Risk Takers: Caleb

April 22, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

What does it mean to have a mountain-moving faith? How many of you have ever used that phrase “move mountains” to describe something that’s like an insurmountable obstacle? How many of you have used that phrase before? Did you know that Jesus coined the phrase “moving mountains”? In fact, Jesus used this phrase as kind of the extreme example of, what does it look like when something’s in front of you that seems to be absolutely impossible? -this outrageous, extreme example of God’s hand at work.

He actually coined this phrase for us in Mark chapter 11. Here’s the background: Jesus is talking to some of his disciples. He’s giving them a demonstration of, what does genuine faith look like? -and here’s how God responds to people with this absolute mountain-moving faith. Mark chapter 11, verse 22 and following says this:

Mark 11:22-23
Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.

Jesus uses this illustration of mountain-moving faith because this is probably as extreme as you can get with the eyes. This is the biggest, this is the most powerful, this is the most unmovable force on planet Earth -a mountain. And then Jesus makes this outrageous claim that if you have this total, absolute faith, you could say to this mountain, “Pop up. Go run over, and jump into the seas.”-and notice he’s not saying that mountain will do it because you said so. He says if you have faith in that kind of God, God will move mountains on your behalf.

Today, what we’re going to do for just a few moments is, we’re going to look at mountain-moving faith. We’re in a sermon series looking at guys and gals who have this mountain-moving faith. We’re taking a look at biblical examples of, what does it look like when you just put it all on the line and risk it all for King Jesus’s sake?

In order to set up where we’re going to go with this sermon today, we’re going to look at one guy in the Bible who has what I believe is a mountain-moving faith, but in order to help you understand exactly where we’re going with this sermon, here’s the entire sermon for you in one sentence (and this is something that you may want to keep in mind if you’re facing immense problems today). Here’s the truth from the Bible for us today:

Faith always makes a mountain of difference in your problems.

This is a shameless, deliberate play on words, but it’s absolutely true, and you’re going to see an example of this from the Bible today. It doesn’t matter what the problem is; faith always makes a mountain of differences in your life and in your problems, and maybe one of the greatest examples of this in the Bible is from a guy by the name of Caleb. Caleb’s story is told for us in a couple of places back in the Old Testament. We’re going to take a look at this guy and his mountain-moving faith. Actually, what we’re going to see is, this guy’s faith in a mountain-moving God, and here are a few things that you’re going to notice about Caleb, because you can just casually read the Bible for the first time in your life and you can’t miss this: Caleb is different.

I. Caleb had a different faith

In fact, Caleb is different in a couple of ways, and the first way that Caleb is different is, something about this man’s faith is different. It’s different than the other people around him who have seen the exact same things that Caleb has seen.  Now, Caleb is a great example of what it looks like to risk it all.

I could summarize this entire sermon series. What we’ve looked at before and what we’re going to look at after with this is this statement: With great risk comes great rewards. If you risk it all on God, the rewards for that are great, and the greater the risk, the greater the reward. God rewards men and women who have this incredible risk-it-all, go all-in, hold nothing back-kind of faith. And I don’t mean just once when you bowed your knees and surrendered your soul to Jesus Christ. I mean, over and over and over again, you’ve demonstrated, “I’m willing to risk it all on God.”

I’ll give you a little bit of background before we read about Caleb from Numbers chapter 13. God has miraculously, supernaturally rescued the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He’s done these 10 miracles in their sight. He’s parted the waters of the Red Sea. They’ve walked through it on dry ground. They’ve been through the desert, and now they’re at the very edge of the Promised Land. They’ve been waiting 400 years for this land, and in order to make sure they know what they’re getting into, Moses sends 12 men out on a reconnaissance mission, and Caleb is one of these 12 men.

They go out. They check the land out, and Numbers 13 describes for us the scene when they come back to Moses, but really, they’re talking to all of Israel, and this is what they say when they get back from this month-long mission into the Promised Land. Here’s what they say, Numbers 13, starting in verse 26.

Numbers 13:26-30
The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28 However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hethites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”

Here is what these guys were saying: “Moses, you told us to go check the land out. We checked everything out, and let me tell you what we saw. In the plains where the ground is easiest to go to war, there are descendants of giants in the plains, and when we went up into the mountains, there are these humongous castle-like fortified cities up in the mountains. Those are really successful warriors in the mountains. And don’t think you can invade the land by the sea, because even if you go by the sea, there are the Canaanites on the seacoast. Moses, I don’t know what we’re going to do because there is nothing but a bigger and a badder enemy in front of us.” And these men are absolutely convinced, “We can’t do this. We’re in over our heads. Moses, we’re in trouble.”

