Having a proper perspective is imperative to living the Christian life with the joy the of the Lord.

The big question is how do we obtain that proper perspective? Life is a little bit like a good novel. Well-written novels are usually unpredictable. Good authors often do not know how their novel will end when they begin to write. In the process of writing, the plot may take unexpected turns, keeping the reader in suspense (and sometimes the author). You don’t know where the plot of a good book is headed, but in the back of your mind, you expect the final chapter will bring a satisfying conclusion, explain the twists and turns of the plot, and clarify any questions raised. Most novels do not meet all those expectations.

I’m going to ask a question, but I’m quite sure that I already know the answer. When you are in the tangle of the novel’s suspense, are you ever tempted to flip to the last chapter, just to see if everything turned out OK? Real life has it tangles of suspense, also. As we live, we often ask:

Wouldn’t it be nice, if life was like the novel, and we could turn to the last chapter to see if it turns out OK? Well, interestingly enough, we can turn to the last chapter of life, not only our personal life but all life and see how it will turn out.

Revelation 21:1-8 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." 6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Christ said that He was and is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. In your heart of hearts you may be thinking, "Yes, in the first part of God’s book, He made everything good, and in the last part of God’s Book, He will once again make everything good, but I’m not living in the first chapter or the last chapter. I’m living somewhere in between, like chapter 10 and there doesn’t seem to be anything good in this chapter of my life!"

Ah, yes! That’s why we need a little perspective!

We know that in the beginning of God’s book ( Genesis 1 & 2), God declared that all things were very good. We can even agree that in the end of God’s Book (Revelation 21-22) all things will be good, again. With such a good beginning and glorious ending, it comes as a surprise or even a shock and total dismay to many Christians that the middle contains many bad things, such as: sorrow, disappointments, despair, tragedies, pain, etc. This misunderstanding stems from the fact that some expect the Christian life to be an uninterrupted experience of good times and they expect to be showered with a unending supply of good things. Often a Christian, with such a distorted perspective, finds that the middle chapters of God’s novel can take some pretty nasty turns, and those turns often leave them confused, disappointed, disillusioned and sometimes angry. When the false bubble of Christian living breaks, instead of trusting God for the middle, many throw up their hands in despair or retreat to a point of self-hypnosis in which they don’t look at reality as real and say that the stresses of life do not exist, because of their position in Christ. Therefore, they fall from the grace that God provided to take them through the hard times, and there are real hard times in every life, some more than others. Look at what Paul had to say about this grace for hard times, while living in the middle of this life long drama. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We don’t know just what that thorn was, but it must have been a real big nuisance that plagued his Christian living. This thorn was of such a quality that Paul went to the Lord three time pleading that it be removed. Paul never pled to have the stonings or the shipwrecks, etc. stopped but this thorn was different. It was through that thorn and his experience with that thorn that Paul learned a great deal about Christian living and his growth in grace. Not only so, it brought a complete change in his attitude and perspective to the things of life, as he lived in the middle of God’s time-long novel.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My, my! That sure is a different perspective to life and spirituality than we hear from some, who are trying to retreat from reality and stress. Wouldn’t it have been a shame (No, a sin) if Paul had deluded himself into thinking that the Christian life did not have thorns, such as: infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, distresses, etc.? What would have happened to Paul if, while he was living in the middle, he convinced himself that the Christian life was one of freedom from Spiritual battles over sin and from the stresses of a disciplined life? If that had been Paul’s attitude, he would have missed the wonderful grace of God that demonstrated the strength of God through Paul’s weaknesses. If Paul had tried to escape the thorns of life, by retreat either physically or emotionally, he would have fallen short of the grace of God.

Hebrews 12:15 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

If our lives are to have eternal purpose, we need to see that we are living in the middle of a time-long novel that was begun by God and will be concluded by God. My friend, our spiritual lives did not begin with us. Our spiritual lives began with God, and our purpose for living is not for personal gain, personal glory, or personal comfort But to allow the manifestation of the power and glory of God through our weaknesses. If you are searching for meaning in life, then you must look up to God, because the meaning to life begins above, not within. In novels, accidents and strange things happen to the characters, but they’re not really accidents, nor are they so strange because the author planned them. The accidents and strange things that happen to the characters were devised by the author for a distinct purpose.

In real life (your life) there are no accidents or strange happenings 
that escape the plan of God.

In the real life novel, as the plot thickens and troubles abound and we are caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty, if we have the proper perspective, that perspective will bring great assurance. God, Who is in control of the past and the future, the One who is the Lord of the beginning and the end, is also in charge of the middle. God said in…

Revelation 21:6 …It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…

Yes, God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the end. He is also the middle, as we see in…

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
We do not know what tomorrow has in store, 
but we can trust the One who holds tomorrow!

