Maintaining Balance

The truth is rarely determined by finding a midpoint between two conflicting positions.  Truth stands on its own merits and must be objectively determined by analyzing evidence.  However, when it comes to judgment matters we must often strive to maintain balance between extremes.  Consider some examples:

Our work for God.  Do I sometimes say something wise and insightful that helps someone?  Yes.  Do I sometimes say something foolish and insensitive that offends?  Yes.  Do I sometimes strike up a conversation with a stranger and turn it in a spiritual direction?  Yes.  Do I sometimes miss an opportunity completely because I am in a hurry or don’t want to expend the energy?  Yes.  Each of us could continue along this line and enumerate our personal flaws that demonstrate inconsistency at best and flat out contradiction at worst.  How do we explain this?  One answer:  We are not as strong or wise or conscientious or aware as we should be.  We all have good qualities that we are trying to make better, but we are striving for an ideal that we will never quite reach in this life.

While it’s not an excuse, we are in good company.  The same Peter who was unafraid to go to Cornelius’ house and preach the gospel to him was later so intimidated by Jewish brethren that he withdrew from the Gentiles in Antioch.  The same David who courageously killed Goliath with a sling was later so afraid of Saul that he lied to Ahimelech the priest, thus setting up the entire city of Nob for slaughter.

The upshot:  the perfect Christian, and thus the perfect church, the perfect elder, the perfect preacher does not exist.  We strive to serve God consistently, but at the same time we are confronted with our many failings.  We “plant and water,” but it is God who “gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:6).  Let us be neither overly discouraged by our failures nor overly proud of our successes.  Rather, let us pray for forgiveness where our choices are sinful; let us pray for wisdom when we are foolish; let us pray for growth when we display immaturity.  God will help us if we will but acknowledge our weaknesses and resolve to rely on Him.  Success doesn’t depend on us alone; God will make up for our inadequacies and multiply our efforts to achieve His will.  Do not be demoralized by your shortcomings.

Our general disposition.  Am I sometimes patient with others and willing to abide their flaws?  Yes.  Am I sometimes overly irritated and short with those who are clueless?  Yes.  Am I appreciative of all God has given me?  Yes.  Do I sometimes complain about minor things that don’t really matter in the greater scheme of things?  Yes. 

Once again, though the failures of others don’t justify our own, others of great faith likewise show the same inconsistency.  Moses, a spiritual giant of a man, “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3), was the same leader who got so perturbed with the carping, complaining Israelites that he publicly disobeyed and dishonored God before them (Num 20:1-13).  Barnabas, “the son of encouragement” (Ac 4:36), an unbigoted man who was among the first to welcome the Gentiles into the church (Ac 11:22-24), was also swept up in the afore-mentioned hypocrisy of Peter (Gal 2:11-13). 

We all live amidst stressful circumstances, worldly antagonism, unfair outcomes; sleepless nights; crushing disappointments; narcissistic abusers; imperfect people (including ourselves – J).  When we lose our balance, these things can overwhelm us in the moment and we react out of carnal impulse instead of thinking our way through from a spiritual perspective.  We must monitor ourselves daily, sometimes even moment to moment, and make sure that we are not leaving ourselves vulnerable to Satan’s deceptions.  As a roaring lion hunting its prey (1 Pet 5:8), Satan is prowling and seeking to catch us off-guard.  And, as Moses learned the hard way, sometimes those momentary slips have irreversible consequences.  

Our worship.  Do I sometimes swell with emotion when I sing hymns or feel the heaviness of Jesus’ sacrifice as I observe the Lord’s supper?  Yes.  Do I sometimes finish a song and realize my mind wandered through most of it?  Yes.  Do I occasionally take morning walks and begin my day with prayer and meditation?  Yes.  Does the evening sometimes fall on a day that I spent no time in serious conversation with God?  Yes.  Am I sometimes thrilled at the discoveries I make in studying Scripture, especially when a passage seems to say exactly what I needed to hear at that moment?  Yes.  Am I sometimes unmotivated to pick up God’s word and prepare for a class or just engage in devotional reading?  Yes. 

We are able to worship so freely and easily in this country that we may take such for granted.  Surely we have all wondered how we would fare in circumstances where worshiping God might result in abuse or arrest or worse.  This ease can breed softness, indifference and a general malaise in our worship.  Thus we must find a way to retain our intensity in our service to God, for He deserves the best we have to give (Mal 1:12-14).

Maturity = balance.  So, what should we be ultimately striving for in view of our inadequacies and inconsistencies?  In a word, maturity.  It is the mature who are wise, steady, constant, balanced and emotionally stable.  The immature are distracted, shallow, impulsive, unable to connect present duty with the profitable outcome.  They either don’t know what they want, or they are enamored for a short while with things of little value or mere amusements but which provide no real benefit in the long run.

Paul phrases it thusly:  “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine … but speaking the truth in love may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ …” (Eph 4:13-15).  To the Corinthians he said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). 

May we all work toward a mature faith that is stable, consistent and unwavering.  But let us understand at the same time that we often fall.  When we do, we cannot stay down.  As the child learning to walk, we need to get back up and try again, perhaps in halting steps, but eventually striding confidently toward our eternal destination.