11 other men go with Caleb into this land, and perhaps Joshua is still on the fence. Maybe Joshua has already decided. But the rest of these guys who are on this reconnaissance mission, they’ve seen the land, they’ve see the fortifications, they’ve seen the size of the warriors, and they’re like, “We’re in over our head, Moses. We can’t do this.” And basically, they’re in a fix now because there’s no going back home. “God has just brought us out of slavery in Egypt. We can’t go back to Egypt, and we’ve been wandering around in the desert now for several months. There’s nowhere to build houses in the Sinai Peninsula. Moses, we’re in trouble, and if we cross over the Jordan River and go into the land that God’s been promising us, there’s nothing in front of us but war and problems.”

And what they’re describing for the people of Israel (not just for Moses) is a huge problem. Literally what they’re saying is, “There are huge warriors in the valley. Those are super soldiers down there, Moses.” If you want to know more about the descendants of Anak, go back and read Genesis and Numbers. It will give you more information about these guys. “Moses, if we go up into the mountains, there are overwhelming forces of the military in the mountains, in huge cities behind huge walls. And if we go to the ocean, there’s no good way. There’s no good battle there. No matter where we go, Moses, there is nothing but problems in front of us.”

I want you to notice, Caleb’s been through the exact same thing that these guys have been through. He’s seen the produce of the land that these guys saw, and he’s seen the people of the land that they’ve seen, but for Caleb, this is a totally different circumstance. Where they see “can’t”, Caleb sees “can”. Where they see problems, Caleb sees possibilities, and for Caleb, the bottom line is, “If God is with us, we can do this, y’all.” And the rest of Israel, if you know the story says, “Oh no, we can’t.”

And what’s really different about Caleb from the rest of these guys is Caleb’s faith. He’s been in the same circumstances. He’s seen the same things that they’ve seen, but Caleb’s faith is different. He has faith in God. He has a mountain’s worth of faith in a mountain-moving God.

I just put online this week a little blog about the greatest single mountain-moving construction project in human history. If you’re not familiar with what that is, many of you drove on it today to get to church. But doing a little bit of research for this sermon today, I asked the local expert, “What’s the biggest single construction project in our community’s history? What has moved more dirt than anything else that’s ever happened in our community?” You want to know what it is? It’s, the expansion of Interstate 185 heading to Fort Benning. I called up Jackie Robinson of the Robinson Paving Company, and I said, “Jackie, what’s the biggest project?” And he said, “Without a doubt, by a long shot, the greatest project is when I-185, went from 4 lanes to six or eight lanes.”

He said, “Let me tell you how much earth we had to move in order to do this construction project, Jeff. We moved in 3-years’ time, more than a million cubic yards of dirt.” I don’t have the first idea how much a million cubic yards of dirt is, so I said, “You’ve got to give that to me in numbers that I can understand.” He said, “Well, let me put it to you this way: A full-size pickup truck (your truck, Jeff), the back of your truck can hold maybe two cubic yards of dirt. You want to know how much dirt we’re talking about? Imagine 500,000 full-size pickup trucks full of dirt. That’s what it took for us to expand Interstate I85. If you were to build a mountain out of it, this is what a million cubic yards of dirt looks like: Imagine a football field wide and a football field long that’s 516 feet tall. That’s what a million cubic yards of dirt looks like.”

And what the Bible is telling us today is, it took human beings with all of our technology and all of our equipment 3 years to do something that God can do in an instant. In fact, back in Genesis, he created the greatest mountains on the planet with just the word of his mouth, and the Bible describes for us a God who can move mountains, and your problems are insignificant if you have faith in a mountain-moving God, if you have faith like Caleb. And it’s really not even the size of your faith; it’s the size of your God that you have faith in that makes the difference.

