You’ll never have a problem-free life. Ever.
You’ll never drift off to sleep on the wings of this thought: My, today came and went with no problems in the world. This headline will never appear in the paper: “We have only good news to report.
You might be elected as president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. You might be called out of the stands to pinch-hit when your team is down to its final out of the World Series, hit a home run, and have your face appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Pigs might fly.
A kangaroo might swim.
Men might surrender the remote control.
Women might quit buying purses.
It’s not likely. But it’s possible.
But a problem-free, no hassle, blue-sky existence of smooth sailing?
Don’t hold your breath.
Problems happen. They happen to rich people, sexy people, educated people, and sophisticated people. They happen to retired people, single people, spiritual people, and secular people.
All people have problems.
But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fear. Others with faith.
In the wilderness
His story from the Old Testament stands out because his faith did. Forty five years earlier when Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, Caleb was among them. He and Joshua believed the land could be taken. But since the other 10 spies disagreed, the children of Israel ended up in the wilderness.
God, however, took note of Caleb’s courage. The man’s convictions were so striking that God paid him a compliment that would make a saint blush. “My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24 NIV). How would you like to have those words on your resume? What type of spirit catches the eye of God? What qualifies as a “different spirit?
Answers begin to emerge during the distribution of the lands west of the Jordan.
“Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6). Every Hebrew tribe was represented. All the priests, soldiers, and people gathered near the tabernacle. Eleazar, the priest, had two urns, one containing the tribal names, the other with lists of land parcels. Yet before the people received their inheritance, a promise needed to be fulfilled.
I’m seeing a sturdy man with sinewy muscle. Caleb, gray headed and great hearted, steps forward. He has a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, and a promise to collect. “Joshua, remember what Moses told you and me at Kadesh Barnea?
Kadesh Barnea. The name stirred a 45-five-year-old memory in Joshua. It was from this camp that Moses heard two distinct reports.
All 12 men agreed on the value of the land. It flowed with milk and honey. All 12 agreed on the description of the people and the cities. Large and fortified. But only Joshua and Caleb believed the land could be overtaken.
Read carefully the words that Caleb spoke to Joshua at the end of the military campaign (Joshua 14:6-12). See if you can spot what was different about Caleb’s spirit.
Caleb … said to [Joshua]: “You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me; and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”
What name appears and reappears in Caleb’s words? The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. Nine references to the Lord! Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.
What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? The economy, the economy? The jerk, the jerk?
Promised Land people do not deny the presence of problems. Canaan is fraught with giants and Jerichos. It does no good to pretend it is not. Servants like Caleb aren’t naïve, but they immerse their minds in God-thoughts.
Good water and battery acid
Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves. Which one will you want to eat?
Your mind is the apple. God is good water. Problems are battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes. Caleb was different because he soaked his mind in God.
The psalmist showed us how to do this. He asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? (Psalm 42:5). He was sad and discouraged. The struggles of life threatened to pull him under and take another victim. But at just the right time, the writer made this decision: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar (verses 5-6).
There is a resolve in those words. “I shall yet … I will remember You. The writer made a deliberate decision to treat his downcast soul with thoughts of God. Everywhere I go, I will remember you—from Jordan to Hermon to Mizar.
In your case the verse would read, “From the ICU to the cemetery, to the unemployment line, to the courtroom, I will remember you.
There is nothing easy about this. Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mind-set will.
“Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed (John 14:27, AMP). Instead, immerse your mind in God-thoughts.
When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God. Caleb could have cursed God. He didn’t deserve the wilderness. He had to put his dreams on hold for four decades. Still he didn’t complain or grow sour. When the time came for him to inherit his property, he stepped forward with a God-drenched mind to receive it.
“Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things) (Col. 3:2 AMP). When giants are in the land, when doubts swarm your mind, turn your thoughts to God. Your best thoughts are God-thoughts.
Taken from Glory Days by Max Lucado, copyright © 2015 by Max Lucado. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.