Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (I Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Is God-pleasing spiritual growth supposed to morph us into some sort of super saint?
As a new Christian I would have answered, “Of course.” All my faith heroes were mountain-moving, charge-the-hill warriors for God. Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the idea that we are all called to do great things for God; that the more devout we become, the more we will be transformed into spiritual Bravehearts, serving God, staying busy all the time, and rallying all others to do the same. Spiritual burn-out was a badge of honor. It sounds good. Even spiritual.
But what if you are more of a private person? What if the most important thing to you is to spend time with your family each evening? What if your idea of a great life is a quiet life filled with plenty of margin? Does it mean that something is seriously wrong with your spirituality? Or could it be that that is how God made you, and the rest of us will just have to learn to deal with it?
In the verse above the apostle Paul advocated that the believers of Thessalonica make it their ambition to live a quiet life, minding their own business. However, it appears that plenty of modern-day high-commitment Christian leaders don’t think he really meant it.
That’s how I used to feel until God brought some remarkable people into my life. They weren’t remarkable for what they accomplished; they were remarkable for who they were. They were as godly in character as anyone I’ve ever met, and not a single one of them was a leader, missionary, or Bible teacher. What’s more, when it came time to charge the hill, they opted to serve in the supply line. When challenged to sign up for new programs, work their way up the system, and join us in bold steps of faith, they smiled and politely declined.
On one hand they failed to match up to my image of what a sold-out-for-Jesus, on-fire-for-God Christian should look like. Not a lot of drive, not many accomplishments. On the other hand, when it came to character, relationships, and integrity, they were some of the most Christ-like people I’d ever met.
That caused me to start wondering if my definition of a good Christian was flawed. I began to wonder if there room in God’s kingdom for regular people? Could someone be average and still please God?
I had always assumed that Timothy, Titus, and Silas represented the standard fruit of Paul’s ministry. But I missed the obvious. Timothy and Titus were rare, and represented the next generation of leaders, not the standard for everyone. The vast majority of people that Paul led to Christ, and the majority of people in the churches he planted, never became leaders or joined Paul on a missionary journey. They were farmers and merchants, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who quietly lived out their lives as regular Christians. These Christian converts of Paul never planted a church, spent hours in study or solitude, or courageously preached on a street corner. Even though they didn’t do great things for God, they DID cross the finish line after having run the race well.
Let’s be honest. In many churches today, average Christians are criticized as being “nominal” believers. Those who don’t sign up for the latest event offered by the church are viewed as uncommitted. Everyone is called to greater sacrifice, deeper study, more evangelism, digging wells, stopping sex trafficking, signing petitions, staying busy, and a host of other things that are seen as proof of genuine commitment. These drive-by guiltings can mow down an entire crowd.
Think of the countless numbers of regular Christians who sit in churches on Sunday worshipping the God they love. They will never read their way through the Bible. Most will never teach a Bible class, go on a mission trip, house the homeless, talk to strangers about Jesus, or do anything spectacular. All they will ever do is simply live a life of obedience with grace and dignity. All they will ever accomplish is raising their children well, be good citizens, faithful employees, attend & support their church, and walk with Jesus daily. Yes, they will love and know God… model a quiet life without hypocrisy… and bear the fruit to prove it.
In my mind, such people are not only spiritual, they are spiritual giants. It is a pure delight to shepherd them.
I hope more people in our church family will see the value of what the apostle Paul advocated. On a personal note, it's my ambition too.