How to Live a Balanced Christian Life
Guest post by Bill Lewis
Have you ever been around someone who is passionate about God but seems a little, well… off? Too often we hear of folks going overboard with one aspect of life with God and ending up out in kooksville. They may be passionate about God and very well intentioned (and following God often calls us to act in ways the world thinks are strange), yet something is lacking in their life to bring them balance.
At the same time, we don’t want to be half-hearted, lukewarm followers of Jesus. We yearn to be able to be “all in,” learning to love God with our complete being – heart, mind, soul and strength. How do we find a balance?
We yearn to be able to be “all in,” learning to love God with our complete being – heart, mind, soul and strength.
I’ve long been fascinated with the Renovaré community, founded by Richard Foster, and its approach to Christ-like living. In his book Streams of Living Water, Foster presents six so-called ‘streams’ of faith practice that help us live out our relationship with God in a balanced way: the prayer-filled life, the virtuous life, the spirit-empowered life, the compassion-filled life, the word-centered life and the sacramental life.
When practiced together, the six streams bring balance to each other and nurture healthy spiritual growth. But when practiced in isolation, each can have a shadow side that can lead to a distorted faith.
For example, practicing the word-centered life includes immersing oneself in scripture and proclaiming the good news of Jesus to others. This is, of course, vital and important to our life with God. Yet if this is done without compassion and guidance by the Holy Spirit, it can push people away from welcoming the good news of God’s Kingdom through Jesus.
Likewise, if someone’s only focus is Social Justice and they neglect to spend time in prayer and scripture, they will quickly experience burnout when tackling the world’s problems.Foster emphasizes that we need to practice all of the streams if we want to live balanced faith lives.
Foster emphasizes that we need to practice all of the streams if we want to live balanced faith lives. You can practice each of the streams by engaging in the following practices (which are by no means the only way to practice each of the streams).
- Contemplative/prayer-filled stream — Set aside regular time for prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading and remind yourself to experience the presence of God
- Holiness/virtuous stream — Strive mightily against sin and do deeds of love and mercy
- Charismatic/spirit-empowered stream — Exercise the gifts and nurture the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and aim to live in the joy and power of the Spirit
- Social Justice/compassion-filled stream — Endeavor to serve others everywhere you can and work for justice in all human relationships and social structures
- Evangelical/word-centered stream — Share your faith with others as God leads and study the Scriptures regularly
- Incarnational/sacramental stream — Joyfully seek to show the presence of God in all that you are, in all that you do, in all that you say
When all the streams are in balance we roll along smoothly, but inconsistencies tend to make us thump along like we have a flat tire. That ‘flat tire’ area may need some special attention, study and growth to bring us to a fuller life.
It’s understandable that there will be times in your life when one stream will take priority or be stronger than the others, and there will be times when one or two of the streams are weaker than the rest. As you learn to apply these streams to your personal walk with God, you’ll learn how to adjust to these changes.
As all six streams are identified and practiced it brings a wholeness, depth and balance to our life with and in God. As that wholeness and depth occurs we find that, in spite of life’s circumstances, our souls can truly find a place where the burden is easy and we can live into gentle rhythms of grace.
Learn more about Foster’s six streams and how to practice them in your own life in Bill’s upcoming class, Balanced Living in God’s Kingdom, starting September 14.
About the Author
After many years of wandering through various belief systems Bill came back to Christ. These experiences, coupled with decades of business experience in not-for-profits and for-profits, has helped him understand and relate to others in various stages of life. Even after Bill settled into a realization that he belongs to God and is loved by God, the journey has continued to be a challenge. Renovaré material has been a significant influence in Bill’s life, bringing together various streams that fit into a life with God. One of Bill’s passions is leading monthly outings exploring natural areas.
Bill’s credentials include an MBA and a Masters degree in Christian Spiritual Formation. In addition to these and other endeavors, Bill serves on the Spiritual Formation committee at a Presbyterian church and practices Spiritual Direction.