December 31, 2023


New Year’s Message ❧ Part 1 of 1

Joshua 14:6-15 ❧ December 31, 2023

I want to begin this morning with a brief exercise. Think of the name of a friend whom you greatly admire. Now I want you to consider the one thing you admire the most about that friend. Whatever his or her trait is, it probably falls into one of these three categories: (A = attitude, S = skill, and L = looks.) What came to mind? I wonder which one was the most common trait. My guess is the category we admire most in people is attitude.  if you really think about it, it was probably attitude. A well-known quote by Charles Swindoll comes to mind. He writes, The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, then education, then money, then circumstances, then failures, then success, then what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearances, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. Nor can we change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We also cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I’m convinced that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you – we have charge of our attitudes.

Today, as we come to the close of 2023 and prepare to turn the page into a new chapter in 2024, we’re greeted by a world filled with increasing challenges and increasing opportunities to rely on Christ.  The way I see it, our great need in the days to come is a greater trust in the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ; the One who purchased our forgiveness and secured our eternity; the One who promised He will never leave us nor forsake us; the One who assures us in His Word, “Do not be afraid.” 

This morning I want us to look at what I believe is a life-changing question: Do I have an attitude of faith? What does an attitude of faith look like? The Bible describes it as a mindset, the outlook we choose, regardless of what we’re going through. The Apostle Paul refers to it and 2 Corinthians 4:13, calling it “a spirit of faith” that chooses to look at life events in light of what God says in His word not the circumstances themselves.  A biblical attitude of faith is not about what happens to us in life, but what happens in us.

Turn with me to Joshua 14 (Read: Joshua 14:6-15). The conquest of Canaan had been accomplished (1-5:12).  What was left was to divide the land according to inheritance (5:13- 21). 

Caleb gives us three core essentials of what an attitude of faith looks like.  1) It is a choice we make – regardless of our circumstances.  2) It is a commitment we maintain – regardless of how much time passes.  And 3) It is a culture we model – that is more important all our life’s accomplishments.  

  1. It is a choice we make.It is the choice to be an overcomer regardless of the actions of others or the things they say.  In my mind, it seems Caleb could have easily been one of those guys who would have been tempted to write a big “L” for “Looser” across his forehead.  The deck was stacked against him from the very beginning.  I don’t know what his parents were thinking, but when they collared and leashed him with the name “Caleb,” they were calling him “Dog.”  That’s literally what the name Caleb means – “Dog.”  

How would you like to have the name “Dog”?  All of his life he grew up hearing commands that were normally reserved for the family pet: “Sit Dog.”  “Eat Dog.”  “Go to be Dog.”  “Go outside Dog.”  “Be quiet Dog.”  Every time his mom or dad spoke to him, he wasn’t sure if they were talking to him or the family pet! In fairness, it seems his parents were speaking less of the animal and more of the honorable attributes the name signifies of loyalty, faithfulness, and strength. Which is exactly how he is described no less than three times in this passage. Caleb wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God(Joshua 14:8,9,14, NLT). God speaks of him the same way in Numbers 24:14 where He calls Caleb My servant… whohas remained loyal to Me.

Add to this, it appears Caleb was not even a Jew.  It seems his heritage was marked by the despised Edomites.  V6 says he was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. The Kenizzites were the sons of Esau, and were related to the Edomites, long-standing bitter enemies of Israel. Throughout most of the history of their relationship, the Edomites carried out border wars and skirmishes against the Israelites. Caleb was born outside the covenant people of God; he was not a Jew.  He was a foreigner and a dog! 

According to 1 Chronicles sometime in his family’s history, he was adopted into the tribe of Judah.  Some believe his mother was a Jew from the tribe of Judah while his father was a Kenizzite.  Others believe Caleb became a Jew like Abraham – by faith. No one knows for sure.  Somehow, he was absorbed into the tribe of Judah.  In his actual heritage he may not have had a family he could be proud of, but God made him a member of the tribe of Judah – he became a member of the tribe that the kings and great leaders came from.  More than this, Caleb was God’s choice leader for the tribe of Judah. In Numbers 13:1 he is called a “leader” nāśîʾ which can mean prince or captain. God doesn’t make any mistakes.  If Caleb came from a gentile heritage, he certainly wasn’t alone.  Others were absorbed into God’s people as well: Rahab the Amorite, Ruth the Moabitess, Tamar the Canaanite, Bathsheba – all of them became a part of the linage of the Savior of the world – Jesus Christ.   Jesus is a racially mixed Savior! 

