Charles Blondin, a Frenchman, made history in 1859 when he performed a marvelous, unusual and highly dangerous stunt, not just once but several times. The feat? He walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls! And very carefully, no doubt! Such was Blondin's worldwide fame that he repeated the deed, with variations, on several occasions — blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, even on stilts. Apparently oblivious to the death-defying nature of his work, Blondin took his last walk the year before he died — and he was 73 at the time of his death in Middlesex, England. Charles Blondin, one certainly must say, was a truly balanced individual, at least acrobatically. When God calls us to His way of life, it's to a life of balance, poise and self-control. Yet the type of balance God wants in us is probably one of the most difficult attributes to develop. What is balance, and in which areas do we need it most?
What is balance?
Several expressions could be used in place of the word balance to describe a truly balanced person. Balance means stability, constancy, immutability, having a harmonious equilibrium in parts, soundness and so on. Self-control includes self-command, reliance, being filled with restraint, continence and humility.
Balance! Charles Blondin walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls several times, even carrying another person, left, and pushing a wheelbarrow while dressed in a monkey suit, above. Proper balance was the key.
Certainly God Himself manifests all these characteristics. God's perfect character may be beautifully summed up, in short, by two similar scriptures, one from each of the testaments: "I am the Lord, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). God is never changing, always constant and balanced. God wants us to build these characteristics — these traits of His own nature — into our lives. God gives humans various abilities, potentials and powers. But humans can and too often do abuse these. Their right use demands that we control our wills and energies with the help of God's Holy Spirit. It's interesting that the list of the fruits of the Spirit, recorded by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, RAV, ends with self-control (the Authorized Version has "temperance," which is actually only one form of self-control). The Greek word translated "self-control" or "temperance" is derived from the root kratos, meaning "strength." In other words, all of the attributes in the list must be balanced and controlled by the strength of God's Spirit. What are some of the areas of life where we need balance most? Here are four:
Marriage and family life
From the beginning, a main reason God gave man a wife, and vice versa, is to give each marriage partner balance. The man is not complete alone, and neither is the woman (Genesis 2:18). Before marriage we can often be more self-centered. God ordained marriage as an area of our life experience to help us gain equilibrium (Proverbs 18:22, 19:14, 31:10-12). It is when the husband or wife or both act selfishly that marital problems erupt. The family environment, homemaking and child rearing are difficult areas in terms of character building, overcoming and maturing. Having children helps us to adjust to different characters and personalities, especially as children grow into adults. Solomon's statement in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 certainly applies to marriage: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall [get off balance], one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls... a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Jesus Christ's personality was so well-rounded and harmonious that he could relate to and speak to all — tax collectors, fishermen, businessmen, priests, doctors of law, the high and the low on the social scale. He was so balanced in this area that He was accused by some who lacked this very trait (Luke 5:30, 7:34). Paul explained that we must be all things to all people — and that takes a balanced personality (Romans 1:14-15, I Corinthians 9:19-23). Balance in this major area is essential to a good marriage, in the home, at work, socially and in every other walk of life. Communication is a major aspect of personality. Yet today there is a paradox: There are more highly developed technical means of communication than ever before, yet a tremendous lack in practical dialogue that equitably bridges the gap between people! Because of lack of emotional self-control, some have been offended (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22). Gossip, for instance, is communication, but totally lacking in self-control. James had plenty to say about wrong uses of the tongue (James 3:1-12). Remember the old adage: "Put brain into gear before engaging mouth!" Philippians 4:8 offers a good summation of the qualities that make up a pleasant, attractive personality. We all need to be more concerned with our actions and obligations to our fellow human beings.
We start life in a family, then we learn to communicate. And pretty soon we have to work! In emphasizing the Sabbath command, God said that six out of every seven days is given over to work (Exodus 20:8-11). We must be balanced in this area to live a satisfying life. Solomon didn't always see this. At one stage he even said he hated work (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18). Overall, however, he realized the need to have a balanced, controlled view of this area, which occupies much of our lives (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:22, 9:10). How we work is very important. It should be sincere, honest labor, as if our real boss were Jesus Christ Himself (He is, you know). No matter who we are or what work we have, in the end, we'll have to give an account of our labors (Ephesians 6:5-8). Being "workaholics" to the detriment of our families or our own health is not balanced (Ecclesiastes 2:4, 11, 22-23). Nor is doing nothing, expecting others to feed and clothe us, for those who do not work, as Paul said, ought not to eat (II Thessalonians 3:10). Work should be a fulfilling experience — not an end in itself, but an area of service to our fellowman and a place for personal character growth.
Perhaps the most difficult area of all in which to gain and maintain equilibrium, stability and self-control with humility is in the area of spiritual pursuits. Jesus said that we would know the truly mature Christian by his fruits (Matthew 7:15-23). It is so easy to get off balance spiritually. Take a bunch of grapes. They all come from the same vine. But if we examine each individual grape — look at the texture, size and shape of each and then finally taste each one — we find differences in maturity. One may be truly succulent and perfect. Another has been overly exposed to the heat of the sun and is almost a raisin. Yet another, hidden in the middle of the bunch, is stunted, still green and tastes sour. But the source of all the grapes is the same. So it is with the fruits of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As Christian branches of God's vine (John 15:1-7), we are watered and tended so we may bring forth various fruits (I Corinthians 3:6-8) and, depending on the nutrients we receive, we shall bring forth various amounts of growth (Matthew 13:23). Christians are given various spiritual gifts and placed within the Body of Christ — the Church — in a balanced, harmonious fashion as God sees fit (I Corinthians 12:18). Within that family, the Church, the "mother of us all" engenders stability in growth in us, her children, through a balanced diet of doctrinal teaching, personal prayer and study, fasting, congregational worship, social activities and fellowship. This very magazine, The Good News, is designed to foster harmony, sound biblical doctrine, temperance in the widest sense of the word and constancy, helping readers produce balance in their Christian lives. There are many areas, of course, where balance must be gained. But these four main ones probably cover a majority of the spectrum of life's experiences. These become our overall Christian responsibilities. We all need to deeply meditate on how to be balanced, self-controlled, stable persons, and strive to become such people, leading a positive, practical way of life.