Maintain Proper Christian Balance
“Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
1. What provision has God made, and what is required in order to benefit from it?
JEHOVAH God has made provision for humans to obtain everlasting life in a righteous new system of things. With this end in view, “he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) But to obtain this grand reward of life, we must maintain proper Christian balance. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, did; and, in doing so, he set a perfect example or model. Therefore, all who would walk steadily before God must “follow his steps closely.” (1 Pet. 2:21) But, admittedly, maintaining proper Christian balance is not easy.
2. What is involved in maintaining balance?
2 To appreciate better just what is involved in balance, observe the comments of Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms: “Balance implies a state in which no one part, element, factor, or influence overweights another or is out of due proportion to the others. It therefore suggests a steadiness or well-being that is usually not outwardly evident until a disturbance occurs . . . thus, a man loses his balance and falls when by slipping on the ice his weight is shifted and his legs no longer support him.” Such a loss of balance and subsequent fall can be damaging. Similarly, to lose balance when riding a bicycle or motorcycle can mean a painful or even fatal accident. The value of physical balance is obvious.
LEARNING CHRISTIAN BALANCE
3. Why is spiritual balance so vital? Is it something we inherit at birth?
3 However, proper spiritual balance is of even greater importance, for it is an absolute necessity in order to receive God’s blessing and everlasting life. The first human pair, Adam and Eve, lost spiritual balance; they went away off course in disobedience to God. It meant their death, and an unbalanced start in life for all their offspring, including us today. Yes, all of us were conceived in sin and brought forth in error, with a natural bent toward wrongdoing.—Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12.
4. How is spiritual balance achieved, and once it is acquired can it be lost?
4 Therefore, since none of us were born with Christian balance, we have to learn it. Just as a baby starting to walk learns physical balance by diligent effort, so we must exercise initiative and perseverance to master Christian balance. Many have got onto their feet, so to speak, and have walked as Christians in the footsteps of the Master, Jesus Christ. They have accepted the ransom sacrifice, separated themselves from this wicked world and its bad practices, and have even dedicated their lives to serve Jehovah God. (Matt. 20:28; John 17:16; Heb. 10:7) But then they have failed to maintain Christian balance. Something has unbalanced them and caused them to leave off following in the footsteps of Christ.
5. What questions might each Christian ask himself?
5 The question, therefore, is: After learning Christian balance, can we faithfully, despite the circumstances that arise in our lives, maintain this balance? Can we continue walking closely in the footsteps of Christ? Everlasting life in God’s righteous new system of things is dependent upon our doing so!—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3, 4.
BALANCE IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
6. What is the first essential to achieving Christian balance? What example did Christ set in his attitude toward God?
6 The first essential to proper Christian balance is to maintain a correct relationship with our Creator, Jehovah God. But what is a proper relationship with God? Consider the perfect model Christ. Willingly he presented himself to do his Father’s will. At all times Christ kept the worship of God as the focal point to which all other activities were related. Pleasing his Father was always his chief concern. Similarly, we, too, must appreciate the importance of serving our Creator, and our indebtedness to Him. Indeed, Jehovah provides all the things necessary to sustain life, including the sun, the rain, the air we breathe, and the food we eat, as well as essential spiritual provisions. (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:15-17) With the Bible psalmist we should readily acknowledge: “For with you is the source of life.”—Ps. 36:9.
7. What is a balanced view as to what we owe God?
7 But since God owns everything, what can we give Him in reciprocation for His goodness? We are free moral agents, so we can choose to worship Jehovah God; we can love Him with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. (Matt. 22:37, 38) Such whole-souled devotion is not something unbalanced; rather, it is what is involved in keeping a proper relationship with God. Jesus Christ himself said: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) Giving God exclusive devotion is vital to maintaining our Christian balance.
8. What example illustrates the difficulty of giving God exclusive devotion?
8 However, it is much easier to talk about loving God and to write to others about following Christ’s example of giving to God exclusive devotion under all circumstances than actually to do it. For example, King Solomon, when faithfully serving Jehovah, wrote: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments.” (Eccl. 12:13) But, later, Solomon was enticed to disregard God’s commandments and failed to practice what he wrote. Why? What makes it so difficult to maintain proper Christian balance?
