DEVOTION: The Quiet Life (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)
Does that sound like good advice? Because many people, throughout the ages, have used it as their motto: keep your head down, live a quiet life, don’t say boo to anyone, and don’t rock the boat.
And the basis for that belief … are the words from the Apostle Paul: “Seek to lead a quiet life, pursue your own affairs and do the work of your hands, just as we instructed you…” Words that he wrote down for the benefit of the church at Thessalonica. And as a consequence, words on which many have modelled their lives.
Now does all that sound perfectly sensible and logical? Well, in one sense, yes. We would, probably, all like to live a quiet life. But, unfortunately, that’s not what Paul was saying at all.
Because taking that sentence (or part sentence) on its own and ignoring the context in which it was written, is to totally misunderstand what Paul was saying.
Because, firstly, in his letter, Paul had just commended the Thessalonians, not for their inactivity, but for their activity. He’d commended them for caring for each other within the church. He’d also commended them for extending their care to people outside of their local church—to include people in the rest of Macedonia. Furthermore, Paul encouraged the members not to rest on their laurels, but to strive more eagerly in their brotherly love for one another.
And only then, secondly, did he address a problem in the church to which these words were directed. Now Paul was aware of a situation in the church which was very unhealthy. There were people within the church who were living a very disorderly way of life, and who, if left unchecked, would have destroyed everything the church stood for. Consequently, it was to these people that his words were directed. “Seek to lead a quiet life, pursue your own affairs and do the work of your hands, just as we instructed you…”
Paul was not trying to teach believers that being quiet and inactive was an acceptable way of living. On the contrary, the exact opposite is true. But there was a need to bring order to the church, so that the church could focus its attention on what was important—the need to be active and to care for one another.
Now of course, knowing this, has implications for us today. Because it might help us understand those who think Christianity is all about living a quiet life and minding their own business. And it gives us a base from which to teach that we should be active, not passive; we should be outspoken, not silent; and we should be caring, not detached.
The words of Paul, again: “Seek to lead a quiet life, pursue your own affairs and do the work of your hands, just as we instructed you…” These words were directed to combat a disruptive element within the Thessalonian church. They were not designed to reflect a philosophy of life. And that means that, even today, we need to take seriously the context in which they were written, and to encourage one another to be active in the Christian faith.
Posted: 8th December 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
DEVOTION: Surprises (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Of course, there are good surprises and there are bad surprises, and it’s good every now and again to have a good surprise. But what I like is for life to run as smoothly as possible—without any hitches and without any sudden unexpected events.
Now, in a sense, what I like is an ideal, and we all know that life’s not like that. Because whether we like it or not unexpected things do happen from time to time, and they are sometimes totally out of our control. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to avoid certain situations. Indeed, we can do much to keep life running as smooth as possible.
For instance, we can try to keep on top of things. We can keep an eye out for what’s going on. That way, as events come and go, we can fit in, as best as we can, those events that are outside our control.
In regard to social events, it’s no good telling people at a surprise party that we don’t like surprises. We need to let them know beforehand.
And regarding our business affairs … If we don’t want them to blow up in our faces because of something that we have missed, we need to keep our affairs in order. We need to keep up to date, keep records, and be as efficient as possible.
Now, of course, no amount of effort will remove all surprises—some will still come. But doing the necessary preparation—doing our homework—will certainly keep some under control, and far more manageable. And, if we applied those principles to all the normal things of life, our lives would be so much easier than it would otherwise be.
Having said that, however, there is at least one area of life that I haven’t mentioned—one area of life that is still likely to deal us with a major surprise. And it’s the one that Paul mentions in his letter to the Thessalonians. It is the surprise that comes at the end of the world. But, then, if the solution to eliminating surprises—or making them more manageable—is a matter of doing our homework, then shouldn’t we use that principle for this surprise too?
So what is the Day of the Lord about? Well according to the bible it’s the day when the world as we know it ends, when Jesus comes back to take his faithful away, and the whole world—every person—is judged by God on the basis of whether they have true faith or not. Not on the basis of whether they say they believe, but on the basis of whether they truly believe.
Now if you ask me, the Day of the Lord has the potential to be the biggest surprise of all. Indeed, none of the surprises we face, today, compare with the surprise we will get then. And the biggest surprise, of course, is that it will happen when people least expect it, and at a time when people feel safe and at peace.
So how can we possibly prepare for that? Well, I have a couple of suggestions:
And the first thing we can do is to pursue a personal relationship with God. And we can do that by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We need to accept that we can’t face life, let alone judgement day, without the help of the one who loves and cares for us most. We need to acknowledge God as a loving God, who has gone to extraordinary lengths, so that come judgement day he can declare us not guilty of the things we’ve done wrong, and, as a result, let us pass through to enjoy life in heaven with him. That’s the first step in our preparation.
And the second step—which depends on us following the first—is that we need to live in God’s light today. In other words, God has given us a way of life which is different to the way the majority of people live. And, if we are truly followers of him, we need to follow in his son’s footsteps. And that means living a life worshipping God, encouraging our fellow believers, and living a standard of life that is fitting for people of God.
As I said at the beginning, I hate surprises. Whether they are good surprises or bad, I still prefer to live a relatively even life. As a consequence, I try to avoid many of the surprises that we face. But to do that I have to be prepared. And the one thing I have to be prepared for the most is the day when I come face to face with God. Indeed, the last thing I want to face on the Day of the Lord—on Judgement Day—is being totally surprised and unprepared.
Posted 12th January 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis