[Originally posted June 9, 2018]
“For who has despised the day of small things?”
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed . . .”
As Freedom Church in Baltimore prepares to launch its new Windsor Mill location on the West side of Baltimore (the former Temple Baptist church), Pastor Mike Crawford led our initial discipleship group (D-Group) this past Wednesday evening in a brainstorming session around the theme of “God blessing small things.” We were challenged to think through all of redemptive history and remind ourselves of all the examples where God started off with something small and then blessed those small beginnings in an extraordinary fashion. This is not some exception methodology on the part of God. Instead, as you study Scriptures you find that this is a consistent pattern. God is jealous of His glory. He wants to remind mankind of their dependence on Him and on His resources. He constantly fights against our sinful tendency to exalt ourselves and boast in our achievements. Our boasting should always be in the Lord who alone is sufficient to accomplish His purposes. God makes sure He alone gets the glory as He begins small and then blesses abundantly.
In Zechariah’s day, the rebuilding of the temple looked pitiful compared to its former glory in the days of Solomon; but God was at work to accomplish His purposes; we should never despise or underestimate the importance of something that God considers important (Dr. John MacArthur).
Jesus was quick to remind His disciples that it is the awesomeness of the object of our faith, rather than the size of our faith that ultimately matters. The disciples needed to learn the lesson of total dependence upon God in ministry. They needed to operate on the basis of sincere faith rather than any trust in their own abilities. Only then would they be able to accomplish the works of God.
Let’s track through Scripture and try to pinpoint the many examples of this important theme:
OUR BIG GOD BLESSES SMALL BEGINNINGS
Gen 1 — Creation – God only created 2 people – Adam and Even. From them has developed the entire human race.
Gen 8 – Post-Flood – God started over with just Noah and his family
Gen 12, 15, 17 – Abrahamic Covenant – innumerable descendants promised to husband and wife who were beyond child-bearing years; Isaiah 60:22
Gen 30:30 – Jacob prospered; started out with nothing
Deut 7:7 – “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
Judges 7 – God pared down Gideon’s troops to just 300 before using them to deliver the people from the oppression of the Midianites
1 Sam. 9:21 – Selection of Saul to be king from the tribe of Benjamin – “the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin”
1 Sam. 17:49 – David killed Goliath with one small smooth stone
1 Kings 19:11-14 – God revealed His awesome presence to Elijah not in the powerful wind or earthquake or fire … but in the “still small voice” (gentle blowing)
2 Chron. 24:24 – “Indeed the army of the Arameans came with a small number of men; yet the Lord delivered a very great army into their hands, because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers.” God even blessed the pagan armies by using them as His tool of discipline to judge His rebellious nation with a small army that was vastly outnumbered.
Neh. 2:20 – As Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and surveyed the wreckage, the prospect of rebuilding the city and the walls was a daunting one. Yet despite the mocking of scoffers around him, Nehemiah had confidence that as the people put forth the effort, God would bless them with success. “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build.”
Job 8:7 – “Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.” This is counsel from the mouth of Bildad … but actually very accurate in terms of how God tends to work.
Prov. 30:24 – “Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise” — lessons we humans can learn from the ants, the rock badgers, the locusts and the lizards.
Micah 5:2 – Messianic prophecy – “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel”
Zech 4:10 – discussed above
Gospels – Jesus started a worldwide movement by training just 12 hand-picked disciples (one of whom He knew would betray Him)
Matt. 15:32-38 – Feeding of the 4,000 – using very limited resources
Mark 12:41-44 – small gift of the widow who gave all she had
Mark 4:30-34 – Parable of the Mustard Seed – phenomenal growth of the kingdom of God; used in another context to speak to the necessity of faith in Christ rather than dependence on self ( 17:20)
John 6 – Feeding of the 5,000 – using very limited resources
John 12:24 – Small grain of wheat remains insignificant until it falls into the earth and dies – at which time it produces much fruit – Jesus prophecying of His upcoming death and resurrection which will yield the salvation of a multitude
Acts 13:9 – Saul became known as Paul = means “little” – considered himself the chiefest of sinners and the least of the apostles
Romans 11:5 – “a remnant remains according to God’s gracious choice” – Study this concept of the remnant throughout the Scriptures – speaks to God’s sovereignty in election and in preserving His choice people and then eventually multiplying and blessing them; after every judgment and discipline in the OT, there remained a remnant that would come back from Captivity, etc. and be blessed once again by God
1 Cor. 1:18-21 – God has chosen to work through the seemingly weak and insignificant things in order that our boasting might be in the Lord
1 Cor. 12 – Importance of even the smallest and seemingly least important parts of the body to contribute to the health and growth of the whole
James 3 – Negative analogies to point to how small things can have great consequences just as the improper use of the tongue can stir up strife
Pastor Eric Hausler:
A. We tend to despise small beginnings…
Because small beginnings don’t appear successful. We tend to like the big scene, the big program, the big building, the finished product, just as the people in Zechariah’s day. They scoffed at the small beginnings of the rebuilding of the temple.
Because small beginnings are hard. They require work and we are prone to spiritual laziness. In a small church plant, you can’t just blend in with the big crowd like at a big church and be an anonymous by-stander. Everyone’s participation is needed (1 Corinthians 12).
Because we tend to think the small things are unimportant. But every great work of the Lord starts out small! Small beginnings take faith in the promises of God, and we’d much rather rather live by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We tend to despise the day of small beginnings because we’re often surrounded by negative, grumpy, adversarial people who prefer to find faults and delight in criticism rather than looking for evidences of God’s grace…and they discourage us! It was by grace that the children of Israel were brought back from exile to rebuild the temple, so Zechariah commands Zerubbabel to shout, “Grace!” to the mountains of rubble.
Those are some of the reasons we tend to despise the day of small beginnings.
B. So now, why shouldn’t we despise the day of small things? Again, I’ve thought of a few reasons: We should not despise the day of small beginnings…
Because this is how God works. In the natural world, God takes a little pine cone, and from it grows a mighty Sequoia tree. Through Abraham’s descendant, it was promised to him that all nations of the earth would be blessed. Through a rag-tag group of disciples, there are believers all over the world who trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection. The Spirit of the Lord was at work in them building His kingdom. Remember when the apostles were later persecuted in Acts 5, a pharisee named Gamaliel wisely stated, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men…I tell you keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:35-39)
Because the Lord wants us to see His wondrous works and be able to later tell others of His faithfulness! (Psalm 105:2)
Because God desires us to see how He is faithful to his promises, “My house shall be built!” (Zechariah 1:16) ”I will be the glory in her midst.” (Zechariah 2:5) ”Sing and rejoice…for behold I will come and I will dwell in your midst.” (Zechariah 2:10) ”Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Lastly, we should never despise the day of small beginnings, because the Lord Jesus never despises that day! He delights in even the slightest glimmer of desire for His mercy and grace. He has flung open wide the door of forgiveness and says, “Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest! “(Matthew 11:28) ”This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day!” (John 6:40) Praise God for His amazing grace to unworthy sinners who come to Him with even the smallest grain of faith in his promises!
Our church plant may seem very small at this point in time. But God will grant success and use us to multiply disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ.