Study, Devotion, and Service

Balance In The Christian Walk

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42

Allen Coffman

The Lord expects each of us to live up to his or her consecration with a full commitment of all our talents and resources—all of our time and energy—our ALL! We have made a complete and unreserved commitment and the challenge now is to determine what areas will best aid and direct the development of our new creature in Jesus Christ. The three areas we look at here are necessary for that development. In properly developing these areas we hope to be well pleasing to our heavenly Father and make our "calling and election sure."

Study

We are considered to be in the School of Christ—learning to be like him and to walk in his footsteps. One of the main tools that we can use is the study of the word of God. Where else do we find an understanding of what is proper and what is improper—what is true doctrine and what is false doctrine. Isaiah 28 refers to a class of individuals who have considered improperly the lessons contained in scripture:

"But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment" (Isa. 28:7).

The specific allegation here is to teachers who, through imbibing wrong doctrine, have lost their way. The same principle, however, applies to all the consecrated. If indeed we do not have a strong, proper doctrinal stand, how can we possibly maintain a proper vision—aproper balance? How can we possibly make proper judgments in our daily walk?

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

Only in this way is it possible to approach the state for which we are striving. If we do not know the doctrines, then how can we expect to be able to conform our lives, our direction, our choices to the vision. There are many "good" individuals in the world, individuals that sacrifice for others and are devoted to a life of righteous living. But do they have the correct vision? Do they know what it is they are striving to accomplish? Do they know that the kingdom is the only answer to the problems that we see in the world? Correct doctrine is very important and should lead us to an informed course of action for our new creature. Interestingly, the word "study" in 2 Timothy 2:15 is Strong’s 4704. We gain further insight into it’s meaning when we see it’s usage in the following scriptures: "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:11); "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14).

These translations highlighted in the two texts imply that we must labor in the assimilation of the principles of righteousness and be diligent in our efforts to always seek his will according to scriptural principles. This diilgence will involve both study and application.

Testing will come to us, trials and at times tribulation. Therefore "Study to show thyself approved,"—study the doctrine, study your course of conduct, keep it in harmony with the doctrine. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb. 2:1). We can maintain the harmony in our Christian walk if we keep our doctrine pure.

Devotion

This subject reminds us of the story of Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus, and the beautiful relationship shown there for us. Here is a picture of pure devotion—true sacrifice to our Lord Jesus.

We do not have our Lord Jesus here in the flesh with us—we cannot literally pour the sweet smelling ointment upon him. But what of his feet members? Surely there is an opportunity for each of us, if we look, to pour out a blessing on one of these. He assures us he will count it as if it were done unto him. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).

One of our admonitions is to anoint one another’s feet—to be of comfort. Mary had a deep, loving, benevolent heart which delighted in sacrifices and was deeply sympathetic. In our ministrations to our brethren, remember that they may be in need of many things—some have need of love; some of sympathy; some of companionship; and some of understanding. Our alabaster boxes are our hearts. They must be broken to put forth the sweet perfume of good wishes, kindness, and love toward all.

How can we be like Mary? The fragrance in our alabaster boxes does no good unless it is used to benefit others. We receive a feeling of uplift when a kind act is done. We can savor the aroma of it and our hearts are full as we are privileged to bless. The warning remains, however, that we should not tarry for "Flowers on the casket cast no fragrance upon the one inside."

"She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8). In addition, we remember that Mary loved to sit at the feet of Jesus to learn of his teachings. We see then by her example that devotion is very important but it is not enough. A proper balance must include a proper proportion of both devotion and study.

Wise counsel along these lines is found in The New Creation, page 319:

"Growth in knowledge is very liable to detract from devotion—strange as it may appear—if attention be energetically directed in one channel, it is apt to lead to dwarfing in other directions. The Christian is not to be all head and no heart. . . The spirit of a sound mind directs us to cultivate all the fruits and graces which go to round out and complete a perfect character."

