It was a big day in Jerusalem. The temple built by Solomon, but destroyed by the Babylonians, was being rebuilt. It was a day of great celebration for the Israelites.
The Jews had suffered for decades because of their disobedience (see 1 Kings 9:6-9). They endured exile and captivity, besiegement and destruction. However, Ezra tells the story of a new day, when the people gathered together to celebrate the laying of the foundation on the second temple.
They celebrated the Lord’s mercy with trumpets and cymbals. They sang and thanked him. They shouted with great shouts to praise his name.
Though many shouted for joy, there were others who “wept with a loud voice” (Ezra 3:12). They wept because they were disappointed. These older saints wept because they remembered the former splendor of the first temple, and the meager foundation of the second was underwhelming.
WHEN YOUR DAYS SEEM SMALL
Haven’t we all been underwhelmed by the work of our own hands at some point? We have a vision of what our ministry or family or career should look like that is so much grander than the current view.
On this day when people were disappointed with the lack of splendor, the prophet, Zechariah said, “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (Zech. 4:10).
Most of us will spend our whole lives living in days of small things. How do we navigate this space between what we see and what we want to see? How can we cultivate hearts that don’t despise these days, but rejoice in them?
Consider the following ways to be encouraged when you’re unimpressed with what God has entrusted to you.
See the Tree In the Seed
We’re attracted to the spectacular. Our eyes are drawn to all things bigger, brighter, and better, so we limit our scope of success to these ideals.
When we do, we overlook the significance of small things. The thing is, small is valuable when God defines the terms.
When Jesus spoke to a crowd that needed food, he didn’t despise Andrew’s suggestion of a boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish (John 6:9). He used something small to glorify himself in a big way.
God is not disappointed by small. He uses the small things to accomplish his purposes.
Do you feel what you have to work with is small? Listen to Jesus: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matt. 13:31-32).
In God’s economy, the tiniest seed becomes a tree. The smallest of things becomes significant because of its role in the kingdom. The final product is not determined by its beginning.
Richard Sibbes writes in The Bruised Reed, “See a flame in a spark, a tree in a seed. See great things in little beginnings.” God’s grand plan for our redemption began with a fragile newborn in a manger.
Do we see great things in little beginnings?
Find the Glory in the Mundane
We have great expectations, especially when it comes to our place in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that changing diapers and mowing the lawn and paying the taxes all just seems so . . . boring.
But we must strive to see God’s work like he does. We must value what he values.
We want to be sensational; God wants us to be faithful. The desire to have maximum impact in our culture is not a bad one. But devaluing ministry that has a smaller reach contradicts God’s values.
Consider Eunice and Lois (2 Timothy 1:5), the mother and grandmother of Timothy, apprentice to Paul and early church leader. These two women are not known for wowing crowds and signing books. We know them because they poured into a young Timothy. By worldly standards, their ministry was small. But we have the benefit of seeing the great value of their investment in one person.
We value productivity but are often underwhelmed with progress; God values productivity and progress. God’s salvific work in our lives is a miracle, and we should praise him for it. God’s sanctifying work of transforming us into his perfect image happens by degrees (see 2 Cor. 3:18) but is no less miraculous. Sanctification is often small, mundane, and untweetable. Nevertheless, it is a miracle, and we should praise the Lord for it.
What about you? Are you disappointed at the footprint of your kingdom work? Are you envious of someone else who seems to have more influence than you do? Remember, any impact you have on the advancement of his kingdom is a work of grace. Praise him for his work in big and small things.
Trust God in the Tension
The celebrity culture we’ve created adds to the pressure not only to succeed, but to succeed publicly and grandly. We have no tolerance for the unimpressive. We’ve given others the power to validate our success, but that validation was never ours to give away.
In the tension between our vision and our reality, we must trust God to accomplish all that he desires for his glory. We trust him to make his name great in our smallness.
The gap between our vision and our reality is not to be despised. God doesn’t look at small things disapprovingly. On a day when the rich were making it rain in the temple offering box, a poor widow gave two copper coins. Jesus told his disciples that she gave more than all the rich people gave that day, because she gave all she had to live on (Luke 21:1-3).
What seems humbling, meager, and unimpressive to us may look glorious to God. Oh, to see what he sees! We can’t judge his work by our standards. When the people were unimpressed with the splendor of the temple, Haggai encouraged them by telling them to be strong and to work, for God was with them (Hag. 2:4).
Underwhelmed saint, heed Haggai’s words and keep striving in your kingdom labors, for God is with you. Desire to be faithful, not sensational.
WHEN GOD HAS HIS SAY
“Perhaps you are frustrated by the gap that still remains between your vision and your accomplishment,” Os Guinness writes in The Call. “You have had your say. Others may have had their say. But make no judgments and draw no conclusions until the scaffolding of history is stripped away and you see what it means for God to have had his say.”
God will have the final say. And it will sound like this: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
As we long for this day, let’s rejoice in the day of small things.
Christy Britton is a wife and homeschool mom of four biological sons. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide. She and her husband are covenant members at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. She loves reading, discipleship, Cajun food, spending time in Africa, hospitality, and LSU football. She writes for several blogs, including her own, www.beneedywell.com.