So, here’s the truth: Caleb has a different faith than everybody around him, but you know what? Caleb didn’t just say it; he showed it. It’s not just in what he said he believed. It’s the way that he lived out his faith that really makes this guy stand out. So, if you flip just one more chapter in the book of Numbers, you get to Numbers chapter 14, and God is speaking to the people of Israel. Here’s what God is saying: “Israel, I’ve done great miracles in front of you, and I have done things for you that I’ve never done for another group of people anywhere on the planet, and over and over and over again, you have lacked faith in me. In fact, you have complained against me, and the final straw is these 10 men who came back with you from across the Jordan River who have said, “We can’t go to battle.” Not just them, but the rest of Israel said, “We can’t do this, Moses. We can’t win if we go to war in that land against those people.”

And so, they decided, “You know what? We’re not going to go. We’re going to head back to Egypt.” So, God pronounces judgment on Israel, and here’s his judgment: “We’re going to walk in the desert, y’all, and we’re just going to take laps around the desert for the next 40 years until I systematically annihilate an entire generation of Israel. Every man living over the age of 40 is going to die in the desert because of your lack of faith.”

II. Caleb lived a different life

And then God does something fascinating in Numbers 14. He singles one man out from among all of Israel, and he says, “This guy is different.” In fact, the whole word different today comes from this passage from Numbers 14. Here’s what that the Bible says. God is speaking and pronouncing judgment on Israel:

Numbers 14:21-24
Yet as surely as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, 23 will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers.a None of those who have despised me will see it. 24 But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone, and his descendants will inherit it.

God is saying, “I have done miracle after miracle after miracle in front of you, and I’ve put my power on display. I don’t understand how you could not believe that I’m strong enough to defeat the enemies in the land of Canaan. So, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to just annihilate everyone in the desert. You’re all going to die, and maybe your sons and daughters will believe that I’m strong enough to give them the Promised Land. But, there’s going to be one man that I’m going to treat differently.”

What the Bible says about Caleb, you can just be a casual reader of the Bible, and you can’t miss this today. God says this man is different. In fact, that word different God uses to describe Caleb, it’s the idea that he’s number one of one. He is alone. He is separate. There’s nobody else like this guy. “There’s something radically different about this guy, Caleb. And I’ll tell you what’s different about him if you’re not sure. Caleb is loyal to me.” The loyalty that God is describing here, this is the Bible word that you would use to refer to a son who walks in the footsteps of his father, kind of emulates his father when he becomes a grown man.

“Caleb is willing to follow me so closely that he’s footstep for footstep loyal to me, and the rest of you guys, I would give you the Promised Land if you would have the faith enough to take it, but you don’t, so I’m going to give it to the guy who does have faith. I’m going to give it to the guy who will be loyal. I’m going to give it to the one guy in all of Israel who’s different from the rest, and here’s the truth: The rest of you have despised me. The rest of you had every opportunity to put faith on display, and by not believing that I’m big enough to do for you what I promised to do for you, you actually insult me by your lack of faith.”

Basically, God is saying, “I won’t tolerate people who don’t believe I’m strong enough or I’m big enough to handle the problems that are in front of them. Haven’t I proven myself 10 times over already. You know what? I’ll give your sons and daughters a chance at it, but you guys will all die in the desert, and Caleb and Joshua will be the only men who will set foot into the land that I’ve been promising you for 400 years. It’s because this faith is different.”

I had a conversation this week. I was at lunch with a guy by the name of Juan. Would you pray for Juan? Pray for his faith and pray for his future. Juan’s new to the Chattahoochee Valley. He and I were sitting down. We’re having lunch this week, and I started to ask Juan a little bit about his background. I asked him about his faith, and it was fascinating. He said, “Jeff, you’re not the first person who’s asked me about my faith, but let me tell you a little bit about my background.” Then Juan went on to describe something like this: He said, “Jeff, I would consider myself a man of faith, but I’m not sure where I am religiously. I don’t think I share the faith that my parents had or the faith of the religious system that I was brought up in, and frankly, I really don’t know where I am at right now.”

He said. “I’d like to say that I have faith, but I’m not really sure about my religion.” And I said something to Juan, and it was fascinating to watch the look on his face change. I said, “Juan, can I tell you something about me? I would consider myself a man of faith too, but I absolutely hate the religion that people have created to try to help men get to God. In fact, I am convinced most of those religions hinder people from getting to God, not help them get to God.” Here’s something that was fascinating. I was watching the look on his face, and his face totally changed. Juan said, “I’m surprised to hear this from you, from a pastor.” And he said, “I’m not really sure where I am at, and I’m not really sure what I believe right now, but I will tell you this: I think I’d be willing to have honest conversations with you in the future, because it sounds like you’re at least willing to be honest with me and at least willing to listen to me honestly.”

