Not long ago a man audited a doctoral seminar on leadership. One day the professor asked each of the 16 participants in his class to tell the one thing at which they excelled. The man said he dreaded questions like that because he still was not sure of what he did best. And besides, it sounded to him like bragging. But when his turn came all he could think to say was this, “I am best at not quitting.”
Now, at first that answer sounds a little strange, but when you consider all the obstacles we face in life, the power to persist is amazing.
Without question, one of my favorite Old Testament characters is Caleb. The reason is that Caleb had a different spirit. He excelled at not quitting. God said that Caleb had a different spirit. But I’m getting ahead of our story.
Under the direction of God, Moses sent 12 leaders of Israel to spy out the Promised Land. At the end of 40 days, these spies returned to give their report. Ten of the 12 reported that capturing the Promised Land was a total impossibility. The enemy is just too strong and numerous for us.
But Caleb, one of the two remaining spies, quieted the people and urged, “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 14:24). That different spirit is truly a blessed thing to behold.
As the late Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick observed, “It is not so much what life brings to us in her hand, as what we bring to life in our spirits that makes the difference between people.”
For a moment, let’s look at some of the attitudes or spirits that we bring to life, with the hope that all of us will have the Caleb spirit — that different spirit.
First, there is the “can’t do” spirit! So where does this “can’t do” spirit come from? In one word, the answer is fear.
Now, I’m not talking about healthy fear, and there are some of those. But I am talking about those paralyzing fears that stifle us and keep us from moving forward. Instead of fearing God, we fear humankind. Instead of being motivated by the possibility, we are intimidated by the impossibility. Instead of attempting great things for God, we are afraid of the attempt. And instead of living life with creative risk, we often choose to be safe.
Because of fear, a person says, “Come on, let’s be realistic. God can do wonderful things, but this is impossible.
Second, there is the “critical of” spirit! Where does this kind of detrimental spirit come from! For sure, one place is a lack of love in the heart.
A mother and her adult daughter were out shopping one day, trying to make the most of a gigantic sale weekend just prior to Christmas. As they went from store to store in the mall, the older woman complained about everything, the crowds, the poor quality of the merchandise, the prices and her sore feet. After the mother experienced a particularly difficult interaction with a clerk in one department store, she turned to the daughter and said, “I’m never going back to that store again. Did you see that dirty look she gave me?”
The daughter answered, “She didn’t give it to you, Mom. You had it when you went in.” A lack of love in the heart.
Third, there is the “possibility willing spirit! This, of course, is the Caleb spirit — that different spirit. The kind of spirit I pray we all have as we continue to move through these uncertain times in which we live.
Just one example of this Caleb spirit will suffice!
I love the story of the 10-year-old boy who was selling pencils door to door in his neighborhood. When an interested adult at one of his houses asked him the reason for selling pencils, he replied, “I want to raise $6 million to build a new hospital for the city.”
Amazed, the inquiring adult exclaimed, “That’s a mighty big job for just one little boy isn’t it?”
“No,” responded the 10-year-old with a big smile, “I have a friend who’s helping me.”
Perhaps the late Robert H. Schuller expressed it best when he said, “Great people are average people with a different attitude toward impossible situations.”