The Middle Blog

[Notes made from talk by Lisa Parkes]

In the last few weeks, we looked at how we could be bold in our prayers, not just to pray to be safe, but to ask God for a change, to ask him how he can use us to make difference locally. We also looked at resetting the church, especially after lockdown, not like we used to be before, but resetting in what God wants.

Sometimes we feel like we need to be in control in whatever situation we are in. We often attempt to regain the control, to take the lead. Nothing ever feels right. The more out of control we feel, the stronger the urge to retain what control we have and to gain more. My eldest son is learning how to drive, and when we are on the road it’s so tempting to take back control of the car, to be in the driver’s seat when things are going wrong. It’s unsettling. As a rewind from last week, we looked at how following Jesus was never meant to be an easy, safe, and comfortable drive. It meant that he was in control. He was the driver.

But how distracted are we from what God really wants from us? And are we allowing him to be in control of our lives, to take the driver’s seat?

On our journey, we often, without realising, subtly divert. Where God was once in the driver’s seat, we are again. Approval, success, selfishness can be in the driver’s seat.

He never leaves or forsake us.

But we leave him, we ignore him, we turn the volume down.

In the book of Luke, Jesus’s parents lost him for 3 days! Not just 3 minutes but 3 days. They were so used to Jesus following them that they haven’t noticed he was missing. They assumed he was with them.

We often assume that Jesus is in our life, company, church and so on. We should not assume and say, ‘God bless this because I want to do it.’ But say, ‘God if it’s your will then bless it.’

The Middle
Whatever we do in life there are three places we find ourselves in, whether we set out to study for a degree, plant a church, build a marriage, create a family or even a career. With everything we do in life there are always three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end.

The beginning is the easiest – there is excitement, like bringing home a new-born baby, or when you first start a relationship and fall in love. It’s exciting! We prayed about it… we are ready to barge into a new chapter of our life – let’s do this!

The end is a satisfying accomplishment. The Bible talks about the joy that comes in completion, like finishing a race when we finally cross the finish line. Jesus experienced a joy as he endured the cross, knowing once and for all death would be conquered. “It is finished,” he declared (John 19:30).

However, I want to speak into the most difficult part we find ourselves in: the middle – THE LONGEST STRETCH. The most precarious bit…

In the middle is where we are most likely to lose faith or subtly take back control and, in the process, lose Jesus. The middle is where we can lose momentum to keep going.

In Mark 6:45 Jesus asked his disciples to row to the other side of the lake. These men were fishermen after all. They knew about boats and rowing; this was an ordinary task. He told them to travel to Bethsaida, and that he would meet them there.

But then it was in the middle of the lake when the winds came.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them (Mark 6: 47-48).

What I have recognised is the enemy prowls the most in our lives in the middle… not at the start when it’s all exciting! He whispers on the winds of our lives and wants to distract us from crossing the finish line – winds that pull us back, begging us to give up.

But it is in the middle where we truly discover what’s in the middle of us!

The disciples are “straining at the oars,” and Jesus was just watching! What?! Why is this? I wonder if it was like one of those parenting moments that I have been in myself, maybe you can relate, where your child is struggling with a new task or has fallen in the middle of their sports day race. Sometimes I knew it was best to leave them – it was an opportunity for them to grow in resilience. It wasn’t always the best thing for me to come running straight across to them.

The winds the disciples experienced can cause fear, doubt, and confusion. Where are you God? Why are my prayers not answered. Some of us might be straining at the oars in our marriages, in our relationship with God, our jobs, our calling, our family, straining at the oars of self-control… and then we’re like, “God do you see…?” Well, I think God wants you to know he sees you. In that strain, he is looking on and he sees you, just like Jesus does in this story.

Greater is he who is in you, who is stronger than the winds and waves you are facing right now – he who will meet you in the middle.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (Mark 6:48 )

Everyone else had seen Jesus in sandals. But only those who are brave in the middle, who keep rowing towards instructions given – they see Jesus who walks on water! There is a power of God that you find in the middle that you do not see on the shores… it won’t entertain you, but it will sustain you.

When Jesus approached them as they were filled with fear, he said 3 things to them:

“One, take courage! Two, it is I. Three, don’t be afraid.”

  1. God is saying to you, “Take courage – you can pick it up.” He is available for all not just a few.
  2. God is saying to you, “It is I,” the one who sees you in Bethsaida, crossing the finish line.”
  3. He said, ‘Do not fear.’ Don’t let those winds rob you of your joy or your future.

Let us pray:
Lord, I want to thank you, that you see us in the middle. Though we are weary and doubting, you see us. As you declared to your disciples when they were straining at the oars, give us courage to fight our battles. Let us know that you see us, you hear our cries, and you will be here encouraging us and giving us strength to keep going, even when the whispers and the winds sent by the enemy are against us. You are bigger than those winds, you are greater. Father, I pray you would strip us of our fear, don’t let the fear that covers our eyes, rob us of our future and the joy you are planning for us. Let us see the joy, the satisfaction of completion, as Jesus Christ himself saw through the cross. We pray in your holy and loving name. Amen.