I basically said, “Juan, it really has nothing to do with your religion. It all has to do with what you believe deep down on the inside, at the soul-level.”

III. Caleb had a different future

You see, you can say it until you’re blue in the face what you believe, but really, the way that you live, it shows it. And Caleb is showing what he believes. When everybody else is scared to death, Caleb is different, and God who looks deep inside the human heart says, “This man is different, and he’s different deep on the inside at the soul-level, at faith-level, and as a result, Caleb has a very different future than all of the rest of the guys who are with him in Israel.” Caleb’s future looks radically different.

Now, if you were to jump over just a couple of books in the Bible to the book of Joshua, you read that the people of Israel, they all wandered in the desert for 40 years, and an entire generation died. Then their sons and daughters stood on the edge of the Promised Land. They went across the river, and they saw God do great things in their midst. Then chapter after chapter from the book of Joshua, you see God giving huge tracts of land to entire tribes of Israel. You see the 12 tribes of Israel being given their ancestral lands in the book of Joshua, and then in Joshua 14, something interesting happens. The picture goes to one man, and you see what one man’s inheritance looks like in the book of Joshua when Caleb and Joshua have a conversation and they go down memory lane, and they remind each other of something that happened 45 years earlier. Joshua 14, starting in verse 10. This is Caleb speaking to his buddy, Joshua, who is now leading all of Israel. He says:

Joshua 14:10-14
“As you see, the Lord has kept me alive these forty-five years as he promised, since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness. Here I am today, eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then. 12 Now give me this hill country the Lord promised me on that day, because you heard then that the Anakim are there, as well as large fortified cities. Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as an inheritance. 14 Therefore, Hebron still belongs to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite as an inheritance today because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, completely.

Listen to what Caleb is doing here. He said, “Joshua, 45 years ago, you and I went together with these 10 other men to do this reconnaissance mission in the Promised Land, and I believed God was big enough then, and I believe God is big enough now to give me this land as an inheritance.” Let’s, just be honest, y’all; Caleb could ask for any territory that he wanted in Israel. Instead of asking for the easy ground and the easy enemies, Caleb decides, “I’m going ask God for the impossible. I’m going ask him for the mountainous region where the enemies are the biggest, where the cities are the strongest, where the walls are the thickest. I’m going to ask God to give me that land.”

I think part of what Caleb is doing here is, he’s putting his faith on display for the rest of his family and for all of those young bucks in Israel to see, “Look, if God is big enough to handle this land for me, an old man, he can certainly do the same thing for you young guys down in the valley and you young guys over by the sea. God is big enough to handle the problems that are in front of me.” And Caleb is putting his faith on display so that all of Israel can see it, and I think all of Israel would be inspired by it.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Your faith is intensely personal. Nobody can believe for you. This is just between you and God. Faith is always personal, but it’s not private. What you believe, you always show. It doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth. What you live, the way that you act, that is what you believe. Everyone’s faith is personal, but everyone’s faith is not private. It’s very public, and the way that you live is really what you believe in.

So, now I want to ask you, why would this guy ask for that land? -because let’s review what he’s doing here. He’s saying, “Hey Joshua, you remember the biggest, baddest soldiers are up in the hill country by Hebron, and you know the toughest cities are in the toughest land against some of the toughest enemies. That’s the land that I want. Joshua, give me those mountains.” And of course, Joshua was like, “Hey man, you got it. You can have it. Knock yourself out. Go up there and do your thing in those mountains.” And Caleb is saying, “I’m convinced God could do it 45 years ago; I’m convinced he could do it today.”

Look y’all, what I’m trying to say to you today is, it’s not really the size of Caleb’s faith; it’s the size of Caleb’s God that makes a difference. If a savior can move mountains on your behalf, then what can you possibly go through that he can’t handle for you? It’s not the size of Caleb’s faith; it’s the size of Caleb’s God, and Caleb is grabbing ahold of the hand that can move mountains and saying, “I’m going with him into those mountains, and I’m convinced that he can hand them to me.”

And the same is absolutely true for your today. This is what makes Caleb different: He’s a man that’s willing to risk it all. -not once, but over and over and over again, because he believes in the God that he’s risking all in.

