At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “#No Filter”
Audio of the Message I Shared:
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life. NEXT STEPS
Here are the message notes from John Burke:
Perspective matters. We’re in this series NoFilter, talking about how the world and life puts Filters on us through which we view ourselves and our circumstances—and the Filters we look through affect how we live. God has a perspective too. God’s perspective is Reality with a capital R—not reality as we see it, but Reality as it really is now and forever. So God wants us to live with No Filter, so we can live in His Reality. That Reality allows us to succeed and overcome all kinds of fears and obstacles in life.
Have you ever been afraid? Have your ever feared failure? Have you ever had that terrifying feeling that something was going to get you. Or maybe the thought “What if I’m not able?” What if I don’t succeed? What if I fail? and so you are afraid to try. Or maybe you fear some Monster that you seem powerless to overcome—some bad habit or addiction or some Giant impossible situation that’s got you by the throat. We’ve all faced these Giants—what’s yours?
The thing about fear is it is a very isolating feeling. When we are feeling afraid we tend to think we are the only ones who have ever felt such intense fear. So here’s what I want to do. I want to begin this morning leveling the playing field here. I want to begin with a mass confession. If you’ve ever felt fear before…just think back to your first day of school, of trying to find the right seat on the schoolbus, think about your first date, first job interview, think about being locked in a room with a the song Friday stuck on replay. If you’ve ever felt intense fear, raise your hand. We’ve all felt it.
What do you do with the Monsters you fear? Giants in the Land. Impossible situations. What’s your perspective? Do we see these situations through fearful filters, or from God’s Reality? Today we’re going to look at a passage in the Old Testament found in Numbers 13 and 14. The Israelites, who had been slaves in Egypt, abused and beaten down, cried out to God for deliverance—and God brings Moses and in a powerful display of 10 dramatic signs, he sets them free. And God tells them he has a Promised Land He will lead them into—the land God originally promised to Abraham (father of the Israelite nation) close to 2000 B.C.E., nearly 500 years earlier than this. The land of Canaan was a fruitful land, a good land, God wanted to give it back to them. So about 2 million people go marching out of Egypt toward Canaan or Palestine today. Imagine, a city about the size of Austin heading out across the desert. The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites…26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community…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. Numbers 13:1-2, 26-28
So these 12 spies go check out the land, and they say “Wow—it’s amazing, just like God said, flowing with milk and honey was an expression for Awesome, Amazing, a Fruitful place…BUT…Fear! There are Giants in the Land. The Descendants of Anak were tall, massive people–the people Goliath came from. There are giants in the land. They’re powerful, with fortified cities, they’ll crush us like bugs. Yet God promised—I’ve given you this land, settle in it. But circumstances look impossible. Do you go in Faith or do Run in Fear? Faith or Fear? 10 of the 12 ran with Fear…
“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…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Numbers 13:31-33 And isn’t that how fear works—when we look at the Giants through our human filters, they get bigger and bigger. That mountain of debt seems even more impossible, so we just give up and add more to it. That addiction seems so powerful, why even try, just give in. That fear of being alone so terrifies, we just keep running in fear to one bad relationship after another. When you look at the Giants and Monsters through the human filter “I can’t” they grow, they get bigger, they gain power. So even the rumours grow among the Israelites of how impossible the situation is until…all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly 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 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-4 Unbelievable— “let’s just go back to being slaves—it’s what we know best!” They looked through the filter of fear at the Giants rather than looking at the God who had just delivered them, and their fear so quickly overtook them, they were ready to go back to slavery. God says “I want to lead you into a Great Land, it’s awesome, they even see it” but they don’t see it through God’s Reality, they see it through human fear, they don’t see it through what’s possible with God, but what’s possible with me.
Before we move on in the story—I don’t want you to miss the point today. You know Scripture says all these Old Testament stories have spiritual principles for us today. Paul said about Moses and the Israelites, These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 So there are spiritual principles God wants to teach you from this. Because we can do the same thing. Instead of facing the Giants and Monsters of alcohol addiction, or crack or meth, or marital struggle, or debt, or lying and cheating, or fear of failure, fear of what people think—instead of seeing our Giants/Monsters with No Filter, trusting God’s promise that “It was for freedom that Christ set you free.” That He is the power to overcome. That it’s not up to us and our power. Like Jesus said, [Jesus] said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 That’s the bigger Reality we live in—if God promised, it IS possible. But instead, we can easily just go back to being slaves—we know it so well—and then we don’t have to face the unknown fears of actually overcoming and living in the Promised Land.
What are the Giants you face, maybe it’s fear of financial ruin, or fear of losing your job if you do the right thing, or fear of never being loved if you honor God with your sexuality—or maybe you fear nothing, you’re a conqueror, an overcomer, tough—yet people around you keep trying to tell you something’s wrong, they’re hurting, but you can’t see that what you keep doing is hurting them. Because there’s something deep inside you’ve locked in a closet—a wound, abuse, criticism, fear that’s so young and irrational you’ve forgotten it’s there, yet it drives you to stay tough, succeed at all costs, no matter what it costs relationally. Oh there are so many Giant Monsters to fear in this life. So what do you do with your Giants and Monsters? Most of us see Giants or Monsters through the filter of Fear. God wants us to see them through his Reality—with No Filter—because then we can truly conquer them and live in His Good Promises.
