Joel Osteen — Faith For The Middle
I want to talk to you today about "Faith for the middle". It's easy to have faith at baby is born, you marry that beautiful girl, you start that business, that's exciting, there's adrenaline flowing. It's easy to have faith at the end, when you can see the finish line, the dream is in sight, you've fought the good fight.
Having faith at the start and faith at the end is no problem, the real challenge is having faith in the middle. When it's taking longer than you thought, when you don't have the funds, when the medical report wasn't good. That little baby you were so excited about, he was so cute, he couldn't do any wrong. Now he's a teenager. You're convinced he's not your child. You're having his DNA tested next week.
The mistake we make is we get discouraged "God, I know you gave me this child, but he's making my life miserable. God, you brought this spouse into my life, but there's conflict. God, you blessed me with this business but I don't have the funds I need to. In the middle is where most people lose the battle. But God never promised that we would reach our destiny without opposition, without disappointments, without things we don't understand.
The scripture says, "Don't think it strange when you face fiery trials". That means don't be upset because that person did you wrong. Don't start worrying because business went down. God is still on the throne. Nothing that's happened to you has stopped his plan for your life. He's not in the heavens scratching his head thinking, "Oh man that one threw me off. I didn't see that bad break coming".
What God promised you he still has every intention of bringing it to pass. I know you can have faith at the start, I know you can have faith at the end. My question is will you have faith for the middle? When it's not happening the way you thought. When it seems like you're going backwards, every voice tells you to give up. "You must have heard God wrong. You wouldn't have this opposition if you were on the right course". Don't believe those lies. It's all a part of the process.
Here's the key: when God puts a dream in your heart, he'll show you the end, he gives you the promise, but he won't show you the middle. If he told us all it was going to take to see it come to pass, many times we would talk ourselves out of it.
In the scripture, an angel appeared to a young teen age girl named Mary. He said, "Mary, you are highly favored of God. You're going to have a baby without knowing a man. He will be the Messiah, the Mavior of the world". God showed her be the mother of Christ, have honor, be respected and admired for generations to come. I'm sure Mary was excited. She couldn't believe it was happening.
But years later, I can hear Mary saying, "God, you didn't tell me having this baby would cause my fiance to want to call off the engagement. You didn't tell me I would have this baby in a manger with smelly animals. You didn't tell me I would have to live on the run two years, trying to hide my baby from king Herod. You didn't mistreated, mocked, ridiculed. I'd have to watch him be crucified, die a painful death".
What am I saying? God doesn't give us all the details. What you're facing may be difficult, you don't understand it; it doesn't your faith has to kick in. Are you going to get discouraged and talk yourself out of it? Or are you going to do like Mary and say, "God, you didn't tell me that these people would do me wrong, you didn't tell me I would be dealing with this illness, you didn't tell me business would be slow, but God, I know you're still on the throne, this is not a surprise to you. It's a part of the process. So I'm not going to live discouraged, I'm not going to give up on my dreams, I'm going to do like Mary and have faith in the middle".
This is what Joseph did. God gave him a dream that he would rule a nation; that his brothers would bow down before him. God showed him the end. The promise was planted in his heart. But what God didn't show him was the middle. Years later, when Joseph was ruling the nation of Egypt, one of the most influential people of his day, the dream I can imagine Joseph saying, "God, you told me that I would take the throne, but you didn't tell me my brothers would be jealous and throw me into a pit. You showed me the kingdom, but you didn't show me along the way I would be sold into slavery. You didn't tell me I would be falsely accused and put in prison for something that I didn't do".
If Joseph were here today he would tell you: Don't get discouraged in the middle. Don't give up when life doesn't make sense. You know the promise is in your heart. You know God has told you that you'll be healthy again, that you'll see your family restored, that you'll meet the person of your dreams, but every circumstance may say just the opposite. It looks like you're going the other direction. Do like Joseph: keep believing, keep being your best. God has not brought you this far to leave you. He hasn't failed you in the past; he's not going to fail you in the future. Don't get discouraged by the process.
See, the start is fun, the end is exciting but the middle can be messy. In some way, we're all in the middle. We're all on a journey. There are things that you're believing for. You know God has planted that seed. But over time it's easy to get discouraged and think, "Oh, Joel, it's never going to happen, there are too many obstacles". God has you hearing this to breathe new life into your dreams. What he's promised you is already en route. The process has already been started. The healing, the right people, the new business, the breakthrough, it's already on the way.