9. Why is it difficult to maintain proper Christian balance?
9 It is not only man’s sinful inclination toward wrongdoing that makes it difficult. (Rom. 7:20, 21) But another prominent factor is the wicked influence of the invisible spirit creature Satan the Devil, whom the Bible calls “the god of this system of things.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Satan’s efforts are designed to destroy one’s proper relationship with God, to create situations or circumstances to unbalance Christians. Jesus Christ indicated this when, on the last night before his death, he turned to his apostle Simon Peter and said: “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have you men to sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31) A close look at Satan’s efforts to shake Peter from God’s favor can be of real benefit in helping us today to maintain proper Christian balance.
10. (a) What religious occasion did Jesus and his disciples meet to celebrate Nisan 14, 33 C.E.? (b) What basis is there for believing it was perhaps close to midnight when they departed for the garden of Gethsemane?
10 First, consider the setting for the momentous events that occurred. It was early spring of the year 33 C.E. and time for the annual Passover festival celebrated during the month of Nisan. Jesus and his twelve apostles met for the occasion in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem after 6 p.m., at which time the Jewish day began. God’s instructions were that the Passover lamb must be kept until the fourteenth day of Nisan “between the two evenings,” which is interpreted by some authorities to be between sunset and deep twilight. During this time it was to be killed and afterward roasted whole. (Ex. 12:6-10) Roasting such an animal whole would perhaps take four to five hours. Thus, it was likely close to midnight when the Passover meal was finished and Christ instituted the memorial of his death. After this, Jesus and his disciples went out to the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested and taken into custody.—Mark 14:17-46.
11. What did Peter do when Jesus was taken into custody?
11 During the chill and darkness of those early morning hours, the Bible account says, “they now led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the older men and the scribes assembled. But Peter, from a good distance, followed him as far as in the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting together with the house attendants and warming himself before a bright fire. Meantime the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they were not finding any. Many, indeed, were giving false witness against him.”—Mark 14:53-56.
12. How was Jesus treated at this time?
12 Jesus was being evilly misrepresented by those false witnesses. Not only that, but the inspired record says: “Some started to spit on him and some to cover his whole face and hit him with their fists and say to him: ‘Prophesy!’ And, slapping him in the face, the court attendants took him.” (Mark 14:65) What injustice! That mob was Devil-inspired! Satan was responsible for stirring up those men, and causing them physically to abuse Jesus and to insult him. How would all this affect Peter? Would he, in imitation of his Master, maintain proper balance under these trying circumstances?
13. What effect did this treatment of Jesus have upon Peter?
13 We are not left in doubt, for the Bible narrative continues: “Now while Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and, seeing Peter warming himself, she looked straight at him and said: ‘You, too, were with the Nazarene, this Jesus.’ But he denied it, saying: ‘Neither do I know him nor do I understand what you are saying.’ and he went outside to the vestibule. There the servant girl, at the sight of him, started again to say to those standing by: ‘This is one of them.’ Again he was denying it. And once more after a little while those standing by began saying to Peter: ‘Certainly you are one of them, for, in fact, you are a Galilean.’ But he commenced to curse and swear: ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak.’”—Mark 14:66-71.
14. What caused Peter to deny Christ?
14 But this was not the truth. Peter definitely did know Jesus. In fact, a few short hours before, while with Jesus, he had asserted: “Lord, I am ready to go with you both into prison and into death.” “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” (Luke 22:33; Matt. 26:33) What caused this sudden change in Peter’s attitude? It resulted because of fear. The circumstances caught Peter unawares. Jesus was depicted as a vile criminal. The truth was being distorted. What was right was made to appear wrong, and the innocent one as guilty. Because of the pressures of the occasion Peter was thrown off balance. Suddenly his proper sense of loyalty was upset, to his own sorrow. “He broke down and gave way to weeping,” the Bible says.—Mark 14:72.
IT CAN HAPPEN TODAY
15. (a) Why might we expect to meet circumstances similar to that faced by Peter? (b) Was Peter permanently unbalanced by this experience?
15 Similar circumstances can arise today. Satan the Devil is still active, endeavoring to unbalance Christians and ruin their relationship with God. And we can be certain that tactics that proved so successful against Peter will be employed against modern Christians. It is true that Peter quickly regained spiritual balance. He was deeply repentant and obtained the forgiveness he so earnestly sought. He became one of the most fearless ministers of the unpopular Jesus Christ, and died faithful to Jehovah God. But what a miserable experience when he denied his Master Jesus three times! How much better that an experience such as this be avoided! Are you prepared to meet circumstances similar to the one faced by Peter? They can arise, and, indeed, likely will.
