One of the highlights of our vacation in Tennessee every June is hiking the Fiery Gizzard Trail and jumping off of the waterfall at the Blue Hole. But there is one spot from which you can jump that is higher than the waterfall. It’s a small outcropping called “the high rock.” When you stand on the edge, and it always looks higher from the edge- you have to make a decision. Either jump, or climb down.
Whenever we stand on any edge, we either will move forward or backward. We will walk—or jump— by faith or retreat in fear.
- Those who have made a marriage proposal have felt the tension. All of life hinges on this decision. It’s huge!
- Deciding where to go to college. To stay at your present job, or to make a career change?
- Some decisions are even weightier, such as being on the edge of restoring your marriage or taking steps to get help with the depression or addiction. While standing on the edge can be a frightening place; it is almost always a place of opportunity. Growth. Change.
We as a church stand are standing on the edge of opportunity this summer. Unless this is your first Sunday with us, you know that Creekstone is under contract for a 9-acre tract of prime real estate on Highway 60, the main road coming into town. If we are able to secure funding to purchase this property, we believe that we will have secured a permanent location from which Dahlonega will experience generational gospel transformation. This is why we are calling our summer campaign the Ground for Grace initiative. If you’d like to know more, be sure to survey the flyer in your bulletin and visit the groundforgrace.com website.
We as a church are standing on the edge of a unique opportunity.
In Numbers 13, the people of Israel are standing on the edge of opportunity as well. They have been set free from slavery in Egypt, have crossed the Red Sea, have received the law at Mt. Sinai, and now are quite literally on the edge of the land that the LORD had promised to Abraham generations before. You can see on the map where they are. They are so close! Twelve leaders had been chosen to secretly explore, or spy out, the territory. These 12 brought back a report of a fruitful land that would be more of a blessing than they could ask for or imagine. But there were huge challenges that stood—literally stood—between them and the land. Would they move forward in faith or retreat in fear?
The pressing and practical question for us is this: What will we do when faced with a similar opportunity? Regardless of the opportunity, the same options are before us – move forward in faith or retreat in fear.
What I am going to do is read this passage in its entirety and then highlight 4 practical implications that I think will help us move forward in faith.
Numbers 13:26 “They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
14:1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the people said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 But they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes [a sign of grief] 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.
11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” 13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, LORD, are with these people and that you, LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he [killed] them in the wilderness.’ 17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt til now.”
The first implication is that…
I. Faith almost always looks foolish.
Have you ever jumped out of an airplane? I personally have not, nor do I have any desire to do so. In fact, I’m not so sure that wouldn’t nullify my life insurance! It may look foolish, but in reality it isn’t. It is faith– faith in a parachute. Faith in its design and faith in the guy who packed it. If all of that is trustworthy, then the jump is not foolish. It’s faith. But it’s one thing to discuss the topic of parachuting in theory. It is something else to jump!
Until faith takes a step forward, it is still only theory. This is what the Israelites learned. They would have said they believed God, but when it came down to taking a faith step, they revealed the reality of their hearts.
What we may do is excuse our unbelief by calling the challenge foolish.
At this point, clarifying the difference between foolishness and faith might help us take a step forward.
- Foolishness is either presuming upon God to create a miracle of biblical proportions, or it is focusing on human resources alone to meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
- Faith, on the other hand, is not deterred by limited human resources, but focuses on what is possible with God. It is not testing God as much as it is believing God when it appears as if he has presented an opportunity, regardless of the challenges.
After consulting with both in house and outside advisors, we believe that the Ground for Grace initiative is a faith venture. Our job is to believe that God can, and then to act as if he will.
Nevertheless, faith almost always looks foolish. This is why…
II. There will always be objections to anything that involves risk.
Remember, the LORD had promised this very to Abraham! They were on the edge. An “exceedingly good land” could be theirs—now. But the Israelites had become influenced by the naysayers.
Often the naysayer will express their fears as concerns. Sometimes, concerns are just honest questions that kind of fester. And until the questions are resolved, we can’t move forward.
Even with all of the information we have provided thus far concerning our land opportunity, I’m sure that some of us have questions and concerns. This is why the elders created a FAQ document, which is posted at the groundforgrace.com website.
Whenever we stand at the edge, communication must be a priority. Whether in marriage, making career decisions, or a church buying land, we need to be sure that we get answers to our questions. This is because unresolved questions can become objections that can turn into divisions. Thankfully, the enthusiasm and support for the Ground for Grace initiative has been overwhelming. In fact, at our congregational meeting at the end of May, the vote was unanimous to move forward with the pursuit of our land opportunity.
