When you take a step back and look around, you see a lot of pressure to blend in with the status quo, work your way up the ladder of approval and even make a great name for yourself. For many, that’s their ultimate aim in life. I’m not saying that success, great performance and achievements are bad. But I do think pursuing these things for yourself above all other things, leads to great disappointment and a lack of true fulfillment. I think we should pursue great things, but for a different reason.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, the Apostle Paul says this:
But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek (or aspire) to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.
In this portion of his letter to these Christians, Paul specifically focuses on sanctification and growth in the context of work. Work is a gift given to us by God, but it’s also marked with our sin. Our work is fallen and must be redeemed. Therefore, when we work and operate in society, we must strive to do so in a way that glorifies God and uplifts others. More specifically, our goal is to set an example to outsiders that models Christ in the way we live and work.
We also know from Scripture (Colossians 3), that Christians are called to work with excellence, not to bring fame to themselves, but rather to God. Yet at the same time, God calls us to more and has incredible things in store for our lives.
Lately, I have been experiencing a lifestyle-perspective shift with my family, relationships and work. I’m not even really there yet, but I’m trying to work towards it. Let me share a few thoughts of application from my recent journey that I also think reflect this passage from 1 Thessalonians.
- Treasure your time with Jesus above all else.
The best part of your day should be your time with Jesus. At minimum, this should be taking in God’s Word (reading, listening, etc) and prayer. For me, my greater struggle is prayer. I’ve often been consistent in my Bible reading, but I’ve neglected prayer and stillness before God. I also now have a four month old son, so I’m having to get creative and come up with a new plan and rhythm again! I’ve been trying to do little things to help me focus more in these few minutes, such as: leave my phone in the other room, play some soft, background instrumental music, and of course…make some coffee! These things help me better focus in on God’s Word and stillness in prayer. Treasure your time with Jesus above all else. Do you feel it when you don’t have it? It really does matter.
- Be present and slow down.
Last year, I read the book ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. This book was a game changer for me in regards to the speed and pace at which I live. Think about it. On any given day, you and I are moving 1,000 mph from here to there. And while we work to get to the next thing on our to-do list, our phones are constantly going off. We are bombarded with noise and clutter. We are addicted to noise and busyness. Many of us cannot sit in silence, or rarely make time for it. I’m guilty!
Paul says, “Aspire to live a quiet life…”
The idea that Paul is unpacking, is to slow down. Embrace the quiet and work to care for your soul. Do not make it your top priority to become famous or achieve great things for your own resume, rather live for Christ and embrace joy and contentment, and see what He does in your life along the way.
Aspire is an action word! You and I literally have to work, in order to be present and slow down. It sounds contradictory, but it’s not. Putting your phone down takes work. Being engaged in that conversation takes work. Spending uninterrupted time with your family takes work. The happiest people seem to be the ones that aren’t glued to their phones and social media. Think about that. It’s true. The more you are on social media, the higher the chance you are depressed and discontent.
Contrary to many of our hustles and aspirations, Paul says you are really living at best, when you can slow down, be present and breathe – not rush all over the place and constantly live on the go. Living an overly busy and rushed life is not what’s best for you. It’s actually making it worse!
- Aim for simplicity.
Are we aiming to live content, simple, and focused lives on loving Jesus, our families and communities? I’ve been learning that a simple approach to life is the way to go. It also decreases anxiety. We have a lot of demands in our lives, and that often can’t be helped. But what can we cut out? What’s worth it and what’s not?
Do we really need to fill our schedules to the brim? Do we always have to have the nicest things, for them just to rust away? Now, I don’t want to take this to an extreme, but I personally want to have margin in my time and resources, to be able live give generously and to enjoy special things throughout life.
Paul says to, “work with your hands…”
This is reflecting a lifestyle of responsibility, being able to provide for your needs and keeping yourself active by taking care of what you have and stewarding it well.
- Don’t consume yourself with things that distract you from what really matters.
We are so easily sucked into the mess of our culture. There is a time and place to be involved in the current events of our day, and I do believe we should have a grasp on what’s happening around us. But what’s the limit? When is too much, too much? At what point do we become obsessed and unbalanced?
If COVID has revealed anything, it’s how selfish we can be. If you are a Christian, you gave up your rights when you trusted in Christ. He calls you to live sacrificially. It’s not about you and me anymore. (John 3:30)
Paul says, to “mind your own business…”
Wow! Thanks Paul. But seriously. Mind your own business! Ouch. That’s a wake up call to me. Being a pastor, it’s hard for me just to stay out of everyone’s life. I’ve been called to shepherd souls. But I don’t think that’s what Paul is getting at. We need to be in community and lovingly challenge each other. But when it gets to the point of consuming us, we need to take a step back and mind our own business. People will do what people will do. Do what you can to lead and love, but don’t take on the responsibility of controlling people. Now that’s a relief!
In the past, living this way sounded boring and unappealing to me, but now it’s become more and more appealing! It’s honestly a better way to live.
I’m reminded of Proverbs 30:8-9—
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Lord, keep me humble, balanced and Kingdom-minded. This is my prayer.