Aspire to lead a quiet life (1 Thess 4.11).
“It’s the seemingly unimportant people who determine the course of history. The greatest forces in the universe are never spectacular. Summer showers do more good than hurricanes, but they don’t get a lot of publicity. The world would soon die but for the loyalty, creativity, and commitment of those whose names are unhonoured and unsung.” —author James Sizoo
For seventeen years I served as editor-in-chief of a magazine for Christ-followers. In that position I constantly faced pressure from myself and others to gain followers by running a big-name profile on the cover. But I had to resist the temptation, because I serve one who is more impressed by a cold cup of water given in His name than by fame and notoriety.
I peruse the resources available for women’s ministry, whether seminars or studies, and I see we are often compelled more by celebrity than by depth or skill at handling God’s Word. How we need reminding that we are to aspire to the quiet life, not to fame; that glamour is not goodness; that honor is not humility; that ability to speak is not ability to communicate what matters. The woman of the hour is not apt to be the woman of the ages.
The death of a friend’s father provided a fitting reminder of this for me. The pastor who spoke at Dick Beard’s funeral likened him to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As you recall from the reruns you’ve doubtless watched while munching on yuletide cookies, George Bailey longed to do more with his life than run the financial institution he inherited from his father. Yet duty kept calling. And because George kept doing what was right, he sacrificed his dream of “doing and seeing” on the altar of “selflessness and responsibility.”
Mr. Beard was a lot like that. Because of his good choices, he never achieved even so much as a Warholian fifteen minutes. He was an eyewitness to the Kennedy assassination; he could have made a name for himself on that alone. Yet the first I heard about this was from his wife, Betty, during the visitation before the funeral.
Dick Beard chose to be unhistoric.
He graduated valedictorian of his class and scored a full veterinary-school scholarship. Soon after graduation, his father died of tuberculosis. So rather than go off to college, he took several odd jobs at the ripe old age of eighteen to provide for his mother and three younger siblings. He did this until his country called him to service at twenty-six. After four years, he returned home and found employment with the U.S. Postal Service. He found the job mundane. Why stick it out? He had siblings who needed his financial help.
Dick waited until he was twenty-nine to marry at a time when everybody tied the knot in their early twenties, because he wanted to make sure his siblings were “launched well.”
When his sister was nominated to homecoming court, he heard she was going to turn down the honor because she couldn’t afford a dress. Dick found her one. To this day his family doesn’t know how he came up with the money.
An online writing group asked, “What is your favorite ending to a book?” One contributor chose the ending to George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It’s not flashy as endings go. A lot of critics find it disappointing. But I think it’s profound. The book ends with this description of the main character, Dorothea, but it could have just as easily been written about anyone who aspires to the quiet life of faithful service:
Dorothea’s full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Two hundred years from now, who will visit Dick Beard’s tomb? Nobody will visit mine. Probably nobody will visit yours.
But the God who sees all things done in secret and rewards generously in the next life values our serving faithfully in obscurity. And in this life the effect of faithfulness lived out in anonymity is the growing good of the world.
Adapted from a post that first appeared on bible.org in 2006.