Climbing On Track
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Climbing On Track

From Series: Jars of Clay

Joshua 14:6-15  (ID: 2018)

The Bible reveals very little about the Israelite spy Caleb—except that he stood firm against the tide of popular opinion when God’s glory was at stake. His confidence was in God’s power and presence, not in his own ability; eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises, he remained steadfastly faithful despite life’s struggles. The church today needs men and women like Caleb, teaches Alistair Begg as he challenges us to press on to triumph in Christ, regardless of fear or popular consensus.


Sermon Transcript:

Father, we pray again tonight that as we have our hearts open to your Word and your Word open before our hearts, that you will do what you alone can do—and that is, take the mere faltering words of human mortality and breathe into them your power and your might, so that as we sit here in this building this evening, we might be encountered by the living God in the power of his Word. For we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

It is a sobering question to ask ourselves, “What would they use for our epitaph if it were to be written today?” What would they put? Maybe you’ve already thought of it. And perhaps many of you don’t want to think about it. But sooner or later, one day it will happen, and they will have occasion to announce in the newspaper that I’m no longer here and I’ve gone on, and somebody somewhere will have to come up with something to put on the tombstone. And I don’t think it’s particularly morbid, but I like reading tombstones. There are some very interesting things that you can discover there. It gets a little scary as you realize that the dates of the people underneath the tombstones are getting a little closer to the time when you were born. But nevertheless, it is sobering and it is revealing to consider these things.

For example, on a tombstone in Scotland, towards the west of Scotland, you find these words concerning a man by the name of Jimmy Wyatt, who obviously wasn’t the most generous of individuals. It reads, “Interred beneath this kirkyard stane”—churchyard stone—“kirkyard stane lies Stingy Jimmy Wyatt, who died one morning just at ten, and saved a dinner by it.” So when they thought of Jimmy, they said, “My, it was remarkable how he managed to go, just there in the forenoon, and it saved him, of course, the expense of another meal.” Of course, Scotsmen are reputed to be extremely stingy; you know that. It was we who invented the limbo dance. It was actually a gentleman trying to get into a pay toilet in Glasgow without putting in the money.

On the third of May 1953—and some of you were well into your maturity by that time—the headlines, at least in the United Kingdom, carried these words: “Air Crash Drama.” A Comet airliner bound for London from Singapore was missing. By the time the newspapers reached the breakfast tables, the BBC had announced by way of radio the discovery of the shattered and wingless fuselage twenty-two miles northwest of Calcutta. The following day, having indicated that there were no survivors, the newspapers published the names of forty-three people who’d been traveling on this particular aircraft.

One of those names was a man called Fred Mitchell. And the newspaper article added, “Mr. Fred Mitchell gave up a chemist’s shop in Bradford ten years ago to become director of the China Inland Mission.” D. E. Host had followed Hudson Taylor, and Fred Mitchell had followed D. E. Host. He had boarded the aircraft in Singapore, heading for home after a time of missionary endeavor. The final words which were heard from the cockpit of the airliner were these words: “We are climbing on track.” “We are climbing on track.” Those words were then to become the title of the biography of the late Fred Mitchell.[1]

The book is a small book; it’s out of print many years ago. But it is a powerful book, and as I read it as a teenager, it impacted my life in a quite remarkable way. Because the thing about Fred Mitchell was that he wasn’t particularly special in any way at all. He was, as we were saying last night, the kind of individual that you could find in many a congregation all across the Western world, even tonight. There was nothing about him that would make him particularly prominent. He had no particular academic credentials. He was a skillful pharmacist. He was an entrepreneur. He had his own shop. But he was just one of the group, one of the church. And yet he was an individual upon whose life God set his hand in a quite unmistakable way.

And when I think of Fred Mitchell, he epitomizes to me what God has done throughout the ages in many people’s lives, not least of all in the life of this individual to whom we were introduced here in the book of Joshua—this man called Caleb.

Certainly, he was quite a man. Any man who at the age of eighty-five is still deeply concerned about real estate that is going to fall as heir to him is quite a man. Many people at the age of eighty-five are saying, “You can have this, and you can have that, and get this stuff out of here,” but not Caleb. He said, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for forty-five years to inherit this piece of property. Give me my mountain! Give me my mountain. I’m still alive, I’m still strong, I’m still powerful.” He must have been quite a character. He probably would’ve done well here at Boca Raton, don’t you think? He would have been at this conference, just in the same way as many of you are.

