Find Your Balance
Find Your Balance
My body is so inflexible. I was told once by a professional fitness trainer, who happened to notice the way I was walking, that I was one of the worst cases of stiffness he had ever come across. I am now trying to do more stretching!
I had considered myself reasonably fit (for my age!), as a result of still playing squash and biking everywhere. But in other ways, I realised I am not. Physical fitness is a balance of strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Some people are exceptionally strong but cannot even run to catch a bus. Others are aerobically very fit (they could run a marathon), but are not very strong.
However, spiritual fitness is far more important than physical fitness. It also involves balancing a number of areas of your life.
Humility and confidenceProverbs 29:19–27
I find it very hard to maintain the balance between humility and confidence. There have been times in my life when I have been humbled (perhaps by some failure) and not felt very confident. At other times, I have felt great confidence but, perhaps, lacked humility.
There is much to ponder in today’s passage in Proverbs about not speaking before we think (v.20), controlling anger and hot-temperedness (v.22), and trusting God as being the ultimate source of justice (v.26).
In particular, I notice this balance between humility and confidence: ‘Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honours’ (v.23, MSG). This is a constant theme in Proverbs (11:2; 18:12; 21:4; 22:4).
Be confident in the Lord. Do not live in fear of what others may think or do. ‘To fear anyone will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe’ (29:25).
The key to keeping this balance is to avoid self-confidence and to practise humble God-confidence, ensuring that your confidence comes not from your own abilities or successes, but from trusting in the Lord.
Lord, help me to have a confidence that comes from trusting in you, to avoid fearing anyone and to walk humbly before you.
Truth and love2 John 1:1–13
Here is another difficult balance to maintain. Love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love. Sometimes in my life I have been passionate about ‘the truth’, but perhaps have not been very loving. Other times I have tried to be very loving but perhaps have failed to care enough about ‘the truth’.
In this second letter of John (probably written to a church referred to as ‘the chosen lady’, v.1), he warns them of the danger of false teaching that denied the fact that Jesus had come to this earth in bodily form and was therefore both fully divine and fully human. John urges this beautiful balance of ‘truth and love’ (v.2). Indeed, he intermingles the two, even in the greeting.
He writes, ‘I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone – everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you’ (v.1, MSG).
Because he loves them, he wants to see them in person and ‘have a heart-to-heart talk’ (v.12, MSG). Letter writing, emails, texts, phone calls, WhatsApp and even Skype or FaceTime are no substitute for being with someone ‘face to face’ (v.12) and talking heart to heart.
He urges them to ‘love one another’ (v.5) and to ‘walk in love’ (v.6). Love should be the aim of our lives. Study love, talk about it and practise it.
The test of love is obedience to Jesus: ‘Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love’ (v.6, MSG).
Truth and love are not opposed to each other. Indeed, they complement one another. John is delighted to find this church ‘living out the Truth’ (v.4, MSG). Truth really matters. Truth is found in a person. Jesus said, ‘I am… the Truth’ (John 14:6). Listen to the truth. Teach the truth. Love the truth.
There are many deceivers out there (2 John 1:7–8). Cling to the truth and do not be deceived or you will lose out.
Only by knowing the truth and holding fast to it and continuing in the teaching will we have ‘both the Father and the Son’ (v.9).
The next verse does not sound very loving – ‘If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner’ (v.10, MSG). But actually, John’s passion for the truth stems from his love for this church. Because he loves them, he is not willing to tolerate falsehood. False teachers may seek to lead you astray, but ‘do not lose what you have worked for’ (v.8).
Lord, help me to maintain this balance between truth and love and always ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15).
Vision and actionHaggai 1:1–2:23
A top management consultant once told me that ‘no chief executive was ever fired for lack of vision’. But many are unable to put their vision into action.
Visions don’t work unless you do. In this little book of Haggai, we see a wonderful balance between vision and action.
Five times, the Lord Almighty said through the prophet Haggai: ‘Give careful thought’ (1:5,7; 2:15 and twice in 2:18). Vision starts with thinking – grasping in our minds a picture of what could be.
Get your priorities sorted out. Haggai challenged God’s people about their priorities. They were living in comfortable homes while the house of the Lord remained a ruin (1:4). Yet they were saying, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built’ (v.2).
The people had decided to rebuild the temple. They had good intentions, but they had not done it because it was not their priority.
The prophet Haggai urged them to think carefully about their ways (v.5). Their primary concern should be to see God’s name honoured (v.8), yet they left God’s house as a ‘ruin’ (vv.4,9).
Eugene Peterson writes that there are ‘times in our lives when repairing the building where we worship is an act of obedience every bit as important as praying in that place of worship.’
Some of the people were dismayed that the new temple was not as splendid as the old had been: ‘“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong... For I am with you… And my Spirit remains among you. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house… And in this place I will grant peace”’ (2:3–5, 9).
These are the verses through which God spoke to Sandy Millar, and others, about HTB Onslow Square in July 1981, when the church building was about to be closed and sold to a property developer. It was the theme of our 2010 thanksgiving service celebrating the 150th anniversary of the church, and the official reopening after three years of restoration work.
Now it is a thriving centre for The Marriage Course and other family-life courses and hundreds of young people worship Jesus there every Sunday. Our prayer and hope for the future is that ‘the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house’ (v.9).
In the book of Haggai, having seen this vision, they had to ‘Get to work, all you people! – God is speaking... Put into action’ (v.4, MSG). And so the work began (1:14).
As you look around at the church in your own nation give careful thought to your ways. It is not right to live in comfort while God’s house remains a ‘ruin’. God wants people in your nation to come to know him and be part of his church. Visualise how God could be even more glorified in his church today than he was in the past (2:9).
First, ‘be strong’ (v.4). Do not weaken in your resolve because of attack, criticism or discouragement. Second, ‘work’ (1:14; 2:4). It is hard work but there is nothing wrong with that. There are times when you need to work exceedingly hard. Third, ‘do not fear’ (v.5). This suggests that there will be things that could cause fear.
You can trust God with the finances. The Lord declares, ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine’ (v.8).
The key is that the Lord says, ‘I am with you… And my Spirit remains among you’ (1:13; 2:5). You can overcome all your fears because you know that God is with you.
Lord, help me to balance humility and confidence, love and truth, vision and action, to trust that you are with us and to work hard to see your name glorified.
‘Give careful thought to your ways… my house… remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’
There is so much to do in looking after a home, replacing broken things, changing light bulbs, washing, cleaning, tidying etc. I’m sure God wants us to be good stewards of our homes. But the verse reminds me to be equally concerned about God’s house. So many churches are in a really bad state of repairs and not fit for the King of kings.
Verse of the Day
‘The fear of human opinion disables;
trusting in God protects you from that’ (Proverbs 29:25, MSG).
* Love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love. This is a combination of excerpts from two of John Stott’s writings: God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Intervarsity Press, 1980) p.172 and Epistles of John: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale House, 1964) p.205.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.