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Guest Speaker 3/2/08
Num. 13:33 - The Grasshopper Complex

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The Grasshopper Complex
 by Pastor Gary Hindman

"And there we saw giants, and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers" (Numbers 13:33)

In today's passage the Hebrew people had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. It must have been awful to wander to-and-fro in the wilderness, with no stability, no permanence, no towns or homes or land to call their own. But this phase of their history was about to end. God told Moses that the people were soon to get their promised land - the land of Canaan. So Moses gathered the people together and selected from each tribe one person whose task was to go into Canaan, spy it out and report their findings.

You can imagine the excitement when they came back to camp. There were glowing reports of a land lush and green, full of figs and pomegranates and grapes, which were so plentiful that it took two persons to carry just one cluster! It was a greening, blossoming land, "flowing with milk and honey" (Verse 27). They were sick of the barren desert; they wanted this new land badly. But it was also said the cities there were walled and the people who live there are giants that came from giants! "And it is a country that devours its inhabitants" (Verse 32).

So right away they throw up the impossible. The Promised Land is within reach. Figs, pomegranates, grapes, milk, honey, everything beautiful to the senses - their promised land... but wait, hold on, there's a price tag! Have you ever come up against that? I've got a dream for my life - a vision for my kids - a desire to go do this thing or that - But fear sets in, I get cold feet, abandon hope and take some safer, easier, less risky way. When the twelve came back they considered invading the land but when the votes were counted, only two of the twelve wanted to take it. The other ten were afraid, saying, "And there we saw giants (Nephilim); and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them" (Verse 33). The ten had a "grasshopper complex." They judged themselves like that and believed the Canaanites thought of them as grasshoppers, too! But that's the way the "grasshopper complex" works. You not only think lowly of yourself, you believe others think poorly of you, too!

I remember the first time I served communion in front of my peers at a district church meeting. I was so nervous that I caught the sleeve of my robe on the communion tray and nearly spilled the elements all over the floor! I felt like a grasshopper while all those giants, the ministers and elders, watched me make mistakes. Of course, most were not looking for mistakes, they were in Holy Communion, but you could not have told me on that day!

I think everyone has a bit of the grasshopper complex! The over-achievers are just as afraid of failure as the under-achievers. There is something in each of us of which we are ashamed. Unfortunately, the grasshopper complex feeds into the way we treat others and ourselves. Sometimes a whole group of people are labeled grasshoppers and we write them off, never dealing with the real truth: that we label others because of an innate sense of worthlessness which we feel about ourselves! But grasshoppers are not all bad! In fact, they are very good at one thing: jumping! And did you know that jumping is at the heart of faith? Soren Kierkegaard calls it the "leap of faith." We think and reason and believe just as far as the mind will take us, but faith is a step farther, a jump beyond reason.

Moreover, we learn by jumps. I remember well the day I learned to ride a bike. Bob Hayworth said he would stay right beside me - he lied! - but to my surprise I learned I didn't need him anyway and there I was off and riding! Remember the first day you went off to Kindergarten? Your mother cried to let you go but she knew she had to if you were to ever come back to her. The transition to High School was a leap. So was College. And what a jump it is to get into that first paying job! Who is ever really ready for marriage, or children? And the commitment to Christ is a great stride forward - a leap into the unknown which catches us by surprise.

And so it is with God. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep. And God said, 'Let there be light!'" (Genesis 1:1-3a). And through a cataclysmic burst of energy the heavens were alive with celestial light! We read in the Noah story how on one given day "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of heaven were opened and rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights!" (Gen 7:11-12). Then there is the sudden appearance of the prophets and their urgent call to repentance and the godly life. And in the fullness of time came one Jesus of Nazareth. Walking by the sea He comes upon some weary fishermen and says, "Follow Me!" And they jump at the chance (Matthew 4:19)! Life is a jump. But what jumps do we have to overcome the grasshopper complex?

1) STILLNESS. In verse 30 we read, "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, 'Let us go up at once, and occupy the land.'" (Caleb was one of the 12 who spied out the land and wanted to take it.) How valuable and essential the "Calebs" of this world are! They are the affirmers, the believers, the ones who point us in the right direction and encourage us to take a chance. Notice that before he made his suggestion, Caleb "stilled the people." That is just like a jumper. Have you ever noticed how a high-jumper will pause and get themselves together before they jump? Or how a grasshopper will be still just before it leaps? People need stillness. We need solitude. We need time simply to be idle and to let ourselves unwind and become renewed. Elijah pointed out that the voice of God is not loud. The Psalmist says that "He makes me to lie down" (Psalm 23: 2). Jesus went into the garden to be alone and to pray. "Stillness is the background for learning the whisper of God" (Ray Lindquist). So the grasshopper complex can be counteracted first by stillness.

2) CONFIDENCE. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once and occupy the land FOR WE ARE WELL ABLE TO DO IT" (Verse 30). He not only stilled the people, he gave them confidence. There's so much in life that breaks us down that we need people like Caleb to lend encouragement and hope. But it is not enough to simply be an optimist. We get courage when we stand for something greater than ourselves. Caleb reveals the source of his confidence in Chapter 14 where he says with Joshua, "If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into his land and give it to us; do not fear those people (for) the Lord is with us." If we look to ourselves for strength we may not find very much. Our confidence comes not from ourselves but from God because we know we are God's agent, God's person. We are called to be "ambassadors for Christ." He has a stake in you and me and He will not let us fail because He has invested so much in us! Paul says it best: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion" (Philippians 1:6). What confidence there is in knowing we are working on God's side!

3) ACTION. We jump into stillness. We jump into confidence. Finally, we jump into action. "Let us go up at once and occupy the land!" It is not enough to talk about it, one must act.

Now is the acceptable time; now is the time to strike a blow for Christ and for liberty. This is the hour, otherwise you'll be like Felix in Acts. When Paul approached him with the tremendous possibility of the Christian life, Felix responded, "Go your way for this time until I have a convenient season. I will call for you" (Acts 24:25). But tragically, he never did! It takes courage to leap, to jump. But do not give up on anybody, least of all yourself. God is a miracle-worker who changes grasshoppers into giants. So jump! Jump into stillness, jump into confidence and into action. Do it for your sake and the sake of the kingdom.

LET US PRAY: Lord, take our fears and weaknesses and reluctance away that we may jump to risky faith and valiant service. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Today’s sermon is by Gary Hindman, who has been the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Upland, California, for 19-years. When you are near Upland, make sure you visit his church.
Today's audio is by Ron Beckham.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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