Nevertheless, if you or anyone else have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or one of the men on the elder team, or check out the website. As we press forward in mission as a church, maintaining, and even strengthening our unity must be a very real priority.
Even though there will always to objections to anything that involves risk, I want you to know that…
III. The return is worth the risk.
The return for the Israelites possessing their promised land would be nothing short of life and history altering. They would be established. No more wandering. Or living in tents. Or eating the same meal every day. They finally would have their long awaited home from which God would eventually launch the global mission of extending his grace to the nations.
But possessing that home required them to trust God to meet the challenges that lay between them and the land. They were being challenged to believe that the return would be worth the risk of moving forward.
This principle applies in so many ways.
- Consider the risk of repentance. To admit fault is to expose yourself to potential rejection. On the other hand, to be honest about and own your sin is essential for healthy relationships, and especially for relational restoration. Is the return worth the risk? I think so.
- Then there is the risk of forgiveness. Will the one forgiven take advantage of mercy, or will grace affect a deep change in their life? Is the return worth the risk to forgive? I think so.
- What about the risk of generosity? The Bible speaks of giving financial resources to the work of God’s kingdom as investing, whereby we should expect a return on the investment. And when we discover that what we invest in the kingdom accrues an eternal dividend, our motive for generosity is not limited to what our funds can accomplish now, but about the treasure we lay up for ourselves in heaven forever. Is financial generosity worth the investment? I think so!
Of course, consider the earthly, temporal return. Generational gospel influence. Imagine coming back to Dahlonega in 100 years and hearing the stories. I think you would hear a lot of “thank yous” in those to the people who stood at the edge of opportunity and stepped forward.
The return is worth the risk. Yet there is just one more implication I want to highlight…
IV. Acts of faith reflect on what we really think about God and serve as a testimony to the watching world.
This is one reason for Moses’ protest that the Lord not bring judgement upon the Israelites. Even though they had spurned the grace that the Lord had shown them and demanded a return to Egypt— which was the ultimate insult to the Lord who had saved them from slavery in Egypt– Moses realizes that the nations would hear and call into question the saving power of God. Above all, it was God’s saving power that Moses wanted the nations to notice.
- When an orphaned baby is adopted, people notice.
- When a marriage that could break up is reconciled, people notice.
- When members of a church give funds that could go to vacations or cars or retirement – when they instead use those funds to fund the kingdom of God on earth, people notice. Because this kind of generosity shows that they are not enslaved to the god of our age, or put their hope in the false god of financial security. It also shows that they realize that all of their money ultimately is God’s money – that we are just stewards of all that God has given to us..
Acts of faith, especially with regard to our money, those acts of faith reflect on what we really think about God and serve as a testimony to the watching world.
So, like the Israelites, we stand on the edge of opportunity.
The question for us is: will we retreat in fear or move forward in faith?
This is also the question that Jesus faced. You see, the promised land of Israel is but a shadow of an eternal land – an eternal home. We are not talking about 9 acres in Dahlonega, but about heaven itself. What stands between us and that land is not a tribe of Cannanites, but the law of God, which convicts and condemns us at every turn, showing us to have the same kind of stubborn, sinful, idolatrous, grace-spurning hearts as the Israelites—a people whom the Lord was ready to smite with judgement. They had stood at the edge and turned back.
The good news of the gospel is that when Jesus stood at the edge, he did not turn back, but pressed forward all the way to the cross, where he allowed the Father to smite him for our sins so that we could gain access to the eternal home of unspeakable joy. The cross fulfills Moses intercession in verse 19, where he prayed, “In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people.”
Isn’t that really Jesus’ prayer for us, where from the cross Jesus cries out, “According to my love expressed with my very life for my sheep, count their sin against me, so that they may be forgiven and free.
Look, I want to challenge us all today to offer the biggest gift possible as we make our pledges for the Ground for Grace campaign. But… if we raise the money and we have not come more alive to the wonder of the gospel, it will be a failed campaign. Because our mission is not land, it is to see people come alive to the wonder of God’s grace in Jesus. So more than pledges fulfilled, I want to see our hearts renewed… I want us to be more and more convinced that, by grace alone, we are the beloved of God who have been fully forgiven, who are perfectly accepted by the Father.
So, do I want us to give? Yes, absolutely.
But even more, I want us to receive.