Not long ago a filmmaker produced a full-length movie in which the screen remained a consistent shade of blue from beginning to end. It was called—you guessed it—Blue. No doubt the director in question had good reasons for making such a film, but it never went on general release for one very simple reason: sitting in a movie theatre looking at a screen is just not very exciting. It’s also painful on the eyes.

Human beings were made for variey. We thrive on it. And as in filmmaking, so in conversation. People whose talk is in only color do not command respect from others or attract their interest. The proverb remains true: “Variety is the spice of life.”

Paul had interests outside the gospel

Does that seem like an almost blasphenmous statement? How could Paul, the great Apostle, who was so consumed with his evangelistic mission, possibly have taken an interest in anything else?

Yet he clearly did. The apostle Paul was not only a preacher; he was also a logician. Apparently he was interested in athletics, because he alluded to athletics many times in his epistles. Furthermore, his reference to Greek poets in Acts 17 indicates he was conversant with poetry. Certainly no one could deny that he was also a master at understanding human nature. And these interests did not detract from his mission. Rather, they made him more able to communicate what really mattered: the good news of salvation in Christ.

Similarly, David the king was a sportsman, a poet, a musician, a militarist, and a philosopher. And who could adequately evaluate the multiplicity of interests maintained by his son Solomon?

And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and Five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. —1 Kings 4:32,33

You will see from this that Solomon was a sage, a musician, a poet, a horticulturist, an expert in animal husbandry, an ornithologist, an entomologist, and a piscatologist. Presumably, had he not been good company, the Queen of Sheba would not have come all that way to meet him.

Or take the example of our own Lord. Study His parables and you will conclude that He knew not only what went on in the depths of the human heart, but what kinds of lives the people around him lived. Because he was so well grounded in these things, Jesus could talk easily with men and women of every background, race, and social rank. All listened to Him with absorption. He could appeal to the educated Nicodemus just as He could to the fishermen and the woman of ill repute from Samaria.

A diversity of interests keeps a balance essential to poise. It gives a sense of perspective. It assists in communication. And it brings a wealth of experience, which is one of the gifts God has given humankind.cc

The Bible shows us that such interests should be actively cultivated.

When Paul the apostle was forced out of Berea by persecution, he did not go to Athens and brood. He kept busy. In Athens he went down to the marketplace and listened to the dialogues of the philosophers. He studied the habit patterns of the Athenians. There he discovered what interested and motivated them.

This study quickly bore fruit. It wasn't long before they insisted he go to Areopagus, to the top of Mars Hill, where only the great orators and the celebrities were permitted to speak. There he delivered the most masterful sermon ever preached by any man—our Lord excepted, of course. An interest in life's variety resourced his communication.

No one can honor God in a maximum way whose only interests lie within the boundaries of a narrow and specialized field. Without a variety of interests, you will not keep anyone's attention for long.

Variety keeps you balanced—even in the pulpit

I know from my own experience that the pressures on clergy are phenomenal. They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They never have the satisfaction of knowing that everything is done. There is always another person to visit, another letter to write, another message to prepare. Besides this, they are the CEOs of their organizations, handling any number of sensitive interpersonal issues, and maintaining not only a paid staff but a large body of volunteer leaders. No wonder an article recently published in the American press was titled "Why Ministers Are Cracking Up."

Time and again, I have seen that great ministers in tough pastorates not only survive but empower their ministries by keeping other interests alive.

The brilliant pulpit orator from Louisiana, Dr. James W. Middleton, went through enough tribulations to shatter the nerves of five rugged men. In the midst of his metropolitan ministry a serious throat condition requiring surgery put him out of his pulpit for nearly a year. The experience put his entire ministry in jeopardy. Yet he returned to scale new heights in the proclamation of God's Word-—a feat explained in no small measure by the broad base of his interests, which included horticulture, hunting, and fishing.

Dr. Roy O. McClain, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia, and selected in 1957 by Time magazine as one of the ten most outstanding American clergymen of that year, seemed to spend every spare hour honing his powers as a speaker and communicator. Yet he had several hobbies, among which were the raising of Shetland ponies, painting, the playing of the organ, and woodworking. He found these hobbies essential. They served as a balance wheel, giving him unruffled poise as he led the largest congregation in Georgia.

It's never too late to start

For years I looked with envy on people who did downhill skiing.

I felt I could not afford the cost, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I could not afford the time. However, I set my goal to take up skiing at 63. On my sixty-third birthday I drove to Hopfgarten, Austria, and for the next two-and-a-half weeks, I enjoyed the professional excellence of Austria's proverbial ski geniuses.

In seven days, I was coming down the steepest slope of Hopfgarten Mountain. In nine days I was coming down without falling over. Before I left, my Austrian friends gave me a videotape made by Austria's Department of Ski Instruction so that during the summer months I could rehearse the various moves by watching the video.

This was the first time I had engaged in an athletic sideline to which I devoted any serious energy, enthusiasm, and resources. I tell you frankly that it proved as effective in undergirding my inner poise and serenity as anything I have ever done. My friend and ski companion, Hank Bronson, a Chicago businessman, served as an ideal example for me. He knows how to relax while leading a major business.

For one thing, you cannot come down a steep ski slope and think about anything else except skiing. It's a marvelous way to force yourself into brushing aside the multitude of energy-sapping little problems that confront you when you reach the office or pick up the morning post.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you take up the same pursuit. I am suggesting that you find some equivalent activity to which you can give wholehearted enthusiasm—a hobby that helps you to relax and that reinforces inner poise. It may be cooking. Or theatre. Or plunging down flooded ravines in a rubber raft. It doesn't have to be complex or expensive. What matters is that you do it.

Work and play can be the same thing

For some people, variety seems to mean coming home from work and plopping into a chair in front of the television. In truth, they are not getting much out of the riches life can offer them. Avoid like the plague passive variety. In Mark 6:31, when Jesus said to the apostles, "Come ye yourselves apart. . . and rest awhile," they did not lie down under an olive tree and sleep. Rather, they went out to eat, and then they engaged in a different form of activity. Variety means finding other outlets for expression, not switching yourself off. Jesus was always busy about His Father's business; He just varied the mode of his activity.

The world-famed industrialist R. G. LeTourneau once had an important appointment in his plant at Toccoa, Georgia. While in flight to Georgia, the pilot of his plane discovered that the landing gear was stuck. The pilot radioed ahead to the airport in Anderson, South Carolina, and told them the problem. Ambulances and a rescue squad rushed to the airport. The news media arrived to cover the event. The plane made a good crash landing. But when LeTourneau got out of the plane his first words had nothing to do with the plane. He said, in substance, "Where's the car? I am already late for my appointment in Toccoa. Can you get me a car immediately?"

There is poise. I asked him one time when he took his vacation. He said, "I never take a vacation. My work is my play and you never need a vacation from play." There was a man who, through Christ and wise self-discipline, learned the poise that conquers worry.