Don’t Give me an Easy Life..
Growing up the name Bruce Lee was often on the lips of my brothers and their friends as they threw amateur kicks, punched each other, and tousled in the playground. But if Bruce Lee’s famed fighting skills failed to make me a fan, a quote I have just discovered by him: “Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for strength to endure a difficult one”, sparked my interest. He has since these few minutes become a man I want to watch. Bruce Lee encapsulates the bent of my discourse about Caleb. Caleb, if I might say, was the Bruce Lee of his day. He was neither looking nor praying for an easy life, but was a man up for the challenge. He was full of courage and faith, totally unbwogable. A man worth emulating.
Caleb was one of the twelve men whom Moses selected to go and spy out the Promised Land and bring a report. The spies went into the land and indeed saw the potential of the land and even returned with huge bunch of grapes that had to be carried between two men. However these men gave a bad report that discouraged the people:
“The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” ( Numbers 13:32-33)
But Caleb challenged this “grasshopper mentality” by speaking from a place of courage and faith. He quieted the agitated people and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Caleb’s faith was rooted in his trust in the promises of God to give the land to them. Unfortunately, Caleb was out voted and the cowards held sway. The result was that the whole generation wandered in the desert for forty years and never saw the land, but Caleb lived to fight and triumph over these terrible Anakites.
Although God had promised to give the Israelites the land, they had to fight the earlier named giants. Caleb of course was one of the fighting men. It is as if all the forty years he had been gearing for the day of battle. The battle for the land lasted five years and at that epic moment we again encounter Caleb as he comes to claim his inheritance. Well, because he had wholly obeyed God, Caleb could have had any choice of land he wanted, and he could have chosen one that was easy to settle into. But guess what? Caleb did not want it easy because even at eighty five God had preserved his strength and he still had some fight in him. He therefore asked Joshua for the mountain where the giants lived. A place where it seemed few dared to tread.
“And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive…yet 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.” (Numbers 14: 11-12).
Caleb beat the giants who had kept the cowardly generation in the desert, conquered their walled city and gave it a new name. Caleb is a good example of how our continued obedience to God can keep us bearing fruit even in our old age.
And when Caleb had conquered his mountain, he did not just cross his hands and rest on his laurels, he challenged others to live as he did. Caleb did not want men with grasshopper mentality in his lineage or among his men. He therefore pushed them to do great things thus leaving behind an admirable legacy.
“He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife.” 17 So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.” (Joshua 15:16-17) Othniel rose to the challenge to fight for what he valued. Later he became the leader of the pack: Israel’s first judge and fought the Lord’s battles, just like his mentor Caleb.
Caleb’s life underscores the fact that the things worth having are worth fighting for. He fought for the truth to be heard; he fought for the promised land; he fought for his inheritance, and challenged the next generation to be fighting men. We too are called to do battle as Jesus Christ warned: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Of course victory in Christ is assured, yet we are called into a wrestling, not with flesh and blood, but with evil spiritual forces. Like Caleb We need faith and courage because we have an enemy who never rests but is ever throwing fiery darts our way. We must be vigilant and watchful and ready to put up a fight like Caleb did, or else circle around a wilderness till the end of our days.
Like Caleb dared his men, I dare you to pray: Dear Lord, don’t give me an easy life but grant me strength to endure a difficult one.”