Oct 23 - Does Life Feel Out Of Balance?

Does Life Feel Out Of Balance?

October 23, 2016

Ephesians 5:15-17

 

DOES LIFE FEEL OUT OF BALANCE?

October 23, 2016

Ephesians 5:15-17

 

I used to have a handle on life, but mine broke.

I don’t have the time to have the nervous breakdown I deserve.

You’re just jealous because the voices only talk to me.

Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven’t fallen asleep yet.

The office may turn out to be hell with fluorescent lighting.

If therapy is too expensive, you can always use bubble wrap.

I’m not tense, just really, really alert.

 

Lack of balance is actually no joking matter.  It can and usually does lead to some form of unhappiness or negative feelings like stress, guilt, loss of affection, lack of peace or joy, impatience, etc. 

 

However, the inverse is true as well.  The more balanced our lives, the more peaceful, joyful, relaxed and patient we can be. Which makes our topic this morning an important one. 

 

The apostle Paul wrote a letter which we know as the letter to the Ephesians.  However, the earliest mss of Ephesians do not contain reference to Ephesus at all.  Therefore, it may be that this letter is a circular letter, much like Galatians, that was to be passed from city to city, church to church.  In the context of telling his readers to emulate God’s character, to live a life of love, to live pure lives, and to be children of light, Paul then makes these comments:

 

Therefore, pay careful attention to how you conduct your lives, not unwisely but wisely.  Redeem the time because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

`Ephesians 5:15-17

 

The Christians in the churches to whom Paul wrote to, were to pay careful attention to how they lived (lit. walked).  There are two principles to keep in mind with living circumspectly.  First, it is actually looking carefully at the choices made in life to make sure they are the right ones

 

It’s like the mountain climber or the tightrope walker, looking where each step goes to make sure that one is safe, on the straight and narrow, so to speak. 

 

The other thing to keep in mind about paying careful attention to where we are going, is that something will need to tell us which way to go, what decision to make.  In other words, we need to have some basic guidelines that will tell us that we are going in the right direction and making the right choices. Since the days are evil, as Paul writes, it’s pretty easy to make the wrong choices.

 

Being foolish, then, is not having guidelines other than our own desires and proclivities or society’s norms, whereas being wise is in fact making the right choices based on the right guidelines

 

Then Paul comments that the believers were to redeem the time.  The NIV translates, they were to make the most of every opportunity.[1]  It is really speaking of making good use of time; of reclaiming time and using it properly; of making the most of the time available to us. 

 

The word translated “time” in our passage (kairon, not chronos), in other contexts is also translated as “opportunity”, or “the right moment” or “the opportune moment.”[2] 

 

However, when it refers to time, as in our passage, it doesn’t just mean sequential time (= chronos), but it is in reference to an indeterminate time, a season of time, when something significant happens, like harvest time, or advent, or fall, or, in this case, the remaining lifespan of a human being prior to Christ’s return.[3]

 

So in order to redeem the time, it is not only speaking about making the right choices today and tomorrow, it is also referring to taking hold of life as a limited and special time –a season when a person is on a mission in order to get something of significance accomplished.

 

So Paul’s view of life was that it is an opportunity, a season, when something of significance needs to get done.  The wise accomplish this task, the foolish don’t. 

 

So potentially we could get mired in the day to day routine, in the urgent and the necessary, in the mundane and the chores and duties of life. 

Or, we could get mired in a host of things that really do nothing to accomplish much of anything. Let me elaborate what I mean:

 

Every day I receive a large number of emails, I receive some phone calls, text messages, and voice mail.  I have certain duties at work, I volunteer in the community, I might listen to the radio, watch TV, go online, do chores, and then there is the need to fulfill at least some of the expectations of friends, family, extended family, church members, and so on. And that means that life becomes a huge balancing act.

 

I can do two things to live or spend my time in an unwise manner.  One, I can get hyperactive and overcommitted.

 

Now some people thrive on this. They actually don’t like it when they aren’t busy all the time. They thrive on stress and are high capacity, high achievers.  But most people aren’t wired that way.  So I can keep saying “yes” to things, even though if I might lack the energy or time to do something well, and get overcommitted so I have to work on my days off.

 

Here are a few questions for you to figure out if you are overcommitted.  

Do you feel like you should slow down?

Do you think you don’t have enough time to relax?

Are you constantly stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or exhausted?

 

I’ve heard it said that we can be so busy working to finance our dreams that we end up living out a nightmare.

 

The second thing I can do to spend my time in an unwise manner is to become an underachiever.

 

1.  I can withdraw from commitment of any kind.  I can say “no” to everything. I can refuse to join anything, help out anywhere, volunteer for anything, get involved with anything. 

 

2. Or we can underachieve by withdrawing from real life and retreating into a world of fantasy: TV, books, movies, gaming, Facebook, Twitter, Texting, other social media and other online activities. 

 

A man once told his wife that he never wanted to live in a vegetative state, his life dependent upon a machine. He said, "If that ever happens to me, I want you to pull the plug." So she got up and unplugged the television. For many individuals, it’s no longer the TV, but the computer.
 

3. We can underachieve by withdrawing emotionally, becoming sullen and non-communicative. 

 

4. We can withdraw by procrastinating

 

When we withdraw, life passes is by.  We might be alive, but we’re not really living any kind of meaningful life.

 

So will either approach to life (always being busy or constantly withdrawing), make us feel good about ourselves and life in general?  Or is there a better approach?

 

I believe that proper balance is in fact necessary in order to make our lives meaningful, and, just as importantly, that the moment by moment decisions we make determine whether or not we get there

 

Many of us follow the same routine every day, we are busy, but may not have a sense of purpose or direction.  Our happiness and fulfillment often depends on the present circumstances.  If we are completely honest with ourselves, we may even have to admit that we are empty inside … we are not experiencing the life we really want.     

 

So I ask you, are you just content with making a living rather than making a life?  More content with existing rather than living?
 

The person who redeems the time is able to balance life and therefore get something of significance accomplished.  But in order to do so, it may be a good idea to look at what actually is significant.    

 

Because we can spend our whole life building an empire, and lose our family or our health in the process, and on top of it, don’t accomplish what God considers to be of prime importance (the “will of God” in our passage that believers who are wise are to “understand” and therefore base their decisions on).  We gain the world, but lose our souls, as Jesus put it.

 

So wise people, those who redeem the time, have to ask themselves why they are here in the first place.  I mean really, why has God placed them on this earth to accomplish in the relatively few years they are here?  Why has God granted us this season to be alive?  If we haven’t answered that question, we may not have the right measuring tool to figure out what our priorities in life should be.

 

The apostle Paul asked and answered that question for himself.  To the believers in Rome he writes that ultimately they are to live a life of worship to God, as they discern God’s will and chose to do the things that are right, acceptable, and perfect.[4]  This includes the “good deeds” he mentions in Ephesians 2:10 that God prepared for us to do even before we were born.

 

Life gives each one of us opportunities and challenges.  We may, in life, become wise, good, pure, happy, noble, Christ-like, ... or we may not.  The opportunity is there.  It’s up to us whether or not we will turn it into fact. 

 

Our daily duties and routines carry with them opportunities.  However, if we go about them without thinking of God or the highest ends which life is meant to serve, or what our purpose in life is, ... then there is a very high probability, if not certainty, that we will never accomplish that for which God created us, we will lose out an accomplishing a higher purpose and goal, other than just looking after ourselves and our children.

 

We can go through life, study, make a living, possibly marry and procreate, gain more knowledge, receive a title, achieve a position, buy a house, and still miss out on our higher calling. While there’s nothing wrong with achieving any and all of those things, if we limit our definition of success to these things, regardless of whether we make this world a better place or fulfill our destiny as defined by God, or live a life of worship, or do the good that is to be our destiny, then we can still fail in God’s eyes. 

 

Anyone, regardless of their belief system, can accomplish these things if that is what they limit their definition of success to.  Therefore, if life is not to be squandered and wasted, more is needed than simply a family and career.

 

Let me make another comment when it comes to our lives.  Some people simply cannot live in the moment, in the today. They may pine for yesterday and remember it as being beautiful.  Or they may live for tomorrow, which they see as being full of possibilities.  But they view today, this moment, this time, as common and of little value.  There are these mountains behind, and the mountains to come.  They are majestic and radiant sunshine hits them, and the blue sky seems to touch their peaks.

