by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
Be honest; read today’s verse and then try telling your children that such is all they should aspire to; that, essentially, unheralded blue-collar work should be their ambition. Aim high? Sounds more like settling for anonymity.
What could Paul be getting at? Sure there are times we all grow tired of the rat race and perhaps dream about a scenario where we forsake the city and a high-pressure job for a more pastoral setting, crafting furniture and knick-knacks, living in harmony. Is that what this verse is getting at?
Let’s look deeper.
The Greek word philotim means to labor, endeavor, strive, study to become. It is used in three places in the New Testament. The first is quoted above, regarding ambition, which sounds not much like what we typically imagine when we think of things to be ambitious about.
Another place the word appears is Romans 15:20, where Paul writes, “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel…”
In 2 Corinthians 5:9 we read, “We have as our ambition… to be pleasing to Him.”
Contrast these goals with the first definition under “ambition” on Dictionary.com:
1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
I thought so. The more I study, the more I philotim to know God, the more I understand how different the Word and the world really are. Perhaps folks who live in other parts of the globe are less shocked to learn such lessons. For me, born, raised, working, and raising children in these United States, the lesson is always one of dichotomy, paradox, and sadly wondering if I’m handicapped beyond repair from truly following.
One of my bosses is fond of saying that in business, it’s crucial to determine early on whether a person you are dealing with is a “make me rich” or a “make me famous” person. Everyone, the story goes, is either one or the other at heart. And truly, according to the world’s definition of ambition, that makes sense. We all have something we want that drives us.
Lately I’ve been wondering a lot at where this has gotten me. Everything I have done, accomplished, purposed, learned, studied (i.e. “philotim-ed”) in life has led to… what, exactly? What goal? When I pray that the Lord would make my life useful and provide for me and let me know His will and keep me safe it’s all so… what? So I can watch my TV programs every night without acid in my stomach and with an easy feeling in my chest? As opposed to having to really live by faith?
Today I read this quote by the English poet Samuel Johnson: “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” Instantly my face fell. I knew that feeling all too well. All my aspirations only lead to the place of comfort, happiness, the path of least resistance. What’s wrong with that? It quickly becomes a place that feels too far from God, too self-centered, too out of the loop, too far removed to be making a real difference.
So what then is the ambition of the Christ-follower?
- Lead a quiet life
- Attend to your own business
- Work with your hands
- Preach the gospel
- Be pleasing to Him
In other words, don’t stress yourself with fame, or getting and spending, always climbing, making more more more. Don’t bother with being a busy-body or a gossip. Be creative; let God work through you. Tell others about Him. And live by faith.
It’s so simple, almost too simple. Ambition isn’t something far out there, some unabashed worldly success beyond our dreams, though that’s where God may take us. It all goes back to the very reason God made man in the first place – to have someone to know Him.
And there’s just not anything quaint about that.
Psalms 23:1-3 1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
This is undoubtedly the most famous psalm. The analogy of the LORD being our shepherd was taken up by Jesus in John chapter 10. When He said, “I am the shepherd of the sheep,” He was declaring Himself to be the LORD God. It is an analogy upon which many a book has been written. In this short devotional we can only touch upon a few of the points.
Sheep are dumb, stinky creatures. I hope you don’t feel offended, but I can say that because I am one. Without a shepherd to watch over and guide them, they would be easy prey for predators. They can’t seem to find pasture for themselves, and when they try to, they often end up in precarious situations from which they need to be rescued.
The Eternal God is our shepherd. Can there be any better? When you realize just how needy we are as sheep, it is a very comforting to know the Almighty God is our shepherd. We will never have a need He will not meet. He will guide us to places rich in pasture so that we will have plenty to nourish our souls. He will guide us to places of rest with plenty to eat and drink. When we are discouraged and feel as if everything is against us, He restores our very souls. He lifts us out of the pit of despair and encourages us with the loving smile from His face.
And why does He do all this for these stinky, dumb sheep? It is all for His name’s sake. His name is the sum of His marvelous attributes. Would He be good, merciful, gracious, just, loving, holy, and righteous if He just let such dumb creatures as us wander to our doom? To show the excellence of His character, the greatness of His heart, He chose to be our shepherd. You could not find another that comes close in comparison. When you realize your condition and the LORD’S wonderful offer to be our shepherd, why would you try to wander off or go your own way?
Consider: Follow the shepherd closely and the promises in this psalm will be yours.
The remembrance of Christ
By: Charles Spurgeon
“This do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 22:14-20
Our Saviour was wiser than all our teachers, and his remembrancers are true and real aids to memory. His love tokens have an unmistakable language, and they sweetly win our attention. Behold the whole mystery of the Lord’s table. It is bread and wine which are lively emblems of the body and blood of Jesus. The power to excite remembrance consists in the appeal thus made to the senses. Here the eye, the hand, the mouth find joyful work. The bread is tasted, and entering within, works upon the sense of taste, which is one of the most powerful. The wine is sipped—the act is palpable; we know that we are drinking, and thus the senses, which are usually clogs to the soul, become wings to lift the mind in contemplation. Again, much of the influence of this ordinance is found in its simplicity. How beautifully simple the ceremony is—bread broken and wine poured out. There is no calling that thing a chalice, that thing a paten, and that a host. Here is nothing to burden the memory—here is the simple bread and wine. He must have no memory at all who cannot remember that he has eaten bread, and that he has been drinking wine. Note again, the deep relevance of these signs—how full they are of meaning. Bread broken—so was your Saviour broken. Bread to be eaten—so his flesh is meat indeed. Wine poured out, the pressed juice of the grape—so was your Saviour crushed under the foot of divine justice: his blood is your sweetest wine. Wine to cheer your heart—so does the blood of Jesus. Wine to strengthen and invigorate you—so does the blood of the mighty sacrifice.
For meditation: We forget him when we absent ourselves from his table without good cause; we forget him when we attend the Communion Service as an optional add-on. “Remember Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:8).
“All this assembly shall know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:47 AMPC
David approached Goliath with uncomplicated faith. He simply believed in and trusted God. It was a faith shaped through years as a shepherd when he spent many hours alone with Him. It made no difference whether he faced a lion or a giant, David knew that, in every situation, God was with him, and that he could trust Him.
No other soldier viewed Goliath with this level of faith. Depending on their own strength, they were afraid of defeat or failure. The challenge appeared to be too great. They could not believe God could help them overcome.
As you face life’s battles, you can learn a lot from David’s example. Some Christians allow the world to shape their thinking and fill them with doubt. They find it hard to believe that God can give them the resources they need and solve any problem. Like David, you need a simple faith. Believe God is with you, and He is faithful.
The Bible urges you to remember that, with God on your side, you can take on any giant. You just need faith in Him. As Jesus said, you need faith as small as a mustard seed. Then, “nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Practice putting your faith into action. Renew your relationship with the Father. Pray until fear and doubt are banished. Read His Word. Confess His promises. Be bold and confident, ready to step out in faith.