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Building Lasting Values
“Living A Balanced Life”
Today I’d like to jump back into our Discipleship Series on Building Lasting Values as we build up the House of God within us.
This is a value I believe in greatly, especially as it involves our lives in the Lord, and our doctrinal positions. When I was in seminary, a professor was mostly reformed in his theology, and I’m not. When I asked if I could talk with him after class over something he said, he knew what I was going to say and even quoted the Scriptures that disagreed with his theological position.
The rest of our conversation was about taking the full of God’s word, and then what was the balance of what God wanted to say. Having a theological balance is taking the whole of God’s word and see what God is saying and not just those parts that agree with our theological position no matter how many they may be.
And so living a balanced Christian life is an important value, not only in our belief structure, but in how we live out this life.
America is a workaholic’s dream, but the people’s stress levels are over-the-top because of it.
Now, while I’ve told this particular story several times since I’ve been a pastor, when I think about this whole idea of stress, and what happens when the unexpected happens, the story of Chippie the parakeet immediately comes to mind.
Chippie kind of lived up to his name. He was chipper and kind of happy-go-lucky, that is, until the unexpected happened. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage singing, and the next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
It all began when his owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner hose. They could just stick the nozzle in and suck up all the seeds, feathers, and other stuff in the bottom of the cage.
At that moment the phone rang, and instinctively Chippie’s owner turned to pick it up, but before they could get out “hello,” they heard a “swoooope.” Chippie got sucked in.
They immediately dropped the phone and turned off the vacuum cleaner. They unzipped the bag and found Chippie alive, but stunned and covered in heavy black soot. Quickly they grabbed Chippie and rushed him to the bathtub, where they turned on the facet full blast, and in essence held Chippie under a torrent of ice-cold water. You might say they power washed Chippie.
Feeling bad that Chippie was now stunned, drenched, and shivering they did what any compassionate pet owner would have done. They picked up the hair dryer and blasted Chippie with hot air, causing Chippie to poof out.
Needless to say that Chippie no longer lives up to his name.
This is exactly what stress does. It sucks us in, washes us up, and blows us away. Today, in our series on Building Lasting Values, we’ll be looking at how we live a balanced life in an unbalanced world.
To access our level of stress I have a small quiz. To do this I will give the beginning part of a sentence and you fill in the last word. Here’s an example. I say, “I’m becoming,” and you complete this thought by saying “unglued.” And so let’s begin.
Further, here are some signs of being a workaholic. We know we’re a workaholic when:
CNN did a pole and discovered that 69% of Americans say they’d like to slow down, but a Harris pole said that Americans are spending 8½ hours less per week at leisure. We’re spending less time relaxing than we use to. Therefore, the American dream has become a stress nightmare.
But God never made us to handle this amount of stress successfully. We weren’t created to live fast-paced frantic lives. Today, therefore, we’ll be looking at a value that is greatly admired, but universally ignored: Balance.
Now, while we all want to live balanced lives, none of us are, at least not completely. And while it is our goal, very few are even close. In fact, the only person who ever lived a balanced life was Jesus Christ.
The principle of balance is one of those laws that God established the universe upon. For instance, the earth is perfectly balanced in its orbit around the sun. If it were tilted a little bit different, or if the earth was a foot closer or further away from the sun, then we would either be burnt to a crisp, or a frozen icicle.
Nature is a system of eco-systems that live in balance. We’re discovering even today that the tiniest variation to our ecosystem would create a chain reaction that could wipe out whole species.
The way we plan, and build buildings is based on this principle of balance as well, especially high-rise buildings. They are built with stress points and stress loads so that when an earthquake happens the building won’t collapse.
And if our lives are not in balance, they will likewise experience a collapse. God created the human body on this principle of balance. Our body has all these different systems that work in harmony with each other. There’s the Circulatory, Digestive, Muscular, Nervous, Reproductive, Respiratory, Skeletal, and Urinary systems all working together so that we can work, because when any one of them gets out of balance, it is what we call disease.
Balance is then a basic principle of the universe, and since God created the universe, God loves balance, and as such He desires for us to live a balanced life.
There is really neat verse in Psalms that talks about our need for balance.
“It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night. God wants His loved one to get their proper rest.” (Psalm 127:2 LB)
The bottom line is that we’re not in God’s will when our lives are out of balance. And so, if we sense that we are kind of out of balance, then it may be a sign that we are out of God’s will, or are getting there. Today, I’d like to share several principles to help us live balanced lives.
Center Around Christ
As I mentioned earlier, the only person to live a totally balanced life was Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we put Him at the center of our lives, it only stands to reason that we’ll have a better chance of being balanced ourselves. He is the most balanced person who ever lived, and if He is at the center of our lives then He will teach us how to be balanced.
