by Dr. Steven C. Riser
Texts: Luke 2:52: And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Philippians 4:5a (KJV): Let all men know your moderation.
Are you so heavenly minded that you are no earthy good? Are you so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good? If so, then your spiritual life is out of balance.
In this article we want to consider the need for and the importance of living a balanced Christian life. The road to becoming a healthy person isn’t easy. It’s not the road “more traveled,” but it’s the road “less traveled”! It’s not easy, but it’s more than worth it!
What do you think is the most common New Year’s resolution? That’s right – lose weight! Did it ever occur to you that maybe we have the cart before the horse? Instead of focusing on the negative results of unhealthy practices, perhaps it would be better to focus on the causes of becoming a healthy person? For example: If we had the proper nutrition, adequate rest and regular exercise, we probably wouldn’t have a weight problem in the first place. Losing weight could be seen as the result of practicing the principles which promote highly healthy individuals.
We need to personalize and apply this principle of living a balanced life because, the more specific we are about our destination, the more likely we’ll arrive where we want to go. We’re a work in progress and God isn’t finished with us yet (Eph. 2:10). To get the most out of this article, you’ll need to set goals and make plans to put this biblical principle into practice in order to live a more healthy and balanced Christian lifestyle.
Whom do you trust to define what constitutes a highly healthy individual? While all truth is God’s truth wherever it’s found, the Scripture is the final authority for health and wholeness. Christ is: 1) the Second Adam, 2) the sinless/perfect man and 3) we’re to follow His personal example.
How do you define a healthy individual? What does the Bible say about it? Luke 2:52 says: Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. Jesus grew: 1) psychologically, 2) physically, 3) spiritually and 4) socially. Jesus grew in relation to: 1) Himself, 2) God the Father and 3) others. Simply put: Healthy people function as God has designed and intended them to function.
In the Bible, health is viewed as completeness or wholeness. It’s only when individuals are in good physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual condition that they can be said to be balanced and healthy. Consider the following two rhetorical questions: Can you be mentally, emotionally and socially healthy without being spiritually healthy? Can you function the way God intends without being rightly related to Jesus Christ? No!
The Bible uses several terms to describe a highly healthy person:
1) Old Testament: Shalom – peace, which means may you experience all of God’s blessings.
2) New Testament: Rapha – describes the process of healing and God is the healer.
3) Jesus is described as the great physician (balm in Gilead) who heals our sin-sick souls.
4) Solomon connects our emotion health to our physical health. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine” (Prov. 17:22a). On other hand, guilt over wrong doing adversely affects our physical, spiritual, relational and emotional health.
5) The apostle John links our overall well-being to our spiritual vitality: I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 2). A healthy person results in a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships with God, him/her self and others.
6) The biblical view of health can be summed up in the word: blessed.
7) The “blessed life” is described by David is the Psalms and Jesus by in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12).
How do you know if your life is out of balance? Here’s a very simple way to identify imbalance: if we love anyone or anything more than God our lives are out of balance.
Why is biblical balance so important in the Christian life?
1) Biblical truth pushed too far in either direction can become a heresy.
2) Anything displacing God’s rightful place in our lives can become an idol. Even things that are good in themselves can become idolatrous – including spouse and children if we love them more than God. One way to think about your overall health is by using the analogy of an automobile. Cars have four wheels and it is important that they be properly balanced for a smooth ride. If the tires are unbalanced and you increase your speed, the ride will be very rough!
What do these four wheels represent? 1) Psychological, 2) Physical, 3) Social and 4) Spiritual dimensions of living. One way to increase your balance is to find your most deflated tire and expand or grow it. God is not so just concerned with your “soul”; He’s concerned with every aspect of your being which includes the following:
1) Physical: Proper Rest, Nutrition, Activity (Work, Exercise and Recreation)
2) Psychological: Mental (Truthful), Emotional (Loving), Volitional (Obedient)
3) Relational: Family (spouse, children), Friends (including church), and Co-Workers.
4) Spiritual: Trusting and obeying God, knowing Christ and making Him known.
Maintaining a healthy, biblical balance is a lifelong challenge (involving negative consequences) and a life enhancing task (involving positive results). We also need to be aware of the twin dangers of: 1) extremism in one hand and 2) over-reaction on the other!
