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Called to a Quiet Life

Quiet Pond

by Dennis Pollock

It is interesting to see how much the Bible has to say about quiet living. This certainly would not be the most exciting topic for most people. I can imagine the huge disappointment many would feel if they were attending a seminar with the announced theme: "How God will make your wildest dreams come true," only to hear the speaker say he had felt led to change his subject to: "How to live the quiet life."

 We must remember that there is tremendous value in all that God has to say. Jesus tells us, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Notice He said "every word." Many, if not most of the words we hear on TV, radio, or read in the newspapers have dubious value, but every word God speaks is valuable to those who will hear and heed. And one of the words or messages that God has spoken has to do with quiet living.

 If you are in Christ, Jesus has redeemed you from your old life and brought you into an entirely new life. If you claim conversion and yet your ways, language, attitudes, thinking, and values remain exactly the same as they were, your conversion is doubtful to say the least. The Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this brief teaching we will explore one key aspect of this new life to which Christ has called you. 

Aspire Quiet Living 

We find one of the major passages about this life in Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians, where he writes: 

…that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.  (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12) 

We notice that Paul tells us to aspire this quiet life. To aspire means to make something your goal, your aim, the passion of your life. How strange that God desires that we aspire a quiet life. If you were to go to a roomful of college graduates and ask them to write down three of the major goals they have for their lives, you would no doubt get a variety of answers. Some might set a goal to be able to retire at a young age and spend the rest of their lives in leisure. Some might list a happy family, others a successful career. But almost nobody would list a quiet life as one of their major or even minor goals.

 Paul goes on to give us some idea of what this quiet life looks like. The first thing he mentions is that we "mind our own business." Many of us, especially as children, have told others to mind their own business when they pried a little too closely into ours. Few of us realized that this phrase has come straight from the inspired Scriptures. Certainly this doesn't mean that we live isolated lives, refusing to ever involve ourselves with anyone. God does not call us to be hermits. Over and over the Scriptures use the term "one another." We are told to love one another, be devoted to one another, live in harmony with one another, accept one another, instruct one another, serve one another… the list is much too long to complete.

 But while we are called to love and interact with others, it is possible to be too involved in other people's lives. Some people seem to think they have the spiritual gift of fixing what is wrong in everybody, and bringing to light everyone's faults. They get far too involved in areas of people's lives where they have no business and cause much more harm than they do good. To such people Paul exhorts: "Live quietly – mind your own business." 

The Beauty of Labor 

According to Paul, another aspect of the quiet life is that we "work with our own hands." There is something beautiful about a man or woman quietly going about their work and earning the money they need to live in this world. Some Christians seem to suppose that secular work (any kind of work that doesn't involve preaching or ministry) is somehow unimportant and of a lowly status. They feel if they aren't making a living by opening their mouth for God, their work is to be despised. As a result they put little effort into it. God is of a contrary opinion. He greatly values honest work, regardless of how menial or secular it may appear. In another place in the Scriptures, Paul commands the "busybodies" who are going around making a nuisance of themselves to "work in quietness and eat their bread" (2 Thessalonians 3:11,12).

 To try to get by doing as little work as possible, going from one financial crisis to another, having to beg money from family or friends just to get by, is not honoring to the God we serve or the gospel we profess to believe. Paul not only preached this, but he lived it. The great apostle, the most brilliant theologian the world has ever seen, made tents with his hands to support himself. Although he would receive financial offerings from the believers when freely given, he would not be dependent upon anyone but God. 

The photograph that went viral 

Grace Photograph

In 1918 an elderly peddler knocked on the door of Eric Enstrom's photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota. Enstrom was preparing to take some of his photographs to an exhibition, and noticed that the old man had a kindly face. He asked him if he would sit for a few pictures, and the old man agreed. It was near the end of World War I, and Enstrom wanted a photo that would reflect gratitude in the midst of lack. He had the man sit at a table and placed a loaf of bread and a bowl of oatmeal before him. He instructed the old man to fold his hands in a prayerful posture, and took several pictures.

