Thoughts from Wim Hoff.

I know what you are thinking, who in the world is Wim Hoff? And why should I care what he's thinking? Well in brief he is this Dutchman that goes running around on the sides of mountains in nothing but a pair of shorts and occasionally, sandals. I saw a documentary about him last night on Discovery. They called him "The Iceman" because of his uncanny ability to withstand temperatures for periods of time thought impossible for humans. He once spent 1 hour and 17 minutes packed in ice, remaining alert the entire time. He's even taken a stab at Mt. Everest wearing nothing but his shorts and sandals. Which again begs the question, why do I care what he's thinking? Well, I will tell you... during the course of his interview last night he said something that I had to write down:

I am not afraid to die... I am afraid not to live.

You see he's faced quite a bit of eyebrows-raised-criticism for what some would think of as dangerous, frivolous, antics. But to him, running through ankle-deep snow in a pair of cotton shorts is living.

Now I'm certainly not advocating stripping to the bare essentials and jogging around in the snow, or even the sun for that matter. But this mantra of his, "I am not afraid to die... I am afraid not to live" got me thinking. It got me thinking about a story I recently read in the Bible. It's a story that has haunted me in a way, challenged me. You can find this story in Numbers 13-14. I encourage you to read it for yourself... but here it is New Revised Becky Paraphrase:

Almighty God has delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea, protected them during their passage through the dessert, met them on a mountain, fed them from His very hand... you get the idea. God has been there for His people. In every detail He has provided. He has not failed them a single time. He had proven Himself a trustworthy, faithful, generous God. And He has done all of this to deliver them into a land flowing with milk and honey.

Here we find the Israelites camped at the border of this Promised Land. God tells Moses to send in 12 leaders to scout the land and bring back to the people a report, and so they do. Among those sent are Caleb and Joshua. These twelve spies go into the land and when they return they bring with them fruit as evidence of the bounty of the land they have seen. They tell Moses and the Israelites "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey!" (13:27) You can picture it, can't you... "It's just like God said it would be! Look, here is the fruit of the vine... and it's everywhere!"

and then it comes.

the but.

"But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large." (13:28)

So human, huh? Out of the twelve that went, ten were convinced that the people inhabiting the lands were too large and powerful for them to overtake. The fatal flaw is that they didn't have to do it at all... their God would go before them and behind them! He had promised them this land and He had demonstrated Himself to be a Father who never breaks His promises! He had parted the sea on their behalf! What could He not do? But their faith was not in Him, it was in their own ability.

Dang it.

But there were two, Caleb and Joshua, who stood up to the crowd and proclaimed "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us." (14:7-9) They proclaim if God is for us, who can be against us!!! (Romans 8:31). They beg the Israelites to trust the God who had already shown up in so many ways, to trust that He would provide, to believe that He would go before them. They tore their clothes and cried out to the Israelites who were by this time in full freak-out mode.

Despite all He had already done for them, the Israelites could only see the obstacles. They were so sure they couldn't go any farther that they petitioned one another to choose a new leader and... hold on to your seats here... return to Egypt. Seriously! They wanted to return to slavery!

But Caleb and Joshua thought differently, and God said "But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." (14:24) Caleb demonstrated the heart God would have us seek after- a heart that trusts in HIS promise and provision! And because Caleb had this heart, God said "I will bring him into My Promise!"

Boy do I ever want to be THAT guy.

But instead so many times we end up being the masses that writhe around in doubt and unbelief, the ones about whom God said: "As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say" (14:28). Over and over again God had heard them whine and moan that God had only brought them into this desert to die, over and over again God had heard them doubt His provision, over and over again He had witnessed their unbelief... and finally He said "That's it! I've had ENOUGH! I will give you exactly what you have asked for over and over and over again! Here! Have your death if that's what you want so badly!" And He declared that not one of the unbelieving Israelites would enter the Promised Land.

I do NOT want to be that guy.

I do not want to be the one that only sees the obstacles, and fails to see the one Who has already overcome those obstacles! I want to be CALEB. I want to be the guy that says "No! Don't turn around! Press on! With GOD all things are possible! He said He's going to do this, and He will!"

Now, some of you may be wondering, what in the world does this have to do with Wim Hoff? [and the rest of you, weary from this long post, have already forgotten all about him, right?] You see, Wim isn't afraid of dying... he doesn't see an obstacle... he sees an opportunity to LIVE.

My friend, if you are alive in Christ Jesus, you are ALIVE. You need not fear death, but relish every opportunity to live out your life in the light of His grace! We are going to face challenges- that's a promise... but take heart because each of those are an opportunity to shine, grow, and learn. Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).

When I worked at Hartland I would often go into Steve's office with the proclamation "Steve, I have a problem"... to which he would promptly (and quite annoyingly) reply... "is it a problem or an opportunity?"

Steve, I get it now.

When the Israelites stood on the shores of the Red Sea, they saw an obstacle, and God saw a chance to SHOW OFF. When they cried in the desert that they were starving, their eyes were on the problem, but God used it as an opportunity to demonstrate His grace and provision. On their own, they could not have made it into the desert. On their own they could not make it through the desert. And on their own they would not make it into the Promised Land, but with God ALL THINGS are possible. And He eventually did lead a new generation into the land flowing with milk and honey.

When we face obstacles, we should be like Mr. Hoff, and Steve Hart, and Caleb... and instead of focusing on the problem look for the opportunity that lies within that problem. Who knows that God won't call any one of us home this very night? Who knows that we will live just another week, or month, or year? That, my friends, doesn't scare me at all... what scares me is the thought of not living a life devoted to Him in the meantime.

I am not afraid to die... I am afraid not to live.


Steve said...

Opportunities present themselves daily. They truly are masked as problems though. The culture we live in today, bad news or a problem is more exciting than the chance to be viewed as an opportunity.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (New International Version)
9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Jennifer said...

I'm so ready to be a Caleb. To have faith so strong that I know ANYTHING is possible if it is God's will. Awesome Post!!!

Lauren said...

and let's face it, when crazy things happen to us, it makes for a great story. The other guys sounded like total weenies and no one remembers their names.

But Caleb and Joshua? Mary of Bethany? Stephen?

people are still talking about them today.