Here’s the thing about all Giants and Monsters—they can’t stand God’s Light. God’s Light is Reality, and God’s Perspective is Truth—the ultimate truth about Reality. The way we overcome those Giants, those Monsters we fear, those seemingly impossible situations you are facing right now—we need to take Dad’s hand, let him show us from God’s Perspective—with God’s Light from God’s Word shining on them—there’s nothing to fear. God is love…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…. 1 John 4:16, 18
The Israelites looked at their Giants through their own Fear Filter—they compared themselves to a stronger adversary—God wanted them to take off that Fear Filter and compare this situation to the God of all Creation who is Mightier than all our adversaries combined. Perspective matters. That’s Reality as it really is. Your addiction feels impossible, your debt feels gigantic, your marriage feels doomed, your business feels busted—but that’s from your perspective through your Filter. You’re comparing the situation to you. Compare it instead to God’s Light and God’s Reality—they are totally different. God is the God of the Impossible. Nothing is impossible for Him. And if we are in Christ, if we have given our lives back to God, nothing can stand against us. Not because we’re powerful, but because He is the Power greater than any other Power—and He’s with us. This doesn’t mean life will always go our way—it means life will always go God’s way, and we are in Him, and He WILL Overcome, and all He promised will happen—so we have nothing to fear ultimately.
God doesn’t want his children to fear anything. Do you realize that? Over 100 times in the Bible God commands us “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” “Don’t fear them” “Don’t fear anything” – WHY? So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10.
What’s the reason God gives more than any other? “For I am with you.” I’m with you—I’ve got this. It’s under control. This seemingly impossible situation didn’t catch God napping. He’s not flustered that things just got away from Him somehow. He doesn’t want you to fear ANYTHING. He wants us to see our Giants or impossible situations in faith through His Eyes, not our fear filters.
Two Israelites did this—they were tempted to look at the same Giants through fear, but they instead looked at God and his promise: Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 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…Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”] Numbers 14:6-9
Joshua and Caleb were the only 2 of the 12 spies who felt the fear Filter trying to cloud their vision, but chose God and His promise through which to view their impossible situation: “God said he’d give you this land—He will be with you.” They didn’t compare the size of the Giants to their power—they compared the Power of God and His promise which made the Giants tiny in their sight. They didn’t know how—but they didn’t need to know how—they knew God. If God promised, they were going to move toward the Promise in Faith, not run back to slavery in fear. That’s what you need to do as well. Do you know God’s promises? It’s why you need to study the life and promises of Jesus, so you don’t look at your Giants compared to your own ability—you take that filter off and look at them compared to God’s Power and Ability in what He has promised in His Word. Just step forward in faith—one step at a time—He will lead you into the Lands He Promised.
No matter how huge, how overwhelming, how impossible those Giants seem—Don’t rely on your own power or ability—look at God and His Power in comparison—just take the next step, step by step, you’ll look back and be amazed at where He leads you. The recovery movement understood this well—the 12 Steps are based on the Bible. Sam Shoemaker, who inspired the 12 steps said, “Something comes into our own energies and capacities and expands them. We are laid hold of by Something greater than ourselves. We can face things, create things, accomplish things, that in our own strength would have been impossible…The Holy Spirit seems to mix and mingle His power with our own.”-Sam Shoemaker
What the Israelites should have done, is take off the Fear Filter and replace it with God’s Reality—then just ask God to give them power to do the Next Right Thing. Just take one step at a time toward the Promised Land, let God take care of the how. Will you do that? Or will you keep giving into fear – “What if this, what if that, but we might” 10 times the Israelites gave in. God kept giving them chance after chance to trust His Promise, but they chose not to. 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?…[Moses asked] 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 until now.” 20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised…except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. Numbers 14:18-30
Here’s the word of warning for us too. God forgives—in Christ he forgives all our sins all our rebellious acts all our giving in to temptation—nothing can separate us from His love for all eternity…BUT…that does not mean we won’t feel the consequences when we keep on giving into fear or temptation over and over and over—choosing the Monster rather than trusting God’s power in faith– They kept rejecting God’s promise -10 times it says—and every time, to God it feels like contempt–like saying “You’re clueless God—you’re of no consequence to me—your perspective doesn’t matter.” Because that’s how we’re living—as Christian Atheists, saying we believe in God, but acting like it’s not Reality. And if we keep on and on and on—eventually we get what we wanted. They didn’t want to trust God to lead them into the Promised Land, so he didn’t. They lived in the desert of their fears instead.
Friends, If you find yourself wandering in life’s desert, missing out on the Good Promises God wants us to experience. It’s never too late to trust Him. He isn’t mean—He doesn’t hold grudges, He wants to lead us into good things, but not against your will—only if you will trust Him. Joshua and Caleb did trust Him and they did get to go into the Promised Land, they did experience the Promise of the Lord. So what are the Giants you’re facing? Don’t look at the Giants through a Human Filter, look at them through God’s Light, God’s Promises, compared to God’s Great Power to overcome the most insurmountable odds. And you too will overcome.