But what was it about Caleb? Let us consider him for a moment or two this evening, and in doing so, perhaps it will be an encouragement to some of us who are younger, as well as those who were born a little earlier.

Caleb’s Commitment

Let us consider, first of all, the commitment of Caleb as a young man. The statement here in Joshua 14:7, where he says, “I was forty years old when Moses made this promise,”[2] actually takes us to the book of Numbers and chapter 13, and to the story which many of us have been familiar with since we were children in Sunday school.

Caleb walks onto the stage of biblical history at this point in the experience of Israel. He is one of the representatives of the twelve tribes who were sent up to explore the land of Canaan—those men immortalized in the children’s song, “Twelve men went to spy in Canaan, (Ten were bad, and two were good).” You know that song? Did you do that, with the actions?

What did they see to spy in Canaan?
(Ten were bad, and two were good.)
Some saw the giants, big and tall!
Some saw the grapes in clusters fall.

Actually, when we were when we were kids, we used to say, “Some saw the grapes in clusters fall,” and as wee boys, we thought that was really funny, because that made the silhouette of a lovely lady, and we used to do that: “Some saw the grapes in clusters fall.” The teacher would go, “Cut that out!”

But two saw that God was in it all.
(Ten were bad, and two were good.)

And one of the two was this character called Caleb.

No details are given to us of his earlier days. Who was it who nurtured Caleb, so at the age of forty he could be so strategically used? Was it his grandpa? Was it his gran? Was it a godly mom, a godly dad? Was it a friend? Was it a neighbor? Who was it? We don’t know. In eternity, we will discover the influences on the life of Caleb that was revealed in the crisis situation recorded for us, when these individuals come back to report on their discovery in the land of Canaan. Crisis, as we’ve said already this week, tends not so much to create as to reveal character. And these verses that are before us here remind us of the kind of man that God can use. Up until this point in Caleb’s life, there is nothing to give us any indication at all that he was particularly significant at any point in his life—nothing that would’ve marked him out from others, nothing that that would’ve made him particularly distinguishable.

It is in the ordinary experiences and on the humdrum tracks that God forges, frames, and develops the character of the men and women that he has already purposed to use.

And in this respect, I find another parallel with the life of Fred Mitchell, to whom I’ve already referred. I mean, the very fact that I’m quoting to you Fred Mitchell tonight, and you’re sitting there going, “Fred who?” is illustrative of what I’m telling you about, you see? It’s tremendous. “Fred who?” But this “Fred who?” was uniquely used of God. And it was said of him in the biography, “Fred Mitchell was an ordinary man from a village home, with working class parents, who spent the greater part of his life as a chemist in the provinces”—not in the metropolitan area of London—“as a chemist in the provinces, and on that ordinary humdrum track, he walked with God, climbing steadily in spiritual experience.”[3] “On that ordinary humdrum track, he walked with God.” It is in those ordinary experiences, it is on those humdrum tracks, that God forges and frames and develops the character of the men and women that he has already purposed to use. In obscurity, God was fashioning this individual for use in his purposes.

The strength of character displayed in Caleb was not discovered overnight. And when you look at these events—and you’ll have to take my word for this, and then go back and study it for yourself—you will discover that his commitment as a young man stands out, insofar as, first of all, he was prepared to stand against the tide of popular opinion. He was prepared to swim upstream. We always tell our young people, “Any dead fish can swim downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim against the current.” We take our children on our knees, we take our grandchildren beside them, and we tell them, “Listen, honey, if you want to make it, you’re going to have to be able to swim upstream. You will never amount to anything if you’re always with the gang, always flowing with the group.” And Caleb, somewhere in those first forty years of his life, had learned how to withstand the tide of popular opinion. When it was clear that everybody was doing it, Caleb had the strength of character to say, “Everybody except me.”

And so it was that the majority report coming back from Canaan was, “Listen, there’s a major problem up there. Sure, it’s a pretty nice place, but, you know, the cities are fortified, the people who live there are powerful. Also, they’re very large; we’ve even seen the descendants of Anak there. And then the Amalekites and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites…” and, goodness me, Moses must have had a sore head, listening to the ten of these characters. And maybe he was taking the report one at a time, and he’d gone through ten of them, and all the same—the same parrot talk from everyone: “Very nice place, but we don’t suggest you do it.”

