Balance


For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1: 17

 

Faith does not exclusively belong to religious minded people, for everyone exercises faith all of the time and during each day of our lives. For example, it takes a form of faith to trust that the air outside is safe to breathe, faith is required by people to cross a bridge or to enter a large building, and faith in the basic civility of others is certainly needed when we venture forth into public and believe that we will not be harmed in the process. We live in an environment that operates out of faith in its fundamental design and construction, and in so doing, we actually enter into one of the most basic forms of faith in God, Himself. Now, in order to recognize this specific aspect of faith, it is necessary to accept that God, in some form, is the one who made, devised, or created the physical universe and all of its components. Still, this is something that most people do in fact embrace to some degree; so, they enter into faith in God as they accept His creator role.

 

Yet, faith in God has a considerably more important place in this listing of aspects of existence that are built upon some form of faith. For, faith in God does, in fact, lead to a reshaping of life, itself. It helps to define what it does mean to truly be alive. People were designed, devised, and made to live rightly in relationship to each other and to our world. This righteousness is the state of being that brings us into the most balanced and healthy of relationships with other people, and it allows us to engage in living in a manner that brings out all of the gifts, talents, and skills that we possess intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Righteousness requires us to look outside of our own wishes and wants and toward the needs and desires of others as we set our personal goals and objectives for life. It is righteousness that leads people into engagement with the world around us in order to understand points of view beyond our own and so that we can enter into bringing about healing for those aspects of creation that we have caused to become broken.

 

Acceptance the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an act of faith, for in so doing we enter into a relationship with God that is based upon agreement with Him and submission to Him in all matters concerning what it means to be a person and to live out that reality as a follower of Christ. The terms of this agreement are written in a book that was completed thousands of years ago by people who were far removed from our world today, and its content was given to those authors by the Spirit of God in a manner that always contains some form of the mystical in its description. Today we still submit to and engage with the Spirit as God reveals Himself and speaks truth, counsel, and encouragement to our hearts and our minds; so, in this process of engagement with God in all three of His persons, we are living squarely in the center of the arena that is defined as faith. This is the place where we are made alive by Christ in the ways that God designed us to be truly and fully alive, and this place called faith is where we are led by Christ into living out the calling that He has for us so that the days that we possess are full of His life-giving presence.

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Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one.

1 Corinthians 8: 4

 

As we start out today, I am making an assumption, and that is that very few of us are concerned about the consumption of foodstuffs that were previously used as sacrifices to various types and forms of gods or in other religious practices. This was a real issue in Paul’s world, and it is simply not as obviously pervasive in ours as it was in his. Yet, the fact that idols exist is something that I think is important for us to consider in our culture and in our lives, and almost in contrast to the approach that Paul took toward the sacrificial foods, I think that the way that we feed our idols and the idolatrous foods that we consume are important to consider.

 

We live in an age of consumption. It often seems that the primary fuel that feeds our world is made up of the goods and the services that we can purchase and utilize for the sake of personal enjoyment, pleasure, and self-worth appeasement. These things that take on great importance to us are not very different from the idols that were so prevalent in Paul’s times, for they too demand our attention, bring us to a place of worship for their sake, and engage our passion as disciples to their cause and of their personage. We can each look introspectively at our lives and into our hearts in order to determine where this sort of over zealous commitment to things of this world might be found. They can be relatively minor in their impact upon living for Christ, and they can be powerfully consuming and devastating to the same purpose and calling.

 

Regardless of the depth of commitment to the idol or of the amount of personal resource it demands from us, everything that ascends to this level of ownership over us is something that drives its wedge of distraction and distance between Christ and us. Anything that takes us away from our ability to focus on the Lord’s calling and commission for our lives or that places itself above Christ in priority for us, even if this is only momentary in duration, is an idol, and it will demand that we feed it out of the precious resource that is our love, devotion, and submission to righteousness. Fortunately Paul also gives us an answer to this universal challenge. He points us toward the one singular truth that changes everything in the fact that there is only one real God. All of these other things are false and are made by our hands out of the raw materials that God, Himself, created for us. So, everything in life that takes us away from serving Christ with the fullest possible expression of our heart and the complete engagement of our passions can and should be placed behind Christ so that all of our being is dedicated without distraction or diversion to service to our God.

