Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.
This passage is often overlooked or misunderstood, and indeed it can be hard to understand these days. We live in an age that praises and exalts wealth, fame and popularity, and so did the believers Paul was writing to at the time. “Dream big,” “follow your heart,” and “be successful” are only a few of the slogans our world deems important to happiness today. But Paul advised a better route.
Verses 9 and 10 describe the believers’ deep love for one another. Paul says there was no need for the apostles to instruct the believers about their love for each other because they were already doing it, having been “taught by God to love each other” (v.9). God teaches us how to follow His example too. And the believers didn’t just love their own little group but also all the believers in their vicinity. Love is a verb, which means these believers were actively doing things to show their love for the rest of the church. Still, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to love more and more (v.10). “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thess. 3:12). The Greek word used for love in this verse is agapē, which means self-sacrificial love. This implies that they should show their love for each other through their sacrificial actions.
Verses 11 and 12 describe the way Paul wanted the believers to live. He urged them “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (see v.11). Hold on. We know we’re called to be God’s witnesses, and to love each other sacrificially, and to honor God in everything we do, but how does that tie in to leading a quiet life? It sounds like living for God would be an exciting adventure, full of all sorts of surprises and events, right? Are we really all called to live a quiet life?
I feel like our first response to this verse is to link the term “quiet life” with the idea of a normal, ho-hum, rather boring life, or unimportance. Paul’s description in verses 11 and 12 of what this means contradicts this: “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and 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” (v.11-12). This doesn’t mean leading a mediocre life where you keep to yourself and do nothing. Actually, we are called to live in a certain way for a very important reason. We are called to live lives full of love for others (agapē) and characterized by godly character to point to God.
For clarification, what would the opposite of this be? Well, for a start this person would be unloving and unwilling to help others, not caring about the church. Second, this person would be a busybody, always meddling in the business of others (gossiping), and considered unrespectable. Third, this person would not work with their hands (have a steady, honest, and sufficient job), so he would have to constantly rely on others to help him. Now imagine a person like that going around telling nonbelievers he is a Christian. Not a good image.
When I think of the idea of leading a quiet life, I think of a life that doesn’t call attention to itself–not a boring or mediocre life, but a humble one. There’s a lot of dignity and satisfaction in a life that draws attention to God rather than itself. The world has enough people walking around shouting, “Look at me! Focus on me!” There are a lot of Christians who live the same way, though their call sounds a little more like “Hey, look at me! I’m awesome because I know God! Let me show you about Him in me!” Instead of shouting or drawing people’s focus to us, our lives need to calmly remain “silent,” pointing to God alone. Our worth needs to come from God, not our own accomplishments. God could call any of us to a life of doing incredible things for Him for many people to see, but ultimately, our lives need to focus people on Him through what we do every day.
Finally, this is also a reminder that God is really the One in control. We don’t need to become stressed-out and overwhelmed acting like we’re going to save people. Thank goodness, it’s not up to us. God is the only One we should be totally dependent on. God will use us to lead people to Him, and He’ll set it up. Just follow His lead.
Father, thank You that You’re with us now and teaching us how to love and live like Jesus! Thank You that You show us everything we need in Your Word and through Your Holy Spirit. Please guide us in being humble and godly in the way we live our lives, even in the everyday. Please help us to follow You through everything and trust that You are truly in control. In Lord Jesus’ Name i pray. Yes Lord, You teach us to love. You lead us in ambition to do Your will for our lives. You will use us no matter who we are. You are the Lord of all, and You are all that matters. Nothing else matters. You love us, thank You! And we love You! Please help us love You more. Hallelujah! Amen.