Kind of like your average elders’ meeting, you know? Ten guys in there who’ve got ten reasons why it can’t be done, and just when you’re getting to the last two, you’re hoping—and this is no reflection on tonight; I don’t know anything about this place at all, but if the cap fits, gentlemen, wear it—and then, when you’re getting just about down to the end, you’re hoping that somewhere in the group there’s a Joshua or there’s a Caleb, a man who will stand up, as in verse 30, and “[silence] the people before Moses,” and be prepared to say, “We should go up and [we should] take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” And when he finished his little speech, “the men who had gone up with him” in unison began to say, “‘We can’t attack those people; they[’re] stronger than we are.’ And they [began to] spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored.”

A man who in his early years… And incidentally, his early years started at the age of forty. Okay? So those of us who are planning on early retirement, hold your fire here for a minute, okay? Because his commitment as a young man isn’t revealed until he’s forty. I’ll be forty in two months. Then I get to be a young man à la Caleb. I haven’t even started yet, God willing; I’m just getting primed up and ready for action. He was committed to stand against the tide if God’s glory was at stake.

Also, he was sure of what could be accomplished by God’s power. He was confident, not in his ability nor in the ability of the Israelites, but he was confident in the power of God. He was confident that, despite what men and women had to say, he didn’t deny the truth; he simply looked at it from a different perspective.

Tomorrow night we’ll come to the story of David, God willing. And there’s another little individual who just looked at the same facts but from a different perspective. Sure, he knew that Goliath was there. Sure, he knew how tall he was. Sure, he was scared by the prospect of Goliath. But he just changed the camera angle. And when he opened up the angle to include almighty God, he said, “Hey, this guy’s not a problem. The Anakites are not a problem.”

He was prepared to stand against the tide of popular opinion. He was sure of what could be accomplished by God’s power. Are you sure of what can be accomplished by God’s power, tonight?

He was aware, thirdly, of the reality of God’s presence. In Numbers 14, speaking once again, he says, “Do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.”[4] A man of faith in the midst of fear, a man of courage in the midst of a group of people who had determined together that they oughta shut up shop and just stay where they were.

In fact, things were so bad that, as it says in Numbers 14:4, the people had begun to say to one another, “[Let’s] choose a leader and go back.” You ever been in a church like that? Dear ones, you don’t ever choose leaders to go back. You don’t need leaders to go back. Just go back! You don’t need anybody to lead you back. You can always get a group to go back. You need leaders to go forward. To go forward! There is a tomorrow. There are purposes yet in the unfolding of God’s plan for our world, for our nation. There are generations, if Christ tarries, yet to come. And Caleb reveals this spirit. A young man, forty years old, a young man of commitment.

Caleb’s Consistency

Now, the commitment of his early life is matched by his consistency in middle life—not only committed at forty but consistent at sixty and seventy and seventy-five. There’s a cartoon involving wee Charlie Brown standing, pressing the water fountain—the button of it—and he has his pajamas on, and he’s pressing the fountain, and the pressure in it is greater than he is able to contain within his mouth, and it’s actually going over his head and landing on the back of his pajama jacket and soaking it. And underneath it says, “I don’t care how the day starts, it’s how it ends up that bothers me.” Okay?

Some of us are the masters of “yesterday,” aren’t we? “Oh boy, you should’ve been around yesterday. Now there was a day! You know, when we were all together, and when we were all ready for action, and when we were all younger, boy, did we have a time then!” But not Caleb. Caleb is a classic illustration of the fact that the Christian life is a bit like a cross-country run. It’s not a series of a hundred-yard sprints, it’s a cross-country—it goes on forever: you go over hill and dale and stiles and hedges and bridges and streams. And you can always find a group of people who begin to lag further and further and further behind and start to grumble to one another and say, “I wish we’d never started this thing. Goodness’ sake, well, let’s just walk. After all, we’ve got our health and strength. We could die out here.” And so they all go on, and they eventually encourage one another into a tremendous morass of mediocrity. And it takes an individual like Caleb to break out from the group and to keep on.

Think of how many people have got off to a flying start in life, but in their middle years, they lost it. They were well-known as a young man or as a young woman, for whatever reason; at age forty they had prominence, at age forty they had clout, they had influence, they had status, whatever it might be. In Christian terms, they were useful to God. But they ended their days strangely.

