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The Caleb Quest: What You Can Learn from the Boldest Dreamer in the Bible

The Caleb Quest: What You Can Learn from the Boldest Dreamer in the Bible

by Mark Atteberry

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Most of us began our adult lives with ambitious dreams and the energy and determination to make them come true. But somewhere along the way our focus changed-life "happened," and we allowed our dreams to fizzle or even die. Is that the way it has to be? Do dreams come true for "ordinary" people? And if so, what does it take to make them happen? Author Mark


Most of us began our adult lives with ambitious dreams and the energy and determination to make them come true. But somewhere along the way our focus changed-life "happened," and we allowed our dreams to fizzle or even die. Is that the way it has to be? Do dreams come true for "ordinary" people? And if so, what does it take to make them happen? Author Mark Atteberry believes God has answered these questions in the life of Caleb, the boldest dreamer and achiever in all of Scripture.

In The Caleb Quest, Atteberry allows us to see that dreams don't come true by accident. On the contrary, fulfilled dreams are the result of clear thinking, strong faith, patience, and hard work. Geared to the everyday Christian, this biblical plan helps readers to test their dreams, identify "dream assassins," get God involved, accept His perfect timing, take action in pursuit of their dreams, and use their dreams to bless others. This inspirational book offers a realistic hope to anyone seeking to make a lifelong dream come true.

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The Caleb Quest

What You Can Learn from the Boldest Dreamer in the Bible
By Mark Atteberry

Nelson Books

Copyright © 2007 Mark Atteberry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-8784-1

Chapter One


You see things and you say, "Why?" But I see things that never were, and say, "Why not?" -George Bernard Shaw

I PICTURE THE MEN ASSEMBLING LATE ONE evening, emerging from the shadows to gather around a crackling campfire. They probably didn't know why they had been called, and some of them may well have felt irritated at the interruption of their evening's activities. But the summons had come from Moses himself, and that was enough to set them in motion. From all corners of the camp they came, twelve men in all, one from each tribe, the brightest and the best.

I can imagine Moses greeting the men one by one, renewing acquaintances and asking about wives and children. Perhaps the men were also greeting one another and whispering among themselves, speculating as to the reason why they were called. I'm sure they didn't have to wait long to find out. Having made the rounds, I picture Moses stepping toward the fire and asking the men to be seated. He probably thanked them for coming and then told them, without any hesitation, that he was calling upon them to undertake an important mission.

They would be sent as a team across the Jordan River and into the land of Canaan. Their job would be to spy out the land that God had promised to give the nation of Israel. As discreetly as possible, they would head northward into the hill country and evaluate the enemy cities, their fortifications, and the quality of the land itself. They were also instructed to bring back samples of the fruits and vegetables so the people of Israel could see for themselves that it was a bountiful land, one that would meet all of their needs when the time came to move in.

As Moses laid out the plan, I'm sure excitement passed through the group like an electric current. The sense of adventure that resides in such men needs only a nudge to set it spinning. If the customs of our day had been in vogue at that time, they probably would have been congratulating each other with high fives and pumping fists. I wouldn't be surprised if Moses had to temper their enthusiasm with a solemn reminder that it would be a dangerous campaign, lasting many weeks.

I picture the men dispersing quickly after the briefing. No doubt they were anxious to share the news with their wives and to think and pray about what lay ahead. Because they had lived for so many years as slaves in Egypt, none of them were experienced soldiers. Oh yes, they were plenty tough and capable. Hard labor and the crack of a whip across your back will make you as tough as a two-dollar steak. But none of them had any experience in clandestine operations. My guess is that, in spite of their outward expressions of machismo, they all did some tossing and turning that night, wondering how the mission would unfold and how it might change them.

Looking back, it's clear that one of those men was changed more than any other. His name was Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. What happened to him during those forty days of undercover work is something that happens to almost everybody, sooner or later: he found his lifelong dream.

What's odd is that he apparently wasn't looking for it. Over the years I've often heard it said that young people in particular ought to look for a dream. Books have even been written about how to find your heart's desire. But when Caleb stepped out of the Jordan River onto Canaan's fertile soil, there's no indication that he had anything on his mind other than fulfilling his mission.

Oh, how quickly and how dramatically our lives can change!

The moment he set his eyes on the hill country of Hebron, his heart began to pound like a hammer in his chest. He'd never seen a more beautiful place. And though it was inhabited by a race of giants, he began to imagine living and raising his family in those beautiful hills. The mere idea thrilled his soul and painted a thousand pictures on the canvas of his mind. And every one was a masterpiece.

