“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” [Luke 2:52]
“Faith gives you an inner strength and a sense of balance and perspective in life.” – Gregory Peck
Balance is a condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions so that there is stability.
Jesus is the epitome of balance. I assume that Jesus is the only one who was perfectly balanced. The rest of us are out of balance as a result of sin and are seeking to attain balance in our lives. We are often aware of imbalance but don’t make the necessary corrections towards balance. And of course there are instances where we are ignorant of our imbalance. Jesus is the model for how we want to live. Luke records Christ’s human development and transition from boyhood to manhood with a summary statement, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” [Luke 2:52]. In this brief summary, Luke identifies four spheres that need to be healthy and balanced in our lives: wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man. There is a parallel with the four-sphere concept of the greatest commandment where we are told, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” [Deut. 6:5, Matt.22:37].
- Stature [strength, the body sphere]: Moses observes that man’s length of days is generally seventy years up to eighty years if you have strength [Psalms 90:10]. Not only are you reminded that your physical life is limited but you are also encouraged that by caring for health that your life can be more productive and enjoyed longer. Moses similarly observed the principle that obedience to God results in better health [Deut. 7:12-15].Paul reminded young Timothy that bodily exercise profits a little compared to the eternal benefits of godliness [1 Tim. 4:8]. The Greco-Roman world that dominated life and culture exalted the human form. The gymnasium was a center of life. Timothy undoubtedly was influenced by that culture and Paul was reminding his disciple not to put too much attention on his body since bodily exercise only provides a temporal benefit. Nevertheless, there is a benefit to exercise that should not be ignored. Fitness and strength impact your capacity to be productive and fulfill your calling. Some of the issues to consider include: regular medical check-ups, nutrition, exercise, predisposition to disease and abuse [e.g. drugs, alcohol].
- Wisdom [the mind sphere]: Wisdom is the godly application of knowledge that is often gleaned by experience. When God offered King Solomon anything that the king would ask for Solomon requested wisdom to lead God’s people. His request pleased God, because the tendency of man would be to seek long life, riches, or the destruction of enemies. So God granted the request such that Solomon became the wisest man to walk the planet other than Jesus [1 Ki. 3:5-12]. Solomon understood the value of wisdom.James encourages us to seek wisdom from God in faith as God delights to impart wisdom liberally and without reproach [Ja. 1:5-7]. Thus growing in wisdom requires the pursuit of learning and risk to glean experiences to grow. A systematic intentional development of the intellect is necessary to effectively fulfill one’s calling. Once you sense your calling in any particular season of life then obtain relevant information to prepare you for your calling. For example, in college the selection of your major helps to focus your studies and education. In your calling it is helpful to read about Christian disciples as a foundation. Learn about theology and understand Christian doctrine generally. If you discovered a call to leadership resources focused on leadership are needed. Similarly a call to foreign missions would likely trigger a greater need and desire to read biographies of missionaries and learn about foreign missions generally.Ask, what do I need to know for the life that God desires for me? Acquire knowledge by being educated in the subject(s). Apply what you learn to grow. Accountability in your life provides confirmation that you are growing in wisdom as you stimulate the intellect and incorporate the lessons learned.
- Favor with man [the soul sphere, personal relationships]: The most important command is to love God with all that we are, and the second greatest command is to love others as you love yourself [Matt. 22:34-40]. The soul is the connection point for relationship with others. Consider the following list of seven key healthy relational traits:
- Compassion [Eph. 4:32] is the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.
- Availability [Gal. 6:1] relates to serving others because you value them.
- Forgiveness [Col. 3:13] allows you to move forward in relationships because you have no yearning to avenge past wrongs.
- Encouragement [1 Th. 5:11] instills others with hope and determination to act beyond their fears and sense of inadequacy to do what God has called them to.
- Honor [Rom. 12:10] affirms and applauds those who do well while resisting the temptation to seek accolades for self.
- Acceptance [Rom. 15:7] is the ability to receive value and harmonize with others who are different. You can accept people without affirming or approving of behaviors or attitudes that are beyond God’s boundaries.
- Humility [Matt. 11:29] is the capacity to defer to another’s needs or authority instead of demanding preference for self.
- Favor with God [the spirit sphere, relationship with God]: Spiritual maturity is more than following rules. A mature relationship with God is more than one-dimensional [e.g. prayer, Bible, or service]. It is characterized by love that is demonstrated by actions of obedience, attitudes of dependence, and the development of Christ-like character [Gal. 5:22-23]. It is associated with increased faith in God, understanding of God and experience with God.
Finding balance: We have a few Christmas traditions in our home. We generally eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve and open a present. When the kids were smaller we all got new pajamas (and no they didn’t match). On Christmas Day we open all the Christmas cards together and thank God for loved ones. We read the account of Christ’s birth and early years from Luke 2. Now that our sons are grown we each read a paragraph and talk about what it means. And we finish at Lu. 2:52 and look for balance.
We look at the four spheres described above and do some self-examination. How am I doing in each sphere? We rank where we are strongest to weakest. We share with one another for accountability and confirmation. Then we consider how we would like to change in the coming year to attain better balance. For example, I have found that my strongest spheres are my relationship with God and the mind/intellect sphere. I have had seasons that were so busy that I neglected my health and did not make as much time for relationships as I wanted. So I looked to make adjustments like seeking to get together with a friend or friends at least once a week to enhance the relationship sphere. In the body sphere, I still don’t eat a very healthy diet and I don’t get as much rest as I likely need, but I have started riding a bicycle regularly as a way improve in this sphere and resting more. I personally like to review on a quarterly basis to see how balanced I feel. I’ll also ask for feedback from my wife and some other friends to get their sense. Then I’ll try to adjust as needed.
Although I’ve never considered Gregory Peck a great theologian (although I loved his character in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird) I wholeheartedly agree with his observation, “Faith gives you an inner strength and a sense of balance and perspective in life.” Ultimately it is our faith in Christ that will give us perspective and guide us towards balance in life.
- Look at the four spheres and do some self-examination. How are you doing in each sphere? Rank where you are strongest to weakest.
- Consider how you would like to change in the coming year to attain better balance.
- Share with another for accountability and confirmation. Also consider asking for feedback from your spouse and/or some other friends to get their sense. Then try to adjust the review and balance as needed.
- Schedule a reevaluation of your balance and put the date in your calendar. I recommend a review annually or every six months or quarterly.