I Feel Inferior, What Shall I Do?
April 25th, 1982 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-25-82 7:30 p.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this hour with us on the two radio stations that carry it: on KCBI, the Sonshine station of our Center of Biblical Studies, and on KRLD, the great Voice of the Southwest. This is the pastor bringing another sermon in the series: "What Shall I Do?" And the sermon tonight is entitled: "The Grasshopper Complex: Insect Mentality," or I Feel Inferior: What Shall I Do?
Now, we’re going to turn to Numbers, chapter 13. This is one of the most interesting stories in all the Bible: Numbers, chapter 13, and we shall read together from [verse] 26 to the end of the chapter, [verse] 33. And all of us read it out loud together – Numbers, chapter 13, verses 26-33. There’s a Bible in the pew rack, or you can share your Bible with these seated next to you. Now, let’s all read it out loud together. Numbers, chapter 13, verses 26-33 – together, out loud:
And they went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation of the children of Israel unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
And they told them, and said: "We came unto the land whither thou sentest us. And surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it.
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land; and the cities are walled and very great; and moreover we saw the children of the Anak there.
And the Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and by the coast of Jordan."
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it."
But the men that went up with him said, "We be not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we."
And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, "The land through which we have gone to search it is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
And there be the giants (the sons of Anak, which come of the giants); and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight."
Now, doesn’t that beat anything you ever read in your life: "And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we – naturally – in their sight"?
Now, why was it that they sent up these spies? Where did that come about? We are told in Deuteronomy, chapter 8, verses 7 and 10, who instigated that – who originated that. God had already spied out the land. He already had described it intimately to the people; and God, having spied out the land, gives the report. And you listen to it out of Deuteronomy 8:
The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks, and fountains, that spring out of valleys and hills;
A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;
A land wherein thou shall eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it . . .
When thou has eaten and art full, then shalt thou bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He has given thee.
The Lord had already looked at it, already spied it out, and brought the report. Not only that, but in Deuteronomy 1:21, the Lord commanded them to go up and take it, go up and possess it:
Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.
"Without any delay, without human testimony, don’t rely upon anybody’s report but Mine. Take My Word for it: go up and possess the land." Well, how is it that they sent out these spies? They did it; they originated it. In Deuteronomy 1:: "Ye came near unto me," says Moses, "everyone of you, and said, ‘We want to send men before us that they may search out the land and bring us word again by what way we ought to go and into what cities we shall come.’" They came to Moses, and Moses brought it to God, and the Lord said in Numbers 13:1, the first verse in the chapter, you read:
So the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
"Listen to them if that’s what they want to do. Send those men that they may search the land of Canaan which I give unto the children of Israel."
They want to walk by sight, not by faith. They want to rely upon human observation and human resources, not upon the strength of God. They said to God and to Moses, "Now you wait a minute. We’re not ready to go up. You just – you just hold on. We want to send a committee, and we want to let them look at that land, and we want them to tell us all kinds of things that they find out about it. We want a jury verdict."
So they empaneled a jury of twelve men to give a verdict on the land and upon God’s command to go up and to take it. They chose twelve men, one from each tribe [Number 13:3-16], and what a difference did those men make in their report. There were two of them who said, "Man, let’s go! God is with us, and we’re well able to overcome it. We can do it in the help of God" [Numbers 13:30, 14:6-9]. But there were ten men who said, "Man, they will eat us up alive" [Numbers 13:31-33].
Well, what was the difference in those men? The difference lies in the state of the heart, in the condition of the soul. Two of those men, Joshua and Caleb, were looking to God: "God is with us, and we can’t fail" [Numbers 14:8], and ten of the men were looking at themselves. They were flaw-pickers. They were sherkers. They were hinderers. They were hold-backers. They were obstructionists. They were discouragers. They were faithless unfitters. And there they had the report of the twelve men on the jury.
Do you notice – always, faith and commitment reasons from the promises of God? It sees the bright side. It sees the God in heaven who’s never discouraged and never dismayed [Isaiah 40:28]; but, doubt, and reactionism, and pessimism reasons from the difficulties [Matthew 14:28-30]. It magnifies the dangers. It exaggerates the problems. It sees the giants, the dark side. It cowers before the Amorites in the mountains and the Canaanites down there by the sea.
