My friend Wayne Hastings is a pastor, author, speaker and business consultant. You can contact Wayne, and read his Blog, by visiting his website, waynehastings.com. He and his wife Pam live in Franklin, TN. His latest book “The Way Back From Loss” released this week. It’s a 60-day devotional focused on how, when we suffer loss of any kind. As a minister, we need this book. Here’s a sample of Wayne’s work.
Stuck in the Middle
“Christian living demands that we keep our feet on the ground; it also asks us to make a leap of faith. A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue.” —Eugene H. Peterson
Today’s Verse: “The Israelites grumbled and deplored their situation, accusing Moses and Aaron, to whom the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! . . . Is it not better to return to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:2–3 AMP)
Stealers Wheel recorded a hit song called Stuck in the Middle with You. It’s upbeat, but lines like “Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see that it makes no sense at all” reveal that it’s an anthem to many lost hopes, ideas, goals, and beginnings.
We begin many things in life with fanfare and celebration. New things start happening. The “change” word is bandied about. Plans and dreams are set in place. It all looks so good.
Then, in the middle, something happens. We get stuck. Whether it’s because of our feelings, circumstances, or the voice of the Deceiver, we slow down. We find ourselves flailing in the quicksand of the middle. The emotional high is lost, we can’t see the end for trying, and the energy for it all just slowly disappears.
The Israelites suffered in the middle. Initially, the former slaves were heading to the Promised Land and everything looked great. Seas parted, food rained down from heaven, and God’s light led their way. But, for some reason, they got stuck in the middle. An eleven-day journey took forty years and the original “team” never made it.
If any group “had it all,” it was this group. If any group should have never felt loss, it was this group.
So what happened? And how do we free ourselves from being stuck?
The Israelites lacked vision. When the twelve came back from spying out the Promised Land (Numbers 13 and 14), the people chose to be negative. While Joshua and Caleb saw riches, the other ten saw disaster. They lost vision of all the good that could lie before them. Instead of seeing positive possibilities for the future, they wanted to return to the bondage of the past.
They had unbelief. It’s a progression. Lack of vision leads to doubt, which leads to more unbelief: “This is too hard!” “Why did we ever start this?”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
They were disobedient. God set a clear path before them and yet they strayed from it. They let their own pride, desire, and plans get in the way of a perfect plan engineered by God.
Letting the middle get in the way will stop any progress or growth. People think they are doing fine just by getting near to a new beginning. But then excellence gets reduced to acceptable and mediocrity is just a breath away.
We need to battle through the fatigue of the middle.
INSIGHT: When we are in the middle of loss, it’s tempting to quit and just stay stuck in the middle. When you feel that temptation, look up, not back. Look up, not at your circumstances, feelings, or regrets. Look up and let God renew your vision and belief, and prompt you to obey Him.
PRAYER: Ask God to lead and guide you out of the middle. Seek His direction and vision. Ask Him to increase your patience and your courage to move forward instead of looking back.
• Study Numbers 13 and 14. Take note of the responses of three different groups of people: Joshua and Caleb, the other ten spies, and the people. Choose to follow the response that will help you out of the middle.
• Understand that in a season of loss, there will always be times when you feel stuck. Learn to recognize how it happens and choose to respond out of vision, faith, and obedience rather than your feelings, thoughts, or circumstances.
• Discover the courage to look at your situation. When you’re in the middle—discouraged and frustrated—ask yourself, “What do I want to be doing ten years from now? How do I want to have grown by that time?” Looking this far ahead can release you from today’s angst and remaining stuck in it.
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1980 and 2000), 171
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord Psalm 33:12
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
I sent out a couple of tweets recently that received some attention. They had the hashtag #ThingsGodMightSay and were intentionally designed to encourage people.
In my work, I always know a lot of struggling people. I see social media as an outlet for ministry.
So, I decided to expand on the theme.
