Friday, July 10, 2009

Small Things

"What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in it's shade."

- Mark 4:30-32

During my quiet time this morning, I read this passage from Mark and then chapter 4 of Zechariah, which contains the famous quote:

" The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. "

For an quick overview on the story of Zerubbabel, you can read this article by Ralph Wilson. I have not encountered any of his materials, nor have I read his books, so I can't comment on those, but I thought this article was a good summary.

How often has God used the small, the insignificant, the weaker, the younger, the least one to accomplish His work? The Bible is full of stories about such surprises. God seems to have a special passion for working through small things. Even Paul writes to the Corinthians:

"Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not may were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong; He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. " (Corinthians 1:26-29)

I don't think for a minute that God dislikes strength or wisdom or any other good quality that we possess. Afterall, He is our creator. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," as the Psalmist sings. Our talents and abilites and gifts honor the Creator of them. But He does something special with small things, with weak things, with the seemingly insignificant. He uses these to speak of His character and to reveal Himself in ways that unique to His Kingdom.

What is He showing us? That there are no unimportant people. That we, in our rush to seek greatness, in our pride, in our self-protectiveness, seek to be more important than those around us. This is a great mistake. We have despised the hand of God in creating every living thing. We have judged some individuals and some things to be less worthy than others. It is this that He shames, this selection that we make.

We have various ways of measuring ourselves and others. Whether it's by education, economic success, family connections, natural abilities, or careers, we divide and classify. In doing this, we are the ones who suffer. We miss what might have been. We lose the rich relationships we could have known, lessons we should have learned, places we might have visited. We forfeit the work that might have been ours and the harvest that might have been reaped from it.

But God is at work. He is turning over our systems of measurement. He is showing us that small things have their place and small people have their day. Who despises the day of small things? We all do. That is the point. And we will be proved wrong, once again, to our great delight.

In your quiet time, when God whispers to you of the small thing you could do, step into it at the next opportunity. When you see visions of something you might do, but feel inadequate for, do it anyway. Yes, you are small. You have a small life. You do small things. That is your estimation. In God's economy, this is the perfect investment for significant work. He's delighted with you. In vast and divine joy, He undertakes the work of molding you and shaping you and moving through you to accomplish His work.

The mustard seed -- the smallest of seeds -- is His chosen metaphor. We need to learn to look with new eyes so that we might see the opportunities right at our feet, lest we trample them in our eagerness to do something more important and in our tendency to trust in those who seem to be wiser and stronger.

[All Bible quotations in this article are from the New International Version.]

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