"Balance" is required so that one area does not overpower another. We must constantly attend and test our attitude so that we can be aware of any tendency to move too far in any one direction and to correct that tendency when it is found. Service

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

These scriptures provide us with a framework to regulate and balance our approach to service, not only to those in the world but also to those whom we call brethren. Service is always appropriate and these scriptures provide a built-in order of priority. They show the importance of attending to the household of faith now—understanding that the world in general will, in the future, benefit from the glorification of the church and the inauguration of the New Covenant with the nation of Israel.

The golden rule has provided mankind a general direction of conduct that in previous years has served them well. Lately, however, it seems that the rule has been changed to "Do unto others before they have a chance to do it unto you." This is a sign of our times and a perversion of the principle of righteousness.

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; ..." (1 Tim. 3:2). We can see by this scripture that hospitality is also a very important part of service. Why else would it be included in the attributes to seek when electing elders. This admonition is not, however, limited to servants. "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Rom. 12:13). All are included in this admonition—a proper attitude of service to our brethren.

If our devotion is strong, we will seek to curtail, to the extent possible, within reasonable economic limits the demands of the family and especially the demands of self. In this way we will have all the more to lay upon the altar of sacrifice in service to our brethren and to the cause of present truth.

Balance is the Answer

"Study—Devotion—Service" three portions of a consecrated walk. There are only 24 hours in a day—how should that time be divided —what should we do first, second and third: should I tract today, should I fix that leaky roof, should I contact those new customers, should I study that text, should I send that note to Sister X? We have so many demands on our time; what is the proper course? The Lord expects us to make decisions in our consecrated walks now—so that our characters and the decision making processes will be strengthened and we will become practiced in making decisions based upon scriptural principles.

Many in the service of the truth are continually pressing toward the mark. How does their seemingly endless activity make us feel? Does our conscience nag us at every turn, and do we feel ashamed that we do not do more in the service? Then brethren, we must look to the choices we are making in our daily walk. There are times when we must concentrate on the things of the earth—to make a living and to provide shelter for our families. What of the rest of the time—do we use it to the best spiritual benefit or not, and how do we judge ourselves?

The following scriptures provide one test:

"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God" (1 John 3:21). This is the best spiritual condition. If the heart is right then we are right. If our conscience is clear and we have presented the matter before the Lord, then we can be assured that even if the decision we have made turns out to be wanting it is the best that we could do.

On the other hand the following verse may apply: "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things" (1 John 3:20).

Our Lord understands our frame and cares for us. As we seek to do his will more perfectly each day—in the ecclesia studies, in our devotional time, and in the service of the Master, we will at times fall short. The flesh is imperfect. God is greater than our heart—he understands and forgives us if only we ask and continue to strive our best. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

What is the correct answer of balance in these matters? The real answer is for each consecrated new creature in Christ to apply the scriptural principles to themselves. Ask these questions as often as necessary: Am I devoting a sufficient amount of time to study? Am I spending a sufficient amount of time in devotion? Do I use my time wisely in the service of my brethren? Is my heart right and does it approve of what I am doing? Is my Christian walk in balance or is it out of balance?

Balance In The Ecclesia—In the Home—And at Work

The ecclesia, the home, and our place of employment are all very important places to strive for balance. We are subjected to some of our most important testings here and should seek to apply the principles of righteousness at every opportunity. The following scripture provides a framework for a proper balance in the ecclesia and in the other areas that will be considered in this article. It may also provide a clue as to how the relationship BETWEEN these areas may be handled. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).

This attribute of wisdom is especially desired in obtaining a proper balance of character. Let us review these properties with respect to our own actions, thoughts, and communications with the brethren in our classes—with our family members, both consecrated and unconsecrated—and the ones with whom we work each day.

First—Purity

Webster defines purity as "freedom from adulterating matter." Are we free of hidden agendas that would cloud our judgment in the ecclesia? Are we interested in the development of the new creature in Christ Jesus—or are we more interested in our influence on others? When decisions are discussed, do we submit our preferences in the interest of others, or do we seek our own way in the matter before the ecclesia and call it a principle?

