Do you ever feel like nothing that you are doing about the Gospel, even the simple everyday things, seems very necessary or important? And, when we think we are really ‘stretching ourselves for God’, many times our imaginations don’t match the way things turn out. They don’t have the big outcomes or the results we sometimes hope for. It seems the mundane, daily grind of life just takes the spiritual away and leaves us with empty actions. I don’t know how many times I’ve dismissed the little things, seemingly insignificant things, as not making much difference. Over the years, I think I’ve taken a second look at some of what we consider not to matter to God’s kingdom.
“Sarai, for her part, was even more anxious than her husband regarding the promises of God. Abraham had already entered his eighty-fifth year, and she herself was seventy-five.
And lo, O Lord: we are as childless as the day you first gave hope to my husband and me!
That hope had been planted a full ten years ago. Sarai was intensely aware of time. She had suffered the passage of every barren month since the coming of the promises of God. For the Lord had said to Abram, ‘I will make of you a great nation.’ But a nation begins with the birth of one child.
Where is this child? Often the old woman placed her hand upon her sunken belly and thought, Where is my child?”
(from The Book Of God by Walter Wangerin, Jr.)
The other day I was reading the book mentioned above and went through the story of Abram and Sarai. I was struck by how unique that moment in time was with them. Many times we read the Bible and only see the picture painted by the one single story or one specific person mentioned in the Scripture. As I continued to read about Abram it dawned on me that there were thousands, if not millions, of people on the earth at the very time God was speaking to this very old man. People were in tents and in the cities. Some were raising sheep, some were merchandizing, others worked their crafts, some were grandparents, some parents. Many were carrying on, doing their everyday experiences, with no awareness of what was going on between a simple herder and his wife and the Creator of the universe. Very likely millions of people were complaining of the life they were living, probably most thought the world would not change in any appreciable way from what it was that day. They were probably thinking that all would remain the same. Perhaps they thought that their children would do what they themselves were doing. They believed that their children’s children would do the same things in the next generation.
Yet, out in that sandy, dry desert, God was making a promise that would change the whole world. A single man getting up before daybreak, dividing the animals, cutting the sacrifice, making oaths of trust when no one else was even aware of what was going on. People would have been completely oblivious to what was taking place. Imagine the vastness of the whole world and all the population on earth. And, somewhere God is talking, directing and building a relationship with a tent dweller, promising the old man that he and his wife would be responsible for birthing a nation that would outnumber the stars. By just reading the story you can tell that Abram and his wife had no idea of what was to take place in the future. For Sarai it was a laughable situation. Who in the world could have guessed what God and Abram were up to? Abram didn’t need to take a vote of confidence and did not need to be cheered on by others. He just believed God. He and God were alone in this. It was between God and one obedient man. Who would have thought that what was taking place could and would be so profound, so relevant to the entire world? It was such a small thing, such a simple plan. That a man almost 100 years old and his wife nearly 90, would give birth to a son. Now that sounded ‘crazy’ enough, but that that child would be the first of a group of people called My People which would be a nation greater than the countless number of stars!
What about your small plans with God? Think that they can’t matter much? It is not a fact that if it’s not a big plan it’s no plan at all. We are talking about the birth of one child, one child in all the world to some isolated desert tent people! Who knows what is happening in some insignificant way right now will not be profound tomorrow. I think we give in to the big ministry idea and sometimes miss the potential of something small. We forget that being faithful in little creates the opportunity for being faithful in much. Abram believed, and look what happened. Of course we need a promise to believe in, but many people have had a promise only to give up because it did not come as soon as they preferred.
It’s the little things that make such a difference. Even in our own lives. Someone once asked Earnest Hemingway how he went bankrupt. His response was ‘a little at a time and then all at once.’ Little decisions and omissions created the environment for the huge failure that followed. Our lives can be the same. I remember an acquaintance of mine started pushing the limit of the secular life, just doing a little thing here and there that seemingly did not make a huge difference at the time, but in a few years those little omissions lead to a complete, catastrophic collapse of his life. He did not consciously choose to get as far away from God as he ended up but just gradually found himself isolated and completely separated from the Christian life. The little things we do to resist God and the little things we can do to follow Him contain potential. Don’t underestimate the little rebellions we make or the power of the little steps we take to follow God. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine. It’s the little things that spoil the big. Sometimes, when we don’t see something happen that we feel God has promised it’s because of some little decision, some decision that we put no value in, that cuts off the promise. Sometimes we act like we are hidden from God when really our hearts are open and exposed all the time. I’m reminded again of God addressing Adam, asking him ‘Where are you Adam?’ It was not that Adam was hidden from God after pulling off that apple trick, it was that God was saying to Adam: where’s your head at Adam…what are you thinking, where is your heart? Adam supposing he could hide from God!
What might be happening in your home, office, or family right now might be eternally significant. I know the news is bad. What you think is too simple and too small might be just what is needed to supply a difference to your world. Simple obedience and faith can make a significant difference around you even when you can’t see it or may not be aware of it. Just do the ‘thing’ of God. He will take care of the application.
I’m aware that some people are in outright opposition to the things of God. But I have a hope that God is talking to an Abram somewhere. Something is going on that I cannot see. God is doing something to prepare a way for those that are His to be preserved in all this mess. Somewhere God is whispering a promise to someone, someone we might think is insignificant at the moment, a whisper to confirm and deliver His People. We are a people who are not moved by what we see (or hear), but by what we believe. Somewhere, God is providing for His plan for the spiritual man, and secular man will not be ultimately successful at his rebellion. We know that somehow, God is the successful One in the earth. It can come from a single man, isolated in some room and holding a conversation with the Creator of the universe. I do know He is working it out as He wills. Let’s celebrate the opportunity to do the small things. If God works in the small, He certainly can work out the big. If we will take care of the little things, do what He has given us to do on a daily basis, He will take care of the big picture.