Think of even a hero of the faith, in some ways—a man like A. W. Pink, whom presumably all of us would want to admire for his writings, for surely we have benefited from them greatly, and we have absorbed them as we’ve read them. And yet, do you know that A. W. Pink ended his life in the Hebridean Islands, on the island of Lewis, in living in Stornoway, not even worshipping in a church. He never went to church for the last two or three years of his life. He couldn’t find a church that he was comfortable to worship in.[5] Far be it from me to criticize somebody who’s gone on ahead, but something’s not right there. I don’t care how well he started; something happened in the middle. You can’t finish like that. Something happened in the middle years. Tozer, incidentally, was similar. Tozer ended disgruntled. Ended disgruntled! What happened in those middle years?

The Christian life is a bit like a cross-country run. It’s not a series of a hundred-yard sprints.

Now, let’s just think about this for a moment. Because the environment in which he spent his middle years was not exactly fantastic. Numbers 14:34 and following give us the illustration of where they were:

“‘For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land,’” [God says,] “‘you will suffer for your sins and know what it[’s] like to have me against you.’ I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; [and] here they will die.”

So the men Moses had sent to explore the land … returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it—these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.

They survived! But they still had to live for forty years wandering around in the wilderness. Now, that would give the average person a real challenge, would it not? He was stuck for forty years, from the age of forty, because of the people around him having failed to see what God is able to do. So in the midst of frustration, in the midst of wanderings, in the midst of disgruntlement, he obviously never became disgruntled. That’s fantastic!

Do you know how many people when at their optimum point of usefulness in the church of Jesus Christ chill out? Do you know how many people who have the greatest resource, the greatest energy, the greatest wisdom, the greatest of just about everything, decide somehow miraculously that they’re on early retirement? “We’re out of this! This is for the young people now. Let them carry their load. I’ve done my bit. I gave my stuff. I pledged my tithe. It’s not my responsibility anymore. This is for another generation.” And along with that so often comes what happened to so many, and that is embitterment and disgruntlement. And how remarkable that Caleb remained free of all such.

Who’s to say that one stage of life is more challenging than another or presents more difficulties than another? I certainly haven’t lived long enough to be able to speak authoritatively on the subject. But I have observed. And I have observed so far to this point in my life experientially, and others I just look on and watch. And I have seen how marriage and the establishment of a home and the concerns of business and the very necessary contingencies of life can so often be accompanied by a loss of spiritual ardor, a loss of spiritual effectiveness. And the fervency and the vision with which this individual had begun their life has become insipid, has become paltry, to the degree that they have lost sight of actually what is really important.

When I get home in a couple of days from now, I’ll be preparing for our next call-in program on WCRF. Do you know Open Line with Donald Cole? Well, we do one that breaks away from Chicago called Open Line Cleveland. And on our next Open Line Cleveland, we are going to tackle the question of the fifty-five-plus group in the church of Jesus Christ in America—what I call the great untapped resource of the church. The folks who—they’ve been reading their Bibles now for a long time. They’ve lived long enough to get their noses put out of joint and put back into place, to realize that the church is really a ragbag of people—the people with spotty-faced Jones and his wife and the whole group, a funny bunch of people. They’ve lived long enough to get kind of stabilized on that. They know there ain’t no perfect church, there’s no perfect pastor. Spurgeon said he only knew one perfect man, and he was a perfect nuisance. And these people who are fifty-five years old, they’ve already worked that out. But something’s happening to these characters. They’re zoning out. Now, I don’t know whether it’s us doing it to them or they’re doing it to themselves, but it can’t and it mustn’t happen. This is the very backbone of the church.

We always hear this stuff about, “The key to the church is in the youth. They’re the church, you know. They’re the church of tomorrow.” Thank God for the youth, and we need ’em, and we’re gonna work with them, but that’s not the key to the church. The key to the church are mature men and women who have gone through experiences of life, and they’re in their middle years. We need those men and women to live lives of consistency. Otherwise, how’re we gonna produce a generation underneath them who will be marked by commitment? It takes consistency in the middle years to produce a generation of commitment in the early years. So it’s a silly idea to think you build your church on a youth ministry, or even on a children’s ministry. You build your church on the quality of leadership that exists in those middle years. So some of you who were just planning to announce your retirement, you got a major problem as a result of this message, and I haven’t even finished it.

