So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.' Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. (Joshua 14:9-11)
I lost one of my mentors last week. He played a large part in my theological studies and training. But more importantly, he inspired me with his faith in Christ and his compassionate heart. Those things impacted me more than anything else he taught me. His life remains a testament to me and others who knew him—a challenge to stay wholehearted for God and finish life strong.
Caleb is a biblical figure whose life can inspire us the same way. He was one of twelve men who, with Joshua, braved the promised land in Numbers 13-14 to scout the terrain for opposition. Unlike the others, he and Joshua were not afraid of the land's inhabitants and assured the Israelites they could certainly find victory with the Lord's help (Num 13:30). But the Israelites grumbled and pressed Moses to return to Egypt rather than risk their lives in battle (Num 14:2-4). Caleb was blessed by God with a special inheritance and permitted to survive through 40 years wandering in the wilderness because he remained wholehearted for God.
Being wholehearted means trusting God completely and not surrendering to fear. Like the Israelites, we face obstacles in life and can become controlled by the worst-case scenario—the worry that our problems are too big to overcome and may leave us in ruin. The solution is not to focus on the outcome but on the One who leads us, knowing he is faithful and powerful. We can't control the future and things may not turn out the way we want, but we can choose who we will be when we get there. It's the only thing we really can control. Like Caleb, we can believe God and move ahead in confidence, knowing that, in the end, the goal is not a certain set of circumstances but a faithful heart within us. God seeks men and women who are wholehearted in their trust of him.
Caleb was not only wholehearted in his trust in God's promise but also his patience in waiting for it; it took forty-five years to receive the inheritance God had promised him. When Caleb steps forward to claim it at the age of 85, he lets the assembly know that he's as strong today as he was before, and just as ready to do battle (Joshua 14:10-11). In other words, he stayed fit, faithful, and focused throughout his life, patiently waiting for whatever life might bring, trusting that God would give him victory.
Do you know how you stay just as strong at 85 as 40? It's the same with spiritual fitness as physical fitness. You keep pressing ahead. You never give up. You continue, knowing that you're in it for the long haul. You can imagine his exercise regimen. You can also imagine his prayer, every day. It probably went something like this: "I'm ready to do battle, Lord. I'm not going anywhere. Just tell me what to do, in your timing. Now I'm ___ years old, but I'm still not afraid, Lord. I trust you completely." Fill in the blank with his age, every year from 40 to 85. That's the kind of prayer we need to pray. That's patience: staying ready for the future, trusting God whenever and whatever difficulties may arrive. Patience isn't just about waiting; it's about preparation and self-control as you do.
This is something to aspire to—having a whole heart in following the Lord. It's hard to have that; there are many things that divide our hearts. Obstacles are sure to appear, and the prospect of future battles can be dire. We feel confident when things are going well, but finishing strong is something else. It means staying prepared and reliant on God as we deal with life's challenges. Maybe today there is something you're having difficulty trusting God with. Ask him to give you a heart like Caleb's—the patience and strength to trust him in the battle and stay strong to the end.