Tue, Sep 23, 2008
A wise man once said “… To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourself. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess his personal knowledge or witness will fall. The time will come when no man or woman will be able to stand on borrowed light. Each of you will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” 
I think each of us will face a time of difficulty that will test where we stand. Whether we rely on our own light will in large part determine if we see our tests as a challenge to see how good God is, or whether we will be just be found worthy of His good gifts.
The scriptures and history of God’s kingdom are replete with examples of believers struggling to keep a grip on their spirituality in the face of temporal challenges. Many have faces a crisis of faith for things such as:
- Hard economic times
- Sexual improprieties of every type and severity
- The loss of a loved one
- Difficulties in familial or other close relationships
- An inequity having its genesis in any number of sources
- Injustice being dealt upon them
- Breach of a trust
- Insensitivity of a church leader
If we believe what is found in holy writ, we should be prepared for rough times between now and Christ’s second coming. There will likely never be a time when we will know more peace than we know today. We are each therefore likely to face a crisis of a temporal nature that may test our spiritual world.
If we find ourselves in a temporal crisis, will we experience a corresponding spiritual crisis as well? We cannot live on borrowed light, or we will fall. We must have our own witness that God lives and Jesus is his son and the savior of the world.
But what is it that we know? We can know what is whispered to our spirit by the Spirit of God. If God himself sends his “spirit of truth” teach us, need we any more of a witness? Do we rely on what God has given us when we are walking down a path of peril and temporal challenge? Do we remember that it is after the trial of our faith that we will be blessed? Just last year, my wife and I finally began to understand some challenges we faced in the late 1980s. That was 20 years ago! We didn’t know why the Lord was leading us down a certain path; we only trusted in his will and understood that as long as we walked that path with Him, we would end up where we should be. Yet, it is only now that we see how His hand was leading us.
Too many people today look at a crisis of a temporal nature as a test of whether God has abandoned us rather than a test of whether we as His children will abandon Him. In this way, we are far from different from our brothers and sisters, the children of Israel. They are a constant reminder of a people fixated on testing God’s greatness by temporal problems. When the Israelites lacked food, they questioned whether Jehovah was a mighty God. God provided them with manna. When the Israelites were thirsty, they complained that Moses and his God had led them into the desert without water. Moses smote a rock and the Israelites drank. When the Israelites thought Moses was on Mt. Sinai longer than they thought was necessary, they replaced Jehovah with their own god. They seemed incapable of understanding that they were the ones being tested, not the great Jehovah. But are we any different?
Don’t we, in times of trouble, sit back and wonder how God could allow us to endure this particular challenge? In contrast, I have heard it said by a friend that man cannot do anything to take away his testimony, as no man gave him the testimony – God did. So, when we face those crises, do we hearken back to those times when we heard the whisperings of the spirit and stand in awe of God’s mighty hand?
If the Lord sends His spirit to you in the middle of a prayer, while you are listening to a talk or a song, or when you are studying the scriptures, he is sending you a simple, two word message – “it’s true.” Christ promised His apostles that after He was gone, He would send another comforter who would testify of truth. Hasn’t that Spirit of Truth spoken peace to your mind in times of quiet contemplation? Haven’t you felt of his Spirit guiding you on your path? Haven’t you heard that “still small voice” spoken of in 2nd Kings chapter 19? Indeed, what greater witness do we need than one from God himself? When we feel that spirit, we must cling to it as a precious witness from God.
My cousin reminded me a couple of weeks ago of the marvelous example of Caleb from the Old Testament. Caleb understood that we must always rely upon the testimony of God when we are facing a temporal challenge. When the Israelites had been in the desert for two years, they arrived at the borders of the land of Canaan, near Hebron. Moses chose one person from each tribe to serve as a spy. Caleb was chosen to represent the tribe of Judah. He was 40 years old at the time. Moses asked the spies to report about three things: first, whether the land was fertile; second, whether the people were strong or weak; and third, whether the cities were fortified or merely ten cities.
The twelve spies went into the mountainous region of Hebron. They gathered fruits, viewed the cities and their inhabitants, then came back to report to Moses. Caleb and Joshua gave their report, bringing grapes so large they had to be tied to a staff carried by two men. They reported that the land “flowereth with milk and honey,” that the people were strong, and that the cities fortified. Notwithstanding this intelligence, Caleb urged Moses to immediately enter the land and take it, as it was promised to them by Jehovah. Caleb said (paraphrasing) “this land is ours, and the Lord delights in Israel and will give them his reward.” The Lord, said Caleb, will be with us; we therefore need not fear the enemy.
