encouragement · Trust

How Do We Respond to Challenges?

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The kids and I are currently reading through Numbers. We’ve already tackled the first three books of the Pentateuch and they are well-acquainted with the Israelites’ litany of complaints since their departure from Egypt. Shaking our heads in disgust at their absurd lack of faith is a knee-jerk reaction. However, if we are looking into God’s word like a mirror, we may see some glaring (and disturbing) similarities in ourselves!

In Numbers 13, Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan. After forty days, they return. Ten of the spies gave an accurate report, but put a negative spin on the situation:

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.

However 

…the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…” (v. 27-28)

We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” (v. 31)

“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (v. 32-33)

Ten spin doctors quaked in their boots at the thought of facing giants and walls. Notice how they acknowledged “the land flowing with milk and honey,” but immediately discourage the people with all the seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Caleb and Joshua—clearly the minority opinion—attempt to encourage the people:

“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14.7-9)

Are we Calebs and Joshuas?

Or are we Spin Doctors, spinning our challenges to be larger than God’s power?

The Trouble With Spin Doctors

I am grateful for brothers and sisters in Christ who share their challenges with me, because it is a humbling reminder that we all carry crosses. For some, it is unfaithful children. For others, it is medical issues.

Giants face us all.

Sharing our difficulties with fellow Christians allows us the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens and pray for each other.

But what if we always gaze at our troubles through the lens of a Spin Doctor—particularly a spin doctor (i.e. Satan) who wants to lead us away from God?

We begin by enumerating our troubles with laser-like focus. Mere lip-service is given to our “blessings,” but those “blessings” are minimized by our mountain of troubles. There may come a time when we don’t acknowledge our blessings at all, but merely moan over our misfortunes.

Have you ever asked God why he would allow something to happen to you? Did you feel as though He had let you down?

In Numbers 14, the Israelites asked, “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?” 

I believe many of us have asked the big “why,” particularly in the face of immense pain. Instead of asking why, we should be asking for His help! The Israelites had watched God bring down the mighty Egyptian empire. Their own feet had walked on dry ground through the Red Sea. Their own mouths had tasted of Manna and Quail which God had provided in the wilderness. Instead of recounting His power, they spun their situation into a calamity.

Spin doctors fail to focus on who God is and what He has already accomplished.

Don’t Be a Spin Doctor.

One could argue that Caleb and Joshua were Spin Doctors in God’s favor, but Spin Doctors typically distort reality to promote an agenda. Caleb and Joshua were not distorting the truth; they acknowledge the truth of the challenge (we’ve got to go fight these people), and the truth of God’s supreme power (“God is with us; do not fear them!).

God already knows the trouble we face. He won’t be offended if we lay out our challenges and fears. The apostles advise us to “Let our requests be made known to God” and “Cast all our anxiety on Him.” Pour out the problem and acknowledge God’s power. If uncertainty persists, our cry should be, “Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!”

David’s Psalms are an excellent example of acknowledging challenges while taking them to the One who can help. In the 13th Psalm, David writes:

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?” 

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…

“I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 13.1, 3, 5-6, ESV

Be like David. Be like Caleb and Joshua. 

Trust in God’s power.

Acknowledge His blessings.

Seek His help!

Do not listen to the devil’s lies or the spin doctors’ distortions. Be strong in the Lord!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

~ Ephesians 6.10-13, ESV

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12 thoughts on “How Do We Respond to Challenges?

  1. I love this Elihu! It’s easy for us to be disgusted with the Israelites for their lack of faith, but then turn around and display that same lack of faith ourselves. Thank you for the reminder that we don’t need to listen to the spin doctor’s lies and that God has given us the armor we need to protect ourselves from them. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes… how often do I fail to really examine what God is showing me through the mirror of His word? How often do I see the specs in the eyes of those in history and fail to remove the planks sticking out of my own?

      Blessings, Terri!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elihu, I wish I could say that I do not relate to the Israelites. But the truth is, the more time I spend in the word of God— the more I realize my own similarities to the folks in the Bible. Sometimes I have faith like David, but other times I whine and complain and question like the Israelites.
    I am so grateful for God‘s ever-present grace! I’m also grateful for His Holy Spirit that lovingly shows me areas to work on, His Word that teaches and encourages, and other believers like YOU who spur us on to fight the good fight, keep growing, and never grow tired of doing good.
    Thanks for another great post!
    Blessings 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! His word humbles us and shows us where we need more trust. I am amazed at how many times God shows them grace, and it makes me more aware of how much I need it! Thank you for your candor, Beckie. Keep up the good work, sister! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If I had to pick one non Jesus human in all of Scripture it would be Joshua I think. Joshua 24:15 is my favorite verse and when I was a new Christian and didn’t understand much; that verse I could get.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You pose an excellent question, “What if the spin doctor is Satan…” there is no what if about it. The prince of the air definitely wants to pick off especially our young people and he’s probably been waiting wringing his hands for social media to take on the popularity that it has. God is also in social media, but parents are wise to monitor, restrict and limit their children’s exposure. Annnd that’s only one way the enemy of our souls, the liar is infiltrating the Church Universal. Our God is greater.

    Liked by 1 person

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