Grapes, Giants, Grasshoppers and God
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Open your Bibles to Numbers, chapter 13, please. Let’s begin reading with verse 23:
“And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
“The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.
“And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
“And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
“And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
“Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
“And the Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
“But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
“And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”–Vss. 23—33.
The children of Israel had come to the border of Canaan. God’s servant sent a committee to spy out the land. When they came back, they had a majority report and a minority report. The majority report can be summed up by three words: grapes, giants and grasshoppers. They told Moses they had seen great clusters of grapes, but that there were great giants in the land. Then they said to him, ‘We are like grasshoppers in their sight.’
The children of Israel had to decide whether they were going to enter the land or stay out.
Most Bible students agree that the land of Canaan does not represent Heaven, for in Heaven there are no giants, no battles, no heartaches. And all those things were in the land of Canaan. Most Bible students see Canaan as representing what we sometimes call “the victorious Christian life.” You could make it represent almost anything–anything you see good in–as you think about the grapes of incomparable blessings. Many things are out there for us, but many times we do not move out and take them.
I. THE GRAPES OF INCOMPARABLE BLESSINGS
1. I think of the grape of pardon for sin offered to every person. When Christ died on the cross, He died for all people. There is not a person living who cannot have his sins forgiven and stand before God as if he had never committed a single sin.
The grape of pardon for sins is an incomparable blessing. Everybody can have it. We need above everything else to have our sins forgiven, our sins pardoned.
2. I think too of the grape of peace of mind. One knowing Christ as Saviour and living right enjoys the peace of God promised in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
3. Then I think of the grape of power for victory. The Christian doesn’t have to live a defeated life. Nobody has to sin. Nobody has to live a substandard life. We can live victoriously. We can be overcomers. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).
4. Then there is the grape of the prospect of Heaven. You are standing on this side of the place of decision and looking across. Pardon for sin, peace of mind, power for victory, the prospect of Heaven are all ours. But the fact remains, multitudes fail to cross over into Canaan and take the grapes of incomparable blessings.
I think too of having a Pilot on the voyage. We are not living a haphazard life, not living by chance; but our life is directed by Christ. Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
I would want to be a Christian even if there were no Heaven or Hell–just to have direction in my life, and the Lord leading me, and to know that I was doing what was right, even if there were no hereafter.
5. Then too over in Canaan land there is the grape of the pleasures of God. “At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11). Contrast that with what the Bible says about the pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:25 tells us that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” The pleasures of sin are seasonal, but the pleasures of God are perennial. At His right hand “there are pleasures for evermore.” Ten million years from now Christians will still be enjoying the pleasures of God.
6. Then there is a purpose in life, a reason for living.
The other day one of our staff ladies led a lady to Christ who was about to commit suicide. She led her to Christ over the phone.
After she was saved, very excitedly she said, “I don’t want to die! I have something to live for now!” She now had purpose for living.
All these are the grapes of incomparable blessings.
7. Then there is the grape of the presence of Christ. A Christian can have Christ with him day and night, twenty-four hours a day. For we have the promise of God: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).
Add any other application you want to make.
You young preacher boys have great dreams and great visions. You are thinking of someday building a great church. You want to be the pastor of the leading church in your town and have converts and baptisms every week. You are excited about it! That too is one of the grapes.
II. THE GIANTS OF IMMENSE OPPOSITION
Not only are there grapes of incomparable blessings, but there are giants. It is wonderful to serve the Lord and be used by Him, but there are giants of immense opposition. It won’t be easy. Don’t misunderstand me. It is easy to be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). But it is not quite as easy as it sounds, for there are giants of immense opposition.
Before a man is saved, Satan will say something like this: “You don’t want to be a Christian, for you will be miserable the rest of your life. You can’t have a good time if you become a Christian. Why, you will have to go through life with a long face and sad countenance. To be a Christian means you are giving up all pleasures forever.”
Some think Christianity is sacrificing everything here in order to earn Heaven. That is not true. We earn Heaven by the sacrifice of Christ.
The obedient Christian has two Heavens: the Heaven he is going to, and the heaven to go to Heaven in.