As I've studied Caleb's story, I've come to the conclusion that the best dream is the one that finds you, rather than the one you have to find. I wouldn't dare suggest that a dreamless person shouldn't go looking for one. Perhaps many great achievers had to search for their dreams for many years. But when you are blindsided ... when the vision of something you'd like to be or do knocks you off your feet, you have every reason to believe it will become the great, driving passion of your life. And it's those great, driving passions that stand the best chance of coming true.

If you're a lover of the ocean, you're probably familiar with an artist named Wyland. He is the world's foremost painter of ocean art and is even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having painted the world's largest mural. It's a breathtaking ocean scene on the front of the Long Beach Convention Center that is-are you ready for this?-one-fifth of a mile long!

What's interesting is that Wyland was born with a clubfoot and endured eleven surgeries before his seventh birthday. Because he was unable to run and play with his friends and siblings, he often sat in the house and drew pictures. He demonstrated a special talent for art, but he never thought it would become his life's work.

Until one day when he had a head-on collision with his dream.

In 1971 he was visiting relatives in Laguna Beach, California. His aunt drove him to the beach and he sat there, staring out over the water. Suddenly and unexpectedly, two enormous whales broke the surface in a majestic display of power and grace. To this day, Wyland says that moment was a turning point in his life. Something about the sheer beauty of that scene made him want to use his artistic talent to help people understand and appreciate the wonders of the sea. He reasoned that if people came to love it, they would want to protect it.

As of this writing, Wyland has painted more than eighty public murals, which he calls Whaling Walls. These murals represent more than 64 million square feet of art, for which he has cheerfully donated his labor and at least eighty thousand gallons of paint. In addition, there are almost a quarter of a million Wyland collectors in seventy countries. Oh yes, and did I mention that he has also written five books and is working on a science curriculum with the Scripps Oceanographic Institute that will impact millions of school kids?

Every time my wife, Marilyn, and I visit the Wyland Gallery near our home, we are reminded of what can happen when a man and a dream collide.

Right now, do you have a dream?

I'm not just talking about something you're hoping for, but something you're living for. Something you think about every day. Something that quickens your pulse when it crosses your mind. Something that affects the decisions you make. Something you'd even be willing to risk your life for, if it came to that.

Do you have that kind of dream?

If so, then I'm glad God saw fit to place this book in your hands. Of all the people a passionate dreamer needs to get to know, Caleb is at the top of the list because he was a man who actually fulfilled his lifelong dream. It wasn't easy, as we will see. But he did it, and by taking a close look at his story, you and I can learn how to do it too.

The place to start is with the dream itself.

It's safe to say that there are good dreams and bad dreams. Dreams that are worthy of our time and effort, and dreams that are not. Dreams that will mold and shape us into better people, and dreams that will tear us down. Dreams that will draw us closer to God, and dreams that will carry us away from Him. A close look at Caleb's dream will reveal three reasons why it was a good one and, at the same time, give us the tools we need to assess our own.


From the very beginning, God made it clear that He wanted His people to inhabit the land of Canaan. Hundreds of years before Caleb was born, Abram and his family left Haran and entered the territory for the first time. Near a place called Shechem, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am going to give this land to your offspring" (Gen. 12:7). Caleb would have been well aware of that promise, which is, no doubt, the primary reason he held onto his dream for so many years with such unwavering confidence. It makes a world of difference when you know beyond any doubt that God is on your side!

Right now, it's important that you take a look at your dream in the light of what God has said. It doesn't matter how passionate you are about it or how relentlessly you're willing to pursue it. If God doesn't approve of your dream, then it's in serious trouble. Check out these powerful verses: "Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord ... Riches and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is at your discretion that people are made great and given strength" (1 Chron. 29:11-12, italics mine).

Read that last part again slowly, and let it sink in.

God is ultimately the one who determines who among us achieves greatness and receives strength. We often talk about successful people being lucky or in the right place at the right time, but clearly there's more to it than that. God is constantly helping some people and hindering others.

Do I understand all of His choices? Can I always explain why Person A gets His blessing and Person B doesn't? Absolutely not. His thoughts are much too deep for me. But I know this much: when it comes to my dream, I want His approval, not His disapproval. I want His favor, not His opposition. Therefore, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure my dream fits with His will. I want Him to look at me and say, "Yes, My son, I like what you have in mind."

I've often found it beneficial to take verses of Scripture and frame them in opposite terms. It's kind of like shining a spotlight on an object from the opposite direction. The object itself is unchanged, but you can discover features that you never noticed before. Take Romans 8:31, for example. Paul asked, "If God is for us, who can ever be against us?" That's a verse we love to quote because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But look what happens when you frame the question in opposite terms: "If God is against us, what difference does it make who's for us?" Packs a punch, doesn't it?

