When I was on a class trip in high school, two of my friends were very bored. To entertain themselves, they decided to see how many rocks they could put in people's backpacks. I watched very carefully to make sure they did not put any rocks in my backpack, but when I was not looking, they put rocks in my bag, too. Although I did not see them put rocks in my backpack, I did notice that for the next few days, my backpack was very heavy. It was not until a few days later that my friend finally confessed that he had put several large rocks in my own backpack, too. Half angry, half-amused, I threw the rocks down the street. My backpack immediately lightened. I walked faster, no longer weighed down by the weight of those large rocks. Like those rocks, fear has a way of weighing us down and holding us back. It can even be paralyzing. Today we are going to talk about a group of leaders of Israel in the Old Testament and how they responded to fear. And we are going to be challenged to choose faith over our fear.
What was one of your biggest fears as a child?
1. In your own words, define faith.
2. Read Numbers 13:25-33. Ten of the spies in Israel only saw problems in the Promised Land, and therefore made excuses. What limits are you listening to?
After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”
But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
3. Do you believe that the amount of fear you have is related to how close you are to God? Why or why not?
4. Are you currently spending time with God? How does getting closer to God help strengthen our faith?
5. The ten leaders did not believe God would be able to help them defeat their giants. What giants are you currently facing? Do you believe God is bigger? Why or why not?
6. Read Numbers 14:1-9. Why do you think Joshua and Caleb responded differently than the rest of the Israelites?
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
7. What does it look like for you today to take a step of faith that you know God wants you to take?
Take a few moments to think about one thing you can do today to take that step of faith that you know God wants you to take. After spending some time thinking about that thing you can do, tell your group and invite them to hold you accountable to do that thing. Then, spend some time praying for each other that you would all choose faith over fear this week.
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And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.