 

But in comparison, today may appear to be a valley clothed in shade.  The present is flat and unimportant and far away from the heavens.  The sun is not hitting us.

 

While our overall lives are to have meaning, it is hard to see how that meaning can be found in the moment, in what we do right now, the decisions we make right now.  “Now” appears to be just a fleeting moment, an instant in time, which seem so insignificant when looked at by itself. 

 

But we forget that all of life is just that, one moment, one fragment, one instant, one decision followed by another. And each of these moments, even the current one, has the potential of being of great worth, if we deal with it wisely and not foolishly. 

 

Only when we see that each moment, each decision, will determine the overall direction of our lives, will we recognize just how important each moment in time and each decision really is. 

 

Eg. Every time we go to the grocery store or open the fridge, we will make a decision as to what we eat.  It may seem insignificant to buy a chocolate bar, or that candy, or that desert, but the small decisions have compounding effect and can determine our health and weight and therefore the direction of our lives. 

 

Each moment in time and each decision is either taking us away from or toward what we say is important to us, and away from or toward accomplishing that for which we have been placed on earth in the first place. 

 

So I think we need to be aware of the importance, first, of the task given to us on this earth, and second, just how important our momentary decisions during every day are when it comes to whether or not we actually fulfil that task.  It’s like the saying about the journey being as important as the destination.  In other words, the journey can be as meaningful and enjoyable as the destination.

 

As I’ve already said, I believe we need a balanced life in order to accomplish our task on earth, which means that our daily and momentary decisions should lead us toward balance. 

 

It may be true that a balanced life may not look exactly the same for everyone:  for example, some individuals are energized, others are drained, by having lots of people around.  However, certain principles will hold true almost all of the time and for everyone. 

 

We all have to find a balance between ... 

 

1. home life,

2. work/career, and/or schooling/studies

3. rest/sleep and relaxation / fun / recreation

4. Church / Fellowship with other believers

 

Looked at a bit differently, believers need to find a way to find balance in the following arenas of life...

 

  1. physical: health, exercise, rest, nutrition

  2. emotional (psychological): mental health, stable emotions, down time to rejuvenate,

  3. relational (social): family, friends, coworkers, fellow Christians

  4. intellectual: personal development; growth

  5. spiritual: God, prayer, volunteering, helping, humanitarian, theology

  6. financial / vocational (job, career purchases, savings, debt, giving). 

 

We have to find the proper balance between these various areas and within each of these areas of life. 

 

In fact, we can think of balance as juggling a number of balls.  When we drop any one of the balls, things will go sideways in life.  However, some of these balls are made out of rubber while others are made out of glass.  So if we drop the ball of our physical health, it will usually bounce (unless the rubber has become brittle). 

 

That is, if we start doing the right things to look after ourselves, usually we can start including the ball of good health in our juggling act.  Work is another one of these balls.  We lose our job, or we do poorly at work, and generally, things will bounce back.  We find another job or we become more competent at work. 

 

However, the glass balls won’t bounce.  They will bang and get scratched and roll on the ground, so that they’re much harder to pick up.  And sometimes they will shatter.  So if you drop the relational ball too often, things won’t bounce back.  This is particularly true with individuals who mean a lot to us.  

 

Another way of looking at this is to think of tires, whether belonging to a small car or an 18 wheeler.  The tires are the areas of our lives, and in order not to wear unevenly or bring a shimmy to the vehicle when driving, each wheel should be properly inflated and balanced.  Worst-case scenario, an overinflated or damaged tire blows – or the nuts work loose and it comes off altogether. 

 

To carry on the analogy, just as a vehicle needs an oil and filter change, and we have a dipstick to see if that may be the case, it probably would be valuable to evaluate where we are right now.  There are healthy lifestyle tests online, most of which are rubbish, but a few are quite helpful.[5]  Sometimes we simply don’t know all the things we are doing that are counterproductive.

 

Balance among those categories and within those categories have to do with setting the right priorities so that the decisions that are made in the moment are the right ones – even if choosing them may seem quite hard. 

