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Magic Eyes
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Numbers 13:1
October 21, 2017

Let's bow together in prayer.

My gracious Father, I thank You for the privilege we have this morning for joining together. Openly singing Your praises, and free to open Your book and be taught from it. In the name of Christ, amen.

In your bulletin, you will find an insert. I encourage you to take it out. We're going to refer to it in just a moment.

It seems that some people are able to see the work of God all the time. They don't have to work hard at it. They just notice. In the midst of great struggles, such people see the hand of God directing their lives. It reminds me of the Magic Eye drawings. Computer-generated confusion, and you have a copy of that in your bulletin. Have any of you ever seen these before? I’m pretty sure many of you have. They actually started in the mid 90s. You could buy whole books with Magic Eye illusions.

Hidden within the collection of patterns colors and shapes is an image, which is revealed through staring and eye crossing. So you take the picture and you put it at your nose and you slowly bring it out while you're looking at it, and you may eventually be able to see Saturn in that picture. Those of you who get it you're going to recognize – Ah! I got it! – and the rest of you are going to go, “How on Earth is this possible?”

At the end of the message I'm going to tell you how to do it. So at the end of the message you're going to be able to know what you have to do to see that. It takes practice and hard work, but eventually you will be able to accomplish the task. Most of you. But some of you will not be able to see it at all.

It's kind of the way it is with the hand of God in our lives. Some people just instantly see it. They get it. Other people work really hard, and they eventually are able to bring it into focus. And then there's some people, no matter how much they're trained, they just can't see the hand of God. But for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, you can be trained to see the hand of God in your everyday life.

We can train our minds to catch a glimpse of God today. To see God's hand in our life each day. Sometimes it will require us to search intensely. Sometimes it will require us to think differently than the world. Sometimes it will require us to step out on faith, believing in those things not yet seen. And sometimes that will require choosing a path of obedience when all the evidence around us makes disobedience attractive.

In my Sunday School class today, our membership class, Will Brown gave his testimony, and he had this great line. He said, “The devil makes everything look good.”

Sometimes we only see the hand of God when we recognize the truth of that statement. That the devil makes everything look good, and that's a lie. In the Bible, the story of Caleb illustrates what it takes to see God when everyone around us is telling us that God has forsaken us.

Caleb was one of the twelve spies sent into the Promised Land to see what sort of land it was. To gain information for the nation of Israel as they stood on the shore the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land. They merely awaited the word of these 12 spies.

Most of you are familiar with the incident in the life of the nation of Israel. You've probably smiled with the children, or led the children as they sing about it. You know.

[Music]

12 men went to spy on Canaan
10 were bad and 2 were good

What did I see when they spied on Canaan?
10 were bad and 2 were good

Now for the rest of today, you should have that song embedded in your mind. But just for those of you who don't remember about the 12 spies, we're going to look at it and review it from the Book of Numbers chapter 13. And we're going to begin at verse 17. And I probably turn to Numbers instead of Exodus – that first verse just did not look right for the text this morning!

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. I'll get there. Actually, the message in a couple of weeks will be from Exodus. So Numbers chapter 13. Yeah, it's not – I was thinking 37. Numbers, chapter 13. And this is just adding extra time to our radio. [laughs]

We're ready now. This is Numbers chapter 13, beginning with verse 17. And it's on page 121 in my Bible.

“Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, ‘Go up into the Negev, and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak. Whether they are few or many. And whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad. And whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds. And whether the land is rich or poor. And whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage, bringing home some of the fruit of the land.’

“Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes. So they went up, and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob near Lebo Hamath. They went up into the Negev and came to Hebron, and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there.

“Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. And they came to the valley of Eshkol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes. And they carried it on a pole between two of them. They also brought some pomegranates and figs. The place was called the valley of Eshkol because of the cluster that the people of Israel cut down there.

“At the end of 40 days, they returned from spying out the land and they came to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation of people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, showed them the fruit of the land. They told them, ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negev. The Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea along the Jordan.’

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it. For we are well able to overcome it.’

“Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people! For they are stronger than we are.’

“So they brought to the people of Israel bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we saw in it of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim. And we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers. And so we seemed to them.’”

This is the Word of the Lord.

Wow! Outvoted, ten to two. Twelve men went in the same places. Their eyes fell upon the same images. They had identical experiences. Yet ten of them came out fearful, and doubting they could ever occupy the land. And two men came out of the Promised Land having seen God.

More than eighty percent of the people could not see God in the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua were able to see God when the rest saw trouble. I want to be a Caleb or a Joshua. And we can! We can be people who see God in the midst of our everyday lives, if we follow and embrace three traits that we see in Caleb.