Now do your part and have faith for the middle. David could have said, "God, you promised me I would be the king but you didn't tell me I would have to face a giant twice my size. You left that detail out. You didn't tell me king Saul would chase me through the desert and try to kill me. You didn't tell me my own son would turn on me and try to take the throne".
When you study the great heroes of faith, one common denominator you will find is they had faith for the middle. When it looked impossible, when the promise seemed a long way off, they kept moving forward knowing that it was a part of the process.
I can still remember in a restaurant when a friend of mine told me that the Houston rockets basketball team was going to move out of the compaq center and this facility was going to come available. When I heard that, something came alive supposed to be ours. God showed me the end. I could already see us in here having services, touching the world. Looking back now, I realize what God didn't show me, that it was going to take two years to try to convince ten city council members to vote for us. He didn't show me one of the largest companies in Texas would file a lawsuit to try to keep us from moving in. He didn't tell me it was going to cost a hundred million dollars to renovate.
Sometimes God leaves out certain details on purpose. If he would have told me I would be responsible for those funds, I would have said, "God, we're fine with our old location". I would have settled for less than his best.
There's a reason we don't know all the details. We wouldn't move into the fullness of our destiny because none of us like adversity. We like to be comfortable. But you won't become all you were created to be without opposition, without disappointments, without struggles that cause you to stretch your faith, to grow, to develop your spiritual muscles.
When God brought the israelites out of slavery, they were headed toward the promised land. God showed them the destination, the land flowing with milk and honey. He got them started, but in the middle he didn't say, "I gave you the promise, now you're on your own. Good luck in the middle". No, all along the way, God supernaturally provided for them. He gave them manna, something like bread, to eat each morning out in the desert.
When they wanted meat, God shifted the direction of the winds and hundreds of thousands of quail came into the camp. When they were thirsty and couldn't find a stream, God brought water out of a rock. He protected them from enemies that were much bigger and more powerful. When pharaoh changed his mind and came chasing after a dead end at the Red Sea and they had nowhere to go. It looked like they were done. God supernaturally parted the waters and took them through on dry ground.
Again and again, God showed them favor, made things made happen. God was showing us, "I'm not just the God of the start, I'm not just the God of the finish, I'm the God of the middle. I'm the God who will bring you through the storm, through the trial, through the difficulty".
When you're in the middle, God's given you the promise. Like the israelites, you know your destination, but you're en route raising that baby, believing for your healing, you're running your business. Along the way, you'll face situations like them where it looks impossible, the odds are against you; the opposition is much stronger. Be encouraged. The God of the middle is right there with you.
There may be some Red Seas in your path. It seems like you're stuck, the good news is God knows how to part the waters. He knows how to make a way. You may not have the funds you need to go to college, to run your business, but God knows how to shift the direction of the winds and bring quail into your camp, so to speak. God can still bring water out of a rock.
The scripture says, "You'll go through the flood but you will not drown". Why is that? The God of the middle is with you. It goes onto say, "You'll go through the fire but you won't be burned. You'll go through the famine but you won't go hungry". You may be in the fire, in the flood, in "You're not saying there, you're going through it".
When you're in the middle, you have to remind yourself this too shall pass. It's temporary. Now quit giving so much energy to something that's not going to last. Quit wasting time worried about the situation at work, discouraged over the medical report, upset over what they said. That's not your destination; you're only passing through. The trouble is not permanent, the sickness, the legal situation, the loneliness, it's just a step along the way. But if you make the mistake of letting it overwhelm you and get discouraged, then you'll settle there and let what should have been temporary become permanent. This is where many people miss it; they give up in the middle. I'm asking you to keep moving forward.
Psalms 138, "The Lord will work out his plan for your life". It doesn't say we have to happen in our own strength, be frustrated when it's not happening the way we thought. No, we can stay in peace knowing that the Lord, the God who created the universe, the God who spoke worlds into existence, he's promised he will work out his plans for your life. Sometimes it does feel like we're going backwards. We know we should be going that way; we're going just the opposite. But God knows what he's doing. His ways are better than our ways.
Right now he's behind the scenes in your life, working out his plans. That means he's arranging things in your favor, he's moving the wrong people out of the way, he's lining up the breaks you need. You may not see anything yet but you have to walk by faith and not by sight.
See in the middle, Joseph could have said, "It's never gonna work out. I'm a slave, in prison, in a foreign land. You're telling me I'm going to rule a nation"? What Joseph couldn't see was behind the scenes God was working out the plan for his life. In the middle, David could have said, "I'll never take the throne. I'm a shepherd boy, from a low income family. I don't have the the experience". But God is not dependent on what you don't have. When he breathed his life into you he equipped you with everything that you need.