Think about life as a wheel. At the center of the wheel is a hub. Now, out of the hub come all these spokes of life representing our relationships, family, career, finances, dreams, goals, and every other area of life. And here’s the thing, something is going to be, and has to be at the center. It could be our work, families, dreams, or possessions. But something or somebody is always going to take center stage in our lives, and whatever it is that is what we’ll build our lives around.
Therefore, the center of our lives is very important. If we have a solid center, which can be nothing else but the Lord, we’ll end up having a solid life. If we got a weak center, which is everything else but God, then we’re going to crack under the pressure. So, if we feel like our life is coming unglued, or is falling apart around us, then we have the wrong thing at the center.
Please understand, if we think we can do it on our own, we can’t, because we’re not strong enough to hold it all together. So, we need to make God that centerpiece, or that hub of our life, and stop the decline.
Now, not only does the hub create stability and holds everything together, the hub is also connected to the source of power. So, if we have anything other than God at our center then we’re going to have a power shortage, because nothing else has the power to help us through the unforeseen crises we face. In fact, God will give us everything we need to live our life by when He is at the center.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
In other words, when we make Kingdom of God living the priority, when God is at the center of our lives, then He will give us all that we need day by day.
When Jesus Christ is at the center, He will direct, influence, empower, and give stability to every spoke, or aspect of life. So, to build a stable and balanced life, the first thing we need to do is to build our life around Jesus Christ.
We’ve got to stop pretending that we’re god having all the answers, and that we can solve everyone else’s problems. We have to recognize that we have limitations, and that we’re not superman or superwomen, but just plain old human beings.
When we start to believe that whatever happens in life revolves around us, that is, “if it’s going to be then it’s up to me,” then we’re going crash and burn. We are not the General Mangers of the universe.
One of the main reasons we live off balance lives is because we care too much about what other people think. We let the expectations of others manipulate us. Now, catch this, even God can’t please everyone. One person wants it to rain; another person wants it to be sunny. And even if God makes part of the day sunny and the other part rainy, then neither is going to be happy.
Therefore, if God can’t make everyone happy, then its foolish to think that we can do what God can’t. We can’t please everyone, nor can we meet everyone’s expectations. If we try, then we’re just asking for trouble and we are going to end up “should-ing” ourselves. NOT SHOOTING, BUT “SHOULD-ING” It’s where we say that we should have done this or that because it’s what others expect.
Now, there are several things that come along with what I just said. First, we are the only Bible that people are going to read, so what are they seeing when they see how we live our lives? Are they seeing us live out God’s word, or are they seeing more of the world?
Also, there are others who hop from one church to another, or one doctrinal position to another. One church does it one way that is the flavor of the day, or does church in a way that someone says church should be done. Or they read a book that sounds good and so they follow what it says until they read another book and what someone else says, and they change what they do based upon what they read in a book, or on the internet.
Some Christians, therefore, are just all over the place, and have little or no balance in their lives or in the Lord.
And so we need to understand that we can’t please everyone, so let’s stop trying and start pleasing the One who gives our lives balance, and that is the Lord. Further, we can’t do everything, and we can’t be everything to everybody.
To emphasis our limitations the Apostle Paul said, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV)
Our bodies are like jars of clay, that is, feeble and fragile and can easily be broken or cracked. Therefore, since God has created us, the smart thing is to let Him tell us how to live our lives so we don’t crack up.
Place Healthy Limits
To live a balanced life we have to make a conscious decision to make time for other things other than work, and we have to stick by that decision. If we don’t then we’ll never take a break, and in the end live broken and unbalanced lives.
Now, this isn’t pop psychology, it is biblical and found in the fourth commandment. God tells us the importance of taking time off. In fact, God not only tells us, but also shows us by His example, not because He was tired, but because He knew of our frailty and of our need.
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” (Exodus 20:9-10a NKJV)
God commands us to take one day out of seven off. Why? Because God wired us to be in a rhythm of work and rest, and our best work requires rest. I’m still trying to get this one down.
What I am talking about is called the Sabbath principle. While the word “sabbath” means rest, the use of it here refers to a day of rest. Jesus said God gave us the Sabbath, a day of rest, for our benefit, not His own.
“The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NLT)
God doesn’t care which day the Sabbath is taken; God does, however, want it to be taken.
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (Romans 14:5-6a NIV)
Also, the Sabbath isn’t a catch up on what we haven’t done around the house day either, or to sit and watch the games on TV, or do stuff without Jesus at the center.