And the wave of "grasshopper pessimism" covered the whole children of Israel. Numbers 13:33 said: "There we saw the giants (the sons of Anak . . .); and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." Now, that’s natural. If you think you’re an insect, don’t be surprised when everybody around you treats you like an insect – looks upon you like a worm, or a beetle, or a bug!
Now, I want you to look at something else in this story that I never saw before until I prepared this message. I want you to look at this: They seek to bolster their fearing doubt by their babies. In Numbers 14:3, the next chapter, it says they cry before Moses and before the people and they say, "Our wives and our children shall be eaten up. They’ll be a prey. Let us return into Egypt. Look at those giants," they say, "They’re going to take our babies!" Now, I want you to read the scorn of God. In that same chapter of Numbers 14:31-32:
Your little ones – God says – your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness.
"You say these giants are going to eat up your babies? They’re the ones I’m going to bring into the Promise Land! And you who despised My promise, you’re going to die in the wilderness." Now the tragic result of their doubting fear is one of the most lucid, and traumatic, and emphatic of all the things presented in the Word of God.
Numbers 14:34 says:
After the number of the days in which you searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, even forty years, ye shall know My breach of promise . . . in this wilderness ye shall be consumed, and in this wilderness ye shall die.
They could have had the Promised Land in three days, but they never arrived. They died after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness [Numbers 26:64-65; 1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:17].
Now, I want you to see from the Word of God what would have happened if they had immediately obeyed the Lord and if they had followed His orders without doubting and had gone into the land to possess it. I want you to look at God’s promise in Exodus 15:16-18. God said to them in Exodus 15:16-18:
Fear and dread shall fall upon the inhabitants of Canaan; by the greatness of Thy arm they shall be still as a stone, until the people be all passed over . . .
And God shall bring you in and plant you in the mountain of Your inheritance.
That’s what God said is going to happen: "When you go over there into that land, the inhabitants of the land are going to be paralyzed for fear before you. Go up and take it!" Now, they refused, but I want you to see how God fulfilled that promise forty years later. Rahab, the hotel keeper in Jericho, in Joshua 2:9 says:
She said unto the men: "I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you."
"Don’t be afraid of these giants. They are paralyzed in fear. Take it!" And forty years later, that’s what Rahab, the hotel keeper, said characterized the whole Promised Land. All right, not only Rahab, but you listen to the kings of the land in Joshua 5:1:
And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the king of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord God had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until all were passed over, that their heart melted; neither was there any spirit in them anymore because of the children of Israel.
God said, "You take it! And all of those giants, and all of those inhabitants, and the Amorites in the mountain, and the Canaanites by the sea, they’ll be stone dead before you. I’ve given it to you." And they refused, and died in the wilderness [Numbers 26:64-65; 1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:17].
Now, we’re going to talk about that "grasshopper complex" – that "insect mentality." Do you notice – and I pointed out twice already – the wording of that text: "We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight" [Numbers 13:33].
Number one observation: if we think that of ourselves, don’t be surprised when others think it of us also. If we behave like grasshoppers before other men, they’re going to treat us as such. There is such a thing as a humility that is nothing but humiliating obsequiousness – nothing but unworthy servility. When you take a sorry, no-count view of you and of God, everybody else is going to take that same sorry, no-count view of you. You’re going to be in their sight as a worm, as a bug, as an insect, as a grasshopper.
All right, a second observation: that grasshopper complex cowers, always cowers, before a hard, difficult task. We are defeated before we start.
I don’t suppose there’s a one of us but has read Pilgrim’s Progress. Do you remember Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, when he comes to Hill Difficulty? He meets two men, one named Timorous and one named Mistrust, and they are running at the speed in a panic of fear. And Christian asked them, "What you running for? What you afraid of?" And the two men, Timorous and Mistrust, said, "We found – down that road that you’re traveling – we found two ferocious lions, and they roared at us horribly!" Well, the story, says John Bunyan – Christian went right on down straight that road, and he met those two lions, and they roared at him horribly and they were fierce; but both of them were chained. [Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, 1678].
Now, that’s the way of life. If you cower, the whole world will roar at you, terribly, horribly. If you’re unafraid, they’re chained. They don’t bite. They just bark.
