Last week we began looking at what we should do as our society continues in its current toxic direction. How can we avoid getting caught up in a world where every decision you make is liable to be used to peg you or categorize you into a particular position or political flavor? How do you maintain the ability to be the salt and light for the gospel that Jesus commands? After seeing that our lives are to be lived to the glory of God, let’s turn to principle #2 in our quest to live gospel-centered in our world.
Principle #2 – Lead a Loving, Quiet, Hard Working, Gracious Life
This second principle comes from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. A little background may help us to see things a little clearer. When Paul preached the gospel to the Thessalonians, they received it with great joy as they turned from their sin to Jesus Christ. Very soon afterward though, this city became known for its persecution of Christians. Paul was followed from this city to the next one in which he preached the gospel. It was there that the people antagonistic to the gospel convinced the people of that city to drag Paul outside the city and stone him. So one thing we should remember here. We are nowhere near the kind of difficulty that the Thessalonians faced as Christians. But Paul’s godly counsel from God was perfect for them – as it is for us as well. That counsel was that the believers live a loving, quiet, hard-working, gracious life.
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)
The core principle here is a fascinating one. The Christian, according to this passage, is to have loving his or her brothers and sisters in Christ as a major goal in life. That would make sense because Jesus Himself gave this to us as His new commandment (see John 13:34-35). In fact – this is the one thing the world will be able to see and know whether we are His disciples or not – by our love for one another.
Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about being ambitious! What kind of ambition should they have? Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. That almost sounds contradictory. When Paul speaks of a quiet life – he is not saying that we should never say anything – because that would be contradictory to God’s call for us to share the gospel. But what God is saying here is that we should speak in a way that is not filled with conflict, anger, and hostility. That is what the Greek Word for “quiet” here implies. Well, that gives us a tremendous amount of godly counsel doesn’t it? Saints, the current political dialogue on both sides is pretty filled with anger, rage, conflict, and resentment. It would be wise for us to check our hearts before speaking (or posting for all of us who are on social media) to make sure that we are not reacting out of the very attitude God wants us to avoid. Should we speak up for righteousness – absolutely! Should we speak up for the gospel – definitely! Should we comment on every post we see that opposes what we believe or think on social media – or in every conversation we have – ummm – not so much.
The next admonition is to attend to our own business and work with our hands. I know one thing that would cut down on all the marches and protests we are seeing. That is for people to be busy working hard – especially when we are working with our hands. Oh, and by the way, when it says working with our hands, I don’t think that means typing away our last snappy response on Facebook, twitter, or whatever you’re on at the moment. Good old-fashioned hard work never hurt a society. In fact – the lack of it usually means people have too much time on their hands to have their hands doing something productive. Twice Paul gave an admonition for the believers in Thessalonica to be attending or minding their own business. We need wisdom and discernment to know when our actions are helping others – and when they are just meddling in other people’s business.
At the risk of being accused of “meddling” myself, I want to offer a few questions for us as I close out this article. First and most importantly, how are you doing in loving the believers around you? Begin with the church you currently attend, and then move out to other believers you know. Second, are you a busybody – politically? The current political monologue from both sides is just itching for a fight. Does it seem like you are being constantly pulled into that fight – and I mean from either side. By the way, I used the term “monologue” because, let’s be honest, very little of what is being said lately involves any kind of dialogue. Our daily news resembles more of a gossip circle than it does a news cycle. How caught up are you in it? Let me go at it from a different angle. How’s your blood pressure when it comes to political discourse? On a much more palatable note – do you work hard? When it comes to outsiders who do not know Jesus – are you still able to witness to them – or has your participation in the current political monologue made it to where they don’t want to hear a thing you have to say? How well are you noticing the needs of others around you lately? Are you still able to see hearts and hurts in folks – or has life become more of a “me vs. them” thing – however “them” is defined for you? Are our lives seen by those around us as loving, quiet, hardworking, and gracious – or – has the current climate co-opted you into being an angry participant in one side or the other of whatever the latest debate has become? Saints – we cannot let ourselves be so pulled into this mess that it prevents us from being an effective witness for Jesus. May our actions be such that we can say what we believe on other matters in such a way (and with such a brevity) that we can make a beeline to the gospel. It will take a great deal of wisdom – and often a wiliness to just be quiet. But if I remember a certain proverb – it reminds us that, “He who wins souls is wise!” May that wise person be us!