Listen, my dreaming friend, you simply must take a hard look at your dream and make sure it fits with God's will. Don't be afraid. Some people assume that God's will is a tiny island in an endless ocean of aspirations, but nothing could be further from the truth. God's will is, in fact, a vast territory that allows for a wide array of goals and desires.

So get out your Bible and see if your dream is compatible with what God has said. If it isn't, you're on your own. You have no reason to think you'll get any help from God. And without some help from the one who "rules over everything," what hope do you have of succeeding? In all honesty, you might as well close this book right now and go on about your business. Nothing you will read from here on will help you if you've already committed to a course of action that puts you in opposition to God.

On the other hand, if you've searched the Scriptures and know that your dream fits with God's will, then read on. You've already taken the first and most important step in the right direction.


Have you ever wondered why Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, when Caleb was just as faithful and committed? The reason undoubtedly had to do with their gifts. Deuteronomy 34:9 indicates that a special bond existed between Moses and Joshua, probably because Joshua was a natural-born student who loved to sit and learn at Moses' feet. They probably spent countless hours together, much of it one-on-one, as Joshua soaked up his mentor's accumulated wisdom.

Caleb, on the other hand, was more a man of action, as indicated by the fact that his motor was still running at the age of eighty-five (Josh. 14:10-11). He probably found it difficult to sit still long enough to be trained in the subtleties of diplomacy and political gamesmanship. He was the guy you called when you had a job that needed doing!

And so, Caleb's dream fit with his talents. Taking the hill country of Hebron was not something Israel could accomplish through diplomatic channels. It was going to be achieved on the battlefield, under the leadership of someone strong and courageous. Thus, it was the perfect dream for a doer like Caleb.

Have you ever evaluated your dream in the light of your talents?

Several years ago, a Major League Baseball team held a tryout near our home. It was open to the public, so I decided to stop by and check it out. About forty young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four had assembled with their cleats and gloves, determined to prove that they had big-league potential. For about an hour and a half, coaches put them through a series of hitting and fielding drills and timed them in the forty-yard dash. At the end of the day, not one of the young men was offered a contract.

To be honest, even my untrained eye could see that there wasn't a big-leaguer in the bunch. Several of them were overweight and slow, and one poor fellow took at least a dozen swings in the cage and never even hit a foul ball! Some of the guys were so pathetic, I actually found myself feeling sorry for them.

I don't want to rain on your parade, but before we get too far into this study, you might as well face up to the fact that there are some things in life you will never be able to do.

If you're tone-deaf, you'll never be an opera singer. (Rap, maybe, but not opera!)

If you have two left feet, you'll never be an Olympic gymnast.

If you can't stand the sight of blood, you'll never make it as a surgeon.

If you're six-foot-six and weigh 350 pounds, you have no future as a jockey.

Mark this down: God's blessings are always going to harmonize with His gifts.

Read that again slowly and let it soak in because it's one of the most important truths in this book.

God's blessings are always going to harmonize with His gifts.

In other words, He's not going to bless your efforts to achieve something that He hasn't gifted you to do. Romans 12:6 says, "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well" (italics mine). You can be sure that it will be in those "certain things" that you'll find His blessing.

And while we're on the subject of talents, let me mention one more thing.

I've heard it said that the secret of success is hard work; that you can be a success at anything if you're willing to work hard enough. While I agree that dreams don't come true without a lot of effort, I also believe that no amount of hard work will overcome a lack of talent. In other words, all the singing lessons in the world won't help you if you're tone-deaf.

So why take those lessons?

Samuel Johnson said, "Almost every man wastes part of his life trying to display qualities which he does not possess."

Wouldn't it make more sense to invest that time and energy in some talent you do possess? It sounds noble to say that you're going to work on your weaknesses, but wouldn't it benefit you more to work on your strengths? Then, instead of just being good at something, you could become great. Instead of just being one of the many, you could become one of the few. By working hard and reaching your highest potential in the area of your giftedness, you will move yourself ahead of all the people who may be equally talented but not as committed. And in a highly competitive world, that's an essential part of making your dream come true.


One of the first things you realize about Caleb's dream is that it was going to benefit the entire nation. Clearing the race of giants known as Anakim out of the hill country was something Israel would have to do, sooner or later, if the people were going to enjoy any degree of peace in their new homeland. That Caleb was itching to do the job was an unexpected and very welcome blessing for everyone.

Have you thought about how your dream would impact the people around you if it were to come true?


Excerpted from The Caleb Quest by Mark Atteberry Copyright © 2007 by Mark Atteberry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Atteberry is the award-winning author of eleven books. He has been the preaching minister of Poinciana Christian Church in Kissimmee, Florida since 1989. A popular speaker, he has preached and led workshops at countless churches, conferences, colleges, and retreats. He is married to Marilyn, his high school sweetheart.

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