Another thing: when we have that grasshopper complex, we accept for ourselves a pattern of weakness and of failure. "I can’t do it. I just know I can’t do it." And that becomes a pattern of your life: "I can’t." And how different that is from this homespun poem of Edgar A. Guest:
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so ’til he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled a thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;"
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he had begun it.
With the lift of his chin and the bit of a grin,
Without any doubt or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands that tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you will do it!
["It Couldn’t Be Done"; Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)]
Isn’t that the Bible? Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." [Philippians 4:13] Isn’t that right?
When I was a student, when I was eighteen years old, I went with a bunch of those kids to see George Washington Carver. He was a slave – had been a slave – somebody traded a horse for him. I went there to see him in Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. That man: he’s the greatest, by far, of the chemists – the greatest by far that we’ve ever produced in America. He had taken common Alabama clay; he had taken sweet potatoes, things that grow in Alabama, and that whole big laboratory was filled with marvelous things that he had chemically wrought out of those common ingredients in Alabama.
And I walked up to him, and I said, "How in the earth did you do all of this? It is a miracle!" And he replied to me – he was an old, old man even then, white-headed and deaf – he raised his hand and shook his finger like this and pointed to God. He said to me, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. Dear me, let’s don’t pray for tasks equal to our power. Let’s pray for gifts and strengths and power equal to our tasks. God help us; let’s get at it.
Well, this grasshopper complex – and I want to speak now generally. Is inferiority our place in the world – you and I and people like us? Now, I don’t deny there are many, many things that argue for our insignificance. We are a speck on a speck of an earth in this vast, illimitable, multitudinous multi-verse [Psalm 8:3-4]. Even our whole world is a tiny inconsequential in the infinitude of God’s creation. If we perish, you perish, if I perish, it doesn’t make any difference. The world goes on just the same. The stars in their orbits continue as they have for the ages past, and the seasons come and go, and the tides of the sea ebb and fall. That’s the way the Book of Ecclesiastes begins. Listen to it. The first chapter in those first verses:
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he doeth under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth goes on forever.
– Then –
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; behold, everything is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Now, that’s a good observation. It looks like that; and it seems to me as I look at God and how He works in mankind that the Most High seems to govern by impersonal universal, unchangeable, natural law. Things just go on whether we are involved or not. If God pays any attention to the moral qualities of a man, it’s hard to discover it.
He makes His rain fall on the just and the unjust, on the wicked and on the righteous; He makes His sun to shine on the wicked as well as on the good [Matthew 5:45]. The same storm that will annihilate the vessels, the ships, of a tyrannical nation of evil men is the same storm that will destroy the little fishing boats of humble villagers; and the same lightning that will smite a bawdy house of prostitution is the same lightning that’ll destroy a temple, a church erected in the name of our Lord. And He permits famine, and drought, and disaster to desolate a nation, and in that nation the virtuous and the corrupt die in a common misery.
Now, that’s why an infidel like the philosopher Voltaire will say – and you listen to him:
Men are tormented atoms in a bed of mud, devoured by death, a mockery of fate. This world, this theater of pride and wrong, swarms with sick fools who prate of silly nothings.
[From "Poem on the Disaster of Lisbon," by Voltaire, 1756]
Now, that’s the way that it seems, and it looks that way when you look at it through the eyes of a Voltaire or a thousand other infidels. Now, God’s Word senses that, and the Psalmist speaks of it. You listen to Psalm 8:3-4:
When I consider Thy heavens – the infinitude of God’s creation – the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained,
What is – this infinitesimal, microscopic speck of a – man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him?
Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honor.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hand; Thou hast put all things under his feet.
Now, if that’s true, that means the stars, that means the tides, that means the seasons, and that means the infinitude of God’s whole creation – all of it is under the hands of that feeble, dying, wonderful man.
