The Thessalonian Christians had lost their joy. Peace evaded them. And their hope for the future had all but vanished. Many stopped working, allowing idleness to permeate their ranks. Others had fallen into a state of restlessness and gossip.
What was the problem? What emissary was so powerful and mighty that it had the ability to discourage and sway these early Christians away from what Christ had called them to do — to live for him and to anticipate his victorious return?
Seldom did the apostle Paul panic over any news that accompanied the growing pangs of the early Church. He understood that the Christian life was filled with ups and downs. However, the struggle that was brewing within the Thessalonian church was enough to capture his attention.
False beliefs creep in
The Thessalonian believers were known throughout Asia Minor for their faith, hope, and love. Yet they had allowed a degree of false teaching to persuade them to believe something other than the Gospel Paul had presented. As a result, the focus of their lives had shifted from God and his promises to the unstable ideas of false prophets. Their minds were no longer firmly set on Christ and his infinite ability. Instead, they had fallen victim to anxiety when it came to the subject of the believer’s resurrection. Questions plagued them: Had the resurrection taken place? Had they missed it?
Live simply, be satisfied, be diligent
The Christian life is not complicated. But when we allow fearful thoughts to invade our lives, we suddenly find that they have turned into struggles. God’s wisdom is sure, uncomplicated, and unwavering. He never meant for the Thessalonians to be captured by doubt or the frantic pace of their society. Instead, the Lord wanted them to learn to live simply — to be satisfied with what they had been given and to be diligent in their work for the Lord.
In an effort to refocus their attention on the things of God, Paul admonished these believers to “make it their ambition to lead a quiet life,” and not to worry about missing the “Day of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
Stronger than emotion
In times of uncertainty, God’s Word is a mighty, stabilizing force. Emotions and feelings often lie to us. We cannot trust them, but we can trust the wisdom we find in God’s Word.
Paul does not belittle these believers for becoming frightened or paralyzed by their thoughts. His message to them is straightforward and simple: get back to work, stop talking badly about one another, and know that God’s love and promises to you have not changed. “Faithful is he who calls you,” writes Paul, “and he also will bring it to pass” (5:24). Jesus would return, and those who believed in him would be with him in glory.
France Fénelon made a habit of encouraging his friends to live a quiet life. To one he wrote: “Your mind is too much taken up with your circumstances, and this hinders you from understanding the mind of God.... I think it is such a hindrance to the kind of quiet meditation in which God reveals himself. You must learn to be humble and simple.... Be content with leading a simple life.”
An uncluttered life
Living with godly simplicity does not equal inactivity. It is not an encouragement for mental or physical laziness. Simplicity, when it is handled properly, removes the noise and clutter that threaten to steal our sense of peace and intimacy with Christ.
Brother Lawrence remarked:
“Never tire of doing even the smallest things for [God], because he isn’t impressed so much with the dimensions of our work as with the love in which it is done. And we should not be discouraged if we fail in the beginning. The practice would eventually cause our efforts to become a pleasure habit that we would do without thinking....
We should simply develop an attitude of faith, hope, and love. We need not be concerned about anything else. It simply is not important, and should only be regarded as the means of getting to the final goal of being entirely lost in the love of God.”
Simplicity is a rare pearl
In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes:
“Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities, which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.
The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.”
Simplicity brings freedom
It is not the absence of control or convenience. Instead, it is the pinnacle of true abiding and fellowship with God. Fénelon writes: “O, how amiable this simplicity is! Who will give it to me? I leave all for this. It is the Pearl of the Gospel.”
In regaining their spiritual balance, the Thessalonian Christians embraced the discipline of simplicity. They refocused their hearts and minds on Jesus Christ, knowing that he would never fail them.
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