

*We can get bogged down in past defeats: "They hurt me. They cheated me. They were ugly to me. They weren't fair to me." Or "If I only would have done this. If I only wouldn't have done that."

*We can even get bogged down in our past victories: "You know, things were so good back then." But if we just focus on the past, we will never be the people God wants us to be. And we have a choice to make: We can focus on the past. Or we can focus on the promises of God.

*Joshua and Caleb focused on the promises of God. We know this, because in Numbers 13:30 Caleb said this about the Promised Land: "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.''

*How did Caleb know that? -- God gives us the answer back in Numbers 13:2. There the Lord said this to Moses: "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. . ." You see, God had been promising this land to His people for over 500 years.

*Genesis 15:5-7, tells us about the promise the Lord made to Abram:

5. Then He (God) brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.'' And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be.''

6. And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

7. Then He said to him, "I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.''

*Genesis 15:18 adds: "On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: 'To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates."

*In Genesis 17:5-8, God confirmed and expanded His promise to Abram. And the Lord told him:

5. "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

6. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

7. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

8. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.''

*God made promises to Abraham. And the Lord always keeps his promises. Joshua and Caleb knew that. They trusted in the Lord. They believed God's Word, so they focused on the promises of God. And that's what we should do, because the Lord has also made great promises to us.

*For example, He has promised to answer our prayers. Jesus gave us some of those great prayer promises in Matthew 7:7-8. There the Lord told His followers:

7. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

8. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

*God has promised to answer our prayers, and many times He will answer just as we ask. But He is God, and He knows the best way to answer. I got a great lesson on this truth when we first got to McClendon Baptist in 1983. Back then, associate pastors lived in the parsonage right next to the church, and that's where we moved in September of that year.

*A few weeks later, I went out to get the paper: Barefoot, gym shorts on, cup of coffee in my hand. I started back to the door, and there was a vicious looking Doberman Pincher standing in front of me. He was crouched down and growling. What was I going to do, hit him with my newspaper?

*After I talked to him a little bit, very nicely, he went back home next door. Boy that dog was mean! What was my first clue? His name was "Satan". "Nice doggy, good Satan." That doesn't sound right, does it?

*After I got back in the house, we thought, "Great, here we are: New neighbors. We've got a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a mean dog next door named Satan. We didn't want to make enemies right off the bat, so we prayed.

*About two week later I was standing out in the parking lot talking to a missionary, who had parked his motor home there for the night. I looked up and here came this Doberman running across the parking lot toward us! No place to run. No place to hide. But instead of acting mean, this dog came up wagging his tail and licking my hand. I thought, "Praise the Lord! God has zapped that dog and changed his personality!"

*The next morning when I went to the office, he was lying on the mat by the door. I called my next door neighbor and told him that His dog was over at the church. He said, "No, -- my dog is sitting right in front of me."

*We couldn't find his owners, so we named the new Doberman, "Casey." He was about 20 pounds heavier than Satan. And one time they got in a fight. Casey didn't do any permanent damage, but he put a hurting on that other dog, and Satan never came in our yard again.

*God may not answer our prayers the way we expect. But God has promised to answer our prayers. So don't give up!

*The Lord has also promised to forgive our sins. That's why 1 John 1:7-9, says this to all Christians:

7. . . If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

*Jesus Christ has promised to answer our prayers, forgive our sins, give us everlasting life, and live in our hearts, IF we will turn to Him, trust in Him, and receive him as our Lord and Savior.

*So don't focus on your past. Focus on the promises of God

CONCLUSION:

*Church: We can be the people God wants us to be, if we keep the right focus in life. Don't keep looking at the giant problems in your life. Look at the good grapes God wants to give you. Don't keep looking at what you can't do. Look at what our Savior can do. And don't keep looking at your past. Keep looking at the promises of God.

(1) Adapted from "Christmas: God's Grace At Work" by Rick Warren - May 21, 2014 - http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/christmas-god-s-grace-at-work

(2) Original source unknown

(3) Adapted from "How Does He Put Up With Us?" - 2006 - Irish Pastor David Legge - http://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/misc0070-putupwithus.shtml

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