Those who choose to live on middle ground share certain characteristics. The characteristics of the two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) can be found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Their Hebrew names expose them.
Reuben means, “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “…unstable as water, thou shalt not excel….” Reuben went into his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, said of him: “Then you defiled it—He went up to my couch.” (see Genesis 49:4).
Reuben had eyes only for this world—its lusts, it things, its pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.
Gad means, “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He provided the first part for himself…” (Deuteronomy 33:21). This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self-interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.”
Manasseh means, “To forget, to neglect.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son and he should have received the birthright. But even in his childhood there was a sad trait developing and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father Joseph and neglect the commandment of the Lord.
Consider these combined traits of middle-ground Christians: Unstable as water in spiritual convictions; never excelling in the things of God; lukewarm, weak with lust; ruled by selfish needs; neglecting the Word; not taking the Lord’s commandments seriously; making their own choices instead of trusting God; forgetting past blessings and dealings; unwilling to let go of certain idols; justifying their own decisions; not willing to die to all that would seduce them back to middle ground!
Let us determine to want the Lord’s fullness. God’s desire for you is to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. That required following him “with all the heart, all the strength.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible promise to God’s people.
This promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?
Paul wrote this epistle “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him.
These “faithful ones” fully understood that “God…raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). They knew they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (1:5). God had brought them into his family, because when they heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it.
Many forgiven, cleansed and redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. How can this be? It’s because many never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.
In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. Therefore, if we’re in Christ, then we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we’re sitting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, Jesus is in paradise. But the Lord also abides in you and me. He has made us his temple on the earth, his dwelling place.
Every generation of Christians must check itself to discern whether its mission and actions are God-honoring. We continually have to ask ourselves, “Are we still serving the Lord and our neighbor faithfully and sacrificially? Or have we drifted into a ‘bless me’ mentality?”
Christ knew exactly where the masses’ hearts were when they began following Him. “You want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 6:26). Why does Jesus refer to “miraculous signs” here? Think about what a sign does. It points to something, it isn’t the thing itself. When a road sign reads, “Denver 60 Miles,” we know we’re not in Denver yet but we’re on the way. In the same way, Jesus was letting the disciples know that the loaves and fishes weren’t the point. They revealed the loving care of the heavenly Father. His miracles are signs of His care for us.
The crowd’s response revealed their hearts. “Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). They were playing Moses’ example against Jesus. It was arm-twisting, like a child who goes to each parent trying to get what he wants. Do we look for God in our midst or do we merely seek His provision? Let’s be honest, often when we pray we want an answer now, today, this hour. That’s an unfortunate trait of our world’s “have it all now” culture. In a spiritual sense, we lack a tremendous value: to know that by faith we’ll eventually see great blessings.
For the Christian, knowing God isn’t about being “blessed now.” The Lord won’t bend to our lusts to give us everything we want—when we want it. His desire is to have a relationship with us—an ongoing, long-term relationship that bears lasting fruit. So His blessings aren’t the end-all of the relationship; they’re signs of His faithfulness and compassion—traits that any of us would covet in a relationship. Christ’s miracles were evidence of those beautiful traits.
One day Jesus sent his disciples across the lake by boat while he went to a mountainside to pray alone. Soon the winds kicked up and started tossing the boat to and fro, so Jesus decided to walk out on the water to help the disciples. Here’s how Matthew 14:25-29 recorded what happened next:
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Notice how the disciples responded when they saw Jesus walking toward the boat. They became terrified and cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost!” How could they not have recognized him? Shouldn’t they have expected him to do something this miraculous? They were in trouble and you’d think they would have been watching for Jesus to come to their aid. Yet when they saw him, their doubts rose to the surface.
But Peter’s reaction was different. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” He believed in God’s power and he was able to put aside his doubts and fears. Peter saw the miracle for what it was and because of it, he was able to walk on water along with Jesus. He didn’t just see the miracle, he experienced it — he lived it.
Far too often you and I are like the disciples. We want to believe, but our humanity causes us to doubt. It’s not surprising that we have trouble believing such things, because Satan is a master at casting doubt. It’s what he does best. “God doesn’t really do miracles today,” he whispers into our ear. “That’s just an illusion. That’s not Jesus walking on the water; it’s just a ghost.”
Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). God’s power has not diminished and don’t ever let Satan convince you otherwise. The deceiver will try to deceive you but don’t ever doubt the power and authority of the living God.
Believe what you see and see what you believe. It is not a ghost — it is Jesus!
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
We hear a lot about hope — from politicians, from books, from multimedia. But what is offered in each of these messages doesn’t seem to last. We may get fired up and encouraged by what we hear in such messages; indeed, we may find ourselves refreshed and hopeful for a season. But what is offered is not a fixed, experienced hope and it soon fades away.
The entire world is yearning for a steadfast hope. Hope is not a feeling. How many times has your expectation for something good failed you? How many times has your human hope been crushed? The inner cry of multitudes around the globe right now is, “Somebody, somewhere, please give me some hope, something that will last.”
Many wonderful books have been written by people who maintained hope through their awful tragedies and hardships. Their testimonies encourage us, giving our faith a great lift. But, again, our hope fades whenever a severe trial arises in our own lives. The sufferings we endure dash whatever steadfast hope we thought we had.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “Sorrow [not] as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The book of Hebrews tells us we have a “hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Hebrews 6:18-19). In short, the path to hope begins with being fully assured that we are right with God. We’re talking about the assurance that we have peace with God: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Likewise, Paul prays, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). According to Paul, when it comes to the subject of hope, the work of the Holy Spirit must be involved.
In a famous old hymn of the church, Edward Mote wrote, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Indeed, this is peace: to believe God’s promise that by faith in Christ’s shed blood, he considers me righteous. And his righteousness is conferred on me not by any good I have done — it is all by faith.