The other ten spies gave a similar report, but a vastly different recommendation. They reported that the Canaanites were stronger than the Israelites, that their cities were fortified, and that the men of the land were giants. In fact, they reported that the Israelites were like grasshoppers compared to these giants. Their recommendation was to stone Caleb for suggesting that Israel attempt to take the land.
That night, all of Israel wept through the night. They met and decided they should choose a new leader and go back to Egypt. They said it would be better for them to give themselves up as slaves than to have to fight for their freedom and gain the Land of Promise as God’s reward. Well, we all know what happened next. The Lord scourged the ten deceitful spies, and caused Israel to march around the desert for the next forty-five years until that generation had died off.
The scriptures record, however, that of that estimated generation of two million people, only Caleb and Joshua were worthy to enter the Promised Land. Caleb is labeled as one who was “wholly” faithful and obedient to the Lord. Because of his faithfulness, the Lord had promised Caleb that he would receive for his reward, all of the land of Hebron, the mountainous area where he served as a spy forty years earlier. When Caleb was finally given this reward, he remarked that the giants still lived there, but that he knew the Lord would make him strong and together they would conquer those giants. Now, remember that Caleb was 85 years old by now!
Joshua 14:11-12 reads: “And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain!!” Caleb said I don’t care that there are giant inhabiting my mountain, it is my reward promised by Jehovah. It is my land of milk and honey. It is my Promised Land. The Lord said he would give it to me and I do not doubt him. Therefore, together, He and I will take the land.
Now these giants were the ancestors of the likes of Goliath, who the scholars say stood about nine and one-half feet tall! I can just imagine how foolish Caleb must have looked (to worldly eyes) as an eighty-five year old man fighting an entire army of Goliaths. Yet, what happened to those giants? Caleb and the Lord conquered them one by one until the Caleb could live there free from molestation.
What was Caleb’s secret? He constantly referred back to his fundamental knowledge taught to him by the Ruach Elohim , or the Spirit of God. Since he knew that Jehovah was God, it did not matter what God asked him to do, he would do it in faith. Even while the rest of Israel refused to reflect on any testimony they had gained and saw their trials as a test of God’s goodness not their own, Caleb was steadfast. He did not live on borrowed light, but stood on his own.
The Lord has promised each of us a “Promised Land” flowing with milk and honey as a reward for our belief in Him. That Promised Land is one of celestial glory. But are there times when we focus more on the giants in front of us than the promise of our reward or on the testimony whispered to our Spirits by the Ruach Elohim? Here are some of our modern day Giants:
The scriptures are very big books written in a form of language that is hard to understand. That is a giant.
We don’t have time to devote to family, scripture study, or prayer because we are busy building a career, taking kids a million different directions, etc. That is a giant.
We don’t think we earn enough money to pay our tithes to the Lord. That is a giant.
Nobody is friendly to us at church. That is a giant.
I am suffering a hardship when I have been a much more valiant Christian than my neighbor, who is thriving. That is a giant.
Sexual images and other content are pleasing to the eye and to the mind. That is a giant.
Those whom I love had abandoned me. That is a giant.
Will we see these temporal tests or giants as a test of how good God is, or will we be like Caleb, who was “wholly” obedient to the Lord because he rested on the sure knowledge from God himself that we are not alone? Will we, when facing our giants, prefer to go back to being a slave to sin rather than fight for freedom in our Land of Promise? Will we walk down the path not knowing for certain where it will lead, but knowing that it will lead to God, who walks with us? When the Lord speaks to our spirit and says “it’s true,” that should be the end of the debate. What greater witness do we need than from God himself? We should say, as Caleb did, “give me that mountain!” Yet only Caleb and Joshua, from all of the men and women of their generation, ever walked freely in the land of Canaan.
I know, independent of any college study, debate, archeological or DNA evidence, that there is a God in Heaven. I know this through the Spirit of Truth. I know that he loves you and me enough to send his Son, the promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ. Does any of the rest even matter? We can run in fear of our giants and return to being slaves of sin, or we can be like Caleb. I say, “Give me this Mountain!!!”
 Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball [Bookcraft, 1967], p. 450.
 Hebrew title for the Spirit of God