16. What may be responsible for unbalancing some Christians today?
16 There are ever so many situations in which improper fear can unbalance a dedicated Christian and cause him to forget his proper relationship with Jehovah God. It may be fear of what the neighbors might think if they should see him going from house to house with the Kingdom message. Yes, what if one should be seen by his own employer! What a terrifying thought this can be to one who has forgotten that it is what God thinks of him that truly matters! Children in their adolescent years are especially prone to be afraid of what people think of them.
17, 18. What discussion could develop in a school classroom to create circumstances similar to the one faced by Peter?
17 Perhaps you are a young Christian, and the setting is a school classroom where you are a student. There the Bible beliefs of Jehovah’s witnesses may enter into a class discussion. Prejudice and a spirit of patriotism may be strong. “Jehovah’s witnesses are subversive. They are against the government,” one youngster asserts. This is a charge similar to the one hurled against Jesus on the day of his execution. (Luke 23:2) “Jehovah’s witnesses won’t vote or fight for their country,” another youngster joins in. Yet, strict neutrality relative to the political affairs of the nations was the course pursued by Jesus Christ and early Christians. (John 6:15; 15:17-19; Jas. 4:4) One modern textbook observes: “Zealous Christians did not serve in the armed forces or accept political offices.”* But the students and teacher are unfamiliar with the teachings of the Bible on the matter, or the beliefs and practices of early Christians. The discussion grows more intense.
18 “Jehovah’s witnesses are anti-Christian,” one girl claims. “For they don’t even celebrate Christmas!” The feelings against Jehovah’s witnesses mount. Those present do not realize that Christmas is a pagan celebration, that it is without Bible support and was not observed by early Christians. They are unfamiliar with the testimony of standard reference works to this effect. Then another youngster makes the accusation: “Jehovah’s witnesses do not love their own children. They will let them die before they will give them a lifesaving blood transfusion!” How awful Jehovah’s witnesses must be! That is the feeling that pervades. The youngsters are not aware that the Bible strictly forbids eating blood, and that early Christians abstained completely from both animal and human blood.*—Lev. 17:10; Acts 15:20, 29.
19. (a) What questions would face a Christian youth in that situation? (b) When should preparation be made for such a possibility?
19 At about this point someone in the classroom may turn to you and ask: “You are one of Jehovah’s witnesses, aren’t you?” Then you will be in a situation similar to that faced by the apostle Peter. What will you say? How will you meet the situation? Will you maintain your proper Christian balance? Will you serve as a faithful Witness of Jehovah God, even as Jesus Christ did? (John 17:6; Rev. 1:5) Now is the time to prepare to meet such circumstances that may arise. It is now that you should make the firm resolve to imitate the fearless example of Jesus Christ in such situations. This will help you to avoid being thrown off balance.
20. What is required to maintain proper Christian balance, and how did Jesus show that he recognized that need?
20 We need prayer and regular consideration of God’s Word in order to keep a proper relationship with Jehovah God, and thus maintain our Christian balance. Jesus recognized this need. During those momentous final hours of his earthly life he was especially aware of it. Therefore, while with his disciples in the upper room that last night he spoke encouragingly regarding faith-strengthening spiritual matters, concluding his discussion: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” Then he prayed at length with his disciples, after which they departed for the garden of Gethsemane.—John 16:33–18:1.
21, 22. In what way did the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane fail to copy Christ’s example?
21 Out in the garden Jesus continued to pray to his heavenly Father, seeking His guidance and direction. Before leaving them so as to pray privately, Jesus told Peter and two other of his disciples: “Stay here and keep on the watch.” But did they? Did they heed Jesus’ instructions? The Bible record says: “He came and found them sleeping.” How disappointing! This was no way to prepare themselves for what lay ahead. Jesus then turned to Peter and said: “Simon, are you sleeping? Did you not have strength to keep on the watch one hour? Men, keep on the watch and praying, in order that you do not come into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:32-38) True, it was late, probably well past midnight by this time. The flesh was tired. Nevertheless, they should have imitated Jesus’ example. This was a time to pay more than the usual attention to spiritual matters. The promised seed of God’s woman was about to be bruised! What a momentous occasion!—Gen. 3:15; Gal. 3:16.
22 Did Peter and the other disciples therefore take seriously Jesus’ urgent encouragement this second time? Mark’s account says: “And he went away again and prayed, saying the same word. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were weighed down, and so they did not know what to answer him.” (Mark 14:39, 40) Peter and his associates did not listen! They neglected to pay attention to Jesus’ instructions. Before departing to pray for a third time, Jesus no doubt urged his disciples again to keep awake and to pray. But yet once more his admonition went unheeded! For Jesus “came the third time and said to them: ‘At such a time as this you are sleeping and taking your rest! It is enough! The hour has come! Look! The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.’”—Mark 14:41.