Here are 20 #ThingsGodMightSay:
I thought about you today. A lot. #ThingsGodMightSay
I forgave you. Shouldn’t you forgive him? #ThingsGodMightSay
Don’t worry. I’ve got this. #ThingsGodMightSay
What do you think about the butterfly? Yea, I’m pretty proud of that one too! #ThingsGodMightSay
That love one another thing — I meant it. #ThingsGodMightSay
Did you miss the part about me being a jealous God? #ThingsGodMightSay
When you get time, can we talk? #ThingsGodMightSay
I wrote this book. Have you read it lately? #ThingsGodMightSay
No, it wasn’t a mistake. You just can’t see the whole picture right now. Just wait… #ThingsGodMightSay
I can tell — you’re worried again. You forgot about my promises to you, didn’t you? #ThingsGodMightSay
Have you thought about my son lately? Isn’t He wonderful? #ThingsGodMightSay
Restoring broken people. It’s kind of one of my specialties. #ThingsGodMightSay
Today’s a great day to follow me. #ThingsGodMightSay
I’ve loved you since the minute I thought of you — which was way before your time. #ThingsGodMightSay
Quit trying to be like everyone else. I’m pretty proud of who I designed you to be. #ThingsGodMightSay
Have you ever watched a child giggle? Yea, that gets me every time too. #ThingsGodMightSay
I love what you’re doing with Instagram, but you haven’t seen anything yet. #ThingsGodMightSay
Waiting doesn’t offend me. I’ve got plenty of time. #ThingsGodMightSay
You can trust me. Seriously. #ThingsGodMightSay
No matter how hard you try, or how good you are, this is NOT going to work without me! #ThingsGodMightSay
Feel free to tweet your favorite.
Let me be clear that I’m not assuming I have anything to say for God. He can and has spoken for Himself. Every time I preach I try to amplify His Word and help people apply truth to their life. That’s my goal here. It’s just an attempt to provide a fun, easy to read way to get concepts and encouragements of God into our minds. For ultimate truth, stick with what’s already been written — The Bible.
What would you share of #ThingsGodMightSay?
And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
The disciples had tried to drive out the demon. They had watched Jesus many times before. It didn’t seem at the time like something they couldn’t do. Jesus had said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can move mountains.”
Everyone was watching, too! What would they think if they weren’t able to get rid of this evil spirit? People might have thought less of them. They may have said, “You’re not really His disciples.” or “Look at you, you can’t do anything by yourself.” or “Where’s your faith?”.
Have you ever been afraid of what others would think about the amount of your faith?
So, humbly and privately they ask Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (verse 28)
Fair question, wouldn’t you agree? Why couldn’t they perform what seemed to be a simple task? Why couldn’t they do what they had been trained to do? What they had apparently already been given power to do?
“This kind”, Jesus said, “can only come out by prayer.”
Now there are plenty of commentaries on this passage, but what we can’t escape is the missing ingredient. Prayer.
I need to ask you to consider this next part of the post. The first part was about the disciples. This part is about you.
What are you trying to do today that can only happen…with success…by prayer?
Oh, you may be very spiritual. You may have great Biblical knowledge. You may even know the pastor personally. (Like that’s a big deal or something!) You may be a committed follower of Christ. You may have the “good attendance” pin. You may have a testimony. You know, the kind where everyone says “ooh” when you share it. You may be an example for others to follow. You may even give God the glory for great things He hath done!
But…you see — this kind — the kind you’re dealing with now — can only come out by prayer!
Today — whatever it is — no matter what people might think or say — turn it over to the God who loves you beyond your ability to understand! Let Him know you need Him and Him alone. Tell Him you realize that apart from Him you can do nothing!
PRAY! Pray like you’ve never prayed before.
Then get out of His way and let Him do His work!
You may now want to read THIS POST on prayer — Hezekiah’s example of effective prayer.
Is there something BIG that I can pray with you about?