Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). I would ask the question, how do we obey Jesus' command to go and preach the Gospel to all nations, which sometimes creates conflict as the light hits the darkness, yet at the same time make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to our own business?
To live a quiet life and attend to our own business seems to imply that we stay out of other people's business and enjoy life with our own like-minded family and friends. Paul wrote to Timothy to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:2). So it seems a life of peace and tranquility is what we should aim for. However, does this mean that we never share our faith with those who don't believe in Jesus? Does this mean we compromise and allow others to invade our quiet life with their beliefs in order to try and "keep peace?" Does peace mean the absence of conflict?
Jesus said He did not come to send peace, but a sword. This would imply some kind of conflict.
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household." (Matthew 10:34-36).
If our enemies live right in our midst, even in our own home at times, then how do we lead a tranquil and quiet life? How are we at peace with turmoil in our midst? Consider David's song in Psalm 131:
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever
When it's too much for us, we quiet our soul. Just as a child rests once he has been fully taken care of, we compose and quiet our soul within us. The Lord takes care of us, provides for us, protects us and nurtures us so we grow and learn to rest in Him. We come to the point where we know how to quiet our own soul, because we trust in Him. He has been faithful to us. We're not proud and haughty, but maintain a humble, restful faith in the Lord. This enables us to quiet our soul.
When we know we don't have the solution to things that are beyond our control, rather than becoming anxious and troubled, angry or frustrated, we trust in the Lord with simple, child-like faith. When Paul told Timothy to pray for those in authority so they could live a quiet and tranquil life, he went on to say, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." (1 Timothy 2:3-5). God desires for everyone--kings and citizens alike--to come to the knowledge of truth, and for people to be able to preach the message of Jesus Christ and live according to it, in peace. We pray for all those in authority so this will be possible. If there is conflict going on around us--things too difficult for us to resolve--we quiet our souls within and rest in Him, and we pray.
There is a peace we have within, which comes from a right relationship with God. When we have this peace, it doesn't matter what is going on around us--we are at peace because we trust in Him. However, there are those who do not have peace within them because they are not right with God. They will try and control the environment around them in order to get peace, but this outward peace doesn't fully satisfy like the inward peace with God does.
Until Jesus comes, there will always be those among us who don't believe. We rely on the governing authorities to keep the peace--the outward peace--for now. While praying for those in authority to know what to do to keep the peace, we should aim to live among people in such a way that will, hopefully, show them how to have peace within their heart through faith in Jesus Christ.
When Paul spoke to the Thessalonians, and said to make it their ambition to live a quiet life, tend to their own business, and work with their own hands, he said to do it so that they could behave properly towards "outsiders," and not have any need. What is this proper behavior towards outsiders? We see an example in what Paul said to the church at Ephesus, which was for those who used to steal not to steal anymore but to work with their own hands that which is good, so that they will have something to share with one who has need. (Ephesians 4:28). We also see Paul saying to the Romans, "if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18).
So it seems that we are to aim for a quiet and peaceable life, work to provide for our needs and the needs of our own family, while praying for those in authority and living peaceably with those around us when possible. By tending to our own business we not only have our own needs met, but we have something to offer others who are in need. Even though we absolutely don't compromise our faith with the "outsiders" in our midst, we still love them, attempt to live peaceably with them, show them how they too can have peace within, and when possible, give to those in need. Let's pray for those in authority to maintain the peace in our land, and let's pray for opportunities to reach others with the Gospel of peace, so they may have peace within. One day Jesus will come and get it all straightened out. In the meantime, we can live the quiet life as we put our own soul in a place of rest and peace in Him.