Lost sunglasses. I am walking through Tieneman Square in Beijing, squinting. I’ll have to purchase another pair at the vendor’s by the gate. He hands me my selection—a grey pair with a metal butterfly adorning the tiny corner of each frame. I like this pair. But an hour later, as I walk by the river, I must purchase another set. I select frames exactly like the first ones. But that story follows me back home and even friends who didn’t accompany me to the Great Wall or on the rickshaw laugh at the story as they hear it retold.
My knack for losing things extends elsewhere. Not wanting extra clutter around my house, I’ve too often placed an item somewhere to get it out of sight…and forgotten where I placed it. While I’ve certainly not conquered my tendency to file things and forget them or to flat out lose them, my study of God’s Word is helping me to become more aware of little details in my life. My own propensity in this area will probably never be completely gone, but the scatterbrain in me is beginning to be conquered, slowly but surely, as I seek to embrace the second command of I Thessalonians 4:11.
“And that ye study…to do your own business.” The verb do refers to that which is done frequently, rather than a one-time occurrence. This verb involves “[bringing] about or accomplish[ing] something through activity” (BDAG). One’s own business is his own “personal labor,” as in I Corinthians 4:12, which states—“And labour, working with our own hands.”
I’ve been far too capricious for most of my life. After reading the Anne of Green Gables series as a young teen, I began to view impetuousness as a positive characteristic. So when I did something flighty—lose sunglasses, misplace an important item, or make a careless error—I thought such actions evidenced an underlying creativity rather than a character weakness to be conquered.
Majoring in music wasn’t my idea after high school; in fact, I was looking forward to freedom from practice time. And yet, after praying about the options, God directed me to a double major in education and music. In making my decision, I considered the many hours of practice required from a music major and realized it would only be through repeated routine consistently applied on an hourly and daily basis that I would achieve my goals as a musician. When I performed my senior recital, I rejoiced to see the progress I had made. One day at a time. Because of a developed routine.
My years as a college musician saw me embracing disciplined and productive practice in a desperately needed routine. And yet, I somehow failed to translate that routine into my daily life, even swallowing the notion that creative sorts should avoid predictability, that routine would make them boring individuals. But over time, I began to realize that whimsicalness looked more like what God calls a “hasty spirit” and stood in stark contrast to the faithfulness required of stewards. Each task of my life is a stewardship from God to be faithfully executed for His glory.
Over time, God has begun to show me that daily routine is absolutely essential for faithful living. When we fail to root out sin or character weakness in our lives, we find those areas grow only worse. More than being forgetful, the hasty spirit had begun to affect my reactions in other ways. Because I had not faithfully followed routine in small areas of my life, I found myself reflecting too much haphazardness and not enough faithfulness in other aspects of my existence. Proverbs 14:29 explains, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”
The last thing I wanted to do was to exalt folly. But I was literally doing so by living a life that lacked consistent routine in the way I conducted my smallest daily responsibilities. Then, as I waited in the Nairobi airport for a return trip home from Kenya this past summer I read, I Timothy 6:6—“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” While on the surface this verse may not offer any solution to the impetuous, I saw in the word contentment the opposite of caprice.
I saw a gratefulness for the moment, a willingness to embrace the entire bulk of the existence God had handed to me (from objects to people to circumstances) and to live in such a way, in my every moment, that reflected His faithfulness, His orderliness, His predictability. Does not He bring about an orderly day? Does not He reign from sunrise to sunset?
Many Kenyan cities have their share of scantily made shacks, fleeing refugees from poorer places, and an abundance of need. “If God called my husband and me to go to the mission field,” I thought, “how difficult would it be for me to pack up and leave? Does everything in my demeanor express contentment for whatever God has chosen? Have the things of life entangled me at any point?” I saw they had—for a lack of routine in the stewardship of small daily tasks and responsibilities (like a specific location for keys, which I lost three times in three years) had poked holes in other dimensions of my character, causing me to fail to be completely faithful in my specific “business”—the tasks God had appointed solely for me.
I began to think through my routine and the attitude with which I approached all of my daily responsibilities, from housework to schoolwork to ministry work. I considered how God wanted all things done “decently and in order” (I Cor. 14:40). And I felt conviction wash over me as I thought of areas I knew needed to be organized and managed with far more predictability. I immediately considered items to be purged from my closet spaces and new little habits to be added to my life in order for me to live out the I Timothy 6:6 attitude—embracing the present as God’s gift (contentment) and reflecting His orderliness in a consistency with even the smallest tasks.
In many respects, faithfulness is the biblical antidote to a hasty spirit. It’s morning quiet time and daily work that keeps on with fortitude, in spite of any difficulty or any inner voice that resists it. It’s waking up with the alarm clock immediately, putting one’s feet on the floor in preparation for another day of service, regardless of fleeting feelings of tiredness.
It’s experiencing what I once feared was the boredom of predictability.
Because when I faithfully execute my responsibilities, the circumstances in my surroundings are stopped from delivering a deathblow to my spirit. I don’t need to rely on the fickleness of the moment—the hasty spirit’s caprice—to supply needed energy. God can bring that energy as I obey Him.
While I still have far to go, I am discovering what I had begun to suspect before—far from making one boring, routine frees a person to become the individual God wants him to be and to properly embrace the business of life. So many little things that I once allowed to slip are now recipients of predictable habit. My keys have their assigned location. Daily I place them there after coming home and retrieve them again when I must leave. Clothes are ironed and placed on the closet door to be worn the next day. Lunches are packed and set out the night before. Instead of the dread I anticipated, I have found liberation. Time I didn’t know existed before—moments to spend with God and minutes to serve others—rise to the foreground when I study to do the little, habitual things of life the best way.
The command to “study to do [our] own business” invites us to note where we have failed and to think through the most effective way to faithfully perform life’s tasks. Like repetitive correct practice, the music of life becomes easier as we apply ourselves regularly and consistently to doing our tasks God’s way.