First, we look at life through the eyes of optimism. Most people in the world are rather pessimistic. The 24-hour news cycle doesn't really help. Because it's not news if somebody has a birthday. It's not news if someone celebrates a 55th wedding anniversary, except in that family. It's only news if something horrible happens.

I look back on fondness to the good old days when you had to wait a week to find out that somebody on the other side of the world experienced an earthquake. There is so much happens in a typical day, that the news cycle puts upon us. And even though it happens thousands of miles away, we begin to internalize it and think that it's going to happen to us.

With all the bad news you hear day to day, many people think it's impossible to look upon the life with anything other than pessimistic eyes. It's just a matter of time before there's a mass killing in Grand Junction. Or on Orchard Mesa. Or wherever it is that you live. Arm yourself, because you don't know who it is who’s going to come in and take your life. Because you hear about it every day on the news. You got to be prepared.

So we sit around pessimistically looking at the world, wondering when the shoe’s gonna drop upon us.

The ability to see the good side of things is a learned behavior. It's an intentional decision. Believe it or not, you are not just born on the right side of the bed. You don't just wake up in the morning, get out the right side of the bed, and have an optimistic day.

Years ago when Michele and I got married, I made a conscious decision I wanted to sleep on the right side of the bed. For that very reason, I could say every day I woke up on the right side of the bed. It didn't make me an optimist. Rather, you have to learn and develop optimism.

There's plenty in the world for us to get down in the dumps about. There are plenty of people who will sabotage our lives. 10 of the men who went into the Promised Land saw only fortified cities. They saw only the strong people. The descendants of Anak. They saw Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Canaanites. The pessimists only see the obstacles. That's all they could see.

But what did Caleb see? He saw that when they took down a single branch, with a single cluster of grapes, it took two men to carry it. I just can't even wrap my mind about that. That was a massive, massive, bunch of grapes. How amazing is that? Caleb looks and says, “Whoa! Look at this! This could all be the People of God’s!”

They all agreed it was a land flowing with milk and honey. Caleb saw what God had promised. He became excited about it. He chose to look at the good things in the land.

In order for us to see the hand of God in our everyday lives, we must begin to see the world through the eyes of optimism. We must look for the good things in our lives, and we must choose not to dwell on the negatives.

Honestly, this is something which is difficult for many of us. It's difficult for me to develop that. I am just like most people in the world. It's much easier to look upon life, with all its woes, and become a pessimist. If we are going to expect to find God in our everyday lives, then we must not be content to live in pessimism. We must not be content to live somewhere between optimism and pessimism. We cannot expect to see God's hand in our lives if we aren't optimistic about finding it.

The optimist is going to look hard enough. He will search long enough. Look intensely, and find the hand of God in his life. The optimist says, “It's there someplace!”

It's like that picture of Saturn, which is in your bulletin. It's there. You just have to be willing to look long enough, and hard enough, to find it.

The opposite of learned optimism is learned helplessness. And I believe part of the news cycle in our world today is teaching our society a certain amount of learned helplessness. The pessimist looks at life and thinks there's nothing they can do about it. That they're helpless. That life is going to happen to us.

The Christian optimist looks at life, and believes that God is doing something about it. You want to see God in your everyday life, look for him through the eyes of optimism. But not just a blind optimism. Not just rose-colored glasses. But look through the through faith-colored glasses.

We look for God, the hand of God, with the eyes of optimism because we have the eyes of faith. Look at life through the eyes of faith.

Caleb was an optimist, but there was something significant behind that optimism. He was an optimist because he was a man of faith. When we look for God in our everyday life, we can be optimistic about finding him because that optimism is fueled by faith.

Look on in Numbers chapter 14, verse 7.

“Caleb said to the congregation, to all the people of Israel, ‘The land which we passed through to spy it out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us. The land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. Do not fear the people of this land. For they are bred for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.’”

The only reason that Joshua and Caleb were able to look at the Promised Land with such optimism is that they looked at the Promised Land with the eyes of faith. If the Lord is with us, if he is pleased with us, he will bring it, and bring us into this land. He will give it to us!

Remember, it's a land flowing with milk and honey. Do not fear the people of the land. They shall be our prey. Their protection is taken away from them. The Lord is with us. Do not fear them!

If we can look at the world through such eyes of faith, then we will recognize that we can be optimistic. That God is in our everyday life.

Caleb knew where his trust was. He had full confidence in his God. So strong was his faith, that he saw the land flowing with milk and honey as already taken. He had a conviction that God was stronger than any they had seen in that land. And he had a conviction concerning the sovereignty of God. There is no indication that Caleb doubted God's ability to do what he had promised. He believed in the ability of God to do what He has promised. Do you believe that? Because if you do not believe God is capable of doing what He has promised He would do, then you cannot look at the world with optimism.

