by Howard Norton
Jesus was known for being a balanced person. Luke says in his biography of Jesus that he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). In other words, he grew in God-given good sense, physical development, spirituality, and people skills. What a great description of the Son of God in human flesh, and what a word-picture of what he wants us to become.
We all know the importance of balance in our lives, but we sometimes fail to embrace these fundamental attributes of spiritual success and happiness. For the last few days, we have been enjoying the playoffs leading up to the World Series. We have cheered and jeered when our favorite teams disappointed us. A person doesn’t have to view much baseball to realize that a championship team must have balance. There has to be good pitching, strong hitting, dependable fielding, smart base running, intelligent coaching, and a warm spirit of camaraderie for a baseball team to make it to the top. A major weakness in any one of these categories will almost certainly spell defeat.
Football teams must also play well in all parts of the game in order to win championships. Whoever receives the trophy will have to have a powerful offense, a tough line on both sides of the ball, accurate passing, and an explosive running game. The winner will also need a kicking game with outstanding play by special teams. Anything less than this will probably bury a team’s hopes for victory.
Balance is the key.
Mothers are famous for such phrases as “Eat your spinach,” “Finish your veggies,” “Drink your milk,” “Don’t eat so many sweets,” or “Don’t forget to eat your fruit.” Why? Because long years of research show that a balanced diet contributes to good health. People who want nothing but steak, potatoes and gravy run the risk of paying for their finicky eating habits later in life.
Ira North, late and popular Tennessee preacher, teacher, and author wrote a book entitled “Balance” that has become a “must read” for preachers and elders who want to build a great church. In answer to many people who wanted to know how to develop strong local churches, North had a one-word answer: balance. That profound response also explains a great deal about the secret of lives well-lived, and the cause of so many lives that end in shame and shattered dreams.
For many years, I’ve been an avid reader of the sports pages wherever we may be living. Like all fans, I am not only interested in the games themselves but also in those who play them. Human-interest stories about the people who accomplish unbelievable physical feats fascinate me. A hot cup of coffee and one or two interesting stories about these athletes make for a good start on the morning.
Unfortunately, I have become disillusioned by the growing number of news reports on the sports pages (Section C in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) that tell about the reprehensible behavior of so many famous sports figures. Section C often reads like a police blotter as sports reporters and editors publish articles about certain highly paid stars accused of beating their wives or girlfriends, not supporting their children, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, practicing illicit sex, wasting money through gambling, murdering or attempting to murder fellow human beings, cheating on income tax, or just engaging in a lifestyle that leads to trouble and heartache.
These athletes are people with great skills who have let their lives get out of balance. Too soon, they received too much money, too much fame, too much idle time, too many flattering fans, and too many years of being coddled by parents, teachers, and admirers who were fascinated by their physical prowess.
Something is wrong, however, when anyone thinks that because he or she can shoot a ball through a hoop, hit a baseball traveling 100 miles per hour with a bat, throw or catch a football under pressure, kick a soccer ball into a net or tap a white ball into a small hole from 15 or 20 feet away, he is, therefore, entitled to live a life that is disorderly and out of balance.
Unfortunately, we see this same type of behavior in some preachers, televangelists, actors and actresses, musicians, politicians, business people, military leaders, educators, and government officials. These people who should be setting the proper example for followers and fellow citizens to imitate are instead becoming negative models who help undermine the values that have made this country great.
Let us emphasize that it is “some” athletes, “some” preachers, and “some” politicians whose lives are out of balance.
At present, I am reading “Life With Lord Byron” by his widow, Peggy Nelson. Byron Nelson was one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game, and he was a faithful Christian throughout his lifetime. My uncle and preacher, J. Willard Morrow of Fort Worth, TX, along with other family members, admired Mr. Nelson and looked up to him as a man of God. Peggy’s description of this gentle, kind, and dedicated brother in Christ is true to everything I ever heard about his spiritual qualities. He was one of the most renowned athletes of all time, and he still managed to live a balanced life.
We have heard enough in recent years about renegade preachers, pastors, and priests to know that many who make it to the top in their religious profession are in reality hypocrites who are not centered in their lives. Their messages may be sweet and even biblical, but they don’t practice what they preach. This makes us all the more grateful when we know those who dedicated their lives to the service of God as good preachers, hard workers, and faithful family men. We can say the same about dedicated politicians and public servants who have been able to stand for their Christian convictions in an arena that is full of spiritual dangers.
What we need in these difficult times are men and women who are balanced like Jesus was. He was centered in his life and increased “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Imitating our Lord’s growth and development will eventually lead to God the Father’s honor and glory and ours, and help us avoid the consequences of the unbalanced life that produces shame and destruction.
Howard Norton is the President of the Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He is a former missionary and editor of the Christian Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.