...aspire to live quietly... (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
Did you know that most millionaires aren't at all what you picture when you hear the word 'millionaire'? Most millionaires are rather unremarkable people who might live down the street from you. Years ago I read a wonderful book called The Millionaire Next Door by the late Thomas J. Stanley, and it changed my mindset not only on personal finance but on life in general. The book opened my mind to the possibility of living a joyful, quiet life untethered to the treadmill of consumerism and materialism. Many of the millionaires profiled in The Millionaire Next Door were people who intentionally lived frugal, meaningful lives. By and large, the stats showed they lived stable lives and gave more to charity. They were more likely to be affiliated with religion. This book found its way into my hands in college, when I had dreams of making it big in commercial real estate. I wanted the status symbols, and my life was heading in the wrong direction in pursuit of them. I thank God for this book, as it taught me not how to get rich but that living a humble life is attractive. Only later did I realize this idea is also spiritually vital.
Paul tells the Thessalonians to live a quiet life. What does that look like? A quiet life means one built upon identity in Christ, not outward appearances. A quiet life is, regardless of how busy we are, a life with room to be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). A quiet life includes time to love other people. A quiet life is an embrace of God's approval and thus freedom from the obsession of being liked. A quiet life is an unremarkable life of great meaning, a life oriented toward that which matters. I don't know about you, but I want to live a life like this. This is not the life of a monk or a super saint, this is just a description of the Christian life as laid out in the Bible. So how do we get there? How do we move toward a quiet life? You want me to list some practical steps, don't you? That's what I would want to read. But I'm not going to do that, because therein lies our problem: we always want to fix things. Living a quiet life is not about fixing everything; it's about following Jesus. While the ideas of frugality and simplicity have great merit, a quiet life is not based upon practicality. That would be going about the whole thing backwards. We build a quiet life by pursuing Jesus wherever he may be found. And the good news is that when he ascended, he left the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us—so Jesus is found where we are. That means right here, right now. We do not pursue Jesus like a dog chases a rabbit, but rather we pursue Jesus by seeking a greater awareness of his presence. He is already here. When I have doubts, I am always brought back to remembrance of the person of Jesus. Who is this man who is also God? As I think about him, I get carried away by my love and awe of him and forget to doubt. What God comes to die for their people? What God comes to serve and wash feet? What God lives an intentionally quiet life? Jesus was from a nowhere town, and he wasn't impressive to look at. He was homeless. He hung out with sinners and spent time praying in the mountains. He gained a following by healing and forgiving people and his moment of great fame was his crucifixion for our sins. If we place our feet inside Jesus' footprints we will find our lives will change. As we follow him, we'll find that the cares of this world are too cumbersome to carry on the path he's chosen. A quiet life develops as we drop the temporary in pursuit of the eternal. Living a quiet life is not about simplification; it is about following Jesus. WOULD YOU PRAY THIS PRAYER WITH ME? God, I confess my life is often loud and noisy. I confess in my unbelief, I try to fix it but I can't. I want to live a quiet life following after you. Show me your ways. Light my path. In Jesus' name, amen.