Summary: Where does a positive perspective end and faith begin? Faith is not simply hoping that things will work out someday. If a positive perspective is what brings me success, then why do I need God?
A rabbi was at odds with his congregation. The president of the synagogue said, ”Rabbi, we must have a conference to settle this dispute once and for all.” So the rabbi, the president an the ten elders met together to discuss the issue – but the rabbi soon discovered that he was the sole dissenting opinion. After some discussion, the president of the synagogue announced, “Let us now vote and let the majority rule.” When the votes were collected, the president said, “Rabbi, you are outvoted eleven to one, we have the majority.”
The rabbi rose to his feet, “So you think you are right and I am wrong because of a vote. Well, think again, for I will call on the Holy One of Israel to give us a sign that I am right and you are wrong.” Immediately, a deafening clap of thunder sounded, accompanied by a brilliant flash. The mahogany table they were gathered around was cracked in two. The room was filled with smoke and the president and the elders were thrown to the floor, but the rabbi remained standing – untouched and triumphant.
The president synagogue slowly rose from underneath the table. His hair was singed, his glasses where hanging from one ear and his clothes were in great disarray. Finally, after some time, he responded saying, “Alright, alright, so it is eleven to two. But we still have the majority!”
In our Scripture this morning the majority report is: we cannot go into the promise land it is too difficult a task; The minority report is just the opposite, we can go into the promise land, and we will prevail. It is easy for us to walk away from this Scripture with the idea that if we have a positive perspective we can seize the opportunity to overcome, whereas if we have a negative perspective we will fear our opportunity to overcome – but it isn’t that simple. For if that is what we walk away from after reading this Scripture, a positive perspective will allow us to succeed – why would you or I need God? If having a positive perspective allows me to overcome, I don’t need God, I can get the rundown on positive perspectives from the bookstore or any number of success seminars that come through town.
I received one of these “invitations” the other day in the mail. It was very formal in packaging, it was written in a personal but businesslike manner. It was as if I was plucked out of all the names in my neighborhood to attend. It was a very special invitation. It promised that if I go to this three day seminar, for what the invitation claimed as a very moderate cost, then I would learn to quickly make money hand over fist.
I’m sure they will spend a good amount of time in the three day seminar talking about a positive outlook on life.
All that may be well and good, but, understand that having a good perspective is NOT the same thing as faith. Faith and a positive perspective are not equivalent. Having a positive perspective does not mean you have faith - - it might mean you are a very positive person, or it just could mean that you are out of touch with reality.
Faith is not simply hoping that things will work out someday.
Faith is not simply being positive that things will work out someday.
So, where does a positive perspective end, and faith begin? How do the people in our Scripture demonstrate faith, or a lack of faith, rather than demonstrate the power of positive thinking?
Let’s look at our Scripture and see if we can get a handle on this.
Here in Numbers 13 we have the People of Israel standing of the brink of going into the Promise land. The problem was twofold: First the land they were promised was already occupied; Second, they had no idea what the land looked like, so they send in 12 spies.
Each man chosen is a representative of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. They all are leaders, but not necessarily the head of their tribe. One thing to note here is that the only two names mentioned again from this list are Caleb and Joshua. Joshua’s name was changed from Hoshea which means (he saves) to Joshua which means (Yahweh saves) – Jesus, is a form of the name Joshua.
So they gather the 12 men and send them into the land with the instructions Num. 13:18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”