And we’re gonna come to the last point now. It would be really difficult to estimate how many people, at the point in life where their potential is the greatest, have settled for disinterest, for criticism, for cynicism, and have failed to see the disintegration in their own spiritual lives. That’s the saddest part of all. They didn’t even realize they messed up. They didn’t even realize they grew cold, because they got in a cold group, and they went and had cold meetings, and went out for cold coffee, and they just generally chilled each other down, and the lowest common denominator prevailed. And there was no one in the group prepared to say, “Guys, we’re not what we once were. Our commitment’s not where it once was. Our conversation is not edifying to the body of Christ. Don’t you detect that we’re getting a critical spirit? Don’t you see that we’re beginning to eat the manna of disgruntlement? Can’t you see that we are losing our spiritual edge?”

Caleb’s Triumph

Caleb—a man of commitment in his early years, of consistency in his middle years, and finally, of triumph in his latest years, or oldest years, or old age. We might have expected that forty-five years after the reconnaissance in Canaan, he would’ve had to be reminded of this. People would’ve been saying to him, “Don’t you remember that, Caleb?” Nobody needed to say, “Don’t you remember that, Caleb?” He’d never forgotten it. There hadn’t been a day gone by, I don’t think, but Caleb hadn’t remembered those events, and hadn’t looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise, hadn’t looked forward to that parcel of land that would be given to him. I don’t think he was in the real estate business. I don’t think he was concerned to be able to say, “Hebron’s mine.” I think he was concerned to be able to see in bodily terms, as it were, in a tangible evidence, the fact that he had proclaimed at the age of forty: “God is powerful, God is great, God is true to his promises, and when I take my place in Hebron, I’ll know, and so will all who look on.” And what an irony that Anak used to be the king of Hebron, used to be the big boy in Hebron, and Anak gets moved out and little Caleb gets moved in.

Triumphant in his old age. What was it that marked him out? Well, notice two things, and then we’re through.

In verse 10, he was aware of the Lord’s preservation. “Now then,” he says, “just as the Lord promised, he[’s] kept me alive for forty-five years.” “He kept me alive.” I’ve said this already to you, but I honestly believe this: every day you get your feet over the edge of the bed is a great day, no matter what it holds. It’s a great day! An old man that lived across the road from Sue and I in Hamilton, he taught me that. His name was Alec. And no matter… he walked with a stick some of the time, and he was like a grasshopper, trying to cross the street to buy his newspaper. But every day I would see him and would say, “How are you doing today, Alec?” He’d say, “Hey son, it’s a great day! It’s a great day when you get your feet over the end of the bed.” And Caleb was aware of the fact that God woke him up every morning, and he woke him up on this particular morning. It was God who kept him alive.

And he was assured of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Aware of the Lord’s preservation and assured of the Lord’s promise: “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.” The thing I like best about Caleb is that his life moved not towards a termination but towards a consummation. He still had his climbing boots on at the age of eighty-five. He fits the statement in Hebrews 11, where it says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died.”[6] They never quit. They were still going. Still going.

I sat on the platform of the Keswick Convention some time ago now, with a man who I regarded as a great man in the ministry of the Word, oh, since I was a boy of the age of five in Scotland. The man’s name is George B. Duncan, and just a tremendous preacher. And I sat with him on the Keswick platform; he’d been invited to sit up there, he wasn’t preaching. He wasn’t preaching, because, frankly, he’s just not able to cope with everything the way he did as a younger man. And as we sat together on the platform—there were about twenty of us all up there—as the service came to an end and the benediction was given, I turned to greet him, and as I looked at him, the tears were running down his face. And when he composed himself, he said to me, “You know, son, I’m done. There is no future for me now. I don’t speak here anymore. They just invite me to sit on the platform, and what use is that?”

I said to him, “Mr. Duncan, it says in the Bible you’re not supposed to rebuke an older man,[7] but get ready for it, ’cause I’m about to disobey the Bible.” I said, “I’ve known you, and I’ve listened to you preach since I was five years old, since my dad took me to hear you preach. I’ve cheated off most of your sermons, and I know many of your outlines better than you.” I said, “But listen: you may not preach here, but you are here. And I’m watching you, Mr. Duncan. ’Cause I want to see that you’re moving not towards a termination, but you’re moving towards a consummation. And I’m wanting to see that you run right through that tape, right all the way to the end, just like Caleb.”

Caleb’s life moved not towards a termination but towards a consummation.

And he looked at me and he said, “Do you really mean that?”

And I said, “I really mean it. I’m gonna be watching you, to see how you finish.”

