By Mark R. Anderson
God’s desire is that we do not become imbalanced in our Christian walk, and avoid being “ditch riding believers.” “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity of cowardice of craven and cringing and fawning and fear – but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self control” (2 Timothy 1:7Amp).
This verse clearly defines the tools that God has given us to combat fear and to live a victorious life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul clearly states that God has given us a sound, well balanced mind.
What do I mean when I say avoid being a ditch riding believer? The Bible displays the multifaceted nature of God. Unfortunately our problem is that being human we tend to get narrow minded and are unable to fathom, grasp, or comprehend the diversity of the Almighty. When He reveals Himself to believers in a certain way we begin to believe that revelation to be the answer to every problem. With that mentality we tend to jump from one ditch across the road into the other ditch. This can also be referred to as “being a pendulum swinging Christian”. We are no longer “well balanced or sound minded”. Each time a new move of the Spirit comes along we jump on board and take it to an extreme, causing many to turn away from what is a legitimate move of the Spirit. Many churches fluctuate because of “pendulum swinging Christians.”
EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE
It is time for the Body of Christ to grow up! We need to get on track and on the road so we can get somewhere as believers. Riding the ditch does not permit us to go very far or fast. Ephesians 4:8, 11-16 says, “Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men…And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (Greek- mature) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Notice first of all in Ephesians 4:8 that God has given “gifts to men.” What are these gifts? Verse 11 tells us that they are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers! We need to realize each one of these ministry gifts differs in the anointing or gifting God has places within them and what God has called them to minister. Verse 12 informs us that these ministry gifts are for the purpose of equipping, building and edifying the body of Christ to perform the work of the ministry. Verse 13 and 14 tell us that these gifts are given to help us to GROW UP AND PREVENT US FROM BEING TOSSED TO AND FRO AND CARRIED ABOUT BY EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE.
Imbalance is a problem we have in the Body of Christ. Many churches do not make use of the five-fold ministry gifts. Many become seeker friendly not wanting to offend anyone, and some lack the fear of God. Look at the leaders that are falling today. On the other hand many believers gravitate towards certain ministry gifts and do not have a healthy spiritual balance. One thing I have noticed in the five-fold ministry gifts, especially of teachers, prophets, and evangelists (including myself) is that God puts a burning desire to minister and emphasize a certain doctrine for a period of time. For example, God has called me to primarily minister on healing, faith, evangelism, missions, and humility. If people gravitated only towards my teachings they would be very imbalanced. I am merely being obedient in sharing the revelation that the Holy Spirit has given me. I am sticking to what God has called me to do. Some may think that I am imbalanced. I admit that I am limited! It is important to learn from other ministry gifts. Even though I am called to teach and minister in a certain area I desire all that God has for me as a follower of Christ. Here is how many become imbalanced; they just feed from one expression or ministry gift, and thus become very imbalanced or extreme in their beliefs. Usually the ministry gift is the one that gets the blame and people accuse them of being wacky, extreme or having a false doctrine when they are just sticking to what God has called them to minister. Many times it is the follower who is not well balanced and gives a wrong or extreme view of a certain doctrine because that is all they gravitate toward.
Another reason many Christians are ditch riders is because they learn from one ministry “gifting” or teaching and they find freedom from bondages in their lives through the teachings or the ministry. They begin to believe that the teaching is the cure to all problems for the entire body of Christ. Some become so extreme and zealous in their doctrine that others in the Body of Christ want to have nothing to do with what they believe even though there is truth in the doctrine. Unfortunately this is a classic example of one camp riding the ditch with their extreme beliefs and the other camp also riding the ditch by avoiding that doctrine, not embracing it at all. Both are imbalanced. Those who are repelled by the extreme need to “cease throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Those who are given to extremes need to understand that there is more to Christianity than just that one belief that has helped them out.
Many have learned about the power of faith and have experienced its productive results in their lives. If that is all they embrace, to the exclusion of other beliefs, then they take it to an extreme. I have “been there and done that” in the early years of ministry. Occasionally those who have witnessed the extremes and abuse in the faith movement have chosen not to embrace faith and/or healing, and instead have become critical of those who do. Hebrews 11:6 says, “without (Greek – outside of) faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” It is very clear even if someone takes faith and/or healing to an extreme, we should not disregard it ourselves; rather we “walk by faith” (see 2Cor. 5:7). Unless we do so we cannot please God. Everyone should embrace faith for the simple reason that it pleases God.
