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Following Jesus and The Myth of Balance

“I just need to find some balance in my life.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times. It’s a favorite mantra for busy Christian suburbanites in their search for the Holy Grail of a well-lived life. But aiming for balance is wrong. Dead wrong.

It’s a bad criterion for life because it deludes followers of Jesus into viewing one’s ‘spiritual life’ as merely another area among many needing to find its proper time allotment within the schedule. Consequently, we open our Day Runners to see in the morning we’re booked up with our occupation, then it’s the gym afterwards. Next, it’s off to grab a quick dinner with the family before running junior to baseball practice as our spouse takes the other kiddo to gymnastics. If we’re lucky, we might get in a little SportsCenter or Tonight Show before hitting the sack. Seven hours later we wake up to to the same routine again.

When life is seen as a series of boxes to be checked (e.g., job, exercise, kids’ activities) we figure we can cover the spiritual box by squeezing in a church service once or twice a month. Maybe, if we’re really committed, we can spring for a five minute morning devotion here and there. All of it done in the name of balance. This is why aiming at a “balanced life” will stunt our growth in Jesus and make spiritual maturity hard to come by because it falsely partitions Jesus off from the rest of life. But the truth is Christ isn’t an add-on to life but our very life itself (Col. 3:4). Jesus blew up the idea of life as a series of boxes to be balanced when he said in Mt. 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” To him, there is only one box – the kingdom of God – in which everything in our life is to have a place. And why…

Followers of Jesus shouldn’t aim for balance but effectiveness.

Ask yourself, How can I live in such a way that I make the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God? This goal uproots the idolatrous suburban lie which tries to convince us we have to be involved in this, that, AND the other in order to have a full life. The truly full life is the one surrendered to God in every square inch of it. It’s the life packed in every nook and cranny with Christ as Lord, the gospel our hope, and the Kingdom as mission. The effective, unbalanced life may not remove our job, kids’ practices, or even an hour at the gym from our schedule (although it could), but it does put them all in the one big box of living on mission for Jesus.

So, look at your calendar ask yourself, “How can I best organize my life for the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God?” Maybe you’ll find you’re too busy or not involved enough. It will look different for each of us:

  • You may decide to DVR your favorite sitcom because it airs during the same time your neighbors who are far from God hang out in their front yard. Effectiveness not balance gives you clarity to see how much of a great opportunity it would be to deepen your relationship with them for the sake of the gospel.
  • You may decide to give more of your resources for Kingdom endeavors. Effectiveness leads us to see how the blessings God has given us could be better distributed for his kingdom. For example, maybe instead of getting a new car every other year you decide to forgo that new ride and use the money to help support a new church plant overseas. That’s aiming for effectiveness.
  • You may decide you’re going to dial down your kids’ level of involvement in sports because you realize when they leave for college while they may able to spike a volleyball, nail a 3-pointer, or throw a football on a rope for 30 yards, they will do so with little hearts for God. Thinking effectiveness instead of balance can spur you to ask, “How different would my kids’ spiritual life be if I dedicated half the time they spent on sports to discipling them in the gospel?”

Sound like tough changes? They are easier to make if your aim is effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. They only appear insurmountable if we seek balance.

Follower of Jesus, don’t believe the myth of balance.

If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

– Luke 9:23

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “Following Jesus and The Myth of Balance”

  1. Yancey,

    Thanks so much for clearly stating on paper what many of us are often thinking. We all desperately needed this reminder. May we all take it to heart and live it out.

    Laura Sherman

  2. Thank you for this. I’ve been getting niggled on ‘balance’ lately and only just realised today it was an attack from the enemy, challenging me on healing of a past bi-polar disorder affliction. Your post confirms God’s truth and has helped to banish the lies. My prayerful ‘motto’ for 2015 is simply ‘intimacy’, coming into the Shekinah glory of the fullness of God. And the scripture from Matthew, seek first the Kingdom and allow all to flow from there. Revival here we come, so exciting!

  3. Been saving this to read and meditate on. Got to share with a brother in Christ who shared with me his struggle with “control”. Guilty on all accounts here.

    Thanks Yance!

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