What you think you don't have enough of, the favor of God will make up for it. His anointing on your life will cause you to go further than people that have more talent than you do in the middle. Abraham could have said, "We'll never have a baby, that's impossible. We're too old". But what he couldn't see was behind ordained a little baby named Isaac that had Abraham and Sarah's name on it.
You may not see how your dream could come to pass. Medically speaking, you won't get well, it doesn't look like you'll ever break that addiction, on your own you're out of luck. The good news is you're not on your own. You're not doing life by yourself. Your Heavenly Father, the Most High God is working out his plans for your life. There may be some obstacles that look insurmountable, but God has the final say. When you have faith for the middle, God will make things happen that you could never make happen. He'll turn situations around that look impossible. He'll take you further than you've imagined.
Paul said in ephesians, "Put on the armor of God so that in the day of trouble you can stand". In life, we will all have days of trouble, days of disappointments, days of opposition. But the same God that said there will be a day of trouble also when that trouble comes to an end. You may be in a difficultly right now. Be encouraged, it's temporary. That trouble has an expiration date. God has already set an end to it. You're in the middle but at the appointed time, the end will come.
That legal situation, it's just one of those days of trouble that God talked about. Instead of being discouraged, remind yourself, "This trouble is not permanent. It has an expiration date. Just like there's a day of trouble, God has a day of deliverance, a day of healing, a day of abundance, a day of breakthroughs.
This couple I know have a son that was addicted to drugs for over 20 years. These parents are good people, they love God, they're always giving and serving, but somehow their son got on the wrong course. Year after year went by, changing. But I never heard these parents talk about the problem. I never once heard them complain, "God, why did this happen to our son, we don't understand it"? They were in the valley but they didn't make the valley their home.
They knew just as there was a day of trouble, when their son was addicted, there was a day of deliverance, set by the Creator of the universe where their son would be free from that addiction. They had done everything they could. They prayed, they believed, they sent him to rehab but none of that worked. A few months ago, some people that worked with this young man took a special interest in him. They're not even believers, paid his way to go through treatment. This time it was successful.
Now for the first time in over 20 years he's completely clean. He has no desire for any of those drugs. What happened? He came into his day of deliverance. What his parents couldn't do, God had somebody to do for him.
When you have faith for the middle, God will make things happen you could never make happen. You may be in one of those days of trouble right now. Trouble in your health, in a relationship, in your mind. It's easy to think, "It's never going to change, I'll always be depressed. I'll always struggle in my finances. I'll always struggle with this addiction". No, you need to get ready. Like this young man, God is saying, "Your day of deliverance is coming, your day of freedom, your day of joy, your day of victory is on the way".
Mark chapter 4, Jesus had been teaching thousands of people. It was late in the day. He said to the disciples, "Let's go to the other side of the lake". They got in a boat and began to travel there. But along the way they encountered a huge storm. The scripture describes it as a furious squall of hurricane proportions. The winds were so strong they thought the boat was going to capsize. The waves were coming up over the top of it.
The disciples were so panicked that Peter ran down where Jesus was sleeping and said, "Jesus, wake up, we're in the middle of a storm. We're about to die". Jesus woke up and he spoke to the storm and everything calmed down. What's interesting is Jesus knew there was going to be a storm before they left that everything. Why did he tell them, "Let's go to the other side", if he knew there was going to be a hurricane, a major storm? Because he also knew that storm could not keep them from their destiny. He knew there would be difficulties in the middle, but when he declares, "We're going to the other side", all the forces of darkness cannot stop him. He's going to make it to the other side.
In the same way, when God puts a promise in your heart, when he speaks into your destiny, you don't have to be moved by the winds, worried by the storms, upset and panicked because there's a few hurricanes along the journey. God controls the universe, what he's spoken over your life will come to pass. The reason Jesus didn't wake up on his own in the middle of that storm is because he knew the disciples could handle it. If they were all going to die, he would have gotten up without them having to wake him up.
When we're in a storm, a lot of times we do like Peter. We get all upset, panicked, "God, you've got to help me God. God, you've got to fix this right now". The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he's ignoring you, not because he's uninterested, it's because he knows you can handle it. He wouldn't have allowed that storm if it was going to sink you.
Now quit being upset over something you can handle. Quit worrying about that situation at work. God is not ignoring you. He knew there would be a storm before he sent you out. He's not waking up because he's growing you up. He's teaching you to have faith for the middle. If he came running every time we had a difficulty, our spiritual muscles would never develop. We would never really trust him. But when you're calm despite what comes against you, that's a sign of maturity. That's a sign you have faith for the middle.