"The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelves ancestral tribes.'"
(Numbers 13:1-2, NLT)
God is ready to hand over the keys to the Promised Land to the newly liberated nation of Israel. Under the leadership of Moses, He has brought them out of Egypt with the gold and riches of Egypt in the possession. And now they are ready to enter the rich and prosperous land that will be their new home.
God specifically instructs Moses to pick out twelve men, one from each tribe. But He is even more specific than that. He tells them to pick twelve "leaders." And that's what Moses did. He picked men from each tribe who have already proven themselves as leaders – Israel's best and brightest. They weren't rookies; they were experienced generals. These were the men with proven track records and vision for the future. Let's put it this way: Moses wasn't going to pick wannabees or has-beens to go check out the land. For a mission like that you don't sent second-hands – you send in your specialists. Your main men. Twelve of them to be specific… and out of those 12, only 2 finished strong.
Israel waited for 40 years to enter the land because 10 guys who had seen God open the Red Sea for them and their families, and then close it on Pharaoh's army… 10 guys who had seen God work time and time again on their behalf – freaked out because the land contained some very powerful tribes and fortified cities. In other words, the 10 had a greater fear of man than they did of God. And this was after all the mind-boggling miracles God had performed before their very eyes! It was E. Stanley Jones who said, "Fear is the sand in the machinery of life." And it brought these 10 leaders to a staggering halt.
These 10 leaders had a great start. They just couldn't finish. And they delayed Israel's realization of the Promised Land for 40 years. A whole generation perished in the sands of the Sinai desert because these men got sand in their machinery. These were names of the twelve spies: the 10 leaders who couldn't finish strong; Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel; and only 2 leaders who finished strong; Joshua and Caleb. Of the original twelve, ten detailed. Only Joshua and Caleb had taken the time to develop their moral and spiritual character so that they had the faith and endurance to trust in God when the chips were down. Parents still name their boys Joshua and Caleb today, don't they? But I don't know any parents who want to name their son Palti or Shammua. Those names have been forgotten.
There must have been some very good reasons why these 10 men were chosen to spy out the Promised Land. At least there were some good external reasons. The problem is, no one but God can look into a man's heart. Well, you can bet that each of these 10 men-leaders, if they were around today, would be at church faithfully every Sunday morning and/or Sunday night. He'd be there for Wednesday Bible Study night and Thursday Men's Fellowship. He'd show up on Tuesday for worship practice and teach Sunday school. He would be a tither and serve on the board. Externally, all of these men looked like dynamite! But when push came to shove, only 2 out of 12 had what it took to be real men of God. And the difference was all on the inside – the continuous relationship with the Living God.
You see, it's endurance that separates the men from the boys. It's endurance that determines whether or not a man will finish strong. And endurance is the fruit of godly character. The Christian life isn't a hundred meters run. It's a marathon. It's a long race, and long races don't require speed. They require grit, determination, faith-endurance, and finishing power. As Scripture says, "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."
In Christian life, it's not how you start that matters.
It's how you finish.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.