May God bless you this week and help you to see when His will is simply to work hard at what you do and trust Him to bless you, lead you, and bring favor into your life.
Recently I went through the book of Ruth in my quiet time. As I was reading about Ruth I began to realize that God had some very important truth for me to learn from her example. Ruth was a Moabitess, a foreigner who was probably not received all that well when she first came into Israel. But regardless of what reception she received, she had determined that she was not going to leave Naomi. She had adopted her mother-in-law as well as the God that she served. She also knew that with Naomi’s husband dead and her husband dead as well, no one was working to put food on their table. So she did what anyone in that time would do – she went into the fields surrounding where they lived in Bethlehem and began to glean what was left after the harvesters had worked in the barley and wheat fields. This was hard work. Yet Ruth gave herself to doing it throughout the entire harvest of those two crops. This amounted to at least a month and possibly six to 8 weeks worth of backbreaking work for very little benefit. At least during those weeks they would have enough food usually for that day from what she brought home each evening at sunset. This was the will of God for Ruth and Naomi now that they had returned to Israel. The will of God for them was not glamorous – nor was it all that fun. It also was something they did to stay alive on a daily basis. It would have been odd for them to be able to save up much if anything from doing God’s will. But for a period of up to 8 weeks this is what they did.
Too often we wrongly get the idea that doing the will of God will lead to a very exciting, glamorous life for us. I am not saying that it won’t lead to times when things are exciting and fun, but neither will I submit to you that all of God’s will has to be fun for it to be . . . well, to be His will. Ruth is not the only one for whom the will of God means daily doing hard work faithfully. Ruth is not the only one for whom God’s will may mean working hard for enough to survive. For the majority of us living in the daily will of God will mean having a job we work every day – and doing it faithfully – every day. If this is the case for you, do not be disappointed – and do not think you must be out of God’s will if it doesn’t breed constant excitement and thrills.
The will of God for Ruth meant faithfully serving her mother-in-law. It meant waking up at the crack of dawn and heading to the fields to spend another very long day working very hard. It meant laboring so that she and Naomi would have something to eat that day. It meant trusting her new God to provide for them. It meant doing that day after day for the period of the harvest – and then not really knowing how they were going to eat within weeks of the harvest being over. Faced with these realities, Ruth worked hard. She didn’t complain about her circumstances – she worked within them and learned first hand how to trust the God of Israel for His provision for her fledgling family.
God blessed Ruth because of this faithfulness and hard work. The first day she worked, He providentially had her come to the fields of Boaz, a close relative to Naomi. Boaz spoke kindly to her and even served her food equal to those of his laborers. Ruth didn’t know that God’s mercies continued as Boaz instructed his laborers to pull out grain and stalks to leave for her to find. He also requested her to remain in his fields under his protection so that no one would take advantage of her in her precarious position of being a widowed foreigner. Then, when the time came for the harvest to be over, God blessed her by having Boaz respond to her request to be a part of his household according to Jewish custom, asking him to be her kinsman redeemer. This may have been custom for widowed Jewish women – but the probability of her being afforded that kindness as a Moabite was not high. Yet before the book of Ruth is over, that is exactly what her God did for her. God honored this lady for her willingness to simply do what is right – do it every day – do it without complaint – do it with gratefulness – and do it well.
God calls us to Himself and to a life lived to do His will. I will guarantee you that this will involve hard work. Honestly, it will also involve doing some of the same difficult, hard things day after day – without immediate gratification or some kind of instant reward. Many of His best rewards are reserved for things that take time. Fruit is not an instant thing – it takes an entire season to grow it. A tree full of fruit takes years from seed to grow, flourish, fight off disease, survive dry seasons, stand firm during storms and high winds, and eventually be green and full of nourishing fruit. This picture in nature matches that of Ruth’s life – and it is one we should note as we live a life for God’s glory.
Brethren, don’t be discouraged at your hard work and your daily life of “not-so-exciting” obedience and faithfulness. God IS at work in you and through you. Continue to give yourself to a life of faithfulness. Continue to submit to the daily rule and reign of God over your heart and your choices. Give yourself to your family, to your work, to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the lost. Be faithful to the daily little things and the occasional big things too. Know that such a life honors and glorifies God – and – will be rewarded in the end. Who knows – as you draw close to God through it all you also may be blessed with a disposition that enjoys the every day living of life for His purposes, His plans, and His will being worked out for His glory.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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