 

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.”

Psalm 55: 6

 

David’s wishful desire to escape, to fly far away, is a common one. When life is piling on and the situation at hand is sucking all of the energy out of body and soul, almost everyone wants to get away from it all. Unfortunately, reality is relentless and achieving escape would seem to require something like a pair of supernatural wings to accomplish. So, David is a great source for advice on what it means to continue on with productive life in the grim hostility of this world, for he was faced with it on many occasions and he understood the futility of doing so from within his own skill, strength, and intellect.

 

He also knew that escape was not the answer. Certainly a few minutes of quiet and calm are helpful, and rest is restorative for body and mind, but leaving the issues unresolved is seldom more than a brief vacation from those issues that face us. Instead of spinning his wheels in efforts to devise a plan for that escape, David turns to the Lord and pours out his fears, concerns, and desire for God’s response to it all. Then he calms his own voice and listens to what God says to his heart. The Lord does the same things for us that he did for David. God wants to hear the words that we have to say about our condition and regarding our worries and fears. Although He knows all of this before we speak, it is valuable for our hearts and minds to express it all to Him.

 

What follows is the hard part, for as we wait on God for His response, we need to be quiet and still even as the issues of life are swirling and raging around us. At that moment we are entering into deep trust that God will answer, and we are walking in faith that His response is the best one for us. This is the point in it all when it is natural to take back control and attempt to respond to life on our own. Yet, God says that we should wait on Him and trust in His response. The Lord will bring us through each and every situation and circumstance that we encounter. He does speak and take action for the sake His purposes and to accomplish His plans, and we can find true rest as we settle into the center of God’s will.

 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12: 9

 

This short verse contains three very strong words. The first of those is genuine. It comes from the same root word as does hypocrisy, and it conveys much the same idea. Christ loves us in a manner that is without protective shell, is beyond condition, and is totally committed. We have a natural tendency to get in our own way when it comes to loving in this manner. Our fears and distrust make us withhold ourselves; so, we become actors in a theater of life production rather than being people who give ourselves fully and honestly to the relationships that God brings our way.

 

Next and related to this first idea is the one of abhorring evil. This is a word that literally means “to shudder with horror or hate”. This is that strong reaction that seems to come over a person without warning when something so powerfully wrong is seen and the body just reacts with a reflexive shake, sigh, and tightening of the muscles. Unfortunately, our world is so filled with evil that we get to be insensitive to it. So the Holy Spirit of Christ works to point it out to us. He keeps us sensitive to its presence and calls His people to engage with its sources so that love is not crushed and buried under evil’s debris.

 

Paul then tells us that as a result of embracing genuine love and responding to the evil of this world with a Christ-like sacrificial zeal we are to also “hold fast to what is good.” This is the same word as is used to describe the bond of husband and wife in marriage, which we often hear expressed as “cleave”. We are to be glued to and bonded with what is good. This reality in life starts with Christ as the author and keeper of goodness. It continues in our relationship with God that is made alive in our engagement with this world as defined for us and guided by God’s word and the Holy Spirit. So, genuine love leads us into Christ’s abhorrence of evil with its destructive nature, and all of this is given focus and balance by being wedded to the goodness that is God.

 

 

And above all these put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3: 14

 

There is one and only one totally universal principle; a singular concept that applies to every situation and to all aspects that we encounter in this life. This is the central characteristic that fuels God’s approach to people, and it is the first of His qualities that the Lord desires for us to imitate. Christ comes to us out of and in His love for us. This love is total and without reservation or hesitation. He loves us so much that He did give all to complete the restoration of our relationship with Him.

