September 4, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (NIV)
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,..
Silent labor is neither unimportant, unvalued or unrecognized work. The Thessalonians received the Gospel message and demonstrated that quiet diligence is actually capable of resonating loudly. The Holy Spirit ensures that our ordinary work will no longer be divided between sacred and secular; rather he will let the message of freedom ring through us (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
I had the pleasure of wrestling when I was young for both local and state representatives for nationals. I recall walking into the gym from time to time to find the mats already out, cleaned and taped. Water stands were close by to ensure we would have no attempts to stall at getting back to practice. Towels were left out and occasionally there were new posted messages on the walls. I snuck in early to find out that there were just a couple of people carefully preparing everything. There was no banner for their names, no Spirit Day in their honor but they would carry out their work anticipating what they could without hesitation.
In our society, success is often determined by the absence of flaws, the quantity of results, the position or titles associated with doing it, and how loud or sensational it is. But the Gospel teaches us that often the opposite is also effective. Moses, the Israelites walking into the promised land, Esther’s advocating for the nation, the birth of Jesus, and even the resurrection are all moments of silence and sometimes obscurity. And the Thessalonians demonstrate the same thing. They have received the Gospel in oppression and instead of creating a big uproar, their quiet but shrewd approach to work proves to be just as effective. The silence of their work is not the same thing as passive work; they did not live above the fray but stayed incarnate. They worked because of their trust, toiled by their love, and endured because of their objective hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Their normal ordinary work for their neighbor enabled them to support fellow believers on Sunday and Monday. Their hope reminded them that the Gospel pushed them to endure with unbelievers.
They did this without accolades, media posts, marketing campaigns, or analytics. Their ordinary good work was in the midst of their imperfections, inability to get family right, personal struggles, propensity to weep without hope, and bearing under literal persecution. And what was the result? Not obscurity or accolades but a silence that resonates with Gospel truth. The Holy Spirit ensures that our ordinary work will no longer be bifurcated but rather he will let the message of freedom ring through us (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Silent labor is neither unimportant, unvalued or unrecognized work. God already knows what he will do with us but there might be something to learn when we are convinced of other’s salvation as much as they know it for themselves (1 Thessalonians 1:4). Perhaps our certainty concerning others and their ordinary work will make us come a little early, or look a bit wider at how their part actually rings out to the whole region. The Thessalonians learned that their labor may be obscure—not the exciting parts of what is perceived as being “ministry”—but their work was so profound that even Paul—the one sent to tell others of the faith—said that he does “not need to say anything about it” (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10).
What prompts you to determine the effectiveness of your activities each day?
What comes to mind when you hear that we should work unto an audience of One?
Take some time and look at the normal mundane moments of yours and other’s days. How can the Gospel resonate through those moments? How might the way you drive to work, or gather the garbage, or supervise employees, or count back change to your customer, be done with God as the audience where Paul would have to say “your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it”?
God, we know that you don’t have to use us which you formed from clay to praise you—you could use rocks. So we thank you that we are on the verge of being perpetual praise to you in even the most mundane things of life. I thank you because, since that is true, it means you are incredibly gracious and patient towards me and every human being I will cross paths with today. Until glory comes, thank you for making me more and more dependent on the Holy Spirit to look past the fanfare to even the obscurity in order to find an omnipresent God reminding me in silence “I am with you.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Your Faithful Work Matters to God
DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.