Can I ask you tonight, how are we going to finish? I’ll tell you how we’re gonna finish. We’re gonna finish on the basis of how we’re doing tonight. That’s how you’re gonna finish. So then, let’s take it back one. How’re you doing tonight? Have you begun the race? Are you under starter’s orders? Do you know the Lord? Are you on track? Have you been cleared for takeoff—to mix my metaphors—and you’re on your way, and you know that you’re heading towards a destination? Or frankly, are you standing, as it were, on the observation deck, and you’re watching the planes come out and go, and you’re saying, “You know, I don’t really know what you’re on about, sir, because I don’t know this Lord that Caleb knew, and I would love to know him”? Hey, I’d love to introduce you to him.

Solomon—which is another message altogether—Solomon, he didn’t finish so well. He was another guy got off to a great start, but you can go home and do your homework and read in 1 Kings 11, and you will discover that what’s said of Solomon towards the end of his life, it says, “As Solomon grew old … his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.”[8] Solomon finished with an inflated ego, a corrupted worship, and a divided allegiance—and he made a great start. You know the reason that so many end up in mediocrity? It’s because we discover that in order to get to the top, we got to let go of a lot of stuff that we’re not prepared to let go of.

Let me tell a story, and I’m through. A group are going to climb Mont Blanc in Switzerland. They meet together in the evening with the guide, the Swiss guide who’s going to take them up this part of the French Alps. The guide gets the group in the room, and he says, “Listen, let me tell you something. If you make the top of this mountain, and you’re coming with me, you can only bring what I’m telling you. And this is what I’m telling you: show up with your boots, show up with your ropes, show up with your ice ax, and don’t show up with anything else.”

And a young Englishman—this is a true story—a young Englishman announced to the group and to the guide that he was going to go to the top of Mont Blanc, but he was going to do it his way. And he had already put together all the things that he was taking with him to the top. And he had already decided that he was taking a multitude of camera equipment, he was going to take lots of stuff to drink, big bars of chocolate, and big blocks of cheese and blankets, because he said that he liked to sit down every so often on his journey. So the guide, unable to dissuade him, told the guy, “You’re out of here. You come under my rules, or you don’t come at all. Goodnight.” The Englishman went away in a huff, and the guide turned to the group, and he said, “Let me tell you, nobody ever makes the top of Mont Blanc carrying all that stuff.”

So they set off the following day—the Englishman ahead of them, the group with the guide following on. And as they make their ascent, they start discovering all this guy’s nonsense—blankets and cheese and old bottles and things, and camera lenses, and everything else. And when they finally reach the summit, there is the Englishman, dressed in his clothes, with his boots, his ice ax, and his ropes. And S. D. Gordon, who first told this story, said, “So it is in the Christian life. Many find that when they cannot make the summit with all that they hold in their hands, let the summit go and pitch their tents in the plain. And the plain is so very full of tents.”[9]

The cry from Caleb, down through the centuries, is, “Let go of the baggage, and go for the mountain!” Committed in youth, consistent in the middle, and triumphant at the end.

Let us pray:

Father, I thank you for the inspiration and example that so many of the people are, here tonight, even as I walk around and am greeted by them, look into their eyes and see the illustrations of your grace and your favor towards them, listen to their testimony of your provision for them down through the years. Help them to know, Lord, that I’m not some young rascal trying to lecture them. I’m simply encouraging them, even as they encourage me, to keep going, to keep on, to resist the temptations of disgruntlement and cynicism and despair to look, as it were, towards the end as if it were a cul-de-sac instead of seeing it as a great and glorious gateway into your presence, where we will rejoice with you forever and ever.

For young people here tonight, I pray that you will forge in their lives the kind of character that makes them committed against the crowd, so that they may grow into maturity, consistency, and eventually to triumph.

Hear our prayer, and let our cry come unto you. For we ask it, with the forgiveness of all our sin, in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.


[1] See Phyllis Thompson, Climbing on Track: A Biography of Fred Mitchell (London: China Inland Mission, 1953).

[2] Joshua 14:7 (paraphrased).

[3] Thompson, Climbing on Track, 12.

[4] Numbers 14:9 (NIV 1984).

[5] See, for instance, Iain H. Murray, Arthur W. Pink: His Life and Thought (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1981), 77–78, 86.

[6] Hebrews 11:39 (paraphrased).

[7] See 1 Timothy 5:1.

[8] 1 Kings 11:4 (NIV 1984).

[9] S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks with World Winners (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1908), 52–54.

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.