Dr. E. Dale Locke
Sermon Series: Start: Start Now, Start New, Start Over
Sermon 3: Middle Places
Dave Sanderson, who was the last person off the plane in the event that’s being featured in the movie “Sully,” is going to be with us on October 22 and 23 to share about how that incident set off a new start in his life.
- Each of us lives in a current reality. Sometimes that current reality is nothing like our preferred future. Describe a time in your life when your current reality fell short of how you would have preferred your life to be going. What was going on, and how did you feel?
- What helped you get through that time?
When our current reality is not in line with our preferred future, we are in a season that Pastor Dale called “middle places.” David is a great example of how to live well in the middle places.
- Read 1 Samuel 13:14, where the Prophet Samuel says to King Saul:
But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.
As Samuel considered who should be the next king after Saul, note what God said to him in 1 Samuel 16:7 – But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
- God led the Prophet Samuel to anoint David to replace King Saul as the next king of Israel, but David didn’t get to experience being king for many years. Instead, he had to live as just a shepherd and even as a fugitive running from King Saul’s unjust attempts to kill him. During one difficult time in his life, David wrote Psalm 23. Read that Psalm and notice how David handled difficult times.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
What do you notice here regarding how David handled this difficult time?
- God chose David because of some qualities that He saw in David’s heart. (See 1 Samuel 16:7 above.) Our heart is the center of our emotions and our will. It’s where our motives come from. Read Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
It’s impossible to navigate the middle places well, without guarding your heart carefully. Why is it so important to “guard our heart”, especially when we’re in the “middle places” where our life isn’t going the way we had hoped it would?
- David’s life teaches us five things about the middle places:
- A small beginning can discourage me
- David wasn’t even considered as a possibility when the Prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s home to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. David’s father didn’t even call him in from watching the sheep, because he was so sure David wouldn’t be chosen. Have you ever found yourself discouraged by a small beginning? Describe that time.
- Read Luke 16:10: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
What does Luke 16:10 tell you about how to handle small beginnings?
- A long journey can weary me
- Read Galatians 6:9-10: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Is there any area of your spiritual life where you are getting weary? If so, what is God saying to you about how to deal with that?
- Difficult people and difficult circumstances will oppose me
- Read 1 Samuel 13:14 where the Prophet Samuel broke the news to King Saul:
“But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
But Saul did not accept this news gracefully. Instead, he sought to kill David in order to hang on to his own kingship. David endured many years of King Saul’s unfair opposition. For us today, God has not promised that following Him would be easy. Why doesn’t God just make life easy for those of us who follow Him?
- Missteps and mistakes don’t define me
- We all mess up. We can decide whether we will let those mistakes and failures define us or not. David’s affair with Bathsheba was one of his darkest moments. This moral failure came at a time when David let his guard down. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be (he should have been out fighting with his army.) He was alone, rather than living in community with others. Living in isolation is especially dangerous to our faith journey.
Who do you currently have in your life, who can help you through times when you are weary – holding you accountable and supporting you – to help you avoid a major moral failure? Talk with your group about how you can help each other.
- Read Hebrews 7:25: Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
What does this verse tell you about your failures and mistakes?
- God’s presence can be a refuge to me
- Read Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Talk with your group about how God has been a refuge and strength for you personally in times of trouble.