Now, to end this thing today, I wanted to use this illustration to drive this point home for you. There’s a guy who was an engineer and an architect from England who came to the U.S. in the late 1800’s. His name was Ernest Ransome. Ransome was a foremost expert on building programs (building architecture and engineering). He was brought to the west coast of the United States to build bridges and buildings. Ernest Ransome built at the time some of the most elaborate, some of the most intense buildings in America and perhaps in the world.

But as the problems got bigger and as the buildings got bigger and the bridges got longer, there always seemed to be a single point of failure. The concrete. When you put enough stress on it, the concrete would crack and the building would collapse, and Ransome started to try to figure out, how do you make concrete (which seems to be pretty strong), how do you make it stronger? So, he started experimenting with something in a lab, and it was just an idea that he had. He ended up patenting this idea and becoming the world’s expert in it.

He said, “I wonder if you could put a piece of steel inside concrete, if that steel would help the concrete handle more loads of stress.” So, he created a bridge using reinforcing bar. He created at the time the world record. -the largest reinforced concrete bridge in the world, a bridge in San Francisco called the Alvord Lake Bridge, and he used a simple piece of steel inside the concrete. This reinforcing bar that we call rebar, this concrete far surpassed Ransome’s greatest expectations. In fact, he couldn’t imagine that this concrete with steel inside of it could now hold up to the loads that he was designing and placing on it.

In 1903, he decided to draw and to help oversee the construction of the world’s largest skyscraper made from concrete and steel, the Ingles business building in Cincinnati, Ohio. That building was 16 stories of reinforced concrete. By the way, if you’re in the market, the Ingles office building is still around and for sale in Cincinnati, Ohio today. It was officially the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building when Ransome designed and oversaw the construction of it.

He helped build 2 education buildings for Stanford University. He used this technique which nobody was doing at the time, and he believed that those buildings would handle loads that nobody else could build. Stanford was growing, and they were making money and they were building a whole lot more buildings, some of them newer, some of them more complex than what Ransome was building. Then in 1906, there was an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area, and a number of the buildings that Stanford University built after Ransome’s buildings crumbled to the ground, and Ransome’s 2 reinforced concrete buildings are still standing.

Let me tell you why I’m using this. -because if you look at 2 walls from a distance, they look exactly the same. There’s no way from the eye that you can tell the difference. They look the same; they feel the same. Absolutely everything looks the same, but when you put stress on those 2 walls, a building that has steel inside of it is going to still be standing, and the other concrete wall that doesn’t have this in it is going to crumble to the ground under the pressure and under the stress of loads placed on that building.

Here’s the truth, y’all: When you see Christians in the marketplace, when you see them at school, when you see us in neighborhoods, we look the same, we smell the same, we talk the same as everyone else around us…until you put pressure on us, until the stress of life happens. When that happens, there’s a steel inside of us that helps us to hold on and to hang in there and to bear up under loads that nobody else around us can bear up under. It’s not us; it’s the steel inside of us that makes a difference. And that steel is the gospel of Jesus Christ that’s radically changed us. Here’s the truth: If you really believe that you have a savior who can move mountains on your behalf, all you need to know is that he loves you enough that he was willing give up his life in exchange for yours and to pay the greatest penalty ever paid, the sin debt that you owe to God. And if he would be willing to do that for you, then there’s nothing else that he wouldn’t be willing to do.

Let’s go back to Mark chapter 11 for just a second. It’s not the size of your faith as much as it is the size of the God that you have faith in, and when you have faith in a savior who can move mountains, there’s no obstacle, there’s no problem that’s too big for you.

Next Steps

• I don’t have faith like Caleb. Today, I placed my faith in Jesus for the first time.
– Please pray for me, because I’m dealing with a mountain of problems right now.
+ I will face my mountains with faith.

Discussion Questions

  1. What was the last big act of faith that you did? Explain the details.
  2. Read Deuteronomy 1:29-36. Why do you think the rest of the men with Caleb didn’t act by faith?
  3. Why do urgent problems make acting by faith such a challenge?
  4. Why do you think Caleb asked for the toughest task in Joshua 14?
  5. How does watching others deal with their problems by faith encourage your faith?
  6. Would you ask God for the toughest assignments today if you knew it would lead to a better future for your family? (Explain your answer.)
  7. Pray for Jesus to give you faith that is bigger than your problems this week.

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