 

Although we may live in ways that should challenge God’s ability to love us, He does not seem to have any trouble doing it on a continual basis. On the other hand, I know that it is not so easy to truly love others. I may want to do it, I may plan to do it, and I may think that I am doing it; however, the reactions of others and the attitudes that I find in my own heart tell me that intentions and actions are too often disconnected. My motives, motivations, fears, and ego all impede me in actually loving others; thus, they diminish my ability to be the person that Christ calls me to be, for my unloving self does not look very much like my all-loving God.

 

This is why God wants us to aspire to this one quality of His character above all others. Every day and in each interaction that occurs during that day we do get to choose to make those situations ones in which we love others. We can seek Christ’s perspective on how we view the people in our lives and on the way that we respond to them. It is amazing how much impact the simplest of acts can have. When we choose to smile, to appreciate someone, to value their thinking, to share our heart with them, or to carry their load; we are bringing Christ into the lives of people. Choosing to put on the love of Christ means that I need to accept its reality for myself; then, my life is brought into balance. From that perspective, I can bring a touch of God’s healing love to others, and my corner of the world is brought closer to His perfectly harmonious balance.

 

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Isaiah 40: 12

 

Perspective can be frustratingly hard to find. Scale, especially when it comes to what is important, is often obscured by flawed reason and bias. We hold up our measuring tool to the dawn in order to grasp the potential that the day holds, and we are defeated before we start to journey through it. As the clock moves along we lay out the template of our past as a map to follow down the road known as today; yet, many of the turns that we take end up in wrong places.

 

At this point it becomes natural and easy to blame the journey itself for the struggle. We think that whatever failures and hardships we have endured and are encountering are the result of bad choices, poor decisions, or misdirection. This is the point where people often want to blame others for the poor input that we were given or for the evil intent that caused them to send us along this path. Yet, ultimately, we need to own our part in it all. Also, it helps to consider God’s role in the life that we are living.

 

The Lord probably didn’t choose the difficult place that we find ourselves for us, but He is in it with us. So, God can provide us with accurate tools for assessment, and His word lays out a plan for navigating through everything that is before us. The obstacle that stands as an unclimbable mountain before us is like a grain of sand from God’s vantage point. The flood of fear and doubt that is threatening to drown us is swallowed up by the Lord’s reason and peace. All of life can be brought into perspective when we turn our day over to God in humble submission to His will and in prayerful contemplation of His word.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26: 3, 4

 

How many aspects of your life can you describe as perfect? Tough question, isn’t it? Most of us, when honestly considering something like this, won’t come up with much that doesn’t have some flaws, an aspect that falls short, or some way that we throw the balance and the symmetry off. I guess that, in fact, this lack of true perfection is one of the ways that God reminds us of how much we need Him and of what a mess that people have made of what started out as perfect.

 

Solid, unchanging, imperishable, and trustworthy, these describe the Lord. Concerned, caring, involved, and loving, these also describe Him. God’s viewpoint is the only one that is not obscured by the smoke and the dust and the clutter of living in this world. God’s perspective is the only one that is totally without a self-serving aspect. Jesus proved His total trustworthiness continually while He lived with us, and since then the Spirit of Christ has never failed to do the same.

 

Peace, perfect peace, is a wonderful state to desire. It is a quality of the heart and of the mind where there is a wonderful balance. It is not a blissed out state where all of the issues and challenges of life are ignored, and it is certainly not an approach in which I take total control and use my own strength to drive my way through everything. It is achieved through staying focused on God’s will and seeking His perspective. God’s peace is found in the heart and it radiates through the mind to the rest of the body. It calms the racing heart and it stills the anxious moment. Perfect peace is founded upon trusting that the Lord has all of the answers for me, that His love for me is absolute, and that He will not let me truly fall.

 

Before things start to get out of control with stress and anxiety increasing, I need to spend time focusing on Christ, talking with my Lord and seeking His will and His orientation for my mind and my heart. Then when the events of the day start to get worrisome, I can stop the troubled thoughts and take the time that I need to let the Lord’s peace return.

 

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