Life Balance


For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.

Titus 2: 11 

There was this rather simple thought that seemed to be just stuck in my mind when I got up this morning; It is one of those ideas that comes out of the fog of sleep and that begins to take on shape as the brain cells slowly start to warm up to their tasks. It is this, I try too hard to make what is designed to be simple and easily understood really complicated and obscure, and I am not even slightly alone in doing this. Now, I admit that this is something that I do in a lot of areas of my life; I do have an analytical personality, you know; thus, thinking through, over, and all around something is normal. This is different; this gets in the way of something much more important. 

My waking thought for today was this; God makes relationship with Him very simple, I tend to make it truly difficult. The Lord gives me an easily understood message to share with others; I turn it into a graduate-level seminary coarse. God opens His arms to everyone without reservation or hesitation; I create a list of qualifications and set up a screening system for access to Him. God loves all with the absolute love of that elusively perfect Father; I don’t even love myself all that well; even more so, I struggle with loving others. 

Thus, what is it that God has saved me from? He has saved me from the isolation that I would naturally create as my world; He has given me Himself as a gift beyond imagining, and He continually shows me how to live in the completeness of His overwhelming love. All of the thought and the consideration about who God is and of how He works and relates is fine; He created and empowers my mind; yet, the Lord still wants me to stay focused on the simplicity of His truth and on the accessibility of His saving grace. 

There is nothing that I can speak or write; no ritual, rite, or sacrament that I can perform; and none of my actions or works of my hands do anything to bring me or anyone else closer to God if they are not done out of love for Him and if they are not filled with His love for people. The singular thought on my mind this morning is that God graciously loves me, and He wants me to share that love with others without reservation, condition, or hesitation. Christ is much more interested in the relationship, and we can let Him worry about the details later.

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He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you; 

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We can know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion for Christ.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.

Psalm 118: 5

Stress leads us to seek answers, and the need for answers usually causes people to look for help in finding them. When challenged, threatened, beaten up and down, and just completely overwhelmed, I have turned to many different sources of knowledge, strength, encouragement, and protection. Some work for a time, and others don’t ever seem to get the job done. There are situations where the tactics, strategies, and sources of supposed wisdom actually take me further into the bad place that I am attempting to escape.

On the other hand, the Lord has always answered my true need. He responded to me when the need was as basic as it can get; for Jesus took me in, accepted my lost soul, and released me from the death grip that Satan had on my life. Since that moment, Christ has continued to stay with me through it all. There have been fires and floods, plagues and famines, and disobedience and deceits with all of it coming from within the hearts of people. Some of the damaging actions and events have been of my own doing and others have been done to me. Regardless of the cause of my distress, Christ stays with me totally, completely, absolutely, and always.

When I reach out to God in prayer, raising my voice to Him with expressions of the desires and the needs of my heart, He responds. What is the extra weight that you are carrying around with you, where is your heart torn or weary, what is making you fearful and apprehensive? The Spirit of Christ, who resides in you, already knows the answers, and He is ready to provide those answers and so much more. God desires for us to reach out to Him and to trust Him with our own understanding of our needs as expressed in the passion of the moment. In response the Lord speaks into us with love, compassion, understanding, and solutions, for His truth is the answer to all that we encounter in this life.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12: 11

There are disciplines that I find relatively easy. These include things like brushing my teeth and washing what hair I have. Then, there are others that are very hard to remain faithful to; these are exercise, avoiding certain foods, and getting enough sleep. Although my doctor and dentist might disagree with me on this, all of these are of little importance when compared to the discipline that God wants to bring into my life. I would guess that most of us can make similar comments about our own spiritual journeys. Remaining faithful and committed to righteousness and to its practice is not easy to do.

Unfortunately, it seems clear that living in a fundamentally righteous manner does not come naturally for most of us. It seems that we all have areas and aspects of our lives where people will have a hard time seeing the true image of Christ when they encounter us. Since all children of God are called to be His hands and feet, to live as an expression of His love and grace among people who desperately need Him, and to continually grow and develop in our relationship with Him, God puts extra effort into bringing the discipline that this sort of living requires into each of our lives.

This process requires us to experience blood, sweat, and often bitter tears; yet, it is absolutely necessary in order to gain the depth of understanding of God and of His will that leads to a life that is peaceful and productive in His eyes. Discipline is made easier as we stop fighting against it and start working with the changes that it demands. Christ asks us to start simply in this process of transformative change; so, He asks us to give just one troublesome habit of thought or action to Him. Then He will start to transform this aspect of us into His way of walking through life. Christ promises that if we plan to stick with the process of change through the hard work days, we will be able to delight in the joy and the peace that His Spirit will bring to our weary hearts as we dwell in the soul-deep peace that flows out of righteous living. 

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 6: 13

Now make no mistake about this, the work of transformation in our bodies is done by Christ. However, we are willing participants in this process of change. God has never wanted people to enter into a relationship with Him through compulsion or by means of coercion or force. There are beneficial consequences that come about when we do surrender ourselves to Christ, and there are also correspondingly negative ones if we reject or deny Him. Yet, even these earthly and eternal out workings of our relationship with God do not carry with them the idea of force or of compulsion. Just as we will live throughout our days here and on through the expanse of eternity with our decision regarding the person and the nature of Christ, so too we are allowed to freely choose to follow Christ or to not do so.