After an old man kept talking about Heaven, a young fellow said, “You talk on and on of ‘Heaven, Heaven, Heaven’! How do you know there is a Heaven?” The old man answered readily, “Because I have been living there for forty years.” I like the old man’s reply.
You can be so right with God and such an obedient Christian that even this life can be a little foretaste of Heaven, a “heaven” to go to Heaven in.
Did you ever see those little bugs–I don’t know what they are–that make an air bubble when they go down under the water? They have their own atmosphere–a bubble around them.
A born-again Christian who loves God, who believes the Bible and wants to do right, has his own atmosphere. He may be in downtown Atlanta where they shoot dope and curse and get drunk and live like the Devil, but he has his own spiritual atmosphere to live in. You don’t have to be contaminated with the world. You can have your own fellowship, your own atmosphere, while sin abounds around you.
There are the giants of immense opposition. The Devil will say, “Don’t be a Christian. Don’t be a hypocrite. Make sure you can live it before you get saved.” The Devil will do everything he can to keep you from getting saved. He doesn’t want anyone to become a Christian.
When you are thinking of the blessing of serving God and building a great church, the Devil will come around and say, “You can’t do it; that is not for everybody. Why, there are only a few fellows who ever do anything like that.”
So there are the giants of immense opposition.
1. There is the Giant Discouragement. “It’s too hard; you will never be able to do it.”
What did the Devil say to you before you got saved? The same thing he said to me: “It’s too hard, Curtis. You can’t be a Christian; you’ll never be able to live it.”
I would have become a Christian long before I did had I not been discouraged by some well-meaning Christians who said something like this to me: “Now, you want to make sure you know what you are doing. This is a very important decision. You don’t want to make the wrong move on this.”
Here I was, a fellow wanting to get saved, and someone was talking to me about making the wrong decision! Even some of my kinfolks said, “Now, Curtis, make sure you can live it. You are very young.”
The old preacher would say, “It is better never to put your hand to the plow than having put your hand to the plow, to look back.” I thought that meant that if you sinned after you got saved, you would have been better off not to have ever gotten saved. So I waited.
Though I was eleven years old when I got saved, I think I would have been saved earlier. I got the idea from preachers that if you get saved and don’t live a perfect life, you are better off not to get saved at all.
I thought, Well, what I’ll do is, I’ll wait until I am old and dilapidated and on my deathbed, and just before drawing my last breath, I’ll get saved. Then I can live it. I can make it for a minute or two!
Yes, I would have been saved earlier than eleven had I not been discouraged.
In a testimony, Dr. Rice’s granddaughter said, “I wanted to get saved, but some thought I was too young. So I waited and waited and waited. Again, I thought about getting saved, and they said I was still too young. So I waited and waited and waited. Finally, after waiting and waiting and waiting, I was saved when I was six years old.” Poor little thing!
2. There is the giant Difficulty. “Ah…it’s too hard. You can’t live it!” The Devil says that about any work you want to do for Christ. “You can never do that. It’s too hard. There’s too much opposition.” The Devil has discouraged multitudes, not only from becoming Christians, but from attempting anything worthwhile for Christ, by saying, “You can’t do it.”
You can do as much as you think you can,But you will never accomplish more;
If you are afraid of yourself,
There’s little for you in store.
For fear comes from the inside first,
It’s there, if you only knew it;
And you can win, though you face the worst,
If you feel that you can do it.
The one who thinks he can do it, does it. The one who thinks he can’t do it usually doesn’t do it. While the world is explaining why it can’t be done, there are some out there doing it.
I would say this to you young men here who have a vision and a burden: Of course, it is not going to be easy. You are going to have to sacrifice. There are going to be some hard times and some discouraging times. But the grapes of incomparable blessings are worth the battles that you have to go through to get them.
Somebody commented that those grapes were so big that when Joshua and Caleb started back across the river with them, Caleb stepped on one of them and shot the heart out of it. Then he took the hull and made a swimming cap out of it. Then, putting it down over his head, he started swimming across the river and splashing water; and Joshua jumped out of the way and said, “You’re going to drown me, you fool!” (Of course, you will have to find that in the original Hebrew!)
