When Jesus walked this Earth, he hardly ever asked people where they had been. He was much more interested in where they were going, and how they would finish their race.
It’s the finish line that matters most to God.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua we read about Caleb, an 85-year-old patriarch who finished life well. Caleb wanted a piece of the Promised Land with its postcard vineyards, lush fields, rushing streams and rolling forested hills. It was a place where Caleb, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could live and thrive in peace and safety.
There were, however, a few huge complications before Caleb could take his ease on Hebron Heights and bounce his great-grandbabies on his weathered knees. Giants! Hebron was occupied by a fierce race of freak-warriors known as Anakites, settled in well-fortified cities.
At 85, Caleb should have been in a rocking chair sipping Ovaltine rather than talking about going to war. But Caleb had something on his side more resilient than youth, mightier than mountains, more powerful than giants, and more sure and secure than fortified cities on hilltops.
He had the promise of God himself. Back in Numbers 14:24 (NIV) the Lord told Moses, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Now, a generation later, Caleb refused to surrender his passion for the high ground of God’s promises, saying, “Give me those mountains where the giants live.”
The pathway to claiming that lofty inheritance, however, would come through courage and faith, not wishful thinking, passive indifference or conflict avoidance. He would never conquer the mountain sitting in a rocking chair at its base.
What was it that made Caleb stand out among his peers? In a word, courage
It takes courage to climb mountains and face bully-boy giants that block the trail ahead. It takes courage to keep on moving when you’re tempted to wave the white flag of mid-life, mid-race, mid-term or midway through marriage or parenting or temptation.
Until he drew his last breath, Caleb had determined to live life to the hilt, finish strong and enjoy the peaks and promises of God. Giants or no giants.
Some people start life running well and strong over a fresh landscape, dappled with morning sunlight. Life is an adventure, but it’s also dangerous. After navigating the first scary surprise and taking the first painful fall, life has a way of losing is zest. The flowers no longer hold the appeal they did on that first exultant mile. The mountains that once inspired us now only make us tired, and before we realize what’s happening, we reach the mid-life aid station and start looking for a chair.
Courage is the ability to act for what is right in spite of fear, intimidation or obstacles. The fact is, every good word or deed — every worthy purpose or noble intention — will probably draw criticism or opposition.
Every great accomplishment takes courage. But as Jesus told his disciples on the night before he died, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Peace, then, doesn’t derive from our circumstances, but rather from a person — the Prince of Peace himself.
Yes, the way may be steep, and giants may threaten our long ascent. But Jesus will give us all the courage we need to find our place of refuge and rest.
Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network www.globalgatewaynetwork.org with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.