 The photos turned out well, but they did not attract much attention at the exhibition. Then a strange thing happened. Enstrom framed one of the pictures and put it up for sale in his studio window. It quickly sold. He made another and it too sold. Soon he realized that this photo struck a powerful cord with people. Later his daughter converted the photo into a painting, and it became one of the most popular paintings in American history. She called it "Grace." Like millions of others, I have always loved this painting. To me it speaks of the life that Jesus Christ produces in those who follow Him. It speaks of simplicity and peace, and reveals the beauty of a life of quiet faith in the Savior. It is this life Paul had in mind when he instructed us to pray for our nation's leaders, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." And then he adds a most valuable bit of information: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" (1 Timothy 2:1-3). 

Quiet Spirits 

It was not only Paul who spoke of this quiet life. Peter instructs women, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3,4). We need to see that this is not a reference to personality. God is not commending the introverts over the outgoing or suggesting that the shy are more spiritual than the talkative. Quietness of spirit is not about how many or few words you utter every day; it is all about humility, kindness, and the willingness to yield to others for the sake of peace. Whining, fussy, bossy, argumentative, foul-mouthed, critical people have noisy spirits, regardless of their basic personality. Our world often applauds loud, crude, caustic individuals. They're funny at parties and make popular talk show hosts. But gentle, peaceable, humble men and women are the quiet ones God so greatly commends. He says such people are precious in His sight. Precious means two things: rare and valuable, which is no small commendation from our holy Creator. 

Weaned Child 

In the Psalms David pays tribute to the virtue of quietness. He writes: 

Lord, my heart is not haught, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131)

He speaks of the evil of arrogance here. Pride is a loud attribute. It makes a lot of noise in its desire to draw attention to itself and get its own way. We see in this Psalm the quietness of maturity. No one makes more noise than a hungry, crying baby. When he wants momma's milk, he is going to make sure that she knows it. David compares himself to a weaned child – no longer demanding, no longer intent on making himself heard, patient, able to wait. Immature people are never quiet or content. Young people often do not appreciate quietness. If you ever pass a car with its windows open and loud, blaring music coming from the car stereo, you can be pretty sure the driver is not an older person. Nine times out of ten the driver is a young man, eager to share the worst possible music with all around him. 

David writes, "I have calmed and quieted my soul." As we mature and bears the scars and wounds of the conflicts that we needlessly brought on ourselves during our impatient youth, quiet and calm usually begin to look better and better to us. One of the aspects of noisy living is overreacting. People who have not quieted their souls tend to be over-reactors. Let something not go as they plan, or someone say something they take for an insult, or should they be passed up for some promotion or recognition they feel they deserve, they will quickly be up in arms, howling to the heavens over their mistreatment. Such a personality is the emotional equivalent of an allergy. When people have an allergy attack, their body will totally overreact to a small amount of pollen in the air. Their nose starts running, their eyes turn red, and they constantly sneeze – all because their body thinks it is in mortal danger from this harmless pollen. In truth they are in no danger. The overreaction is far more serious than the pollen. But there is no reasoning with their body as it futilely tries to rid itself of what it perceives as a dangerous enemy. 

A Quiet Savior 

Our Lord Jesus not only calls us to a quiet life, but He modeled it while He was here on the earth. The first thirty years of His life are called "the silent years." Jesus lived a quiet, simple life, apparently working as a carpenter. He stayed in His hometown village of Nazareth, rather than move to Jerusalem and make a name for Himself. 

Later, once His ministry began and His miracles guaranteed He could not be hidden, still He refused to publicly reveal that He was Israel's Messiah and warned His disciples not to make Him known. And when He went to the cross He fulfilled those poignant words of Isaiah, who wrote, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).  Even after His resurrection, our Lord made no public display of Himself, but quietly appeared to His disciples and friends.

As with our Master, so with us. The closer we walk with Christ, the more desirable this quiet life becomes. James writes, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18). The righteousness of Christ is best produced in quiet, peaceful lives – the lives of people who work hard, people who live responsibly, people who express humility in their dealings with others, who have no need to make a big splash and draw attention to themselves. We can afford to wait. Our day will come. The Bible tells us, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:3,4).




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