It doesn’t come easy. I don’t know how big those grapes were, but I can imagine they were big enough to make swimming caps out of the hulls.
Since there are grapes of incomparable blessings, there are giants of immense opposition. We are attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants.
“There are big grapes over there. And it is a land flowing with milk and honey! Man! It is fantastic!…BUT…there are big walls over there and big giants too.” Attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants–that is true in a lot of things.
3. Then there is the Giant Doubt. “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I don’t believe I can. I’m not sure.”
4. Then, the giant Dismay. “I’m going to give up–quit. I’m tired.”
5. Then, the giant Delay. “All right, the blessings are over there, but you’ve plenty of time. Wait awhile about it.” And if you keep waiting and waiting, you will never do it.
I remember when God burdened my heart to become a preacher–wholeheartedly and sold out. I was pastor of a little church, and I said, “Maybe someday I will grow big enough so I can be a full-time pastor and not work at the post office. Maybe someday…”
I delayed. Then I began thinking, That day is not going to come. I’m going to have to quit the post office. Nobody is going to come to me and say, “We’ll pay you a couple of hundred dollars a week and all your expenses so you can be our preacher fulltime.” That is not going to happen. I don’t have the background for that kind of a call, and I may as well not delay any longer. I’ll just quit the post office and be full-time in the church. If there is a God in Heaven, He can supply my needs. If not, I don’t care to preach a Bible that is not true.
So I went full-time in the ministry. And I found that God could supply my needs and take care of me; and He can do the same for you.
Attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants is true in every realm, whether it be to become a Christian or to be a sold-out Christian.
III. THE GRASSHOPPERS OF INADEQUATE SELF
Then the children of Israel said, ‘Not only are there grapes and giants, but we are like grasshoppers in their sight’–the grapes of incomparable blessings, the giants of immense opposition, and the grasshoppers of inadequate self.
I don’t think one ought to think too much of himself nor too little of himself. I don’t believe the problem in the world today is that preachers have too much vision; I think the problem has been that we have had too little vision. For fear of man, we were afraid to tell anybody we had big dreams and big plans.
In our own sight, we are like grasshoppers before those big giants! We think we can never do it. We are too little; we are not much. But we ought to have the same confidence that Paul had in himself when he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” He would have been wrong if he had just said, “I can do all things.” But he was right when he went on to say, “…through Christ which strengtheneth me,” or ‘I can do all things through Christ who constantly infuses strength into me.’
Let me tell you something: You cannot dream and have visions that you cannot fulfill by the help of God. If God gives you the dream, then God has the power to give you what is necessary to make your dream come true. I am for having big dreams, big visions and thinking big.
We are so far behind in evangelizing the world that sometimes I could get discouraged; but I see hope, I see excitement. When I see so many young preachers excited about serving the Lord and going out and building big churches, that excites me.
Many a young preacher here tonight is thinking about going out someday and building a great church. You see the grapes, but you haven’t yet seen the giants. You will see them, and when you do, you will see the grasshoppers. You will say, “Boy, what am I? Man! City Hall is against me. The county commissioners are against me. I can’t get anything from them. I can’t get any cooperation. It seems everything and everyone are against me! I think I’ll just quit!”
The first time you go to try to borrow money at the bank, the fellow is going to look at you like he thinks you are a dog with the mange.
The first time I went to borrow money at the bank, the fellow made me feel like I was a crook. I looked to see if I had a gun on me! I thought, What have I done wrong? He made me feel like I was the scum of the earth when I walked in.
We were meeting in a basement building, and I said to him, “We want to build a church.”
He replied, “Huh…How many members do you have?”
“I don’t know. At least eight or ten!”
“What is your average offering?”
“Oh, about forty dollars a week.” (No CPA reports, no nothing. All I had were two Louisiana coffee cans–church money in one and mine in the other. No checking account, no nothing!)
He looked at me–I told you how he made me feel. And I did not come away with any money.
