The ten scouts who succumbed to fear and brought back a bad report and stirred up the people to mutiny, died on the spot at Kadesh-Barnea. God struck them dead. The rest of the people, the adult generation of Israel died without entering the Promised Land. God made sure of that.
What’s so remarkable about this story is that fear prevented them from experiencing God’s best. God had something in store for them so much better than their minds had conceived, but their fear caused them to miss out. Fear leads to destruction not flourishing. Fear leads to punishment not blessing. Fear causes us to miss out.
So what is fear’s kryptonite?
You remember the story in Mark 4? Jesus orchestrates a boat trip across the lake, promptly falls asleep as a substantial tempest begins buffeting the boat. It was severe enough to strike fear in the seasoned fishermen on board. In a panic they wake the sleeping Jesus only to be greeted with an indicting question: where is your faith? Jesus links their fear with a lack of faith. And then after calming the storm, the disciples ask that infamous question: who is this? Which explains why they reacted the way they did. Their response of fear betrayed the fact they didn’t really know Jesus. So how do we get to know Jesus in such a way that we don’t shrink back in fear? Well, it’s not about reading more about Jesus. It’s not about studying words a page or writing a paper. Knowing Jesus in a manner that inoculates us against fear is about living in a certain way, not just thinking a certain thing.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
In order to truly know Christ like Paul is describing isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s an experiential exercise. Truly knowing Christ requires suffering and death. If we recoil from suffering, we will never truly know Christ the way we were meant to.
Paul wants to know Christ so much he desires to to suffer and die so he can experience resurrection from the dead. Keep in mind, this is the same book in which Paul says,
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far..." (Philippians 1:21-23).
Don't make God take you from this earth kicking and screaming as you claw and scratch to try to stay here. That certainly was not Paul's approach. Not only did he not shrink back from the things that cause most of us to crumble in fear, he pressed forward into them because he knew "this is the way I know Christ in a way I don’t currently."