On 17th November, I delivered my second sermon at Kings Church, Portsmouth, delivered to those who opted out of the main service. Below, I present my notes (edited for publication).
I am new to this preaching business: I am very much aware that what I said was deeply flawed: technically, theologically and in myself. Nevertheless, I believe that at the core of my words was a simple message that, when applied to our lives, may significantly change lives.
It took me about 20 minutes to present this material.
When I was preparing for this morning, I found myself thinking about how we are sometimes powerless to deal withthe big issues in our lives. At times, all of us carry heavy burdens, and we often feel inadequate to cope with them. Quite honestly, I am not going to fix that this morning.
Instead, I am going to talk about is an area where we do have tremendous power, more power than we can possibly imagine.
The Bible asks this question:
For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10 KJV)
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of the temple. God has promised that it will be finished. The people’s dismay at the slow progress will turn to rejoicing.
Zerubbabel had made a small beginning, but with God’s help it would become a great work.
This morning, I am going to talk about the Power of Small Things.
Part 1: Why Do We Ignore Small Things?
Small things can be very significant, but sometimes we ignore them. In addressing some of the reasons why we ignore small things I hope to show that they may be more important than we sometimes realise:
Between the great things that we cannot do, and the little things that we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing –Adolph Monod
Reason 1: We’ve Grown Past All That!
We might think:
- We’re not children any more.
- The little jobs are for the little people.
- We’re better than than now.
It seems that God’s priorities are sometimes different from ours.
We are preaching to our millions… meanwhile, Jesus just is having coffee with an unpleasant little man who is so small he’d need a ladder to see the pulpit over everyone else’s heads. (Zacchaeus’ story is in Luke 19:2).
We’re cleaning up the City… meanwhile Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet.
We need to give space for God’s glory, instead of out own. God told Gideon to slim down his army – the victory of a great army could be attributed to its might, but the success of small one gave glory to God.
Martin was right last week when he said we need to humble ourselves.
And as Gareth said the other week, we are not fit to look after the church if we are yet to do the small thing of taking care of our own families.
Reason 2: It’s Only Small so It Doesn’t Matter
It is easy to hold this mindset, but if we think about it:
- A match is small – it can save a freezing man or destroy a home
- The widow’s mite mattered to Jesus
- In Jesus hands, a boy’s packed lunch fed a multitude
- Rahab saved herself and her family with a little bit of red string
We can’t overlook small sins.
Little foxes spoil the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15).
There is no such thing as “just”:
- one look
- one little white lie
- one more cake
- this once
The first one is never free.
Why? Small actions can become life-changing choices.
Before we make a choice, we have power over the choice. Once we have made a choice, the choice has power over us.
- Before you start smoking, someone is free to choose to smoke or not to smoke. Once someone has started, addiction may set in.
- Before I was married, I was free to marry or remain single. Now I am married, I am no longer free to live as if I was single.
In either case, I have become subject to the choice.
Small things accumulate:
- A room gets cluttered one item at a time
- A bank account becomes overdrawn one purchase at a time.
- A person becomes overweight one cake at a time.
- An axe becomes dull one blow at a time
Little actions build big habits.
Maybe we need to ask God to strain the flies from our ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1).
Reason 3: God Won’t be Impressed by the Small Things
We think God is only impressed by grand gestures – the truth is, God really isn’t impressed by what we do at all, but by our faith in him. Nevertheless, while small things gain us no merit with God, they can have a great effect in this world.
Reason 4: We’re Distracted by Big Things
If we are, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily stop the big things – sometimes they’re important, too!
But sometimes we can miss the important little things amongst our big things.
- Are we too busy chopping trees to stop and sharpen the axe?
- Have we become too busy working to stop and think if we are working at the right things?
- Are we too bust serving to ask if people actually need the service we are giving?
- Would we be more effective if we took a little rest from time time?
God isn’t always in the big things, but in the small. Recall (1 Kings 19:11-12) that God’s voice did not speak to Elijah in:
- The mighty whirlwind
- The Earthquake
- The raging fire
God as in:
- The still, small voice.
- The gentle breeze
- The whisper
Reason 5: They’re Better then Me
Sometimes we don’t do things because we think other people are capable of doing them more effectively than we are. But consider the case of David:
- David’s brothers were men; he was a boy
- David’s brothers were soldiers; he was in charge of sheep
- David’s brothers had knives and guns; David had a slingshot and 5 small stones.
So, David’s brothers appeared better qualified for battle than did David, but it was the David who brought down the giant.
Reason 6: It Didn’t Work Before
The truth is, things don’t always work out. Some seed always falls by the wayside. Nevertheless, a rich harvest will follow if you keep sowing small the small things. (Mark 4).
Reason 7: We’re Lazy?
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; (Heb 2:3 KJV)
Neglect is a little thing with dire consequences. What else is there to say?
You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing there will be no result — Ghandi
Reason 8: We’re Too Tired
Then the small thing we need to do is to take a little R & R.
Reason 9: We’ve Made it More Complicated than It Needs to Be
This is my favourite, as I’m prone to over-complicating things.
Imagine I want to send someone a message to let them know I’ve been thinking about them. I imagine I need to:
- Find the person’s address
- Check with someone that the address the address is still current
- Find the writing paper
- Find an envelope that fits and matches the paper I’ve found
- Think of lots of interesting news
- Write a rough-draft of the letter
- Neatly hand-write a letter to that person
- Write the envelope
- Buy a stamp
- Visit the post box
When in reality, all I need to do is send a quick text message to say “Hi”.
