Life Balance


If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1: 5

 

This thought makes me wonder about the times in which James lived. Was there more wisdom afoot then than there is now? You see, to me there just isn’t much of that great and Godly commodity visible in our world today. I don’t think that this is the result of my just hanging out in the wrong company or on the bad streets of my town, either. This unwise nature and function of people in general today is the product of deliberate choices that we have made. Unfortunately, lack of wisdom tends to inform the unwise, and the unwise frequently become the information experts for people who lack Godly wisdom themselves. This process of the clueless being counseled by the unwise isn’t just circular in nature, either; rather, it established a path of declension that heads ever further away from the truth.

 

The good news in all of this is that this downward path is changeable. Like a pilot is trained to take corrective actions when the plane is heading dangerously toward the ground, there are things that each of us can do to change the way that we are processing and responding to our world. Getting back to James and his statement, I think that he was posing a rhetorical question here in that I sincerely doubt that he was seeing all that much wisdom or that many wise people in his neighborhood either. The “if” refers to everyone in his day, and it calls me out and everyone else around me today. This is our problem as fallen people who live in a broken world. We lack God’s wisdom, and we don’t always realize just how much we are missing because of this state of being.

 

Yet, like that well trained pilot, we don’t need to crash and burn. We can do what our old friend James suggests here and seek out God and His wisdom of life. The Lord has placed it right before our eyes, and He has granted His presence in us and in our world to illuminate, illustrate, and explain His truths to us. We can read God’s Word on a very regular basis, and we can meditate and contemplate on what He is saying to each of us as we do this reading. The Spirit does speak and He will bring the eternal word of life into meaningful context for all that we are facing in the days to come in our world. As the old expression goes, in our relationships with God, “There are no dumb questions.” The Lord hears our doubts, concerns, and pleas, and He does answer them with the sort of wise truth that transforms our approach to life and that brings the order of Christ into our days so that we can give a touch of reason to the unwise environment around our doors.

On God rest my salvation and my glory;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62: 7

 

Life in this world requires people to work hard. It’s a promise that rapidly becomes a fact of life. Effort, sweat and tears, and stress and strain are in the offing for each of our days. So, it is no wonder at all that people would hold fast to the idea that something really big like salvation needs to come our way through the most significant and intense of all of our labor. How else could it be when everything that we obtain of value or real worth is acquired and achieved by God’s promised “sweat of our face?”1

 

Yet, that is not the way that the Lord intends for it to be. He has taken on the burden of saving us from our state of being lost. Jesus put out the immeasurable effort for the sakes of each of us so that we could return to the full presence of God by the profound yet simple act of faith and obedience that is found in believing in Christ. Redemption from the death that sin cast upon everyone of us is ours because God desires to be intimately close to each of us, and so He took the burden and the pain of eternal sacrifice upon His own flesh for us. Now, as redeemed beings, our labor has a new meaning and purpose.

 

In this life we still need to work, for we are required to be active agents for the care and the utilization of the resources that God has provided to us on earth. The Lord also sends us out into our world to do work for the sake and the glory of His kingdom. Yet, the effort that we put forth in this manner has nothing to do with our salvation or even with our status in God’s eyes. All that we do as followers of Christ is to be done out of the security and the confidence that we have as Christ’s redeemed people and God’s beloved children. Thus, the effort that we put out is not fueled and powered by personal capability or capacity, but rather, it is accomplished because Christ is in us and His strength, wisdom, love, and grace are supplied to us in unending abundance. In Christ we can truly and fully rest.

 

  1. Genesis 3: 19

For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16: 26

 

Herein lies what may be the essential question of living out our days in the true economy of this world. We might think that everything here is based upon the income that we receive or the liquid assets that we hold, but that truth provides a relentless set of reminders that this is not actually the case. People everywhere work hard and seek to gain what they need to support themselves and those who depend upon them. This is the reality in wealthy modern countries, and it is still the case among people whose lives have never touched the edges of even the nineteenth century. We all live within the troubled reality of sin’s challenge to the goodness of creation in that our labor will always encounter frustration and be insufficient to fill us up with what we actually require to live fully.

 

People need more than any amount of wealth that we might hold. Even millions of dollars in the bank, an impressive stock portfolio, an extra pig in the pen, or a reliable place to sleep each night will never be enough to satisfy the soul. We are made to be fed from the inside by the presence of God, and no other source of sustenance fills us up and leaves our hearts and minds well fed. Yet, many people travel all the way through life without actually experiencing a satisfying soul-meal. We think that we are getting all that we need while we are actually slowly wasting away from the inside as our hearts are led into the false security of personal success and human accomplishment. This eternal starvation takes place while a banquet feast of overwhelming abundance is set before us to take part in every hour of each day.