Now, let’s look at that closely. God does not value us in terms of our size, or our possessions, or the length of our days. Methuselah lived to be 969 years old [Genesis 5:27]. Jesus died when he was 33 [Luke 3:23]. What would you say? We don’t do that, much less God. We don’t value the mountain above the vein of gold. We don’t value the shell above the pearl. We don’t value the debris above the diamond. So, God does not value the material, temporal things of this life above the soul of a man [Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25; Philippians 3:7]. He is a personal God whose greatest, sublimest creation is you – you! [Genesis 1:27]. You are worthwhile [Psalm 139:13-16]; God loves you [John 3:16]; Christ died for you [Romans 5:8]. God made you somebody. As Mary C. says, "God never takes time to make a nobody."
I was in Boston one time, and being a youth, I got in one of those Gray Line buses to see the city. I’d never been there before. And we came by a hill in the middle of Boston, and it was a cemetery; and the bus stopped, and the guide, in awe, he said, "Do you see this hill?" He says, "It’s the most famous cemetery here in New England, and up there on the top of that hill are buried the great of Boston." I presume where those people – where the Cabots speak only to the Lowells, and the Lowells speak only to God – they’re all buried up there. They’re all buried up there, and down here, he just didn’t mention them. He spoke of the great buried up there. And one of those guys in the bus raised his voice and said to the guide – he said, "Say, mister, are those that are buried down there at the bottom of that hill – are they any deader than those that are buried at the top of that hill?"
Man, that’s a good question. That’s a real good question. In God’s sight, both in life and in death and in eternity, who is it that says these people are great and mighty, and these people are flotsam and jetsam? Did God say that?
Now I want you to look at God’s revelation to us. Our eternal worth and our eternal significance is not reckoned by megatons – our greatness, so-called. Now you look at this as you can see it. Jerusalem, in the greatest history of its glory, was an inconsequential hamlet compared to Nineveh, or to Babylon, or to Alexandria, or to Rome. I mean it was a tiny town; but, in my humble opinion, all Nineveh and Babylon in their ancient glory never compares to the presence of the glory of God, the Shekinah of the Lord, in little Jerusalem.
Florence. Florence whose brilliant genius shines together more and more with every passing century, was a hamlet compared to, say, a great city like Peking, China. Or, look at it again: a dialogue of Plato, or an essay of Bacon, or a sonnet of Milton, or a play of Shakespeare is worth a thousand tons of books that you’ll find on the shelves of our libraries. On a few inches of a canvas, a great artist can paint a picture far beyond what another man can paint on the side of a barn.
When I went through the Hermitage in Leningrad, the home of the czars of Russia, there were miles, it seemed to me, of the greatest paintings in the world; and they were proudest of one by Leonardo da Vinci. Do you know how big it is? It’s just about six inches one way and nine inches the other – a little bitty thing. Don’t ever persuade yourself that because a thing is viewed and weighed in megatons that it’s great in God’s sight or even in ours.
Have you been to Buckingham Palace in London where the queens and kings of England live or the White House in the United States? All of these vast halls of glory, and they are impressive. And the rooms in the White House – the East Room, the West Room, the dining room – all those rooms, they are impressive. But, did you know, in Buckingham Palace on the back side in the most insignificant building kind of a thing – that’s where the kings and the queens lived and do live? And when you are in the White House – I have been there several times, officially sometimes. I’ve never been where those people live – their rooms hidden away – most of them are poorly furnished. They’re inconsequential and insignificant compared to the great halls of glory.
But let me tell you – I would think I’m not mistaken if I were to say that in the heart and mind of the king and queen, or in the heart and mind of the president and the first lady of the United States, the place in the White House or the place in Buckingham Palace that is the most precious in their sight is those insignificant, inconsequential rooms where the baby sleeps at night and where the children play.
That’s God, and that’s we! We’re no different. We’re just like Him. The height of God’s creation is found in the man that He made [Genesis 1:26-31]. God’s Book says so. I am conscious of moral freedom. I am not bound by chains of fatalism. I am not like a tree; I’m not like a mountain range; I’m not like an ocean; I am not like a star. I am capable of thinking and moral choice. At the center of my being, I am like God. The whole created universe is subservient to impersonal law, to natural law; but, I have a soul that is free. I am separate from nature. I am not like the inanimate, created world around me.
I want you to listen to this. This is from the great scientist Pascal. Listen to him:
Man is a feeble reed, trembling in the midst of creation. But, he is endowed with thought. For his destruction he does not need the universe to arm. The wind, the water can suffice to kill him. But, though the universe were to fall on man and crush him, he would be the greater in his death than the universe in its victory, because he would be conscious of his defeat, while the universe would not be conscious of its victory.