Some people do very strange things with the symbolism of the book of Revelation, and therefore, often miss the message of this final chapter of God’s time-long novel. That final chapter can be summed up in a few simple words:

God is in control of history. 
His rule is inclusive and absolute. 
He is sovereign over the beginning, the end, and the middle. 

If you gain no more than that fact from your study of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, you will have gained infinitely more than some, so called, theologians who claim to know all the ins and outs of God’s last chapter. In God’s time-long novel, there are no accidental occurrences or pointless encounters. Each happening is used by God for the purpose and benefit of our spiritual good. Let’s say a football team came to half-time and they were behind. I mean really behind! Through those first two quarters they'd taken a beating. A number of their starters had been injured. They had fumbled several times, had been intercepted time and time again. Their game was just not up to par.

But it’s only the middle. The game’s not over, yet. 

In spite of all those mistakes and failures, if the team could know with certainty that they would win the game, and even know the final score, you can be sure they would begin the 3rd quarter with confidence. Oh yes! Those last two quarters would still bring bangs, spills and injuries, but it would be worth it all, because in the minds of the players, they would know, in spite of it all, they will win!

Proper perspective brings assurance and confidence.

As individual Christians and as a church, we are somewhere in the middle. Our game’s not over yet. We don’t have to know the whole story, if we’re convinced there is a story, and if we’re trusting the Author for the conclusion and the middle. We are heading toward the finish. We are trusting the One who is the Beginning and the End to guide us through the middle, and give our lives meaning and victory—as we turn page after page of our life’s novel. Let’s examine a little closer some of techniques we need to live while in the middle, between the beginning of all good things and the end when all things will once again be good.

Mark 6:41-52 And when He [Christ] had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. 42 So they all ate and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. 44 Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men. 45 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against (contrary) them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

The Bible is clear! If you are a human, then time will bring contrary winds. If you are a Christian who is walking by the Spirit, you will have even more contrary winds in your life! In this text, we see some contrary winds that came into the lives of the disciples, while they were following the direct command of Christ. My friend, if you are following the Scriptures you too will experience contrary winds. In the life of a Christian, who is serving God, there will be opposition. There will often be things in our lives that cause us to wonder whether we will ever make any headway, no matter how hard we pull on the oars. Christ, Himself, faced many contrary winds. Just a few of those winds were:

Perhaps the most contrary of the winds facing Jesus was within his own followers. His disciples had so little faith that any time Jesus wanted to demonstrate His Lordship to the world, it was his own followers who gave him the most grief. I’m told that Walt Disney was a visionary and it is reported that he would only give his time and energy to a project if his entire board of directors was unanimously against the idea. Maybe he had been reading the Gospels and got the idea from Jesus! (I doubt that)

Psalms 90:10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Life is an uphill battle! Your family life, career, school, relationships and even the Gospel ministry is a daily challenge to just keep it all together. That is not to say there are no joys, satisfactions and great accomplishments, but the bottom line is that in all these things, there are contrary winds that if we succumb to them, we will be defeated.

It’s sometimes tempting to adopt the philosophy of Murphy’s Law that says: 
Whatever can go wrong, will... 
so just grin and bear it!

There are contrary winds in the ministry of the church:

There are contrary winds in a biblical family and work life:

Even this biblical passage faces contrary winds. Some liberal commentators say that Jesus didn’t really walk on the water. He walked along the shoreline, and the disciples’ boat drifted close to the shore in the fog. Therefore, it seemed to the disciples that Jesus was walking on the water. We are told, by some, that the water in some portions of the lake was only ankle-deep, and Jesus was just wading in the water, but it looked like he was walking on the water. (To believe those proposals takes either a lot of faith or a whole bunch of stupidity) The lists of explanations, given by some to discredit this and other biblical accounts, are almost endless and none of their arguments merit our study. The Bible says the boat was in the middle of the lake. It wasn’t close to the shore. Jesus climbed into the boat. That would have been difficult, if He was on the shoreline, and the disciples were in the middle of that lake. If the water was only ankle deep, how could a boat, large enough to hold a dozen full grown men, be tossed around in a storm while in only in 3 inches of water? If the disciples were only putting their oars into the in the water to the depth of 3 inches, then they weren’t very good boatmen.

This was a real storm with a real Christ walking on real waters. 

If God made those waters in the first place (and He did) then:

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Just in passing. Such infantile attacks on the Word of God would have little effect if our attention was on Christ and His Word, rather than on the false teachings and the false teachers. That too, is a part of a proper perspective!

There are many question we can and sometimes do ask when we have contrary winds:

However, the main question that needs to be answered is: Who's in control?

