Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. He stands as a shining example of one who never lost his edge spiritually. He himself said at age 85, "I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and coming in" (Joshua 14:11 NKJV).
At that point in the history of God's people, the Israelites had finally made it to the long-awaited Promised Land, and Joshua was dispersing portions of it to the various tribes. Caleb suddenly spoke up and asked for the land he had surveyed.
In response, Joshua granted faithful Caleb what he asked. Yet the old man proved he had not yet exhausted his courage, for then he said:
Here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me.... Now therefore, give me this mountain [the land of Hebron] of which the Lord spoke in that day...(Joshua 14:10–12 NKJV).
The other guys must have thought old Caleb was senile. Hebron was not some beautiful green pasture; it was one of the most treacherous mountainous areas of the Promised Land.
Even worse, formidable adversaries — identified as the three sons of Anak — lived there. No one wanted to take them on except 85-year-old Caleb, holding up that muscular old arm, saying, "Give me this mountain."
I love his boldness. Caleb ran up the mountain. He slew his adversaries. He was victorious. He had been strong all those years, and he finished well.
Let me share some principles with you from Caleb's life that can give us this spiritual stamina we need to run and indeed finish in the race of life.
1. Follow the Lord 100 percent. Scripture says again and again that Caleb "wholly followed the Lord." It's in Joshua 14:8–9 and verse 14 too: Joshua blessed Caleb and gave the old man what he asked because "he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel."
This is clearly a key to Caleb's spiritual success. But what does it mean to "wholly follow the Lord"? It means that you must fully follow our Lord not halfheartedly, but completely. One hundred percent.
Are you wholly following the Lord your God? If you are not, you will eventually be picked off. It is only a matter of time until you become a casualty in the race of life.
2. Don't compromise — stand your ground. At the risk of being personally ostracized, Caleb took a stand for what was he knew was true. He knew he needed to be more concerned with God's approval than man's. And he was rewarded.
As you walk with the Lord, you will face many temptations to cave in to peer pressure, to do what everybody else does. But if you are going to fully follow the Lord, then, like Caleb, you must make this principle operative in your life. Stand firm - seek God's pleasure, no one else's.
3. Take God at His Word. Caleb didn't win immediate entrance to the Promised Land. First, he had to wander around with those ungrateful, complaining Israelites for 40 years. They said things like "We remember the good old days back in Egypt, where we had garlic, leeks, and onions."
Despite the Israelites' childish clinging to fictitious memories, Caleb hung on to the promises of God. He knew God would be faithful, regardless of the time frame. Caleb trusted God's word to him. We can do the same.
4. Long for fellowship with your God. Caleb asked for a place in the Promised Land called Hebron. There is something interesting thing about the name Hebron, which — in the original language — means "fellowship, love, and communion." Hebron is where Abraham met with God face-to-face and received the promise of the new land in the first place.
Caleb yearned for fellowship with God. While the other Israelites longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. While the others looked back, Caleb looked forward. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted to please God.
This is an essential key to spiritual longevity. You must always move forward. You must always seek to grow spiritually and never look back. That's what will keep you going.
If you are living this Christian life for others' applause, you won't make it. You have to run empowered by your love for God.
This article was adapted from Losers and Winners, Saints and Sinners: How to Finish Well in the Race of Life (New York: Warner Faith, 2005). Used by permission.