 

I’ve included this chart.  It divides life into four categories based on whether or not something is important, and, based on whether or not I can do anything about it.  When the answer to both of these is in the affirmative, it is important and I can do something about it, then the task is to set priorities.

 

Why are our lives out of balance?

 

  1. Wrong definition of success

  2. Indulging our desires improperly (food, shopping, sex...)

  3. Poor time management - not setting priorities, not writing out the stuff that absolutely should get done today.

  4. Not putting my priorities into my schedule

 

Stephen Covey makes this point:  The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

 

Put the things you say are important on your day timer ... incl. time w. family, time to work out, time to relax, time to go for a walk, and so on.  If it doesn’t make the day timer, it likely won’t make it at all. 

 

By the way, setting priorities is not always about figuring out the difference between what’s right and wrong, good or bad, what I should and should not be doing.   Sometimes it is figuring out what is good and what is best.

 

God has intended for us to have the responsibility of ordering our own lives, not someone else’s.   So let’s briefly look at the various areas of life where we need balance.

 

Spiritual Balance

 

I'm sure you've heard sermons on the importance of reading the Bible, praying, worship, discipleship and Christian service.  I just wanted to add that when it comes to spiritual balance that also means theological balance.  What I mean by that, is that biblical truth either misunderstood or pushed too far can become false and possibly dangerous. 

 

Physical balance

 

What do you think is the most common New Year’s resolution?  That’s right – to lose weight!  That usually means that people are focused on going on a diet or eating less.  And there is nothing wrong with this.  However, it may be more productive to focus on eating right rather than trying to deal with hunger pangs?  Just a thought.

And while we may be genetically predisposed to certain diseases, our personal decisions, even the small ones, are also a huge factor in what happens to us.  So to a large extent, we determine our own destiny as far as becoming and remaining a healthy person

Furthermore, the Bible teaches that we have a sacred duty to be pro-active about our own self-care.  In the context of abstaining from sexual sin, the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Corinth, that their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore, that they need to honour God in or with their bodies.[6]  

But the verse is often applied to what we eat or allow access into our bodies.  I’ve heard people say, treat your body as if it’s a temple.  That may be right and good, unless good health, or eating right, or exercise, or our own bodies become an idol that replaces God as most important in our lives.   

So maybe there is something with regard to your health that needs to become a priority to the point that your moment by moment decisions are guided by it. 

Financial balance

 

Jesus spoke a lot about money, most of which we really don’t want to hear, the most famous of all being that we cannot serve both God and our wealth. 

 

Believers need to earn money ethically, they need to pay their bills, they need to get out of debt if they’re in it, they need to put some funds aside, and they need to share generously, which includes the tithe.  If that can’t be done, then they may need to learn to cut back on spending.  One of the most important financial decisions we can make is to live within our means.

 

Relationship balance

 

One part of a true definition of success may be, that those closes to me, love and respect me the most, so more than those who don’t know me as well.

 

What we lack when our life is out of balance: self-discipline (taking charge of our lives)

 

If you feel that your life is out of balance, what will get you back on track?  Momentary decisions that promote balance.

 

Take charge of your life:

 

Discover your purpose

Set your priorities - write them down!

Make a plan for change (to fulfill the priorities) - put them on your day timer, don’t let other things interfere

 

Without a plan, we will be swept along by all of life’s little urgencies and distractions.  Set an agenda and include spending time with family, working out, writing, ....  Build a budget and stick to it. 

 

Ultimate, we want to place our lives in God’s hands, and honour God with them. 

 

WHERE IS MY LIFE MOST OUT OF BALANCE?

WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT STEP I CAN TAKE RIGHT NOW?

 

[1] Gk. exagorazomai - BGD says the meaning of the middle voice is unclear - possibly, make the most of (Col 4:5 and here), save from being lost, buying off (avoiding), purchasing.

[2] cf. Gal 6:10 - as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those of the household of faith.

[3] cf. Mark 1:15 - The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.

[4] Rom 12:2 – have mind renewed … be transformed … by testing discern God’s will (do what is good, acceptable, perfect) … l. 

[5] https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Quiz/Question/everyday-healthy-living-quiz/

[6] 1 Cor 6:18-20 - Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a man can commit is outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body