Part 2: The Greatest of All Small Things
I have already mentioned a few of the small things that have significant power. But to help us understand how important small things are, I am going to talk about the most important of the small things.
That small thing is a man:
- of no rank nor influential position
- not a king, nor a president,
- nor a pop-star, a sportsman nor a TV personality
- a nondescript middle-eastern manual worker
He had a less than promising background. He was born:
- a helpless infant
- to a teenage mother
- and disputed patronage
- in a backwater town
- in an occupied country
- of the political underclass
- in a barn
He had a less than promising preaching career:
- He worked in the preaching business for just bout 3 short years
- Visited a few of the towns and villages within a rather small area of his own homeland
- Healed a few sick / dead people (impressive in itself, but hardly scratching the surface of the misery and suffering that existed on a global scale even in his own time)
- Teaching a simple message that amounted to little more than (1) Respect God and (2) be nice to each other
Finally, having achieved none of the revolutionary acclaim that his people expected,
He was put to death:
- at the instigation of his fellow religious leaders
- at the hands of his people’s oppressors (the ones people thought he was there to overthrow)
- sold out by one of his closes friends and abandoned by the rest
- having given no defence at his own trial
- as a common criminal
- naked, humiliated and beaten
- a carpenter, nailed to a tatty old plank of wood
And his immediate legacy?
- A small band of his closest friends
- the ones who walked out on him
- essentially a bunch of nobodies and the outcasts
- Entrusted to continue with his ‘great’ work
From a human POV, this man appeared no great success.
We Christians believe that this little thing – this insignificant man – was and is the most important man in the history of the world. We believe that he is God’s first and only rescue plan for saving mankind from ourselves. We even have the audacity to believe that he is actually God himself.
Even for the non-believer, his legacy is impressiveve. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true) there are some 2.1 billion people in the world today who identify themselves as Jesus followers. And of course, this excludes countless, countless other Chistians who have lived and died over the last 2000 years, and have already been taken home to our Heavenly Father.
Part 3: Our Own Small Beginnings
Hopefully, I have begun to show how important small things can be. Now I want to suggest a few areas where we can do little things that will have big results.
The Bible makes it clear that we are called to give our lives for Jesus. Not many of us are called to literally give our lives as martyrs, but we are all called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). Every small deed of kindness is a little-death, a small self-sacrifice that will have its reward in heaven.
Not many of us can change the world, but each of us can, at least in some small way, change someone’s world.
So, what small things can we do today?
The Power of Small: Gestures
Mat 10:42 (GNB) says:
You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.
There is power in small gestures of kindness:
- A cup of water or a cup of tea
- A trip to the shop
- A little help with the dishes
- A mars bar
- A doughnut
- A smile
- A hug
- A kiss
Example: I offered help one day. The next day someone else offered similar help. Now, this offer of help is offered frequently.
Example: What would you rather – a husband who takes no notice of you except to buy you big, expensive presents on your birthday, or a husband who cares if you’ve had a good day?
The smallest actions can make a big difference:
- Offering hand in friendship
- Offering a helping hand
- Raising a hand in worship
When God called Moses, all he had to offer was a stick (Exodus 4). What small thing do you have in your hand?
The Power of Small: Words
Luke 13:18-19 GNB Jesus asked,
What is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and plants it in his field. The plant grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make their nests in its branches.
I take Jesus lead from Mark 4, where he likened words and seeds.
[After the service, someone suggested James 3:3-5 (The Message) might have been a better example:
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
Words can be small but powerful. They can change your life forever.
- I love you – is very powerful
- I do – changed my life forever
Examples of little words that can make a big difference:
- I’m sorry
- A word of encouragement
- A word of consolation
- A word of warning
Is there someone we can promote?
- Putting in a good word for someone
- Putting in a good word for Jesus?
Do we need to set different boundaries?
- Sometimes it is the difference between “Yes” and “No”
Most important of all, what about what we say to God?
- Is there something I need to say to God?
- Is there something I need to ask for?
Sometimes it is not what we say, but our silence that is powerful – for example, the power of silence at Jesus trial.
The Power of Small: People
Finally, I notice that not many of us in the room today are particularly influential. None of us are royalty or prime ministers or anything like that.
1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV)
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
Of course, it doesn’t end there:
Luke 16:10 (GNB)
Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones.
According to one blog post I read:
In 1919 coca-cola was floated on the stock-market. If my great-grandfather had bought a single share, it would have cost him $40 (not such a small sum then, but still not a fortune). In 1920, that same share was worth just $20. Apparently, he would have made a poor investment. However, assuming that any dividends etc. were reinvested in coca-cola that same share would be worth some $5,000,000 dollars today.
What is the point of this story (other than rather wishing my great-grandfather had made such an investment)?
Well, the same principle applies to our small beginnings.
In this life, we may never see the fruit. We may sow small seeds today, but we might not see the fruit in this lifetime. Instead we must trust that we will see a greater harvest in heaven than we would have done without the sowing.
For inspiration behind this talk, my special thanks to James my Good Ship-mate (for his recent talk on Elijah), and to all in the small group that I captain. You’re a great crew, and I am delighted to sail with you.
The following websites were useful in the preparation of the material:
- S.G.Floyd, 2006, “The Day of Small Things“, preachtheword.com.
- C Spuregeon, 1871, “Encouragement for the Depressed“, reproduced by WayOfLife.org as “Despise not the Day of Small Things”.
- AnthonyL, 2008, “The Power of Little Things“, AmazingFacts.org.