In some churches or groups God has moved sovereignly with many miracles, signs and wonders because they were hungry for God and had pure hearts before Him but no solid word base(see Matthew 5:8). Eventually the move of the Spirit died down and they no longer saw miracles, healings, signs or wonders. I have watched these groups go in two different extremes from there. Rather than being driven by a hunger for the presence of Christ and His Word, they chase after the manifestations or feelings they once had because it feels good. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you.” Notice Jesus tells us do not seek first the things or the blessings. Seek first God and His kingdom and secondly you can believe for the “things” and they will be added. We need to have the right perspective in going after “these things.” . Others go to an extreme from there and take on the attitude that God is sovereign and they witnessed Him move sovereignly earlier and take on a passive attitude. Eventually they become full of unbelief, and miracles and healings become a rarity in their midst, because they do not see the need for faith or having their roots deep in God’s Word. This is an example of being imbalanced on either side of the road.
I have embraced many different waves of the Holy Spirit. It is important to accept everything the Holy Spirit is doing, but not to the extent that we think it is the ultimate, and nothing else is of any significance. We should not embrace only one aspect or manifestation of God, neglecting the rest. We should pursue Him, His word and seek to extend His Kingdom first. On the other hand we should also not become lazy and passive thinking God is sovereign and He will do it all, while we just sit back and do not do much of anything.
Once the Pastor of a large church stated at a conference that for many years he and his church did not believe in the faith or prosperity message (maybe because of seeing the extremes). He said he began to realize the foolishness of his beliefs as he pondered the opposite of faith and prosperity is unbelief and poverty. He said he did not want to declare the beliefs of his church to be a church of unbelief and poverty. He began to embrace a healthy balance of faith and prosperity. God began to bless and manifest His presence in their midst with many powerful miracles.
I definitely believe in the prosperity message; but not like I have heard in some extreme circles. I believe in having a healthy perspective on it. Psalm 35:27 says, “…Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servants.” 3 John:2 says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” This scripture makes it very apparent that God desires His servants to prosper. At the same time He does not want us to be consumed by money. I have witnessed prosperity literally destroy ministers in the USA and abroad, as they did not have a proper perspective on prosperity. They were consumed with a prosperity message that was laced with greed and selfishness, rather than a desire to use it for the Kingdom of Christ. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss that you may spend it on your pleasure.”
The entire emphasis of many teachings on prosperity is on what and how much one can get. The teachings revolve around Me, Myself and I. There is no emphasis on being blessed so we can give to help the poor or fulfill the Great Commission. That to me is extreme! Many have looked at such teachings and concluded that the prosperity message is from the devil. They go to the other extreme teaching people to be poor as the will of God. They too do not get anything done for the kingdom of God as they do not have the financial ability to do so. What is right? If both would get out of the ditch and get on the road, they would see God’s perspective on godly prosperity. This is once again a good example of ditch riding Christianity. We need to be balanced in godly prosperity.
I have also heard ministers teach a particular doctrine to an extreme and then within a couple of years teach against that very doctrine, now promoting a different one. All they have done is jumped from one ditch to another. It is time to get in the middle of the road and on track with what God wants to do.
COMPROMISE IS FALSE BALANCE
Some may incorrectly believe that a balanced Christian is one who has to compromise his beliefs. Not at all! Keep the passion burning! Proverbs tells us that, “ A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Being balanced does not entail compromising one’s beliefs because others take us to be too extreme. It means that we should balance our teachings and beliefs with all the various aspects of God’s word. Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always…” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Verse 10 encourages us to be strong in the Lord. We can be strong in the Lord only when we are well balanced Christians. To be physically healthy we need to have a well balanced diet. We need to eat from the five major food groups. An imbalanced diet can lead to health problems. It is the same with our Christian walk! The armor of God speaks to me about balance and having everything God wants me to have to be spiritually healthy and follow Christ.
Verse 11 and 13 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. Today many Christians are only partially clad spiritually; in other words they are half naked. For instance, they may have faith, but forget the rest of the armor. Some may have the helmet of salvation but not the shield of faith. They enter into battle, spiritually naked, wondering why they are so ineffective and powerless.
So much of God’s word is interconnected. An example, in order to have effective faith we need to have love (see Galatians 5:6). Faith without love is useless (see 1 Cor. 13). 2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us to add certain ingredients to our faith and then in 2 Peter 1:8-9 says, “for if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is short sighted even to blindness, and forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
Ephesians 6:12 gives us insight into our battle with demonic forces. Verse 11 encourages us to stand against the wiles (Greek – lies and strategies) of the devil and demons. The best way to keep from demonic deception is to be a well balanced Christian who embraces all aspects of God’s Word. We combat the devil and his demonic lies with the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is not only about faith, or transformation, or holiness, or grace, or joy, or spiritual warfare. It is about all these doctrines together and so much more. Let us not be ditch riding Christians, given to unbecoming extremes or imbalance or those who are critical of certain fundamental beliefs found in God’s Word. Let’s embrace all of God, and all of His Word, which can continually set us free (see John 8:32) and keep us well balanced and on the road to victory. I believe that being a well balanced Christian will bring fruitfulness and lead to a victorious life in Christ.
In : Mark Anderson