I was asking God, “Why isn’t my book published? Why don’t I have more followers? I’ve been working like crazy for your will and I’ve seen very little reward.” And God answered me through 1 Thessalonians, as if saying, “You’ve been looking for the wrong reward. My will is to sanctify you.”
When I was a senior in high school, I mentored two freshmen as part of a school-run discipleship program. We met (loosely) every other week at the Starbucks down the road from the school. I bought us three copies of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. We talked a lot about passion.
Our conversations would circle around ideas like being on fire for God and bringing God’s kingdom to earth. And while these statements aren’t explicitly wrong, they can easily be misapplied.
My vision for “being on fire for God” included big things that would draw a lot of attention to myself—taking a high-ranking job as a Christian employee, amassing a social media following by tweeting my spiritual and biblical insight, writing a bestselling Christian novel, and maybe even forming new laws that would enact an unprecedented age of success for the Christian university.
Fast-forward seven years to my life today and you’ll find a sometimes-discontent Christian. I have a job, but it’s not at all as important as I dreamed it would be. I have a Twitter account with less than a handful of followers. My novel is unsold and incomplete. And my political influence is nonexistent.
Sometimes I wonder, “What’s going on God? It feels like you’re making me waste my life. I have no influence. I’ve done nothing great. All this trying—and for what?”
God’s Will for Our Lives
Not long ago I decided to read 1 Thessalonians, and I found the book to be a direct admonishment and encouragement to my discontent with my lack of “importance.”
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul writes: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” Notice Paul what does not say: For this is the will of God… your influence, your power, your following. No—Paul, under the inspiration of God himself, says the will of God is “your sanctification.”
I was asking God, “Why isn’t my book published? Why don’t I have more followers? I’ve been working like crazy for your will and I’ve seen very little reward.”
And God answered me through 1 Thessalonians, as if saying, “You’ve been looking for the wrong reward. My will is to sanctify you.”
The immediate application is to say that God brings about his will in those who are in high-ranking jobs and low ones. He works through those who have 1.43 million twitter followers and those who have 143. God can use my writing for his will if it is picked up tomorrow by the biggest publishing house or even if no one ever reads it.
His will is my sanctification.
If this is the case, then am I free to aspire to either anything I want or nothing at all? Not quite.
True Christian Aspiration
A few verses later in the same chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes: “But we urge you . . . to aspire to live quietly,” (4:11).
This sentence jumps off the page because it seems like a contradiction—aspire to live quietly? As in, I’m supposed to hope and dream and work for an insignificant life?
Yes and no.
Be Insignificant: Yearn for Peace
The Greek word “to live quietly” here is hēsychazō. According to BDAG, a Greek-English lexicon, this word, as it appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, means “to live a quiet life or refrain from disturbing activity.” The definition mentions other words like peaceable and orderly. The implication is that, as Christians, we are to aspire to live a peaceable life.