This is the time of year when we make new resolutions about things we are planning to do this year. Although we start out with good intentions, most of our resolutions fall by the wayside soon after the year begins. The temptation to return to what is normal and comfortable is too great to pass up. Today, I want you to consider making a resolution that will change the rest of your life. It will require some modification to your behavior and ways of thinking, but the payoff will be well worth it.
This resolution can be summed up in one word: Balance. When I think of balance, I think of opposites. Have you ever heard the saying “opposites attract”? It is believed your “opposite” brings you back to the middle. Think about a scale that is balanced. Whatever you add to one side must be added to the “opposite” side in order for the pole to remain balanced.
Have you every eaten something so sweet that you craved something salty afterwards? Your taste buds were trying to get back into balance. When you’re cold and take a nice warm shower, the shower puts your body back into balance. I want you to make a resolution to add balance to your life in three areas: physical needs/wants, relationships and our quest for power.
According to Mr. Webster, “Balance is bodily or mental stability; a weight, value, etc that counteracts another; equality, to bring into proportion.” When you’re balanced, you are not swayed to the right or the left. You are walking a straight path.
Balance is acquired and maintained based on the choices we make. Our daily choices demonstrate our understanding of who we are in Christ and our position as children of God. Acquiring and maintaining balance requires not only that you understand who and whose you are, but also what you have in your possession – what you have been given. When you understand this, your choices change.
Let me give you an example that we will look at from two angles. First, consider someone who knows how to fight. This person knows that he can fight, yet he keeps it under control. If someone tries to bully him, the knowledge of knowing that he can take the person out is more powerful than actually doing it. The power does not come from taking action but in walking away. Now consider the bully. Most bullies are physically bigger, but are often afraid to fight. They get their bluff in because they know if push comes to shove, they may not be the best fighter, so this way they never have to find out. The bully’s power comes not from his being able to hurt someone, but the “perception” that he could hurt someone. The person who knows how to fight makes a choice based on reality, however, the bully influenced choices based on perception.
When Jesus was in heaven, Satan knew Him. Jesus was there when Satan was kicked out of heaven. So Satan knew of the eternal existence of Jesus. Now when Jesus came to the earth to save mankind, Satan again knew that He was coming. Now here is what you need to understand, Satan did not know what Jesus looked like. He did not look on earth as He did in heaven and that is why Satan could not find Him when He was a baby. When He grew into a man, Satan still did not know for sure if this was “the” Jesus and that is why He tempted Him, to discern for sure if this was Him.
“And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:2-4
Jesus had just been baptized and now He has been fasting for forty days and nights. His body is tired and He is hungry – a dangerous combination for someone who is not in balance – and Satan comes and tries to tempt Him. Satan knows that He is the Son of God; he also knows Jesus was walking the earth as a man and subject to the same temptations as other men. So knowing that Jesus was hungry and tired, Satan offered Him food, something pleasurable to the body. If he accepted this food, Jesus knew he would sacrifice His relationship with and His mission from His Father. He was our sacrificial lamb – one without a blemish. If He had given in to the needs of His body, He could no longer be the perfect sacrifice. And, without His sacrifice, we would as Gentiles and would not be here at this Church praising God.
Do you understand what Jesus would have sacrificed had he given in to His physical need? He would have sacrificed us! It would have meant death for us – in this life (physical) and in the life to come (spiritual). When Satan tempted Him with food, Jesus quoted Moses when he was addressing the Children of Israel about the manna from heaven. What He told Satan was that He could go without food but He couldn’t sin against His Father and sacrifice His mission. Satan had a perception of what could bring Jesus down, but Jesus knew the reality of the situation. Jesus knew He would eat again and He knew that as long as He walked with His Father, that nothing could happen to Him before He had completed His mission. That was His reality and Satan did not understand it.
The first area we need to get into balance is our physical needs and desires. We must learn restraint. If you watch kids sometimes and I am sure you have seen this. If they want something, they want it right then – no waiting, hurry up and give it to me now. I have found that there are areas in my life that I am the same way. But to be in balance means that we practice self control because we understand that this life is only temporary – our true life starts later. Our physical desires and needs must be managed to ensure that we do not sacrifice our mission for one day’s gratification.