God gave the Sabbath to …
If we don’t take time off, then our body will take time off for us through sickness. We were not designed by God to go without rest. During the French Revolution they outlawed the Sabbath. But after a couple of years they reinstated it because the health of the nation collapsed. Let me just say that sometimes the most spiritual thing that we can do is take a nap.
Besides resting our bodies on the Sabbath, we need to recharge ourselves emotionally through quietness and some sort of rejuvenating recreation. We need to take time for both relationships and ourselves.
We need to get our focus back onto God, because the pressures of life tend to take our focus off of God and onto everything else that’s stressing us out. The Bible calls this refocusing; worship. Worship is when we focus on God instead of our problems. It’s when we tune into our Creator and His love for us. When we come together and worship the Lord, doesn’t it seem like everything is put in its proper perspective. It’s because we’re refocusing.
Have you ever come into church stressed out to the max, but then through singing worship songs to the Lord, hearing a message from God’s word, and through fellowship with other believers that our problems and what has stressed us out begins to shrink? This happens because we start to see what really matters and then start to put everything in proper perspective.
And so, we need to place God ordain healthy limits, and give God the time He needs to rest our bodies, recharge our emotions, and refocus our spirit.
Re-Adjust Our Values
The world continues to change its values, and if we’re not careful we’ll start following the world instead of the Lord. This is why we are going through this series on building values that are going to last. Hopefully, we’ll start thinking about what is really important in life.
Solomon said, “I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT)
We have two options, we can spend all our time keeping up with the Jones’s, or we can stop and reduce our level of stress. It has been said, “We buy things we don’t want, with money we don’t have, just to impress people we don’t even like.” So, somewhere along the way we have to say, “Enough is enough.” We have to be realistic, rational, and logical about this.
Jesus said, “But how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?” (Mark 8:36NLT)
What good is it to get that job, raise, or promotion only to lose our family, or neglect God in the process? We pray for a job, a raise, or a promotion only to get what we ask, only to find ourselves too busy or tired to come to church and worship God.
Another reason why Americans have a hard time relaxing is because we confuse our work with our worth. We think that what we do is the same thing as who we are. We wrap our identity and worth around what we do. These, however, are two separate things. Our identity has nothing to do with our career. Rather, it has everything to do with who God has created us to be.
I’ve been to a few besides of those who are dying, but not once have I heard them say, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” Instead, what I hear is how they wish they had spent more time with their family, and getting to know God better.
So, we need to re-adjust our values.
Nourish Our Spirits
Learning how to live a balanced life in an unbalanced world is about learning how to nourish and tend the inner fire God has placed within us. It is this inner fire that gives us the passion and zeal and a reason to get up in the morning. But if this fire isn’t nourished it will eventually go out and we’ll end up living our lives from its cold embers.
In the Song of Solomon, his beloved said, “My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.” (Song 1:6b NIV)
She was so busy taking care of others that she never took time to care for herself. I think most of us can relate to that. When it happens it should be a warning that if we’re not careful, if we don’t start tending to our own spirits, then there may be nothing left in the end.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with the whole of who we are, that is, body, soul, mind, and spirit; and the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The point is that when we neglect nourishing our spirit, and let the inner fire die, then we’re not loving God, others, or ourselves.
Our society values appearances over most everything else, and encourages people to live externally, that is, to make everything on the outside look good, in order to cover up what’s happening on the inside. But what does it matter if someone looks good but is filled with bitterness, rage, frustration, and unforgiveness.
Are we neglecting our spirit? Have we stopped praying, reading God’s word?
While touring a very beautiful home, Charles Swindoll walked over to the stone fireplace, where he saw carved on the wooden mantle, “If your heart is cold, my fires cannot warm you.” More possessions cannot warm a cold heart; neither can a promotion or a two-week vacation. What will warm a cold heart, what will nourish our spirits is found in God’s word.
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119: 9-11 NKJV)
And so, to be balanced we have to nourish our soul and spirit, and that only happens when we don’t neglect the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading and studying God’s word, fellowship, worship, stewardship, and service.
There are two main reasons why we get stressed. First, we try to do too much, and second, we try to do it in our own power. These will wear us out, zap our energy, and get us out of balance. Instead, we need to get ourselves plugged into God’s power, and Jesus gives us the method to do it.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV)
When we find ourselves at that point of burn out, when the stress seems greater than what we can bear, then we need to give ourselves completely over to Jesus and begin living for Him. And what He’ll do is replace the trivia that has inundated our lives with what really matters, and it won’t be a burden, rather it will be light.
Let’s give our lives over to Jesus Christ, and let Him put our lives in balance with God and with others.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study