23. (a) What undoubtedly was a factor in the disciples’ abandoning Jesus, and what, therefore, cannot be overemphasized? (b) What basis is there for believing Satan is even more active today?
23 Is it not likely that this lethargic, sleepy condition was a factor in causing the disciples a few moments later to abandon Jesus and flee, just as the prophecy foretold they would? (Mark 14:50; Matt. 26:31; Zech. 13:7) It cannot be overemphasized: Advance preparation and spiritual strengthening are vital if a Christian is to meet trials of his faith successfully. This is as true now as it was then. For, if anything, we are living in times when Satan is even more active. Bible prophecy clearly shows that recently, during this generation, he and his demons have been cast from heaven, with the consequences announced by the heavenly voice: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Rev. 12:12) We are in that short period of woe right now! Satan is doing all within his power to unbalance Christians and shake them from God’s favor.
24. What must all Christians do to maintain balance?
24 This, therefore, is no time to allow ourselves to become spiritually lethargic. We need to bestir ourselves spiritually, and prepare for the trials of faith that lie immediately ahead. Do not assume the attitude that, because you have been an active Christian for so many years, there is no danger of jeopardizing your relationship with Jehovah God and losing his favor. Do not feel that you can afford to miss congregation meetings, or be unattentive when spiritual matters are discussed. (Heb. 2:1; 10:24, 25) We all need to keep spiritually watchful, regularly studying God’s Word privately and with fellow Christians, if we are to maintain proper Christian balance. Nor can we neglect prayer. A close relationship with God nurtured by regular communication with him is an absolute necessity for balance. Imitate Christ’s example! Although he was spiritually the strongest person to walk the earth, he persevered in prayer, and particularly so during that final night of his human life. If we are to keep spiritual balance, we must do the same.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE
25. What assisted Jesus to maintain balance?
25 What assisted Jesus to maintain spiritual balance was his keeping foremost in mind the joy of pleasing his heavenly Father and of receiving His gift of eternal life. Therefore we are urged: “Look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) So to maintain balance, follow Jesus’ example! Keep your eyes set on the privilege of honoring your Creator and of receiving His prize of life!
26. Why is it not always easy to put God’s interests first in our life?
26 However, it may not always be easy to keep the interests of Jehovah God, who is invisible, first in our life. This is especially true when there are so many visible attractions in this world. For example, money and the many enticing things it can buy. Many Christians have been thrown off balance by an uncontrolled desire for material things. (2 Tim. 4:10) They have failed to imitate Jesus Christ, who always kept the interests of his Father foremost. In fact, Jesus so completely assigned his personal comforts to a secondary place that he once said: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.”—Luke 9:58.
27. What fine example was set by Moses and David?
27 The patriarch Moses also set a fine example in keeping God’s worship first in his life. He was raised as a son of the daughter of Pharaoh, no doubt enjoying the magnificence of the royal palace of that powerful ancient ruler. Yet, Moses chose reproach as a servant of Jehovah God in preference to all the treasures of Egypt. Why? The Bible record says: “For he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Heb. 11:23-27) Yes, his attention was fixed on his unseen God, Jehovah. Maintaining his proper relationship with Jehovah was responsible for Moses’ exemplary spiritual balance. He appreciated that everything belongs to Jehovah, and that humans can only give worship and devotion to Him in return. Later, the psalmist David had the same balanced view, and wrote: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly.”—Ps. 16:8.
28. What concluding admonition should we be diligent to heed?
28 In order to maintain proper Christian balance, we, too, must have this view. This is especially true now when there are so many material attractions at every turn. The attaching of too great a value to any of them can be unbalancing. So, keep your eyes fixed on the things above, on your invisible God, and do not have as your chief interest selfish material pursuits. (Col. 3:2) Yes, to maintain Christian balance and to gain the prize of everlasting life, imitate the example of Jesus Christ, who left you “a model for you to follow his step closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
Brace up your minds for activity, keep completely balanced and set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the holy one who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: “You must be holy, because I am holy.”—1 Pet. 1:13-16, NW, 1950 edition.
World History, The Story of Man’s Achievements, 1962, Habberton, Roth and Spears, p. 117.
M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Vol. 1, p. 834, observes relative to the position of early Christians in connection with blood: “So far were they from drinking human blood, it was unlawful for them to drink the blood even of irrational animals. Numerous testimonies to the same effect are found in after ages.”
[Picture on page 588]
Peter, thrown off balance, denied the Lord