 

Christ desires to enter into our lives, and He is prepared to provide the form of sustaining nourishment that every person needs to be fully alive. He has given all in order to be in this place of complete and undeniable availability to us. He is the answer to God’s promise of reconciliation for our rebellious hearts, and Christ is now standing ready with open arms to embrace the lost and starving wanderer as He leads us into God’s special place at the table of blessing. Here, in the presence of the Spirit, we are provided with all that our souls require. We are fed on the inner peace that comes from knowing that our days on earth are meaningful for our Creator’s purposes and that our eternity is securely set in the presence of our loving Father God. We are also strengthened by the truth of God’s Word as He reveals its wisdom to our minds and leads our lives into living out its grace and love. So, there is an answer to the great question of living well in that true economy, and that answer is Christ in whom we gain all that we need in this world and also receive redemption for our souls.

God settles the solitary in a home;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 68: 6

 

God is a fisherman, God is a shepherd, God is lion, and God is King. All of these ideas are used to attempt to convey the nature and character of God, and all are quite accurate. He does go about the business of seeking after a catch of hearts and minds of people who would rather remain hidden away in the depths of our own sea of lostness and sin. Yet our Lord casts his net to bring in all varieties of humanity into His grace, love, and life. Our Lord is also the one who provides care and nourishment for us while protecting those precious hearts, minds, and even bodies from the harm that is attached like molecules of air to the atmosphere of this world. By way of His sheep tending metaphorical being, God also seeks after and searches tirelessly for any of us who wander away from His righteousness and life-giving presence.

 

When God is described as being a lion, I think of the proud and almost defiant image of a male lion with a full flowing mane and head half turned to look my way as if to say that He is in charge and that I am not. The lion image seems appropriate in that they are powerful and swift, guardians of their territory, and nurturing and caring with their pride. You do not want to encounter one when you are outside of its good graces, but you would certainly want one to provide protection from the evil forces of the wilderness. This description of God as lion leads to the concept that He is King. Yet, this title is far too limiting, for no king in all of history has had the sort of power, the absolute sovereignty, that the Lord possesses. He did not inherit this world, and no person placed its crown upon His head. God created it all as He imagined it into being. His rule over the universe is a part of the nature of that entity. God’s authority and the grace that is attached to it are what hold this world together despite the rebellious and destructive natures of its inhabitants. All that is good, righteous, and holy in this world is poured into it by God’s regal hand.

 

The thing that is most striking to me, however, is the fact that One who holds this much power, who rules over all that exists in the broad expanse of creation, and that works tirelessly to bring souls into His presence is the same God who reached out to my lost soul and called me into His presence. Then He has continuously provided my insignificance with the dignity and the calling of a person who has prominence in His kingdom and important work to do on behalf of the King. This kingdom of God, the place where I now dwell, is supplied with all that is required for myself and for all of creation to be sustained and to thrive. It is a place that is lush with the truth and the wisdom of the Lord. His grace flows out into streams of refreshing redemption, and the Lord’s love provides a covering for my weariness at day’s end. This place is where my heart finds strength, my mind encounters knowledge and wisdom, and my soul enters into the peace and the rest that it craves. My Lord has redeemed me, and He seeks to redeem all people from the harsh world as He provides us with a home in His presence.

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.

John 14: 18

 

Isolation, separation, and being alone are states that cause most of us concern. We don’t like to go it on our own even if we put up a front that says to the world, “I am fine, and I have it all handled.” This just isn’t really true, and its lack of sincerity comes about because God didn’t make us to travel through life as individual actors who have everything we need to live well. We were made for relationships with other people, with the rest of creation, and especially for direct engagement with God. This is how the first humans lived as they went about their days in the near perfection of the garden, and God’s desire to be in continual relationship with us is one of the great and miraculous aspects of that account of our beginnings in that He set into motion a fully fleshed out plan for both ongoing engagement with us but also for permanent restoration of the original form of relationship with all of Creation.

 

Yet, life does get in the way. Our own capacity to think, process, and analyze disrupt our peace and calm. We act badly toward others, and they act likewise toward us; so, the bonds of care and affection that once held us together are severed. There may even be a divide and conquer sort of ethos at work in the world at large that seeks to cause people to accentuate our relational pain so that we move away from others when things get challenging and we too easily abandon the person rather than entering into the hard work of processing through the hurts and seeking restoration of the relationship through honest confession and forgiveness. To add to the difficulty that many people have in coming together and staying together with others, most of us have aspects of our personalities that are simply hard for others to handle. So, we move away from those who we have been close to, and this allows room in our hearts and in our minds for this world’s ideas and concepts of love and relating to enter in and to take hold of our thinking. This is also a state of mind and of heart where we often move away from God and out of the counsel of His word of truth.

