Two Prisoners looked out from their Prison Cell one night. One saw mud while the other saw stars. Both were in the same cell. Both were Prisoners. Both looked out at the same time. [Source: Marilyn Welch | Medium] What made the difference? Their attitudes. One who saw the stars had a positive attitude. The one who saw mud had a negative attitude. The story is a classic example of the vast degree of the difference our attitudes can make in our circumstances.
In today’s sermon, I want to show you that a vast array of differences attitudes can make in Christian Life and Ministry. The Bible has many references t0 people with positive attitudes as well as people with negative attitudes. Numbers 13:1-33 and 14:1-45 are two passages in the Bible in which we meet both types. There are three main groups in this passage.
- The ten spies with the negative report
- The congregation that believed them
- Joshua and Caleb whose reports differed
I will not take time to explain verse by verse but only the verses necessary to make my point. Let’s start with the spies who brought a negative report.
1. The Ten Spies
A. They implied God’s Word is Null and Void
This is exactly what the spies told Moses: “…We went to the land where you sent us. It is indeed flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But the inhabitants are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…”
‘But’ is the third most used conjunction in the English language. We hardly give any serious thought to it. Nevertheless, it’s a word to be used with extreme caution because in any language ‘but’ often nullifies whatever preceded it. So the spies were actually saying “Everything God told you about that land was true. But he lied when he said it will be ours because there’s no way we can conquer it”
In fact, the Hebrew word ‘efes‘ used in place of ‘but’ means ‘It’s over!’ So these ten spies nullified God’s Word completely.
They certainly left the camp with a spirit of adventure but despaired after seeing the fortified cities and inhabitants of Canaan. They failed to rely on God’s supernatural ability for they reckoned only on their own natural ability.
Positive attitudes affirm God’s word. Negative attitudes nullify his word. Positive attitudes feed our faith. Negative attitudes feed on our faith.
B. They were Haughty and Arrogant People
God could have pardoned the spies for bringing a negative report. One may argue it was just human error after all. But the behavior of these spies indicates their actions were far from human error. They were haughty and arrogant. Their commission had been to carry out reconnaissance on the target and to report back on what they saw. It wasn’t their job to determine if the Israelites could overcome the Canaanites. On the other hand, Caleb assured them they can conquer the land indeed, (Numbers 13:30). Caleb was a mighty Warrior. He wasn’t bluffing. Nevertheless, the spies refused to listen. They insisted it was impossible to conquer the land. They did not withdraw their opinion, (Number 13:31).
Positive attitudes breed assurance and security. Negative attitudes breed haughtiness and arrogance.
C. They Struck Fear into the Congregation
The spies suddenly shifted from a negative report to a report of exaggeration, falsehood evil, and fear. They falsely claimed the land to be infertile and said its inhabitants are cannibals. Deliberately described the tall Anakites as the Nephilim to strike fear into the hearts of the people. Shamelessly likened God’s people to grasshoppers.
Positive attitudes inspire fear of God in us. Negative attitudes strike the fear of circumstances into our hearts.
2. The Congregation
A. They murmured against God and Moses
It may seem the rest of the people in the camp were innocent victims but they were not. They made a deliberate decision to exchange the truth for the lies of men despite the fact God had just proved His supernatural power to them three times since they left Sinai.
The Bible says the entire camp wept that night and murmured against Moses and Aaron. This act of murmuring was far more than complaining or grumbling. It was more like a parliamentary vote of no confidence because they no longer trusted their leaders and wished to choose a new leader and go back to Egypt. They daringly accused God of not permitted to let them die in Egypt or in the wilderness only to bring them to a foreign land to fall by the sword and their families to be plundered.
Positive attitudes help us sort the truth from lies. Negative attitudes cloud our judgment.
B. They rebelled against their Leaders –
Moses and Aaron made every possible effort to convince the people what they heard wasn’t true. Then they interceded for the nation while Joshua and Caleb reassured God will indeed give them the land. Still, these foolish people didn’t listen. They would have put Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron to death by stoning them unless the Lord himself had intervened.
Positive attitudes help us to solve disagreements peacefully. Negative attitudes cause violence.
C. They despised God and his Word
The Hebrew word na’ats (despised) used in Numbers 14:11; 23; 31 means to reject with disdain or contempt. In which way did they despise him?
- They accused God on the grounds of falsehood and ungodly motives
- They condemned the land God promised to them as a land of death
- They decided to appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt
- They willfully and consciously decided to put their leaders to death
- They tempted God for the 10th time since the exodus from Egypt
Consequently, God threatened to destroy everyone except Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. But Moses and Aaron pleaded with God to not destroy his people for the sake of his glory. God forgave but guaranteed nobody but Joshua, Caleb and the children of that generation will see the Promised Land. Others will die in the wilderness as they wondered for the next 40 years. Then he struck down the spies because they were directly responsible for what happened. Canaan was only a 10-day journey. Now they had to wait for 40 years. It’s truly dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.
Positive attitudes convince us to appreciate our blessings. Negative attitudes however bring judgment on us.
3. Joshua and Caleb
A. They had a different Attitude
Joshua, Caleb, and the others spied the same land. Then how did the report of Joshua and Caleb differ from the report brought by the rest? They had a different spirit (Numbers 14:24) The New Living Translation and God’s Word interpret the “different spirit” as a different attitude. They did two things.
B. They guarded their Hearts
Numbers 13:30; 14:6; 14:7-9
The spies managed to influence one million people but not Joshua and Caleb because they guarded their hearts, (Proverbs 4:23).
C. Trusted God against all Odds
They didn’t underestimate the military power of Canaan. But they did not underestimate God’s power and the ability either. They trusted God against all odds.
Positive attitudes help us to trust God against all odds. Negative attitudes make our hearts vulnerable and exposable to despair.
How to recognize people with negative Attitudes?
Now that we know the importance of positive attitudes in Christian Life and Ministry let’s see how to recognize people with negative attitudes in order to protect ourselves.
- They are haughty, arrogant, inflexible, unteachable people who always seek to condemn others
- They shun people that possess positive attitudes. They will try their level best to get rid of such people
- They aggravate small problems and minimize the greater good for their benefit
- They accuse their leaders on false grounds and pretend to be the innocent victims of the system
- They are pessimists living in a world of excuses. They can convince you can’t do something because they can’t do it in the first place
- They are ungrateful. They habitually underappreciate their blessings and privileges
How to recognize people with positive Attitudes?
As much as we know how to spot a person with negative attitudes, it is also important to know how to recognize people with positive attitudes so that we can work together with them to bring about the Kingdom of God.
- They believe they live in a world of opportunities, not excuses. They seize those opportunities as often as they can
- They are humble, flexible, and teachable. They always hold the other person in high esteem
- They don’t blame man or God when something fails to deliver the expected results. Rather they will work hard to find a solution
- They walk by faith not by sight and trust God against all odds. They encourage others to follow their example
Your attitude determines your destination. They are contagious. Is yours worth catching?
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