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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Middle moments

To be strong implies we are robust, able to stand up to the test.  Strength can be viewed as mental power, physical ability, and even moral firmness.  It is something developed over time - not something which comes as a matter of inheritance.  In other words, you can desire to be strong, but what brings strength is the exercise of the strength you possess until you begin to reveal you possess an even greater strength.  Strength is sometimes not used the way God would intend for it to be used.  If you have ever been hit by another car, you know the reality of the collision.  The power behind the car which struck yours does damage to yours because of that "strength" behind the force of impact.  The weight of the car, the speed at which it is traveling, and the location at which it strikes your car all determine the "strength" by which your car (and your body) will receive the impact.  The collision's force leaves you stranded - if not because your car is now damaged, at least in emotional upset over the loss created by such a force.  When we possess mental, physical, and even spiritual strength, God wants us to use it as he would intend for us to use it - not in any manner which causes harm, destroys others, or leaves emotional scarring.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”  That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!  (Romans 15:1-6 MSG)

Strength is for service, not for status - true enough statement, but how do we put this into practice in our lives?  All we need in order to answer this question is to look at the very next statement.  We are to look after the good of the people around us - asking ourselves how it is we may help them in their time of both need and plenty.  We find it easy to help when someone is at their strongest, but how about when they are at their weakest?  Do we see them as a "drain" on us?  Do their problems seem like too much of a bother for us to get involved in?  Do we see their struggle as something they just need to "get over"?  If we are to use our strength for service (as Jesus did), then we need to be operating as Christ did - not in avoidance mode, but in embrace mode!  Jesus didn't avoid your troubles anymore than he avoided mine.  In fact, he embraced our troubles, taking them to the cross with him and dealing with them there.  

You may never know when the strength you possess is the strength which has been prepared in you to be used in meeting the needs of another.  We don't possess this strength just for our own use, you know.  We possess it to use it to help one another out wherever the need presents itself.  Sometimes it will be in overtly evident ways such as giving someone broken down on the side of the road a ride to the nearest service station, or loaning them your cell phone to place a call to towing company.  At other times, it may be your simple and frequent prayers on their behalf, at times and in ways they don't even recognize, but definitely feel because they are being made strong themselves to endure their present hardship.  Regardless of how it is we use our strength, it is to be used in service for others - not hoarded for our self.

There is a characteristic "trait" of those who are strong in the Lord - they are involved in the lives of others.  They don't pull back, isolate, and run from those times when things might get a little messier than they'd like.  In fact, if Jesus had of avoided the many "messy times" while he walked this earth, we wouldn't have the accounts of the woman with an issue of blood miraculously healed, the demon possessed set free, nor the centurion's ear reattached after being severed with the sword.  Jesus got right in the middle of the messes of our lives - from the moments of adulterous discovery, to the hours of agony over the loss of a loved one - he was right there in the middle of it all.  It is "in the middle" that we are most effective - for strength is meant for the "middle" moments!

My pastor aptly puts it this way:  The Bible is a "beginning, middle, new beginning" book.  I will go one step further with this idea.  I think Jesus is all about "beginnings, middles, and new beginnings" in our lives and he wants us to be involved in the middle of people's lives so they have the hope and potential of new beginnings!  This is our calling - to use the strength he gives to intervene in the middle of messes - in hopes of seeing the creation of a new beginning from the midst of the mess.  I had a friend when I was young who hated to clean her room.  She could never play until her room was cleaned up on Saturdays.  So, in order to have time to play with her, guess what I did?  Yep, you guessed it - I got right in the middle of her mess and started cleaning it up.  I suppose you might think she took advantage of my desire to spend time with her, leaving all that mess for me to clean up, but I saw it differently.  In doing this small task for her, we could spend time together.  What mattered most to me was the time we were together - not that it cost me twenty minutes of putting away clothes, toys, and books! 

What matters most to Jesus is that his children are drawn closer to him, deeper into relationship with each other, and away from the mess of their past.  What our part is in this is quite simple - to be in the middle of the mess, offering our strength in their weakness, and affording the help needed to see their "middle" become the launching pad for a new beginning in life. You up for a few "middle moments" today?  Just askin!