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To be balanced Christians, we must nurture relationships by sharing a common vision, bearing each other's burdens, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, playing together and showing the world that we are His disciples. Without community, we wither away and never fully taste the joy of the fellowship of the saints. As Romans 12:4-5 says, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (NIV).

4. Contemplation

As much as a balanced Christian life demands our commitment to solitude, service and community, it is still not completely anchored without the final spiritual food group called contemplation. We can spend hours in prayer, serve at a local mission and spend time building relationships in the body of Christ—and still run the risk of leading a lopsided life. We need contemplation to keep us balanced, honest and real. But thinking is hard work, and it's all too easy to try to avoid it.

When we become contemplative—that is, when we really reflect on our ways, our motives and our purpose—we begin to display a wholeness of faith. Integrating the practice of contemplation into our lives enables us to become the people God has called us to be. We need to use our brains, and that requires nurturing an agile mind and developing a contemplative, reflective intellect that spurs us on to new places with our Maker.

But contemplation is not the same thing as acquiring information, Christian or otherwise. True biblical contemplation moves beyond information to insight, beyond knowledge to the wisdom of application and change. It is normal equipment for the normal Christian who wants to live a balanced life.

Contemplation forces us to abandon the busyness of life so we may reflect on its purpose. Contemplative time is essential for our personal growth, and our growth affects our relationships with others. Notice how the psalmist continually calls us to meditate on God's wonders, to remember His works and to consider our ways.

Jesus' constant use of parables, hard sayings and sermons challenged His listeners to think about the truth of His message. It is never a waste of time to reflect on the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6); such reflection pushes us deeper into a relationship with our Creator and spills over into all that we do. Paul prayed for the church at Philippi that their "love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that [they might] be able to discern what is best and [might] be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11).

Perfect Peace

Integrating these four ingredients into our lives produces an energetic, balanced faith in the midst of daily demands. We need solitude with God to restore, refresh and direct us. Out of that time comes a natural outflow of service to others.

Community, or supportive relationships with other believers, helps us reflect Christ's character and witness to the world. And contemplation of truth renews our minds so we will function effectively and honestly in this Christian life. Imagine what happens to the balanced Christian who takes seriously the words of the prophet Isaiah: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You" (Is. 26:3).

Learning to love God and receive His love is an ongoing process that occurs in a multitude of ways. The four ingredients for a balanced spiritual life simply provide helpful priorities to keep us going. They help us experience the abundant life Jesus promises us in Himself (John 10:10).

Balance brings to our souls much-needed rest (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:9-11), peace (Prov. 14:30; Col. 3:15), grace (Rom. 5:17), mercy (Lam. 3:22-23) and hope, which is "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Heb. 6:19). These gifts keep us from turning to the left or the right, guarding our hearts along the way and infusing us with the necessary strength to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).

Bon Appétit!

The influence of our balanced Christian lifestyle extends far beyond our own little sphere. Indeed, our righteous lives hidden in Christ not only protect us from sin's slippery slope but also bring the sweet aroma of Christ's good news to a world that has lost its sense of purpose.

When we fail to keep our spiritual balance in this spinning world, we run the risk of blending into the crowd rather than shining like lights in front of it. On the other hand, when we stay active and balanced in our faith, when we partake of God's eternal feast, the rewards—for everyone—are great.

These four spiritual food groups lead us into a closer walk with the One who is always inviting us to a feast, an eternal banquet that begins today. When we accept the invitation, we come to a table so glorious and exhilarating that we are forever changed, a place where the One at the head of the table looks into our eyes, smiles and reminds us that "'no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him'" (1 Cor. 2:9).

Jo Kadlecek is a freelance writer and journalist who has co-authored a number of books, including Resurrecting Hope and I Call You Friend. She has taught communications and English courses on both secular and Christian campuses and currently resides with her husband in New York City.

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