If God is in control, then we can be assured that He is the Beginning and the End the Alpha and Omega and He is the middle, also.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
Romans 8:35-38 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mark 6:45-52 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against (contrary) them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

Please note a few things about this situation in which the disciples encountered contrary winds. In verse 45, we are told that the Lord made the disciples get into the boat.

made [ Mark 6:45] = (Greek) to constrain because of a necessity

Christ knew that what was about to happen in that boat was needed by the disciples. Christ went up to the mountain to pray, and from that vantage point He could see the disciples. When Christ saw them in the middle of the sea straining at rowing, because of the contrary winds, it would have been about 6:00 pm or before. It was sunset time. Watch the timeline here. It will be important for our understanding of the lessons taught by Christ for us today, as we live and struggle in the middle of God’s time-long novel. The fourth watch lasted from 3 am to 6 am. So, Christ left the disciples on their own, in the storm, for about 8 hours. Remember, they were there by Christ’s command. Even more than a simple command, Christ made or constrained them to get into the boat.

I thought that if a person lived where God wanted them, 
then life would be a breeze, not a storm with contrary winds.

Some Christians revel or even gloat in the fact that everything is going right in their lives (at the present time) and such a situation would be reason for thankfulness to God. However, that may not be the sign of God’s blessing. It may simply be that you’re not willing to get in the boat and get involved with where Christ is trying to take you or send you. Sometimes the fact that you have no conflicts, no mountains to climb, no battles to wage is because, in the Army of the Lord, you may be AWOL! Be careful, now. The opposite is also true - great problems do not indicate God’s pleasure or displeasure. Remember Job? Everything that could go wrong did in his life. That didn’t mean God was ticked at him, neither does a quiet absence of conflicts mean God is blessing. Some people have much, and some little. Some people live in turmoil, others seem so serene. Some people have great affliction, and others are incredibly healthy, etc. We must recognize that sometimes Jesus compels us into the storms to face those contrary winds, because they will teach, condition and strengthen. It is that reality that allows us to say with the apostle, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Mark 6:48 states that Christ saw them straining at rowing.

saw [Mark 6:48] = (Greek) to see with knowledge
straining = (Greek) to torture

Christ looked down from the mountain and had full knowledge of the torture they were going through. Not only did Christ know what they were going through, He knew that they needed to go through that situation to learn to trust Him more.

Eight hours of torture is a pretty cheap education in the art of trusting Christ.

There are so many truths to learn from this passage, but we must press on. However, we do need to touch on a couple other facts.

Once again we must be careful. Just because Christ is in the boat dose not always mean that winds will cease. Sometimes, the winds start after He is in the boat.

Mark 4:36-40 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him [Christ] along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He [Christ] was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

Can’t explore the great lessons of this passage, except to point out again that just because Christ is in the boat does not mean that all circumstance will be rosy. There is one lesson we must not miss from the contrary winds episode. If we aren’t willing to look beyond the waves and see Jesus, we will miss Him entirely. He’ll walk right on by, not because He does not care, but if our minds are filled with the waves, there is no room in our minds for the creator of the waves. Peter learned this lesson on his encounter of walking on the water. Yes, we are living right smack-dab in the middle of God’s time-long drama. We are living between when God made all things good and the time when He will once again make all things good. Where we live, in the middle, we live with those contrary winds and we find ourselves straining at the oars just to keep from being swallowed by the waves.

Listen, my friend, even though we are in the middle, God will never leave us or forsake us, and He has a plan for your life and yes, He has a plan for the church. Gordon MacDonald, a track star from yesteryear and well-known Christian speaker and writer tells this story from his days of running track. Gordon wrote… When I first ran track in prep school, my coach invited me to his home for dinner one night. After the meal, he pulled out a notebook with my name on the front cover. He turned to the back page, which bore the heading June 1957three and a half years away. "Gordon," the coach said. "These are the races I’m going to schedule you to run almost four years from now. Here are the times you will achieve, in those races." McDonald says, "I looked at those times and thought: ‘Impossible!’ They were light years away from where I was at that moment, as a runner." Then my Coach began turning back the pages of that book, page by page, showing the 42 months he had scheduled for workouts. These were the graduated, accelerated plans for my increasing skill on the track, as the months and years would go by. My coach, wrote Gordon, had a sense of direction and development when it came to my athletic growth. The coach’s note book contained the plan for Gordon MacDonald’s success as a runner, but is was simply page after page of straining or torture. Really preparing for a track meet can only be described as torture. If Gordon had focused on the 3+ years of straining needed to achieve, he would have only been a spectator at best, but never a noted runner.

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It may not be your plan to spend time straining, but God’s plan is to develop you, so you can run the race with purpose and win. Allow God to use these contrary winds to grow-you-up Spiritually, to be more like Christ. In his book, Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes. There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller than he, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons, but the instructor wanted $5 a lesson. That was a lot of money. I found that it was cheaper to pay the bully, so I gave up karate. Please hear me. God has plans for you. It may take several pages of straining, because we live in the middle and there are contrary winds. God also has a great things planned for this church, however we must look past the stormy waves and see Christ or He will walk right past. Too many Christians believe it’s easier to pay the bully than learn how to defeat him.

We live on a  battlefield not a playground!
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2006