May 27, 2020
Occidental Community Church family,
1 Thessalonians 4:11. "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, 12.so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
In my sermon text last Sunday these were the concluding verses, in which Paul urges believers in Thessalonica to live simple, quiet, and hard-working lives. Their witness to others was to be through the way they lived out the gospel message day by day. It was right for Christians in the first century, and it is right for Christians today in the twenty-first century. Too often our daily lifestyles do not reflect the message of the Christ we preach. Paul urges them to do three things:
"Make it your ambition to live a quiet life"
This is not a call to stop speaking or to stop preaching the message of Christ. Rather, it is a call to put aside the restless, frantic life that some of them had fallen into while awaiting the return of Christ. The quiet life Paul urges them to live is reflected in Psalm 131 where David says, 1."I do not concern myself with great matters or things too lofty for me to grasp. 2.But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." A quiet spirit under the control of Christ is a priceless treasure to have within us.
"to mind your own business"
This is a warning against meddling in the affairs of others where we are not welcome. In the second letter to this church Paul uses the term "busybodies" for some who had too much leisure time on their hands and could not resist interfering in the lives of others. Such lack of respect for others is a poor witness to our faith in Christ.
"to work with your hands"
Laziness has no place in the life of a Christian. The Bible commentator James Denney said it well, "If we cannot be holy at our work, it is not worth taking any trouble to be holy at other times."
Original Enstrom 1918 photograph
There is a famous image entitled "Grace" that captures the spirit of these verses. It shows an elderly man with a white beard seated at a table with his head bowed in prayer, preparing to eat a simple meal of oatmeal and bread. This comes from a photograph taken by Eric Enstrom at his photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota, in 1918. The man pictured is Charles Wildon, a poor peddler of foot-scrapers who lived in a simple sod house. He had stopped by Enstrom's studio in hopes of making a sale. Enstrom said, "There was something about the old gentleman's face that immediately impressed me. I saw that he had a kind face. There weren't any harsh lines in it." He asked him if he would pose for a photograph, and he obliged. Enstrom said, "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war (WWI), they still had much to be thankful for." As soon as the negative was developed, Enstrom was sure he had something special . . . a picture that seemed to say, "This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people, because he has a thankful heart." The original photograph was in black and white. Later, Enstrom's daughter, Rhoda Nyberg, colorized it by hand and also created a number of oil paintings of the photograph. In 2002 it was designated the state photograph of Minnesota.
Enstrom's daughter's painting
Shortly after the picture was created, an inspired businessman friend wrote a simple but eloquent prayer to accompany the picture.
"Lord, there may be homes that are larger than mine. There may be tables groaning with food and drink in abundance. There may be riches in supplies and appointments. There may be conveniences on every hand, and there may be physical assurances that tomorrow will bring still more. But, Lord, you have been with me unto this and supplied my necessary requirements. On that assurance I rest my belief that you will bless my efforts, if I apply them to the best of my ability, to carry on. I AM CONTENT."
QUIETNESS and CONTENTMENT. Can it really be that simple? God says, "Yes."
Isaiah 30:15. "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength."
Trusting in Him,