Sometimes people ask me if I ever get nervous when I get up to preach. Generally I don’t. I’m concerned or somewhat apprehensive at times, but nerves are not a major part of it—except for one occasion that I remember very well.
I was visiting with Franklin Graham in North Carolina, and he asked me if I would do a devotional for the staff at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. When I arrived at the meeting, I recognized a number of men who had been serving God faithfully for many years—men like Cliff Barrows and T. W. Wilson.
Then the door opened, and Billy Graham walked in and sat down. Suddenly I felt very nervous.
That morning I spoke from the Old Testament about Caleb and finishing well. When I concluded my message, one of Billy Graham’s friends turned to him and said,
“Billy, you’re Caleb, and you’re finishing well.”
I thought, You know, that’s exactly right. Over the years we have seen so many people in the public eye go down in flames. But thank God for people like Billy Graham who are finishing well. It gives hope that it can be done, that we can remain men and women of integrity.
Caleb was such a man. In the book of Joshua, we find the children of Israel arriving at a place called Kadesh Barnea, a point of entry to the Promised Land. Forty-five years earlier, Moses had sent twelve men to spy out the land, and among those twelve were Joshua and Caleb.
The majority of the spies, 10 in all, came back terrified by what they had seen. They looked at the land through eyes of unbelief and said that although it was a land that was flowing with milk and honey, it also was a land of giants and massively walled cities. They were terrified and paralyzed by fear.
Then there was the minority report that Joshua and Caleb delivered. They came back with a cluster of grapes so massive that it took two people to carry them. Basically they said, “It’s true the cities are big. It’s true the soldiers are big. But check out the size of these grapes! The Lord has given us the land. Let’s go for it.”
The people, however, were influenced by the majority instead of the minority. They were influenced by the fear and paranoia of those 10 instead of the words of faith and belief brought back by the two. In fact, the people became so angry with Joshua and Caleb for even suggesting that they go into the land that they wanted to kill them.
Yet Joshua and Caleb stood their ground.
And 45 years later, they came to the same place. Caleb stood before Joshua, Moses’ successor, and told him, “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.
Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.
You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said” (Joshua 14:10–12 niv).
Caleb believed God. And he clung to that promise through 45 years of wandering in the wilderness. Caleb was strong in faith, giving glory to God and being fully persuaded that what God had promised, he was able to perform.
Caleb had to put up with all of the whining, griping, and complaining by his fellow Israelites for all of those years. He was there when they cried out for meat. He was there when they went on about how they missed the garlic, leeks, and onions back in Egypt. He was there when they rebelled against Moses. And he had to put up with it.
But he believed that God would keep his promises.
After 45 years of waiting, after 45 years of temptation to follow the crowd and go along with what everyone else was doing, Caleb was ready to receive his reward. And I love his statement: “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out. . . . Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day” (verses 11–12 niv). Remember, this was an 85-year-old man.
I can imagine some of the young bucks of Israel snickering at this point.
Right! Eighty-five! Look at this old guy. What is he going to be doing?
But those snickering young men probably dropped their jaws when Caleb was the only man who succeeded in driving out the enemies from his portion of the land. Of all the people who received an inheritance in the Promised Land, Caleb was the only one to completely drive out the enemy. And Caleb faced some of the most formidable foes in the entire land.
So what was Caleb’s secret of finishing well?
We read that “he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:14). Caleb followed God fully and completely. He was more concerned with God’s approval than man’s. And he stood his ground at the risk of being personally ostracized and losing his friends, even his life. But he would not give in. Caleb took God at his word. He stood on the promises of God.
While others looked back, Caleb looked forward. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted to please God. While others longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. The Bible tells us that Hebron was where God spoke with Abraham face-to-face and gave him the promise of the land in the first place. The very name Hebron is descriptive. It is a word that means “fellowship,” “love,” and “communion.” This was the place that Caleb longed for and received.
And if we can learn to fully follow the Lord as Caleb did, the results can be the same for us.
By Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California. Visit Harvest.org for additional ministry information.