The appearance that things have to us depends, to a great extent, upon the way that we look at them. Sometimes our mental attitude toward them is largely responsible for their appearance. Often two or more persons look at the same thing, and each one sees something quite different from what the others see. Persons who see the same thing will often have very different stories to tell about it afterwards, and will be very differently affected by what they see. This is not because their eyes differ so much, but because their mental attitude affects the interpretation of what they see.
A notable example of this is seen in the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. The Israelites had crossed the Red Sea. Their enemies had been destroyed behind them. They had come at God’s command almost to the borders of the Promised Land. Here the people camped while the spies went to see the country. They passed through it and viewed the land and the people, and presently came back with their report. It was a wonderful land, they agreed, a land flowing with milk and honey. The samples of the fruit they brought back were large and fine specimens. Of course, the people were at once very eager to possess such a land, but the question came up, _Are we able to do so?_ What kind of people are they over there? Are they good fighters? Are they courageous? Do they have strongly fortified cities? As soon as this question was broached, there was a difference of opinion. Caleb said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13: 30). The others, however, did not agree with him, except Joshua. They said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we … 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” (vs. 31-33).
Now, what made the difference in their views? They all saw the same things; they all saw the same people; but when it came to telling of them, they told very different stories. The difference must have lain in the men themselves. When the ten saw those sons of Anak, they felt that they were as grasshoppers in comparison with such giants. “Why, we amount to nothing at all,” the ten spies thought. “Those great big fellows could walk right over us.” And when they recalled their sensations, the land did not seem so fine, either, and they said, “It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof.” They did not stop to consider that their own words condemned them. How could a land be such a bad land and yet the people who lived in it be so strong and so great?
Joshua and Caleb, however, were not to be frightened by the stories that the others told. So they said, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land” (chap. 14: 7). They also held fast their confidence in the ability of Israel to gain the land saying, “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not” (vs. 8, 9).
Now, all these men were probably honest. They probably described things just as these appeared to them. What was the difference? The difference was not in their eyes, but in that which was back of their eyes. When the ten went through the land and saw the giants, they forgot all about God. It was themselves against the giants, with God left out; and when we leave God out, things look very different. How big those giants looked! “We poor grasshoppers had better be getting out of here quickly. We do not stand any show at all,” they thought. “How could Israel fight with such fellows, anyway?” The ten were full of doubts, and they looked through their doubts, and their doubts magnified the Anakim.
But Caleb and Joshua had no doubts. They had faith in God—faith that did not waver. They remembered the Red Sea. They remembered the manna from heaven. They remembered the other things that God had done. They looked at the situation through their faith; and instead of feeling as if they were grasshoppers, they felt themselves more than a match for the giants. The two were not at all frightened. “Why,” they said, in effect, when they came back, “they will be only bread for us. We shall just eat them up. They have heard what God has done among us, and they are too scared to fight. Their defense is departed from them.” Then these men of faith began talking about the other side. “The Lord is with us; fear them not. What do those fellows amount to, since God is not with them? What do their fortresses amount to? Let us go up at once,” said they. “Why, we can whip them with ease.”
But the people listened to both sides, and their ears heard; but instead of listening through their faith to Joshua and Caleb, they listened through their doubts to the ten and believed them and became very much frightened; and in consequence they went to murmuring and complaining because Moses had brought them out there to face such a situation. The result was that they were turned back, defeated by their enemies, and had to wander forty years in the wilderness until all the old ones perished.
Now, that is just the difference between faith and doubts. Looking back from the present time, we can easily believe that God would have conquered the land before them. Yes, we can believe that. We can see how foolish it was for them to turn back and to be afraid and to murmur. That all looks very plain to us now. We say, “How foolish and how full of unbelief they were!” But the question is, Are we doing any better than they did? When we look at the obstacles in our way, when we look at the troubles that seem to be coming, when we look at the things that are before us, do we look through faith, like Caleb and Joshua, or do we look through doubts, like the ten? Do your trials and difficulties make you feel like a grasshopper? Does it seem that you would surely be overwhelmed? Does it look as though you could never get through, that you might as well give up? If so, you are looking at things through your doubts just as the ten did.
The people who win, the people who are victorious are those who look at things through their faith. They do not compare their troubles and trials and difficulties with themselves; they compare these with God. They behold God’s greatness. They behold the things that he has done in the past. They see how he has helped others. They see that they have been helped in the past, that God has stood right by them and helped them through. They get their faith and their eyes working together, and then they can see a way out of their difficulties, just as Caleb did. “They shall be bread for us,” faith says. “No use to be afraid. Giants don’t count. What is a giant beside God?” Doubts say, “Oh, what shall we do?” Faith takes a new grip on its sword and says, “Come on; let’s go and conquer them.”
Your eyes are all right; they will see things all right, but the question is, What is behind your eyes—doubts, or faith? That is the thing that really counts. Doubts will magnify your troubles, will make them look very great. Doubts will make your power look very small. They will make your ability to fight look as nothing. They will make you feel like running or surrendering. Faith will not work that way. It will fill you with courage; it will put the song of victory in your heart. Get faith behind your eyes. Look out by faith. Remember that God will fight your battles. Be strong and of a good courage, and you will overcome your foes. But doubts will spoil things for you. Doubts will take away what courage you have. Doubts will ruin you if you let them. So get rid of your doubts. Look to God, believe in him, trust in him, and the victory will be yours. Take your stand with Caleb and Joshua. Do you remember what became of the spies? The ten doubters died in the wilderness, and their bodies were left there; but the two who had faith went on into the Promised Land and died full of years and of honors.