Ambition to be Quiet

1 Thess. 4:11.---'Study to be quiet, and to do your own business and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.'

The word 'study' may be translated 'be ambitious.' We associate ambition with intrigues and ruthlessness. We think of it as a word that is often immersed in the blood of the innocents. For that reason we agree with Shakespeare when he says in Henry VIII.: I charge thee, fling away ambition: By that sin fell the angels.

But there are worthy ambitions---ambitions that ennoble the soul, and enrich the life with spiritual power; ambitions that would lift others as well as ourselves. It has been said that if you want to know a man's life you must know what are his ambitions, what are the things he lives for, his motives and aims in life, the things that dominate him.

Be ambitious to be quiet and to work. Ambition usually concerns itself not with work, or the way of doing it, but with its results. Paul had quite another idea. His ambition was not so much for results as for the right spirit in work. His chief ambition was for quietness in his work.

In our age this is a difficult ambition. It was difficult to those people in the Thessalonian Church, but from a very different and, strange to say, a religious cause. There was a widespread belief that Christ would speedily return to earth---that this might happen at any moment; that His sign might any day appear in the heavens. This led to a restless feeling, to a neglect of daily work. There was a morbid kind of excitement in the Church, which made it difficult for men to be quiet and do their own work.

There is a like restlessness in our own age, but from a very different cause. The mechanical contrivances of our day have effected changes not only in the material realm, but indirectly in the spiritual realm. It may sound belated to argue against the spirit of an age which is rushing faster every year. Yet that fact only shows how sorely we need an antidote to the hurry that is in the world. And, after all, a society must stand condemned which has lost its leisure. Nothing great or serious or lasting can ever be done in a hurry. People rush to be rich, and gamble for the fortune which they will not wait to earn. But even they are hardly absurd enough to rush to be wise. They understand that learning, at least, cannot be gained at express speed. Education, if it deserves its name, must always be a slow, deliberate, gradual thing.

In religion, as in science and art, faith and hurry are mutually incompatible. The one must finally banish the other from the soul. The record of our Lord's life is full of strange, serene leisure. His Father's business was done for thirty quite years at Nazareth. The Son of God served so long an apprenticeship of patience before His ministry began. And afterwards, when He became the vortex of eddying multitudes, He never showed a trace of hurry or excitement. Through all those crowded days of healing and controversy, He never knew what it was to be feverish or flurried or distraught. He moved like a king in His own realm, master of the pageant that stays for his pleasure. So Christ passed deliberately on to His appointed and accepted end. As a child when Herod sought to kill Him, He could of answered, "I must go on My way today, and tomorrow, and the day following." The Father had given Him His work to finish, and in that faith He made no haste.

It may be so with us. But if it is to be so, we must be ambitious to be quiet. Such ambition will dislodge other ambitions. They cannot co-exist in the same heart. There can be no quiet in the heart if we are full of 'vaunting ambitions which overlap themselves.' These will render the ambition to be quite impossible.

Let us indicate some of them.

'There will be no quiet for us' unless there be quietness of heart, an inward quiet and not just the quiet of circumstances free from the din of noise. No matter how humble a man's task may be, no matter how ordinary and uninteresting, he cannot set himself to do it faithfully without imprinting his very being on it; and if within the man there be no peace, but a surging of excitement or unrest, that inward tumult will tell on all his toil and subtly influence everything he does.

On the positive side one way to quietude of life is by means of quietness in speech. Speech re-acts on thought. A noisy way of talking excites the mind. The Apostle speaks of the tongue as a little member, but as set on fire of very hell. The louder the utterance the greater the excitement. It is a habit among the Quakers never to raise the voice above a certain pitch. Something of their quietness of spirit is due to this. Differences of opinion would be robbed of half their bitterness if they were expressed in quiet tones.

Another way is by trying to realize the relative importance of things. Some things are not worth exciting ourselves about. Have we never been astonished, in looking over the records of our life, or of a church, or of the nation, at the smallest of many of the matters which cause the greatest excitement? As we look at them from a distance how trifling seem the matters which kindled so great a fire. Families have been rent asunder, churches disrupted, politics embittered, by things which at a little distance look utterly contemptible. If men could only have held such things up and calmly looked at them they would have felt them unworthy of so great excitement. Now, would it not be wise for us, as we see excitement rising about so trifling matter, to ask, Is this important enough to trouble ourselves about? Would it not be a waste of strength? And thus strength would be saved for the really important concerns of life.

Another way is hinted at in this passage--- 'do your own work,' or, as our familiar phrase renders it, 'mind your own business.' Consider the situation that gave rise to such plain speaking. It is evident that there were some tattling people who were disturbing the peace of others. They did not work themselves, and made it difficult for others to do their work. Paul gave them timely advice. There are some people who dread nothing so much as being quiet. They delight in a front row. They are full of suggestions for other people to carry out. Paul here says, 'Let it be your ambition to be quiet, and to get on with your own job.'

Yet another way to quietness is to be found in work itself. Our age is full of devices to get wealth without work. But they are all charged with suffering peril. They all bar the way to a quiet life, and in its place give men a restless, troubled career. Paul is referring not to what is known as 'Christian work' but to the daily business and occupations of life, in the discharge of which we reveal our Christianity and find a mind at peace.

If the ambition to be quiet is in our heart, keep in the company of Jesus Christ. He will win us from false ambitions. He will show us that a 'man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth,' but in reality and simplicity of heart.

As to the present, we will be quiet, for we will be assured that ' all things work together for good to them that love God'; and as to the future, we will be quiet, for we know that ' when the earthly house of our tabernacle is dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' And thus in quietness and confidence will be our strength.

In Christ, timothy.


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