Caleb, branded by the world – the dog Edom, became Caleb the prince of Judah!  Who can be compared with the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high? He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.  He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.  He sets them among princes, even the princes of his own people! (Ps. 113:5-8, NLT). Joshua 14 says Caleb was the leading man in the tribe of Judah because it is Caleb who comes to claim Judah’s inheritance after the land had been secured.  Joshua 14:6 show Caleb is the one who is in charge of making sure Judah gets their inheritance.  

Caleb recounts an old and painfully familiar story – the twelve spies of Israel. Vv. 6-12 are made up of Caleb’s words to Joshua.  And it is in his words where we see an attitude of faith is first of a choice.  Look at verse 8. Caleb reminds Joshua and those listening, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God (Joshua 14:8,9,14).  He is saying, “Long ago I made a choice fully yield my life to the Lord my God.  I made a choice to believe in His promises 110%.”  

You may know the story.  45 years earlier (Numbers 13) Israel, fresh out of slavery and eyewitnesses of God’s stunning miracles that brought about their deliverance, God’s presence guided them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  The giving of the Law.  God did all of this to prepare His people to take the land He’d promised them.  Apparently, they were not willing to take God at His word; they wanted to SEE the promises before they believed them enough to accept them.  God had them send 12 spies (a prince from each tribe) into the land for 40 days to confirm God’s promises.  Two of the 12 spies were Joshua and Caleb.  Though the other ten names are mentioned, their defiance makes them forgettable. No one cares what the names of the others were.  When the 12 returned, Israel could hear the clattering of their knees knocking with trembling fear a mile away!  10 of the 12 said the land was overflowing with TERRIBLE GIANTS – there was no way Israel could take the land. Verse 8 says the ten literally made the hearts of the people melt with fear.  The truth was, only part of the land, Hebron, had giants.  Fear always leads to exaggeration.  Ten of the twelve lose it.  Only Joshua and Caleb stood strong.  Twice Caleb tried to appeal to the people that with God they could take the land.  But the people wouldn’t have anything to do with it.  They would rather go back to Egypt, they said.  Why did God lead them here just to get them killed and put their children at enormous risk?  

At this point God has His fill of Israel’s defiant unbelief.  He turned the people back into the wilderness to die – everyone from 20 years of age up.  Everyone except for Joshua & Caleb.  In fact, it was at this point, God made a very specific promise to Caleb. He’d possess the very land he walked which was Hebron (Numbers 14:25).  So, for the next 38 years Joshua and Caleb witnessed funeral after funeral.  Over a million people died which would have meant they attended a lot of funerals – about 73 a day!

When we look in the Bible, we’re reminded that God-sized promises always intimidate us because we know they’re bigger than we could ever pull off.  But that’s where an attitude of faith comes in; it is making the choice to believe in God’s ability to come through on His promise.  

This is important.  Caleb shows us what an attitude of faith looks like.  First it is a deliberate choice.  It’s a choice to stand alone against the world.  It is a choice to wholeheartedly follow God regardless of the circumstances.  Circumstances seemed to be stacked against him every turn of the way.   It seems his heritage was against him – but by a choice of faith God remedied that.  His name was against him – but by a choice of faith God brought honor to him.  His people were against him – but by a choice of faith God enabled him to stand strong.   

If you don’t hear anything, please hear this.  Your attitude of faith in God is a choice regardless of the obstacles you face; whether it is your past, people, or pedigree.  It doesn’t matter. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4).  An attitude of faith is the choice we make.

  1. It is a commitment we maintain.If you’ve spent much time in the Bible, you know sometimes God makes us wait for His promises.Abraham waited 25 years.  Moses waited 40 years. Caleb waited 45 years!  That’s a long time! (Vv. 10-13).  He not only chose to have a good attitude – more importantly – he maintained a good attitude for 45 years!  That’s commitment! 

When we make the choice to have a good attitude, we can usually pull it off for a few days at least.  But beyond that, maintaining a good attitude is like trying to stay calm when you’re being attacked a thousand mosquitos.  It’s hard work!  What really impresses me about Caleb is that there is no hint of bitterness or self-pity in him.  The reason he had to wait for 45 years was no fault of his own.  It was purely the fault of others.  But never once do we see him becoming cynical, resentful towards others. 

One noted counselor saidthat he considers only one kind of counselee hopeless: the person who blames other people for his or her problems.  If you can own the mess you’re in, he says, there is hope for you and help available.  As long as you blame others, you will be a victim for the rest of your life. I have no doubt Caleb had his moments of real struggle.  The fact that we don’t see him becoming bitter, cynical, resentful – blaming others for life not turning out the way it was supposed to is a real key to understanding how he maintained his commitment to a right attitude for 45 years.  