Extremism, caused by a lack of biblical balance, involves the tendency of some to go to extremes with what one believes or practices or teaches others. It is very much the problem of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. One of their stated goals was to live the letter of the law to very best of their ability. But this religious extremism caused them to become unbalanced and displeasing to
God. Let’s not think that this danger is insignificant or one with which only the Pharisees struggled. It is a problem for some people today.
Look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24 and Matthew 23:27-28:
Matthew 23:23-24 – Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Matthew 23:27-28 – Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
We use words like the radical right and the ultra left to describe the two extremes: These aren’t always useful terms, for there’s no solid accepted definition to go by. Usually we define these terms: liberals and conservatives based on our own subjective and personal perspective. Someone who is looser than we are is liberal: someone who is stricter than we are is conservative. The fact is that, “You can fall off the log on either end,” so beware of the two extremes.
Evangelical Christians try not to be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good and not so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. They are progressive in that there is always room for improvement and they want to improve. They are conservative in that that they want change based upon the true and unchanging values in God’s Word. Change not rooted in or consistent with God’s Word is not change for the better!
We need to be less concerned with what others think and more concerned with what God thinks. If God’s position on something is conservative, that needs to be our position, regardless of where others stand. If God’s position on something is liberal, that needs to be my position, regardless of where others stand. We need to be open to the idea that both extremes: the radical right and ultra left may both be wrong. We need to balance the whole Word and will of God, rather than over-emphasizing one aspect of it.
Extremism is frequently the root cause of both 1) false doctrine and 2) discord and division, therefore, let’s beware of the potential dangers involved.
Over-reaction is similar to extremism, except here we’re talking about how people react to things and not just how they act on their own accord. 1. Over-reactions come in response to something that someone else does. 2. Over-reactions often come in the guise of repairing a false teaching or division.
Repairing a false doctrine: If a Church promoted a works oriented salvation, it’s possible to over-react and advocate “cheap grace” – a faith that is not preceded by repentance or followed by fruit, obviously both of these approaches are wrong.
Repairing discord or division: In an effort to promote unity, some have decided that it doesn’t matter about doctrine. If truth matters, doctrine (teaching) matters! If a parent is too permissive in discipline, the other parent may over react by becoming too strict.
Balance is the key, with our eye always fixed on the Word and will of God, determined to know and practice those things that are both: true and loving. Balance keeps things in perspective:
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I am indebted to my mother in helping me to see the importance of balance. She used to say to me, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
What are some of the areas in which we need balance in our lives?
1. First of all, we need balance between the different dimensions of our lives: a) Psychological, b) Social, c) Spiritual, d) Physical and e) Vocational.
2. We need psychological balance between the: Mind, Will and Emotions
3. We need balance in our physical lives: Rest, Exercise, Work and Recreation.
4. We need balance socially: family vs. friends; believers vs. unbelievers, etc.
5. We need balance in Christian doctrine: a truth pushed too far is heresy.
6. We need balance in our intake of God’s Word.
7. We need balanced prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication
8. We need balance in Christian discipleship: being a disciple and making disciples.
9. We need balance between worship (intake) and work – ministry (output). “If your output exceeds your intake, then your up keep will be your down fall.”
10. We need balance between biblically faithfulness and cultural relevance.
What are some of the areas in which we should not be moderate or balanced?
1. Love God first and foremost: with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
2. Zeal for the things of God – Never flag in zeal – maintain your spiritual fervor.
3. Wholeheartedness – Whatever your task, do it for God with all your heart.
4. Listen and speaking – be quick to hear and slow to speak.
5. Confidence in God – everything God does in worthy of our trust.
6. Commitment to God – in all your ways trust and acknowledge God.
7. Communion with God – apart from Christ we can do nothing.
8. Discipleship – if we don’t give up all we have we can’t be Christ’s disciple.
9. Hatred of sin – Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
10. Our pursuit of wisdom – Proverbs says, above all else, get wisdom!
We all know the importance of being proactive in preventing disease, don’t we? The secret to becoming and staying healthy is: preventing “disease” or could we say, “dis-ease”: 1) in body (physical); 2) in mind (mental/emotional/ volitional); 3) in spirit; and 4) in our relationships as much as possible.
If we’re living a highly healthy life, we’ll be too “blessed” to be too stressed or depressed. While genes are important, our daily lifestyle decisions are more important (cf. appendix). Some scientists say in determining longevity: lifestyle is 80% and genes are only 20%.