[PensÃ©es, by Blaise Pascal, 1660]
Do you get that? If the universe were to fall on me and kill me, I still am the greater. I’d be conscious that I was crushed, but the mountain wouldn’t be conscious of its triumph. I have to close.
God is a living Somebody. He is a personal Somebody, and God is revealed to us as personal. He has a name in the Old Testament: YHWH, Jehovah [Genesis 2:4; Exodus 6:3]; the Lord God who saves you [Isaiah 43:3], heals you [Exodus 15:26], sustains you [Isaiah 46:4], loves you [Psalm 42:8, 63:3, 69:16, 89:33; Jeremiah 31:3, 32:18]. He is a Somebody in the Old Testament. He is a Somebody in the New Testament. He has a name: the Lord Jesus, our Savior [Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; Acts 3:26; Titus 2:13-14; 1 John 1:7, 2:1-2; Revelation 1:5]. God is Somebody, and He made us like Him [Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6]. I have a soul. I can think His thoughts [John 15:15, 16:13-16; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:16]. I can respond to His overtures of love and grace [John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:20], and He cares for me [Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:30-32; 1 Peter 5:7]. He cares for us. We are somebody too in God’s sight.
Tell me – if a fire broke out in the most beautiful mansion on Fifth Avenue, and somebody called the great rich man in one of those towers on the bottom of Manhattan, and the telephone rang, and he was told, "Your mansion is on fire. It’s burning up," what would he say? When the announcement came that the palace is on fire, would he say, "Oh, my draperies, are they safe?" Or would he say, "All those paintings, are they safe? All that French furniture, is it safe? All my silverware, is it safe?" Would he say that, or would he say, "My little boy, is he safe?"
My brother, it all depends upon whether he has a heart or not. If he has a heart, his draperies are nothing, his paintings are nothing, his furniture is nothing, his silverware is nothing. If he has a heart, his first concern is, "Is my little boy safe? Is the baby safe?" My brother, God has a heart. That’s the great revelation of the Book. God has a heart, and He cares for you and me. When you cry, He cries [John 11:33-35]. When you’re hurt, He hurts [Hebrews 4:15]. When you’re perplexed, He wants to help [Hebrews 2:16-17]. And when you’re lost, He wants to save you [Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 19:41, 23:39-43]. That’s our Lord! That’s the great God omnipotent. That’s Jesus, our wonderful, wonderful Savior. You’re somebody in His sight. He loves you.
May we stand together?
Our Lord, there’s not anything more comforting or more precious in this thought, in this world, in our imagination, in our minds and hearts and souls – there’s nothing comparable to the abounding grace and love of Jesus for us.
O wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Lord, what a privilege just to name Your Name. What a holy and sanctified experience to bow in Thy presence, just to touch the hem of Your garment. How much more wonderful to receive Thee into our hearts as our Friend and Savior, our Guide, our Fellow Pilgrim, our Constant Companion.
In this moment that our people pray and stand before the Lord, to receive the Lord Jesus for all that He said He was and could do and mean to us, come: "I open my heart heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward, and I’m responding with my life." Make it tonight. "Pastor, I’m following the Lord in baptism just as He commanded in His Word – walking through the waters of the Jordan with Jesus, I’m coming." Or a family coming into the fellowship of our church: "Pastor, we’re all coming tonight." Or just you and a friend, or you and your dear wife – as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. Come and welcome.
Now, our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet, precious response in Thy saving Name, Amen. While we sing welcome, welcome.
I FEEL INFERIOR, WHAT SHALL I DO?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
The text and its ramifications
How does it come about spies were to be sent?
God had already spied out the land for them
God had already commanded them to go to possess the land
They want to live by sight not by faith
They expand the spies to twelve who look at the same evidence
Ten spy by sight
Two spy by faith
Grasshoppers in their sight
Tragic results – forty years wandering in the wilderness instead of
entering promised land
If we believe we’re grasshoppers before other men, they’ll treat us as
We defeat ourselves when we face a difficult task
We accept for ourselves a pattern of weakness and failure
Is inferiority our place in the world?