How about the home? The marriage contract involves certain commitments. In a consecrated home the husband and spouse are "equally yoked." Both pull in the same direction. Deciding about the use of time is a much easier matter when the same goals are instilled in each of the partners. Even in the introduction of children into the relationship there is more consistency in judgment and a mutual understanding.

How about the consecrated brother or sister who does not have a consecrated spouse? Time demands are certain to become a matter of conflict—how are these and other situations resolved? It becomes a matter not so easily addressed and often results in compromise.

The workplace provides an additional challenge to the purity of a consecrated child of God. We have seen an increasing pressure over the past 25 years in the business arena to "look the other way," and to do that which will be good for the profitability of the company at the expense of honesty and personal integrity, "purity." In some instances this has resulted in the loss of employment on the basis of disloyalty, or the false accusation of an uncooperative attitude. It is so important for one to be true to the purity that is in his heart—especially in these matters and in these times.

"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."—Psalm 24:4, 5

Second—Peaceable, Gentleand Easy to be Entreated

These are admirable traits to possess in the ecclesia. Do we have these characteristics or are we abrasive, tactless, aloof, and condescending due to the fact we have been in the truth so long—have so much knowledge—so much insight—and are we sure that the best possible course of action is our own? The control of these character traits are more difficult for some than others. Psychologists tell us that there are four primary types of individuals, ranging from very dominant to very passive. It is relatively easy for the passive individual to conform to these types because they run along the natural lines of the personality—but for the naturally aggressive person it is quite another matter. Does this mean then that we should all be passive?

"And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17) It appears that our Lord had two with him who were not so gentle—at least at first. We should expect then to encounter all sorts of individuals in the ecclesia arrangement—each striving to obtain that Christlike character—forceful yet peaceable; strong yet gentle; convinced yet easy to be entreated.

Marriage offers an arrangement which provides ample opportunity to practice these attributes. It is all too easy to allow bad feelings and words to build walls between husband and wife. If left standing, these walls become cemented and require considerable effort to remove—if indeed they can be removed at all. Business, like marriage, requires the cooperation of individuals. The same principles apply in the office as in the home—listening, hearing, and understanding.

Third—Full of Mercy and Good Fruits

How do we treat those whom we believe have wronged us? Is our demeanor still one of love and respect or do we avoid a look, a contact; or worse yet, do we ignore them? The old man would like us to keep our distance, hold that grudge or speak evil. We must put off the old man. "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22).

As new creatures in Christ Jesus the feelings of that old man must be put off. We must put those things behind and show mercy at every opportunity.

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col. 3:12, 13).

This follows especially in the arrangement in the home. Understanding the weaknesses and strengths of your mate is a necessary step in the process of developing mercy but only one half of the equation. Understanding our own weaknesses and strengths and thinking about these completes the circle. Know when you are prone to be unmerciful. Restrain the casual and abrupt reaction to the actions and words of your spouse. Consider the implications of your actions and words before they are spoken (1 Cor. 9:27 ).

Mercy and good works are proper also in the workplace. Here we deal with those in the world. Sometimes it is difficult to live with the words and actions we see. We want to change the motives and actions of these people to conform to that which will be only possible in the Kingdom of God on the earth. The blinding influence of Satan must be removed—the blinding influence WILL BE REMOVED in the inaugurated Kingdom and not before. This is all the more reason to remember that we are to show mercy and good works even now. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

Fourth—Without Partiality and Without Hypocrisy

"I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" (1 Tim. 5:21).

Strong’s defines partiality as "showing favoritism" a "leaning towards." This implies justice in our dealings with others in the ecclesia, in the home, and in our place of employment, fair and impartial treatment of all we come in contact with. This statement brings to mind the picture of justice—her arm outstretched with true balances awaiting the verdict. Jehovah loves a true balance (Prov. 11:1). We, as representatives, must hold his principle of impartiality close to us in all of our affairs.

We must avoid becoming an "actor under an assumed character," a hypocrite. "Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye" (Luke 6:42). How important it is to be true to our consecration and to the spirit that is within us. "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation" (James 5:12). We must live our consecration—we must act in a manner consistent with the character we are building within us in the new creature —we must seek wisdom in our affairs.