I thought, I’ll build a church someday, and I will see that not a dime of our money ever goes in his bank. (We did put a few thousand in somebody else’s bank, but not in his.)
Every once in awhile I am tempted to walk down there, walk up to him and say, “I’m the guy who wanted to borrow money from you, and you wouldn’t loan me any.”
(Isn’t it funny that the only way you can get a bank to loan you money is to prove you don’t need it; then they will loan it to you! If you need it, you are a bad risk. Strange world we live in!)
The giants of immense opposition and the grasshoppers of inadequate self tell us, “We can’t do it. We’re too little.”
I have wanted to give up so many times, and I have come close to doing just that. I would have given up, but there is something about the fact that when God calls you, you can’t quit.
Jeremiah said: “I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones… and I could not stay” (Jer. 20:9). He had to tell it; he couldn’t quit.
In his lectures to his students, Spurgeon said, “If you can do anything other than preach, then don’t preach.”
I don’t know if I would say it that strong; but if God really called you, you are not likely to quit. Something will keep burning inside even if you have to eat cornbread out of garbage cans. You will wash your face in the creek, shave, act like you had a good breakfast, then go on and preach–if God really called you.
The grasshoppers of inadequate self say, “We can’t do it.”
So we have the grapes, the giants and the grasshoppers. That was the end of the majority report. They said, “There are blessings over there. There are grapes and milk and honey over there; BUT there are giants over there, and we are grasshoppers!”
But there was also a minority report. Look at verse 30:
“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
He was in the minority. The majority is not always right. The majority said, “We can’t.” In most churches, especially when they are small, struggling and trying to get somewhere, the majority often says, “You can’t do it.” But you will find in almost every group a small minority who will say, “We can do it.”
Not many people in this church really thought we could ever get to where we are now.
Granny Meadows was not one of them. I would go see her, and she would encourage me by saying, “You can do it.”
I used to visit her once a week, sometimes twice! She would get me a cold Pepsi-Cola, take the bottle top off and wrap the bottle in a paper towel. And I would sit in the best chair in the living room and drink that Pepsi as I heard Granny say, “I remember the Baptist Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta, where I heard G. Campbell Morgan and R. A. Torrey. And you are better than both of them.”
I drank some more Pepsi! I would say, “Pour it on, Granny! I’m gettin’ ready to go after those giants!”
She would say, “I heard Billy Sunday. He was good, but he was no better than you are.”
“Granny, did you ever hear George Truett?”
“Yes, I heard George Truett preach. When he stood up to preach, he would first look over the congregation–it seemed like forever. You could hear a pin drop. He held them spellbound.”
She would always encourage me. “You can do it. Hurry up and get that church built. I don’t want my funeral in that little bitty white building.”
“Ah, Granny, you’ll be around. We’ll build two or three before you die.”
She would say, “Hurry up now and get it built.” She really thought we weren’t going to make it.
We first built that one over in the basement, and I went back to see her.
We got to thinking about building again. She would say, “Hurry up now. Let’s get on Valley Brook Road and get out of this basement building. I want to have my funeral in a church. You can do it.” What an encouragement she was to this pastor!
Maybe you want to be an assistant pastor someplace, or perhaps you have started your own church. I don’t know what your grapes are, but keep your eyes on your grapes and on God, and off the giants. You can do anything God wants you to do. He puts omnipotence back of His commands. If He commands you to do something, gives you a burden to do something, gives you a vision to do something, you can do it.
There is nothing we can’t do that we want to do. There is nothing any of you can’t do if you want to do it. Whatever your grapes are–make your own application–realize there are some giants there.
Good things don’t come easily. Good churches are not built easily. If they were, there would be big, good churches everywhere, with people saved every Sunday. I know preachers who tried for years but never got it done. Good things don’t come easily. It takes a lot of sacrifice, determination and sweat. It takes blood–sometimes–and a lot of giving. But you determine one thing: Are the grapes worth the battle? If they are, then go to it. If the grapes are not worth the battle, then close shop and start somewhere else.
If the grapes are worth the battle, get going! If you have four years to go to school, then go ahead and get that behind you. If the grapes are worth it, stay with it.