Is it any wonder that Caleb was able to see God there, in that situation? Is it any wonder that people who look at the world through the eyes of faith and optimism, they are able to see God? Caleb was able to it was unable to deny the presence of God even in light of what seemed to most men to be impossible odds.

Most men do not have the faith to see God's ability. Most men do not have the faith to see God's presence. Because Caleb was a man of faith, he could see God when most couldn't.

If we want to see God, if we want to know His hand is upon us, we must become men and women of faithful optimism. Men and women who have the full confidence that God is concerned with what happens in our everyday lives.

Part of what is embedded in the DNA of our faith is the fact that we approach the Throne of Grace that we might receive grace and mercy to help in times of need. And that willingness to pray is a statement that we believe God is interested in the everyday events of our life.

If he's interested in the everyday events of our life, and we believe he is sovereign, then our prayers make sense. And we look upon the light upon the world through the eyes of faithful optimism. We believe that God actually answers prayer. And that's why we come to him in prayer! Because we are optimistic that he will intervene.

If we want to see God in our everyday life, we must have the faith that he is really there. The eyes of optimism. The eyes of faith.

This is the third trait which Caleb had. And that is that he looked at life through the eyes of obedience.

Look at chapter 14, verse 6, and following. We just read that. He said, “If He delights in us, and we do not rebel against the Lord.” He declares that his life has shown his commitment to do His will. As long as we're doing what God's called us to do, we can be confident that he's going to be active in our lives.

He remembers the time when he came out of the Promised Land, he stood before the people, telling them that they should go in and occupy the land. It's actually Joshua chapter 14, where Caleb is now in the Promised Land.

Joshua 14, verses 6 and following. “The people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb the son of somebody [Jephunnah], said to him, ‘You know what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, at Kadesh Barnea concerning you and me. I was 40 years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.’”

This is the testimony of Caleb. He's able to see, 40 years later, a single event. When he stood with Joshua, and when the people of Israel – we didn’t read that verse – but the people of Israel, after they gave their good report, picked up stones to stone Caleb and Joshua because they were optimistic. Because they had faith that God would deliver to them the Promised Land. He remembers when he came out of the Promised Land, he stood before the people and he says, “I follow the Lord my God fully.”

This is a man who could expect to see God in his everyday life, because he followed God fully. But his commitment to follow God and do his will was not merely declared by himself. No, Moses affirmed his commitment. Again we see the same words. “You have followed the Lord my God fully.” That's what Moses says about Caleb.

Isn’t that an incredible reputation to have? What a confidence that must have been developed in Caleb's life! The text goes on further and tells us that Caleb's commitment to God's will was confirmed by God Himself. The Lord has given confirmation of Caleb's walk with Him through bringing him into the Promised Land.

The spies that went in some 45 years earlier, only Caleb and Joshua are left alive. The two men who fully followed God.

Caleb saw the world for the eyes of obedience. He recognized that it would be easy not to be obedient to God. It would be easy not to be wholly committed. To just sort of play at it. Yeah, we're the people of God, but we don't really trust God to do what He said He would do.

If you want to see God's hand in your everyday life, you have to begin by choosing the eyes of optimism, faith, and obedience. James says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” We cannot expect to see God in our everyday lives if we do not draw near to Him in obedience.

We can have the magic eyes which let us see God in our lives today. The magic eyes – those illusions that you have in your bulletin. It's not that difficult, if you get the instructions.

First you take the picture, you hold it to your nose, and you attempt to look through the page. But well, before you do that, notice that there are two dots underneath the words Magic Eyes. Put that up next to your nose. Begin very slowly to move out while you're looking through the page, and it will be a point at – it’s different for each person – there’ll be a point where those two dots turn into three dots. And at just about that point, Saturn will appear on the page.

It's an amazing thing. The people that developed it; it's mind-boggling. And you can do it. It might take you a little while. You know, and just so that we can encourage you know a little competition, when you get it raise your hand. See! About half but you have it already. You can see that. You can do it. And, and the people that raised their hand, you know, go to them and say, “How'd you see it?” and they'll show you that they can see Saturn in that picture.

It takes a while to develop your ability to see the Magic Eye illusions. Just as it takes a while to develop the ability to see God in your everyday life. It will require a choice to look at the world through the eyes of faithful optimism, and obedience. And then, an amazing thing happens. Once you're able to see it, it can pop in and out, but you can always get it back! And you can always see the hand of God in your life.

You can see the hand of God in your life even when all the people around you just see a jumbled mess. Let's pray.

Gracious Father, I ask that You would help us to see Your hand in our everyday lives. May we see Your hand in our lives, and proclaim it to those around us, and help others to see Your hand in their lives also. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, and our friend, we pray. Amen.