I have no idea what 2023 holds for you. But whether it’s a year where you reach your goals or not has nothing to do with your circumstances. It’s all about your perspective.
The economy might tank. Your church might struggle. Your family may face challenges.
Yet the most important question you’ll face in 2023 is, will you look at the year with faith rather than fear? The choice is in your hands.
The Israelites had the same choice in Numbers 13, a story most of us are familiar with. Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, where they had been slaves for 400 years. They had already spent two years in the desert. Moses then sent 12 spies, one from each of the tribes, into the Promised Land to see what was in store for the Israelites when they arrived.
Ten of the spies came back with reports of fear. They told the Israelites the land was full of enemies the Israelites couldn’t beat, whereas, in reality, the Promised Land was as incredible as God had promised, truly a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Only Joshua and Caleb returned with reports of faith. The Israelites chose to believe the majority of the spies rather than the two who looked at their future in faith. Because of those responses, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones of their generation who were able to enter the Promised Land. The rest of Israel would die in the wilderness.
Just like the Israelites, you are heading into the unknown. None of us know what to expect in 2023. We can either look at the future in faith or in fear.
Maybe your church seems to be stalling. You’re wondering if you’ll ever grow again. You’d never say out loud that you’re afraid of what 2023 may hold for your church, but you clearly are afraid.
Maybe you have people in your life you love dearly who are constantly making bad choices and walking further and further away from God. You’ve been praying for them for years, and you’re afraid they’ll never turn to God.
Maybe your marriage is falling apart. You don’t dare let anyone know, but you’re afraid divorce could be around the corner.
You’ve got the same choice as the Israelites in 2023—look at your future in faith or fear.
When we look at our future through the eyes of fear, we will experience the following outcomes:
1. We’ll get stressed by conflicting information.
When the ten fearful spies shared their report, their story was mixed. “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey . . . But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified” (Numbers 13:27-28 NLT). The Promised Land had all the food the Israelites could want, but it was also full of large, fortified cities. Fear puts the “but” in the middle of the report. If God is going to use you, you need to get rid of the excuses.
2. We develop a scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset happens when we focus on what we don’t have. In verse 27, the ten fearful spies note that the Promised Land has no room for them. The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites all had places to live in the Promised Land. There was nothing left for the Israelites.
When you look at the world through eyes of fear, that’s what the future looks like. In seminary, I remember hearing pastors tell me that all the good churches were taken. Students who looked at their future through the eyes of faith saw something different: “Look at all the places that need a new church plant.” That’s an entirely different—and much more faith-filled—response.
3. We fulfill our own self-defeating prophecies.
When the fear-filled spies returned, saying Israel couldn’t overcome the people already in the land (Numbers 13:31), they were right. If they didn’t believe in what God could do through them, they were already beat. The same is true for us. When we don’t believe we’ll stand a chance against all the problems we’ll face in the future, we guarantee that outcome.
4. We spread our negativity to everyone else.
Your fear impacts more than just you, particularly when you’re a church leader. The Israelites believed in the fearful report of the first spies. Your family, your congregation, and your community will do the same. When you focus on your fear, you’ll lead others to move away from the perspective of faith.
5. We see ourselves as inadequate.
Notice the overwhelming ways the Israelites described the people who lived in the Promised Land. “All the people we saw are very tall. . . . We felt like grasshoppers, and we looked like grasshoppers to them” (Numbers 13:32-33 NCV). When we’re afraid, we tend to act as the Israelites did. We project our fears upon others. Israelites didn’t know how they looked to the Canaanites. They felt inadequate and small, so they expected the Canaanites felt the same way.
6. We make ourselves miserable.
The Israelites threw a pity party. They cried, complained, and second-guessed everything. There is nothing enjoyable about living in fear. When you throw a pity party, you miss out on everything God wants to give you in the Promised Land.
None of that needs to be your story in 2023. Instead, you can choose to be like Joshua and Caleb. You can look at your future in faith and not fear. Fear is always worse than the actual object of the fear.
How do you get started? One step at a time. We defeat our fear with movement. You can’t argue away your fears. You can’t discuss them away. But you can take a step against your fears.
Make a faith commitment today to face your fears.