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The Basics of Balance

(Here are some of the remarks I shared with the 2010 Ohio District Men’s Retreat:)

                Are you feeling out of control?  Confused?  Overextended and underachieving?  When Christian men begin to feel this way, the first place they usually look to find the problem is the church!  “I’m not taking care of myself enough; I need some time off.  I need to do some things that relax me and take my mind off of things.  I give way too much time to ministries.  I’m tired of being the “go to guy” for everything.  It’s time they found someone else.”

                This is not the way it’s supposed to be, is it?  Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  The Apostle Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17.

                So, when your life isn’t so abundant, or you don’t notice much righteousness, or peace and joy, then the temptation to doubt your relationship to God shows up.  When this happens, most of us either push on the accelerator and go from ninety to a hundred, or else we slam on the brakes and pull off to the side of life’s highway.  

                The secret is to discover the Scriptural way to manage our lives.  It is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.”  The word possess literally means to acquire or own.  Since we belong to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20), the only way we own our bodies is through trust or stewardship.  A steward manages the things assigned to his charge.  It is time we took seriously the job we have to manage our vessels, or ourselves.  If we are going to manage our lives, we need to know our parameters, goals and objectives.  We need to find out what’s right.  From the standpoint of eternity, serving God is the right thing to do.  We must achieve a balanced life. 

                Balance was everywhere in the plan of God. The center of the nation of Israel during its wilderness wanderings was the tabernacle.  Whenever they encamped, the tabernacle was surrounded on all four sides by the twelve tribes of Israel, three on each side.  The seven golden candlesticks were arranged so that one was in the center in perfect symmetry.  The Ark of the Covenant had two cherubim facing each other, both looking down at the mercy seat between them.  Balance was evident in the life of Jesus as he grew to manhood. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”  Luke 2:52.

                But there’s more.  In order to achieve a balanced life, Jesus Christ must be at the center.  This is the image provided for us by the prophet Ezekiel:  “And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. 10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” Ezekiel 10:9-11 NKJV

                Christ at the center of your life?  The very thought runs counter to the conventional wisdom of our day which proclaims the individual self to be the hub.  If God, or religion, has a role at all, the prevailing philosophy holds that it should be out on the periphery.  Modern thinking may concede that faith may be one of the factors we allow to govern our lives, but it openly rejects the notion that God should dominate.

                Surprisingly, many professing Christians act out this philosophy.  Even though they define God as their all-important, number one influence, they nevertheless deny him that role in a practical sense.  Too many people are theoretical believers but practical atheists.  They profess to believe in God but you wouldn’t know it by the way they live their lives. 

                Yet, when we get a true understanding of our origin, our purpose on earth, the very meaning of our lives and the fact that God is the single source of all power and strength, the center represents the only place he can be.  James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  James 1:17. NKJV

                Ezekiel’s metaphor of “The wheel in the middle of the wheel” perfectly illustrates the importance of the center. Look at the characteristics of the wheel:

  • The hub lies at the center.
  • All the thin, narrow spokes tie the rim to the hub.
  • Conceptually, the rim is just an extension of the hub.
  • The center is the measure of the spokes. 
  • The spokes can be any length, but they have to be equal.
  • With the parts properly placed and spaced, the wheel turns. 
  • If the spokes are dismantled, nothing happens.
  • The wheel must be balanced in order to run smoothly.
  • Wheels even slightly out of balance cause vibration and gradual damage.

                Now, let’s transfer that picture of the “wheel in the middle of the wheel” to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Christ is your hub.  He must be at the center of your life.  “Sing to the LORD, for He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”  Isaiah 12:5-6 NKJV.  God is in the midst of life, or, we could also accurately say, God is in the middle of your life.  It is not His will, however, to be in the middle of a chaotic, disjointed life in which nothing connects to him, or nothing matters to him.  The fact is, like the spokes of a wheel tie the perimeter to the hub, all the issues out on the perimeter of your life—family, job, possessions, church, recreation, bank accounts—pertain to God in a very relevant, active way.  Every important part of your life has a relationship to God.

                Living a balanced life is not a random occurrence.  You must plan for it to happen.  This does not include the non-discretionary things like eating, sleeping, shopping, personal hygiene, driving, or interacting with people.  You will do these things whether or not you plan for them.  Your critical planning, though, has to do with things you do with your discretionary time.  Skipping these things may not have immediate consequences, but don’t minimize their importance.  Understand that the greatest meaning in your life is produced by the things you don’t really have to do rather than the things you think are necessary to do.  Ultimately, the real you will be shaped by the use of your discretionary time.

                Chances are extremely high that unless you specifically plan to do the discretionary things, you will simply not do them.  You must not leave them to the whim of the moment.  They will not seem urgent or vital.  Planning forces you to think about them, and, once you begin to think about doing them, you are much more likely to follow through and put them into action. 

                At the end of the day, all of us are accountable to God for how we manage our own life and time.  “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”  Romans 14:12.  Make your accountability proactive, not something to dread.  When you take the time to plan your life according to God’s principles, the end result will be a balanced, productive and effective life.  


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