Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.
― Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day
“What should I do when I doubt God?”
Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God powerfully pinpoints the spiritual struggles that accompany our walk with God. One of the key decision points in Blackaby’s framework is called the Crisis of Belief, a moment when we understand what God wants us to do and decide whether or not we will do it. There are steps that lead up to that moment, including accepting God’s invitation to work with him, and observing where God is at a work, but the Crisis of Belief is pivotal. It’s a go or no-go, in or out, fish or cut bait moment.
A crisis is a dangerous unsettled time. Unsettled because choices must be made. The status quo is no longer an option. The choices are not obvious or easy. Dangerous because bad outcomes are possible or likely. But as speech makers like to say, the dangers are accompanied by opportunities.
When the twelve spies returned from Canaan to report to Moses, their recommendations prompted a Crisis of Belief of national proportions. Blackaby points to Moses’ decision at the burning bush as a typical crisis, but the one which occurred when the spies returned was like that one multiplied a million times.
Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” Numbers 13:30-31
Only Caleb and Joshua (and presumably Moses) faced the crisis and chose to believe God. Everyone else among the Israelites failed the test. The Israelites looked at their own weaknesses. Caleb and Joshua focused on God’s strength. The Israelites looked at what they could do. Caleb and Joshua saw what God would do. The adult Israelites who did not believe died in the wilderness. Caleb and Joshua believed and entered the Promised Land.
Blackaby wrote about several characteristics of the crisis:
- It will involve a task that is beyond your own ability, a “God-sized” task
- It requires faith in God
- It will require action
- It will require an adjustment to your plans as you follow God’s plan
Crises are risky times because of the dangers that accompany them. Like the Israelites, we tend to magnify worldly dangers and downplay the hazards of disobeying God. Instead we need to act like Caleb and Joshua, who magnified the reward God offered them and downplayed the worldly threat.
God doesn’t want people to do what they think is best: he wants them to do what he knows is best, and no amount of reasoning and intellectualizing will discover that. God himself must reveal it.
― Henry T. Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership
So, my Brothers and Sisters, let us strip our discouragements and murmuring of all their disguises and see them in their true character and they will appear in their own naked deformity as discrediting God. It is true the difficulty before us may appear great, but it cannot be great to the Lord who has promised to make us more than conquerors. It is true the circumstances may appear unusually perplexing, but they cannot perplex Him who has promised to guide us with His counsel! And since we are well aware of this, it is clear that the true reason why we are so dismayed is not to be found in the difficulties and the circumstances, but in our misgivings of God. – Charles Spurgeon
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7 thoughts on “The Crisis of Belief: Numbers 13-14”
“the Crisis of Belief, a moment when we understand what God wants us to do and decide whether or not we will do it.”
I think the key to walking by faith is found in that moment: do I believe God is good and wise? Then don’t hesitate to obey what I know He wants me to do.
We fool ourselves that we don’t CHOOSE. We do, in a moment we choose based on what we believe about God.
Thanks for the reminder about Blackaby’s wonderful book.
One criticism I have of Experiencing God – and one I’ve heard echoed from a number of Christian friends – is that I can’t really relate to what Blackaby describes here. There are things I know I should do but don’t, obviously – that’s not strange in itself. But he’s describing a very specific kind of task, as you lay out above: one requiring clear action, beyond the level of our ability, that God unambiguously wants us to do.
And I don’t know that I’ve experienced anything matching that description. Blackaby describes a crisis of doubt that says, “Can I really do this, even with God’s help?” What seems much more common is the doubt, “Is this actually something God wants me to do, or am I just fooling myself?” I don’t generally have a clear sense of some extreme thing that God asks of me; instead, I see a lot of extreme (good) things that could be done, and don’t have a clear sense of which (if any) of them should be done. The crisis isn’t with whether God is trustworthy – it’s with whether God is asking for an action in the first place.
Maybe an example would help. Say you have a church that’s considering taking on a big new financial burden – supporting a missionary, building a new building, etc. Whatever it is, it’s clearly a good thing (costs aside), but it’s also something that seems beyond the financial reach of the church. From Blackaby’s description, a crisis of belief is the members saying, “Yes, God wants us to take on this new responsibility – but can we really? What if we can’t pay our dues? What if the church goes under?”
But my sense – personally, and from what I’ve seen of others in those situations – is that the conversation is most often, “Yes, this would be a good thing – but so is financial solvency! Does God want us to do this, or is it just us reaching beyond our role, imperiling the things God actually wants us to do?”
Do you feel like Blackaby’s “crisis of belief” accurately describes decisions in your life? Is this kind of clear sense of an impossible task something you can relate to?
I thought you would have some issues with “Experiencing God.” You aren’t alone. But let’s start with some concrete examples. God says “be holy as I am holy.” No doubt about his will. Still I must believe he means what he says, will discipline me if I don’t practice holiness, and change my behavior to conform to holiness in order to pass the crisis of belief. You could experience similar crises over commands such as “make disciples” or “be my witness.” No doubt about those. Your concern is over discerning God’s will in areas that aren’t spelled out in the Bible. My own experience is that the commands we know, doubtlessly, lead to all kinds of implied actions that take little speculation to accept are God’s will and take much faith to act on. I know God desires all men to be saved and calls believers to carry out that work. I see God working in an area of my church, city, country, or world to do that. Believers are called to do that. I’m a believer. Will I join God?
I thought you would have some issues with “Experiencing God.”
I think we may have had some conversations on it in the past, ayup…
It’s a good book, on balance! I’m just not sure all parts of it are as frequently applicable as they might be.
God says “be holy as I am holy.” No doubt about his will. Still I must believe he means what he says, will discipline me if I don’t practice holiness, and change my behavior to conform to holiness in order to pass the crisis of belief. You could experience similar crises over commands such as “make disciples” or “be my witness.”
I can see this argument, and I think it’s a good one! I think it’s Piper who says “We are far too easily pleased” – this idea that we doubt the rewards (and punishments!) of the life to come, and that’s why we settle for rewards in the here-and-now.
It just doesn’t seem to me – again, from my memory, and from your original post – that that’s primarily what Blackaby is talking about. Which doesn’t make him wrong, but I think he’d be much better served to focus on doubt in that sense (“How much do I really believe the next world matters more than this one?”) rather than in the, “Can God actually follow through on this impossible thing?” sense.
I know God desires all men to be saved and calls believers to carry out that work. I see God working in an area of my church, city, country, or world to do that. Believers are called to do that. I’m a believer. Will I join God?
There’s some nuance to this line of argument, though. Believing God doesn’t mean we’re morally obliged to join in every good Christian work in our locale. We are called to work, to fight, to sacrifice – but there’s legitimate grounds for Christians to say, “Yes, that’s a good thing being done; no, I’m not going to be part of it,” without it being a matter of rejecting God.
You are right that we can’t be expected to join every work God is doing. If we accept that we are going to join God in some work, and if we pursue the commands of witnessing, discipling, holiness, etc., it will lead to situations where we must exercise faith.
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