 

This is where that great and miraculous promise that God made in the garden becomes even more powerful and important. God gave us Himself in the person of Jesus, the Christ, as the final and complete means by which all people could be returned to full and undiminished relationship with God. The powers of this world attempted to disrupt and this restorative work and to destroy the means for its continuation, but they were utterly defeated in this attempt. In Jesus’ statement above we have His reiteration of God’s unending commitment to continue in close engagement with us through all of time and in all circumstances and situations. Jesus may have left this world in the flesh, but He is present in the most real sense possible in the all-knowing, all-seeing, and fully engaged manner that the Spirit dwells with and in us. As we are in Christ, we are never alone in this world. We are fed by His truth, counseled by eternal wisdom, and provided with the companionship of the Great Shepherd. Additionally, we are provided with a family of faith to join in with as we journey through life, and Christ in Spirit and in God’s Word gives to us the tools and perspective to use in working through the conflicts and the challenges of living with other people. None of us are alone in this life when we know Christ. He is with us always and in everything, and Christ desires for us to know His presence, to express its joy, and to remain in the center of His peace throughout our days.

The beasts of the field will glorify Me; the jackals and the ostriches; because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.

Isaiah 43: 20

 

The reader of this verse in the times of Isaiah would have understood exactly how amazing it was to consider that God would bless the lives of creatures such as jackals and ostriches; for, these were both in the category of creatures who had earned the disapproval of righteous people due to their behavior. The jackal would wait around until it found a dead or nearly dead animal or one that was either too young or too weak to defend itself; then, it would find its meal there. Ostriches were considered to be so dumb that they didn’t know how to care for their young or to properly conceal themselves when they were in danger. Still, God is glorified by even these members of His created order. The Lord sees the purpose and He has a plan for every thing and for everyone on this earth.

 

Just as the Lord brings water to the very driest places on the planet, and His touch causes rivers to flow in the middle of great deserts, God steps into each of our lives during our times of searing thirst. Then, He provides refreshment and life giving moisture that is completely in keeping with the degree of our need. The abrasive sands that rub our souls raw may be driven by the sinful hardness of our own hearts or they might be propelled on the winds of the evil in our world. The loneliness and the desolation of the wilderness is something that the Lord understands. He never fails to find us even in the farthest corner of that great expanse; for, my God comes looking for me, and He comes ready and equipped to rescue and to restore.

 

All of us spend time in the barren wildernesses of this world. Everyone experiences times of great loneliness and thirst; yet, these are times when the voice of the Lord seems to become even clearer. It is out of the deep darkness of these places that God’s face seems to shine the brightest, and His loving grace truly overcomes the oppression of sin and decay. It is in the wilderness that the dew of Christ’s salvation is the sweetest. There is never a time that is beyond the Lord’s redemption. No place is too far into the heart of the wilderness for Christ to reach. Here, in the center of this desert, is the place and now is the time to lift up my voice in praise to the Lord who does come for me bringing cool water to drink and salvation for my body and soul.

 

Let me dwell in Thy tent forever,

Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings.

Psalm 61: 4

 

There is this image that comes to mind of a person who is fleeing from some form of great danger or from the scene of some terrible happening. As the fear overcomes him he turns from the street into the doorway of the next building that comes along, and trying the door, he finds it locked; so, he pounds on it in a life or death frenzy while shouting, “Let me in!” Maybe I have watched too many films, but it is just possible that the events of life have raised my adrenalin to this level a few too many times. Experience has made me want to find a place to spend my days where living life makes sense and where being alive is a highly desirable state.

 

This safe and secure reality is found in Christ. Its location is not so much a tangible place such as a house, a church building, or a city of refuge. Rather, it is located wherever I am, for God sets up His camp and pitches His tent with and over me continually. The Lord’s tent is a place of cooling rest from the mid day sun, and it is a house where hospitality flows. The citizens of this great hall of blessing are numerous and their love is the love of Christ for all. The door of this place is never bolted shut as Christ calls to “All who are thirsty, all who are weak, just come to the fountain, dip your heart in the stream of life”, and He will give the drink that never stops satisfying to each and every person who answers that call.

 

The Lord also sends His angels to cover and to support His people. He surrounds each of us with the invisible, spirit realm emissaries of His perfect will and total grace. In addition, God places flesh and blood versions of His angelic host into our lives regularly. These people bring the truth of God’s love into clear focus as they serve His will. Then as we go through life, all of us are called upon to be the bearers of these angelic blessings in the lives of others as we live out our days as citizens of the new humanity of Christ. As You, O Lord, have draped me in the glorious tapestry of your eternal tent, may I seek to cover those who are weary and beaten down by life with Your wings of mercy and love.

 

All Who Are Thirsty, written by Brenton Brown, Glenn Robinson

 

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