This is not just a singular or momentary choice, either. We will continually encounter decisions that involve our desires and will and their conformity to or deviation from God’s Word and His will. For, in all honesty, most people want to think, say, and do things that are pleasing to ourselves but not so to God, that are momentarily pleasurable for our bodies but are contrary to God’s law of truth and grace, or that satisfy inner desires and fill voids within our hearts that would be better filled by Christ and by His redemptive love. Some of these choices are small and the outcomes have limited impact upon the conduct of life; yet, they all matter for even these small things accumulate and grow in their aggregate into systematic ways of thinking, and they become wedges that drive us ever farther away from God’s heart and from serving His gospel. Other decisions that we can encounter in our journey are large and impactful at the level of reshaping the course of life, itself. 

As we are in Christ, all of the process of living belongs to Him. We have been purchased away from slavery to death and ownership by Satan and his worldly forces. This transaction was entered into by God, and the price that was bargained and sealed was the death of the historically singular innocent one, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As God’s great love for each of us was poured out in the form of sweat and drops of Christ’s blood that thus formed the medium for our baptism of grace, we are called upon to fully commit our hearts, minds, and bodies to following Christ and to serving His will throughout the moments and the years of our lives. This is a decision that we are given to make continuously along the way; do I surrender my flesh to Christ to be consumed upon the holy altar of service to the Lord or do I hold onto those aspects of it that make me feel safe or that bring personal pleasure and temporary fulfillment? Holy Spirit, inform and guide my choices today so that they will be pleasing to you, Lord, I pray.  

But he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefor I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12: 9

We tend to like strength. It is something that is applauded, held up for praise, and sought after by most of us. It is natural to equate dominance and power to authority, and so, we put those who take charge and exert their superiority over others into positions of leadership without much in the way of question or challenge. Yet, we often fight against the forms that this power takes as it is put to use and exhibited, for the more authoritarian the person, the less that individual is likely to function in a manner that could be deemed as godly or Christ-like. The question, “Why is that so?” leads to consideration of sources and forms of real power and authentic leadership in our world.

Christ’s words for Paul give us some guidance in this question. Paul was remarkably well educated and trained, and he had then been instructed in all things that concerned knowing God and the fulfillment of that knowledge that had been established by and in Christ. Yet, all of this wisdom, position, and experience were of no use at all without God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit residing within Paul. So, everything that Paul said, wrote, and demonstrated by the way that he lived was the direct result of Christ’s redeeming grace, sacrificial love, and guiding presence. All of Paul’s authority to speak to others on behalf of God’s truth and for the sake of righteousness came about because of his submission to Christ; so, it was the outworking of Christ’s strength and the authority to rule over the world that the Father had granted to Him.

We can evaluate our world from this same perspective. Where do we see submission to Christ, and how is that form of spiritual humility expressed by people in positions of power and authority? These are important questions to ask, and this characteristic of boasting only in personal weakness is one to seek after in people who are entrusted with leadership in all aspects of life in our world. Reality informs us that there are no perfect people in our midst, and no leader will ever be fully and absolutely submitted to Christ in this life. Yet, we can seek after those that come close and that, like Paul, are striving to set aside their personal power in order to more fully embrace and live out the Spirit’s leading and God’s will in their thoughts, words, and actions. Paul proved himself worthy to be followed because of his weakness in Christ. Are we each likewise seeking to empty ourselves of strength in order to become weak in this same manner, and do we seek to place people into positions of authority because they, too, are following Paul’s model of strength that comes solely from Christ?    

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2: 15

Almost everyone uses tools as a part of the what we do during the course of a day. For some, there is a specialized set that are designed to equip their operator with what is required by the task at hand. These implements may be a mechanic’s wrenches and gauges or they might be the scalpels, forceps, and suture needles of a surgeon. Most of us also use words and the language that is formed up out of them in various ways as we go about doing the tasks that we have been called upon to perform by God and by society. This is the area of concern that Paul is discussing with Timothy and with us. The Apostle cares about the way that we express and describe our faith in Christ, and as we go about the ever-present task of speaking about Christ, Paul makes it clear that God’s Word is something that is to be taken seriously and that it is to be handled with care and with respect.

God did many remarkable things in the process of inspiring and empowering the creation of His Word. It is a unique document in all of the history of this world, for it spans an enormous range of time, has multitudes of authors, was written in several languages, and represents a full range of humanity’s experience of living on earth as people that are called upon by God to dwell here as His chosen care takers and workers in the various and variable fields that have been provided to us to cultivate over the course of those centuries of history. Truth is contained in those pages, and the truth that is present there is one that leads people out of death and into life. This real and ever-applicable divine truth speaks to all occasions and to all situations that have ever presented themselves to people and to our societies. God’s truth informs us of His love, justice, grace, mercy, and holiness in a manner that we can seek to live out these holy characteristics in our lives.

So, do not be mistaken in this, if a person is a follower of Christ, then that person is also called by God to be a worker for the sake of the glory of Christ’s name and in the various fields of God’s kingdom here and now on earth. In order to do this work most effectively, we need to be equipped with the tools of our trade in Christ, and these are the spoken words of the gospel of Christ and the lived out language of love, service, and care for others that is Christ’s model. Paul is charging us with the responsibility to be careful and wise workers, ones that stay true to God’s Word and that follow the leading of the Spirit rather than the new revelations that people are continually attempting to set forth as revised and better understanding of God’s will. God’s Word is not fragile, it will not be broken by even the roughest of workers, and it will endure until the end of days when Christ, Himself, is again upon this earth in the flesh. So, we who are called to labor for the gospel in the name of Christ, can be confident in taking up that word of truth and in allowing it to guide all that we think, do, and say.        

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