By Tim Harlow
Sure, I serve God wholeheartedly. But even then, sometimes it’s easy to see giants instead of what he wants me to do for him.
Different can be a synonym for “weird.” “She’s kind of different” usually means, like, not in a good way. The elevator doesn’t go to the top floor. One taco short of a combination platter. Not the brightest crayon in the box.
Every generation of teenagers talks about how they want to be “different,” and then they go buy the same labels and wear the same styles and listen to the same music as everyone else. “Herd Mentality” is a psychiatric term describing the fact that we’re basically not much better than animals that don’t like to go outside the group. In animal terms, straying from the herd might mean being picked off by a predator. Basically, it’s the same in human terms, I guess. Different can be painful.
I am not a Cubs fan, but I’ve worked in Chicago for 27 years now so I know that Cubs fans are different. As a Cardinals fan, I used to poke fun at Cubs fans every year. But while I’m not a fan of the Cubs, I am a fan of Cubs fans! I mean, how much dedication did it take to get up every April and put on your Cubs jersey, hoping that this would be “next year,” only to have your hopes dashed every September (OK, more like August) for 108 years in a row?
Such dedication involved both craziness and faithfulness. How hard is it to be a Yankees fan? Since the first World Series in 1903, 24 percent of all games in the Fall Classic have included a Yankees team! For that matter, it doesn’t take that much faith to be a Cardinals fan. I’ve rejoiced plenty in October. You gotta give them credit—Cubs fans deserved a “W” in 2016 . . . they are different.
What does it mean theologically to be different? Billions of people call themselves fans of God. Plenty of churches claim to be followers of Jesus.
“Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).
A different spirit.
God wasn’t calling Caleb a dull crayon. It was a compliment. And his different-ness came with a reward, because God rewards those with a different faith while everyone else wanders around in the desert. “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
And fully committed to him is different.
Willing to Risk
The backstory on Caleb, in case you don’t know, is this: “Twelve went down to spy on Canaan. Ten were bad and two were good.” Can I get a witness? Did anyone else sing that song in Sunday school?
Caleb was among the 12 spies sent into the promised land on an Israelite scouting expedition. “Some saw giants big and tall—some saw God was over a . . . a . . . all.” The two good spies were Joshua and Caleb.
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.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored (Numbers 13:30-32).
The people didn’t want to be different, and so they trusted in the advice of the majority, grumbled against God, and were punished by wandering the desert for 40 years. The majority of spies were wrong. However, Joshua and Caleb’s different spirit allowed them to see God’s amazing plan unfold.
Holy cow! (Cubs pun intended!)
Is there modern application for you, your leadership, your family, and maybe your church?
The verse that says Caleb “has a different spirit and serves me wholeheartedly” just keeps replaying in my head.
I guess those two things go together. I feel like I’m serving God wholeheartedly, but it’s so easy to fall back into “the giants are so big” paradigm, that it’s not even funny.
Caleb had a “we can do this” spirit. A “God is able to do immeasurably more” spirit (Ephesians 3:20).
Caleb saw the giants. He knew his available resources. But unlike everyone else, he didn’t neglect to add the God-factor.
What risk are you afraid of taking right now because everyone else thinks it can’t be done?
Maybe it’s time to be . . . different.
Oswald Chambers wrote,
So many of us limit our praying because we are not reckless in our confidence in God. In the eyes of those who do not know God, it is madness to trust Him, but when we pray in the Holy Spirit we begin to realize the resources of God, that He is our perfect heavenly Father, and we are His children.
Tim Harlow serves as senior pastor with Parkview Christian Church, Orland Park, Illinois.