In his autobiography, Just as I Am, Billy Graham tells about a conversation he had with John F. Kennedy shortly after his election:
"On the way back to the Kennedy house, the president-elect stopped the car and turned to me. 'Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?' he asked.
"'I most certainly do.'
"'Well, does my church believe it?'
"'They have it in their creeds.'
"'They don't preach it,' he said. 'They don't tell us much about it. I'd like to know what you think.'
"I explained what the Bible said about Christ coming the first time, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and then promising that He would come back again. 'Only then,' I said, 'are we going to have permanent world peace.'
"'Very interesting,' he said, looking away. 'We'll have to talk more about that someday.' And he drove on.
Several years later, the two met again, at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast.
"I had the flu," Graham remembers. "After I gave my short talk, and he gave his, we walked out of the hotel to his car together, as was always our custom. At the curb, he turned to me.
"'Billy, could you ride back to the White House with me? I'd like to see you for a minute.'
"'Mr. President, I've got a fever,' I protested. 'Not only am I weak, but I don't want to give you this thing. Couldn't we wait and talk some other time?'
"It was a cold, snowy day, and I was freezing as I stood there without my overcoat.
"'Of course,' he said graciously."
But the two would never meet again. Later that year, Kennedy was shot dead. Graham comments, "His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment."
Was it an irrecoverable moment? Are there moments in our life when we find ourselves at a crossroads and the decision made at that moment changes us forever? I believe the answer is yes. I believe there are moments in our lives which are pivotal and extremely important. I believe that there are decisions made during those moments which forever alter our destiny and the destiny of our families, friends, and church. I believe there are opportunities that lie before us, and when we miss the opportunity, it is gone forever. There are irrecoverable moments which stand before us.
I believe that our Convention stands at such a moment now. I believe that God has been immensely blessing us. He has blessed us for a reason. It is not to make us spiritually fat and self-centered. It is to be an awesome body of believers doing His work in the world. However, as big as we are and as strong as we have become, we will fail in God's call if we do not experience a genuine Holy Spirit revival.
We must be a Convention centered on a new vision from the Lord. In Numbers 13:17-33, we find the story of such a vision.
We See a Land Worth Taking
The people, weary of wandering, send twelve spies into the "promised land." They were sent from the south (Negev) to the north to Hebron (v. 22) in the land of Canaan. Their instructions were primarily to bring reports about the land and the way it was built up and cultivated. As a part of this report, they were to find out whether the inhabitants were strong and numerous, or weak and few. They went from Kadesh (v. 26) in the wilderness of Paran and on to Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath at the northernmost boundary of Canaan near Dan.
The report of the land was a glowing one. The fruit they brought with them was luscious. The Valley of Eshcol was in a famous grape-producing area. The word "eshcol" means cluster. The land flowed with milk and honey. These are foods which would make a land most desirable in the eyes of the people who had been traveling in the desert or wilderness.
For forty days the spies wandered over the entire land. The inhabitants of Canaan were a mixed population (v. 29), and so it was not too much of a task for them to survey the land and people in relative safety. Indeed, some of the inhabitants of the land may have been relatives.
The report was mixed: They were frightened, but they were excited at the resources of the land.
I believe that we, too, are called to survey the land. Jesus said in John 4:35, Open your eyes and look at the fields. Is our land full of unharvested resources for God's Kingdom? Are there precious souls who are valuable to our Father?
I believe that we live in a land worth taking.
In 1858, a scientific expedition passed through what we now call the Grand Canyon. A young lieutenant by the name of Ives made the following entry in his report: "The region we last explored, the Grand Canyon, is of course, altogether valueless. It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first and doubtless will be the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended that the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed."
Obviously, the young man did not appreciate the values of the Grand Canyon. Rather than being the last party to visit it, his was but the first. Many people since have seen and appreciated the values of the Grand Canyon that this young officer missed. He had no vision.
We are too often like Lt. Ives. We have given up too easily, too quickly. There may be a church or two on every street corner, but the church is not in every home. We live in a land worth taking. Lift up your eyes. In our country alone, there are millions of unreached souls.
Some of you honestly ask me the question, "When will you be satisfied?" Let me state it this way: When the last unreached child or adult in this area comes to me and says, "Pastor, will you tell me how to be saved?" Or when the last person comes to me and says, "Pastor, I want you to know that someone in your church led me to Christ last week and I want to make it public." That is when God will be satisfied — and I will be satisfied.
We Hear of the Difficulty of the Mission
The land of Canaan was heavily fortified (v. 28). The poorly equipped Israelites were overwhelmed at the fortifications and troops. Among the people were the descendants of Anak. This term may refer to professional soldiers of "the corps of Anaq" (de Vaux, pp. 219, 242). Verse 28 begins with the word "yet," which indicates that there is no hope of conquering the people there. The Anakites (the word means "long neck") are related in verse 33 to the Nephilim. The word "nephilim" may be translated as "fallen ones" and are legendary giants who bring terror to the smaller-sized people, thus indicating fear of ferocity and size. The inhabitants were so big that they felt that they had no chance. The land was so big that people were insignificant therein.
The situation caused ten out of twelve to balk at the mission. The majority report said, "No way!" Not only did they express deep reservation, but we see that some buttressed their argument with exaggeration (vs. 23-33). Some say that was true "ministerially speaking."
Today, the wording would be somewhat different, but the majority report would be basically the same.
We See a Vision Which Expresses Itself in Faithful Service
Look at verse 30. Here we see the minority report. Caleb had a spirit of confidence so unlike the others. Why? He had the same background, same training, and same information. The key is found in 14:8-9. He saw the key to success in life. He recognized the enabling power of the Lord.
How we need to do the same! Then we will see victory — first of all, personal victory. In Deuteronomy 1:35-36 we read, None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he followed the Lord completely.
Caleb's life was one of victory. We can have that. Also, we can see victory as a corporate body. Though initially the minority report was rejected, eventually the people did take the land. The response "No Way" became "God's Way!"
God has given us a great responsibility. Let us be faithful.
As a Convention, we need passion, not just programs. We need commitment, not just comments. We are at an irrecoverable moment. Will you join with me in believing that we live in a land worth taking? Will you agree that the factions that have divided us are not as important as the common call to missions and evangelism? Will you join with me to take this land for Christ? We are at an irrecoverable moment. Let us not waste any more opportunities for the glory of God.