What we’re saying here is that, in large measure, we determine our own destiny as far as becoming and remaining a highly healthy person. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that we have a
sacred duty to be pro-active about our own self-care. God says: our bodies are the temple of the Spirit and we need to honor God in our bodies. God wants us to be as healthy as possible but “health” must not become an idol.
What questions do we need to consider in becoming more balanced and healthy?
1. What is my weakest health link?
2. What health principles do I need to learn and implement?
3. What rules am I breaking that I need to follow?
4. When am I going to start in becoming healthier?
5. What strategies will ensure my success?
6. Where is my life the most out of balance?
7. What is the single most important step that I can take right now?
By beginning with a single strategic step and continuing to improve on a daily basis, you’ll be on your way to becoming a healthy and biblical balanced person. One helpful place to begin is to evaluate where you are right now. You can use the internet to take a worldview test or a lifestyle profile. Just as a car needs an oil change, you may need a check up from the neck up. There are many different areas that affect our overall health.
Here are just a few of the most essential principles for healthy living:
1. Offering and asking forgiveness – Ephesians 4:32; Acts 24:16
2. Living a joy filled life –John 10:10b and 15:11
3. Healthy and loving relationships – John 13:34, 35; Romans 12:16
4. Personal spiritual well-being – 3 John 2
5. Developing a grace-based self-concept – Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 5:7
6. Discovering God’s purpose for your life – 2 Corinthians 5:15
Just as a Church needs to be committed to becoming as healthy and balanced as possible, so does the Christian. We all aspire to be both biblical faithful and culturally relevant. We don’t want to be so heavenly minded we are no earthly good and… We don’t want to be so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good.
While no one ever achieves perfect balance in this life time, as we understand this biblical principle and seek to follow the example of Jesus Christ in the way He matured and developed (In wisdom and stature and favor with God and man – Luke 2:52) we’ll become better adjusted, more well-rounded and enjoy the kind of life that John described in: John 10:10b, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Appendix: Daily Dozen Decisions for Devoted and Balanced Disciples
1. Attitude: I will choose and display Christ like attitudes daily. I choose to have a PMA – a positive mental attitude and positively impact others rather than having a DRA – a dirty rotten attitude and negatively impact others. (Phil. 2:5)
2. Priorities: I will determine and act upon biblical priorities daily. I will prioritize my life and give focus and energy to those things that give the highest return for the kingdom of God. (Matt. 6: 33)
3. Health: I will learn and follow healthy guidelines for daily living. Since my body is God’s temple, I will take good care of my body by getting the proper rest, nutrition and exercise needed. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
4. Family: I will communicate and care for my spouse/children daily. I will adopt a family based definition of success: “When those closest to me love and respect me the most.” (Josh. 24:15b)
5. Thinking: I will practice and develop good (godly) thinking daily. I will seek to cultivate the mind of Christ by thinking God’s thoughts after Him and by bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I will think on things that add value to myself and others. (Phil. 2:5; Isa. 55:8-9; 2 Cor. 10:5)
6. Commitment: I will make and keep proper commitments daily. I will commit myself to following through on what I believe God wants me to do. I will not live by human impulse but by the clear guidance of God’s Word illuminated by God’s Spirit. By the grace of God I will keep on keeping on. (Matt. 9:29b)
7. Finances: I will make money ethically and biblically manage money daily. I will earn money ethically, manage it biblically and share it generously. I will not make money my god, but I will learn to fear the Lord by offering to Him a tithe of my income. I will get out of debt and stay out of debt and be a faithful steward of all I give and all I spend.
8. Faith: I will deepen and live out a vital Christian faith daily. Since I can’t please God without faith, by God’s grace, I will trust Christ as my Savior/Lord and I will deepen and live out my faith daily.
9. Relationships: I will initiate/invest in loving relationships daily. Since we are relational beings, I will initiate and invest in establishing healthy relationships with others on a daily basis. (Prov. 18:24)
10. Generosity: I will plan for and model a generous spirit daily. In response to God’s grace, I will live to give. I will plan for and model generous giving daily by giving of my substance/self as God directs.
11. Values: I will embrace and practice biblical values daily. Since life is not a dress rehearsal and I only live once, “I will embrace biblical values and practice them daily.” (Eccl. 12:13-14)
12. Growth: I will make daily progress in the sanctification process. Since I never out grow my need to grow, “I will develop and follow a personal growth plan for my life.” (2 Pet. 3:18)
May God give us wisdom in our daily decision making and may He give us the desire and power to grow and develop in a way that is pleasing to Him.