The second area we need to get into balance is our relationships – our relationship with God, family and friends. Look at the second way that Satan tempted Jesus:
“Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you; and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Matt. 4:5-8
Remember I said earlier that Jesus understood that nothing could happen to Him until He completed His mission, that as long as He walked with His Father, He would be okay. Satan now recognizes this and tries to make Him doubt His connection to God. What he was doing was daring Jesus to prove, once and for all, that He was the Son of God. Remember the example I gave earlier: the guy who knows how to fight does not have to prove what he can do and that is how he is able to walk away. Jesus knew who He was and understood that He did not have to prove it to Satan. Satan was trying to get Jesus to question His connection, His relationship with the Father.
Satan uses that same tactic with us. He makes us question our relationship with our Father. “If you were really saved, you would not think like that.” Or, “Look how hard you are struggling, just give up and enjoy this life – God wants you to be fully happy – besides, what harm will it do, you can always ask for forgiveness later.” Not only does he influence us to question our relationship with our Father, but our relationship with one another. He whispers thoughts in your ear about your spouse, kids, friends, co-workers.
In order to get into balance, we must start with our relationship with God. You must know that you know that you know what your standing is with your Father. You can’t doubt it, fake it or deny it. You must be sure. When you know your relationship, you begin to walk like it. Your solid relationship with your Father bleeds into all other relationship, even those that may not be good. Why? Because you understand and trust that God will bring you through. He has given us all that we need to do His will; we just need to get “us” out of the way. When you look at your spouse, see God. When you look at your kids, see God. When you look at co-workers, friends and even those you do not know, let them see God in you. Balance.
The third area for balance is what I call our quest for power. Look at the last of the three temptations.
“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if you fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Matt. 4:8-11
Satan told Jesus that He could have it all if He would just bow down and worship Him. If Satan walked up to you and said he would make you a billionaire if you would bow down and worship Him, would you do it? Power is a wonderful thing, but it can corrupt. We see power on our jobs, in relationships, in our communities and in our Churches. Some people are what we call “natural born leaders”, but with that comes a healthy respect for the use of power. Satan offered Jesus the world, He could have it all. All He had to do was just bow down and worship him. Satan did not understand what Jesus already knew – it was already His. Jesus had the power because His Father had the power – He was just waiting for His Father to give it back to him and He had a lot more to lose if He accepted what Satan was offering. Power was not important to Jesus and for us to be in balance, we cannot be motivated by the power that we may obtain.
As you read the account of Jesus being tempted there is one theme that is a repeated throughout. As He walked in His ministry, this same theme was evident in everything that He did. For Jesus, serving His Father was most important. He chose not to give in to physical pleasure (in the sense that we do), the need for power or fame – proving to the world that He was the Son of God. These things were not as important to Him as serving His Father. To get into balance, we must be in balance with our relationship with our Father.
When Satan was making his offers, Jesus made choices that were based on truth. His truth was based on the “Word of God” that was within Him. Everything that Satan offered Him, Jesus already understood was His because it was His Father’s. Satan is known as the god of this world, but that is god with a little “g”. With that being a little “g”, he answers to the big “G” God, so although we call him the god of this world, he is more of a “manager”. Now here is what we need to understand to grasp the reason we need to get in balance, Satan is a manager and we are the VPs. God has given us authority, power in this world to defeat Satan so we are ranked higher than him in the food chain. We must understand our place in this world. A lot of the reasons we are not in balance is because we do not understand the truth. Our truth is that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, set apart for service unto our Father. Is this the most important thing in your life? Or is living the most important thing in your life? Our lives are much more than this physical realm in which we live, so much more.
Are you in balance?
Though we were condemned, we have found pardon. Though death held dominion over our lives, God’s grace and gift of righteousness now lives and reigns within us. We are free. We are forgiven. We are alive in Christ! Amen!