Here’s how: He did not allow himself to dwell on it.  His focus was on the fact that God had promised him he would not only enter the promise land, but that he would in fact have the very real estate he’d set his heart on – Hebron, the beautiful land of the giants.   Listen to what he says to Joshua: Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years… Today I am eighty-five years old… So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me..(Joshua 14:10,12).  The hill country Caleb wanted was prime real estate – Hebron.  It was the best of the best.  Realtors say there are three things that make a piece of property valuable, “Location, location, location.”   Hebron was a place of incredible beauty and value; this was the place where Abraham had lived and built an altar to God.  It is also the place where Abraham was buried, as well as Joseph.  It was a valuable place of beauty and heritage – it was everything a person could want.  

There was one problem though, it was the where the sons of Anak lived – the giants.  They’d lived there for hundreds of years.  They were descendants from the Nephilim, the fallen ones, from the time of the flood. They are described throughout Scripture as fearsome and terrible giants. 

For forty plus years Caleb knew this battle was still in front of him.  More importantly, for forty plus years he was committed to maintain a right attitude of faith.  He consciously made the choice not to be bitter.  Instead he focused on certainty and the goodness of God’s promise that he would possess Hebron.  I’m sure he was tempted from time to time to give into self-pity, resentment.  “I could be enjoying that land right now! But no!  As usual, someone had to mess it all up!”  English heart surgeon Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.  What kind of voices are you listening to?  It’s easy to find people who will drag you down the road of self-pity with them. Misery loves company.  But Caleb didn’t listen to himself, or any other voices. He talked to himself. He reminded himself of God’s promises.   

Do you know how he kept up a right attitude?  I think he talked about it constantly.  At night when the stars were out, and the evenings were cool he sat around the camp fire and told the younger generation what the land was like where they were going.  He recounted its beauty and its wealth.  He planted seeds of expectation.  He maintained his belief in God’s promises – he worked on remembering them daily and consciously chose to resist feeling sorry for himself.  What is does an attitude of faith look like: It is a choice we make.  And it is a belief we maintain.  3rd…

  1. It is a culture we model. Chapter 15:14 says Caleb drove out the sons of Anak – the three tribes of giants living in the land.  But there was still one more city to take in the region, the city of Debir. Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the one who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher.” Othniel, the son of Caleb’s brother Kenaz, was the one who conquered it, so Acsah became Othniel’s wife(Joshua 15:16-17).  Caleb’s nephew Othniel, the first judge of Israel after Joshua’s death, caught Caleb’s enthusiastic faith!  

Kiriath-sepher means city of books.  This was a repository of sacred books of the giants.  This city was a major stronghold of the Anakim.  This is one of the cities in Canaan which has been extensively dug, and archeologists have discovered some remarkable things. For one, they have discovered a layer of destruction dating from this very time when the Israelites invaded. Below this layer is a Canaanite city; and above this layer is an Israelite city, just as you would expect. They also found that the people at Kiriath-sepher had built a very unusual sort of defense. They had an outer wall which was relatively easy to breach, and an inner wall which was much, much stronger.  In between there was a maze of blind alleys. So anyone getting over the outer wall would be trapped in these blind alleys. This is extraordinary and is not found anywhere else in Canaan.  But this is what Othniel was up against, and he took it! 

Where did that kind of faith come from? Where had he seen it modeled? Caleb of course.  Othniel had the privilege of growing up in a home where an attitude of faith was intentionally cultivated to set him up for life.  Creative genius, inventor Thomas Edison once said, If the only thing we leave our kids is this quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value. 

What is the attitude of your faith going into 2024? Fearful? Discouraged? Tired? Frustrated? Were Caleb to stand before us today I think he’d say:  Wholeheartedly follow the Lord your God.  You won’t regret it.  How do we do that? I suggest we follow in his very footsteps.  Caleb’s attitude of faith was first a choice he made.  We need to do the same.  No one can make it for you. Caleb would say, Your attitude of faith in God is a choice regardless of the obstacles you face; whether it is your past, people, or pedigree.  Second, he’d say, Your attitude of faith is a commitment you must maintain – even if it means waiting 45 long years.  Third, he’d tell us, Your attitude of faith is a culture you need to model for others.  Intentionally cultivate an attitude of faith by modeling it for your spouse, your children, your friends. 

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