Finding Joy in Small Things
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zechariah 4:10 (ESV)
Great things all share one thing in common. They once were small. Great countries, cities, companies, families, inventions and accomplishments, yes even the people behind them, all began as small things. In their smallness they were once vulnerable and dependent upon favorable conditions to sustain them. They exist today because someone envisioned a preferred future for them beyond their smallness. Someone in fact actually took such delight in their smallness that they were willing not only to patiently endure their smallness, but to invest their very lives in nurturing that smallness to grow toward greatness. That is precisely what God has done for us.
Although smallness takes many forms, there is always a redemptive quality about it when viewed as a beginning. It can be a small bank account, a small talent, a small job, a small home, a small circle of friends or even a small heart of love and compassion.
Smallness at its irreducible minimum is merely a seed thought or idea. And as with any good seed that envisions its beholder with the possibility of things to come, it engenders hope.
It might be said that smallness is next to Godliness. Mother Theresa underscored this truth when she said “We can do no great things, only small things with great love. . . Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” The truth is God’s plan for great things always begins with small things – an act of love, a seed-thought promise, a baby in the bulrushes or a man with a vision holding a plumb line.
That has been true of my life. My marriage, five children and eight grandchildren began innocently enough with an angelic visage of a beautiful woman at the top of a stairway. My calling as a pastor came one night as I thumbed through the Bible and God took the words of Isaiah 42:6 and wrote them upon my heart. I was on a morning run, eighteen years ago when the seed thought of planting a church literally dropped into my mind and less than six months later Bridgewood Community Church was born.
A glance, a heart stopping impression and a thought, all such seemingly small and insignificant things, and yet they have altered the course of my life and the lives of many others.
However, I would be remiss if I did not admit that sometimes small things can greatly try our patience. Weariness and discouragement can have a way of setting in when the days of small things are prolonged and never seem to end. There have been times in my marriage, my ministry and life at Bridgewood when I have gotten sick and tired of small things – niggly things that irritate me and never seem to change.
But God encourages us not to give up, draw back or forsake patient endurance. Through the writer to Hebrews He tells us “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:12 NIV) That encouragement has been my sustaining grace.
The joy of smallness is found in appreciating the simplicity and intrigue of its unfolding. And the journey through smallness can be one of discovery and delight. Yes the desired destination beckons, but don’t let that promised place rob you of your joy in the present journey. Beware of destination disease that seeks to bypass or hurry you through smallness. It can cause you to miss perhaps the greatest joys and lessons of the journey. Life has a way compounding soon enough. Learn to tarry in and enjoy the simplicity of smallness.
I find great joy in my present stage of life and in the fruitfulness of God’s blessings upon my family, my calling and my church. But as I consider my days of small beginnings so many years ago, I can honestly say that I was no less joyful then. After all, what could compare to the intrigue and delight in dating one’s beloved? Or the simple joys of raising small children? Or what greater discoveries are there to be made than learning God’s ways in applying oneself to studying for the ministry? And oh for the simplicity once again of a small church plant with a single minded focus of reaching unreached people for Christ. There can indeed be great joy in smallness.
When Zechariah prophesied the words quoted at the beginning of this article he was speaking to Israelites who had returned from captivity in Babylon. Most of them had never seen the splendor of Solomon’s temple that had been destroyed seventy years earlier. God was promising them through the prophet Zechariah that a new temple was going to arise on that very site. As one can imagine building a temple from the rubble, especially approximating Solomon’s, would be a monumental task. But God called them to faith and invited them to rejoice in small beginnings.
The beauty of smallness is the humility in which it is often clothed. Probably the greatest blessing of smallness is the humility of heart that is required to embrace it. Humility has been defined as appropriate smallness. It is recognition that someone has much yet to learn and needs to continue to grow and mature. Humility at its core acknowledges a dependence upon God. Thus smallness of circumstances when coupled with humility of attitude is a prescription for God to do marvelous things. He promises grace to the humble and exaltation in due time. (James 4:6 & 10)
Accepting small beginnings with a dependent humility releases the power of God. It is not without significance that the oft quoted Old Testament verse about the release of the Holy Spirit’s power is associated with the same passage which speaks of the joy of small things. Just four verses earlier we read “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6 NIV)
The good news is that the temple was rebuilt just as God promised and Zerubbabel who started it saw it through to the finish. (Zechariah 4:9) Take courage, the small things in your life are worth rejoicing in and you will one day see their fulfillment by the power of the Holy Spirit as well!
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