Eighty-five is not generally a good age to begin fighting giants. Most people would consider it reckless, foolish and ill-advised.
Caleb, however, was not most people.
At 85, Caleb was spry and determined and ready to do the impossible. He had wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, motivated by a promise from God—and now, at long last, the time had come to claim it.
But we’re getting ahead of the story.
Forty-five years earlier, the fledgling nation of Israel had gathered at the border of the Promised Land. God had freed them from the hand of their oppressive taskmasters in Egypt through wave after wave of earth-shaking, perspective-shattering plagues, each designed to showcase the omnipotence of the unrivaled and limitless God of the universe.
As the Israelites had journeyed toward Canaan, God proved Himself again and again by performing the impossible—bringing water out of rocks, bread out of heaven and quail out of the sky. God protected and provided for His people every step of the way, and now here they were, at the very border of the land He had promised to give them.
Enter Caleb. He and 11 other men were selected to enter the Promised Land as spies, surveying the land and bringing back news of its inhabitants. Upon their return, all 12 men agreed that the land “truly flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27), but they couldn’t agree on what to do about it.
They had found more than milk and honey in Canaan—they had found a land filled with strong people, fortified cities and, worst of all, “the descendants of Anak” (Numbers 13:28).
Refusing the Promised Land
Giants. The descendants of Anak were giants. Israel fell to pieces. Clearly—clearly—the God who had shattered the might of Egypt and miraculously sustained them through a barren wilderness had done so only to kill them all with giants.
Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, made a case for entering the land. After quieting the people, Caleb insisted, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).
The other 10 spies only added to the hysteria. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we,” they said. “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:31, 33).
When the people of Israel started talking about turning around and returning as slaves to Egypt, Caleb and Joshua pleaded with their fellow countrymen. “Do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them” (Numbers 14:9).
Israel responded by crying out for Joshua and Caleb to be executed on the spot.
It never happened, of course. There’s a lot more to the story, but the short version is this: God refused to let Israel enter Canaan. As punishment for their faithlessness, Israel was sentenced to 40 years of wandering. The current generation would live and die in the wilderness, with Joshua and Caleb as the only exceptions.
Joshua would go on to lead the next generation into the Promised Land, while Caleb received a special promise from God: “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).
And so the Israelites wandered. And wandered. And wandered. Days turned into weeks; weeks, into months; months, into years; and years, into decades. One by one, the generation that refused the Promised Land died off, while the next generation came into its own. Under the leadership of Joshua, no one was able to stand before the armies of Israel. Territory by territory, God drove out the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, and the time soon came to divide up the land.
Claiming the promises
For Caleb, now 85, it was finally time to claim the promise God had made 45 years earlier. He told Joshua: “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:11-12).
After almost half a century of waiting, Caleb’s faith was still strong. When it came time to seize what God had promised him, Caleb didn’t hesitate for a second. There were still giants roaming on Caleb’s mountain, but that didn’t matter. He was a few years from being 90 years old now, but that didn’t matter, either. In Caleb’s mind, if God had promised it, that was enough. The other factors were irrelevant. He, like Sarah and many of the Bible’s other heroes, “judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).
So what does that mean for us?
Just this: There are still giants to fight.
Not all giants are made of flesh and blood. They come in many other forms. Addictions. Flaws. Shortcomings. Temptations. Blind spots. Trials. Anything bigger than us, stronger than us, faster than us—anything more powerful than us, anything we don’t have the skill to face on our own, anything with the potential to knock us down and beat us senseless—these are giants, too, often marshaled and commanded by Satan the devil, the eternal enemy of God’s people (Revelation 12:9-10).
Giants remind us of how small and helpless we are. On our own, we can’t beat them. They outclass us in every conceivable way. The safer bet is to run, to hide, to surrender before the battle even starts. Why bother trying? It’s easier to give up and give in before we get hurt, because winning is impossible. That’s the approach the Israelites took thousands of years ago, and it’s still the easiest route to take today.
The problem is, when we surrender to a giant—especially one of the modern-day variety—we give up more than just a fight. We give up control over our own lives, handing the reins over to Satan himself. When we decide beforehand that we can’t win these battles, we forfeit any hope of growth, of overcoming and of breaking free. Choosing not to fight means embracing stagnancy and accepting defeat as a lifestyle.
Can you afford to live that way? Can anyone?
Israel’s 12 spies all walked the same land, all saw the same giants, but only two of them saw a battle they could win.
The strength of faith
The key difference isn’t what these men saw; it’s how they saw it. The spies looked at the giants and saw wicked men standing in the way of God’s plan. Most of the spies saw the giants and knew there was no way they could win. Caleb and Joshua looked at the giants and knew there was no way God couldn’t win.
The giants in your life are standing in the way of God’s plan for you, and how you look at them is going to change how you deal with them. They’re bigger than you, yes. They’re stronger than you, absolutely. They could grind you under their feet like dust and not think twice.
But are they bigger than God? Are they stronger than God? Could they last even a moment in an arena with the Almighty?
Caleb and Joshua knew the answer. They could both look back at the miracles God had performed in their lives—in the lives of all of Israel—and know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God was able to give them every victory, no matter how improbable, unlikely or, yes, even impossible.
That’s why Caleb could tell his brethren to go up and seize the land, “for we are well able to overcome it.” That’s why he could wander for 40 years, trusting God to make good on His promise. That’s why, at 85 years old, he was ready and willing to work with God and toss some giants out of his mountain.
I don’t know what miracles God has performed in your life. I don’t know what seas He’s parted for you or how often He’s rained down bread from heaven to give you exactly what you needed, exactly when you needed it—but I do know this:
God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). He’s not some impartial observer with no vested interest in the battles you fight. He wants you to win. He wants you to grow and overcome; and what’s more, He gives you the equipment and the strength to make it happen (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Philippians 4:13). You are a potential son or daughter of God Most High (2 Corinthians 6:18), and Hewants you to succeed.
You’re going to face giants. You’re going to have to take a stand against enemies far too powerful for you to handle on your own, but you’re not alone. That’s what Caleb understood and Israel continually failed to grasp.
In your toughest battles, in the middle of fights where you find yourself out of your depth and over your head, you can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6, emphasis added).
You are a good work in progress. That is God’s plan. That has always been God’s plan; and no opponent, no enemy, no impossible giant is strong enough to stand in the way. Every giant is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But the core, underlying principle never changes: If God led you to this fight, He can lead you to victory. If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort and look to Him for guidance, God will get you where you need to be.
Right now, giants are standing between you and the future God has in store for you. They’re intimidating, but with God’s help they’re far from invincible. Can you see them? Do you understand what’s at stake?