Lay Off the Elephant Hunting—Small Things Count, Too

Just because something is little, doesn’t mean it’s easy or cheap.  Be brave to say and do small things for Christ, because they often have the greatest impact. 

Now and then you get a helicopter view of your life. Looking straight down, your rooftop is a little brown square—almost indistinguishable from the thousands of other little brown squares that surround it.

That’s tough to take, because everybody wants to stand out—be significant in some way.  You went into the medical profession to be a healer, not just so you could drive an SUV.  You became a teacher because you wanted to be an educator, and not just because you thought it would be neat to get summers off.  You wanted to be the best parent, the best spouse.

But somewhere along the way you accumulated the same circus and moneys as everybody else in the suburbs—car problems, rent and mortgage, chores that never end, stomach flu and colds, work drama, and kids who get better at arguing with every passing day.

It dawns on you with a certain sad resignation that against all your best efforts, this is my life. You’re right.  The context of life is largely about being confined by responsibilities and trappings that can’t be changed.

We should make changes, even difficult ones, if we find ourselves in a sinful or unrighteousness lifestyle.  Changes are also a good idea when we can legitimately improve our standing without compromising our faith or core values.  But in general, Paul wrote,  “ …let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Cor. 7:17).

We’re tempted to despise our assignment and calling because it’s unexciting stuff.  Christians often think that perhaps they’ll find significance in big religious enterprises.  The elephant hunt begins, as we try to track down audacious service activities.

Ego gets involved.  Ends justify means.   It’s a quest that can lead to deep disappointment, if not grave temptations and failures.

There’s no need for the elephant hunt.  A number of small things mentioned in Scripture became great things:

  • A woman poured perfume on Jesus.
  • A boy offered a sack of groceries to Jesus.
  • A widow put one cent in an offering plate in front of Jesus.
  • Some stressed-out Christians shared the gospel of Jesus.

I want to show you where God can take things like these.

In God’s hand, small things can turn into beautiful things:  A woman who followed Jesus, dearly loved Him. She knew He was about to die in a horrible way, and there was nothing she could do to change it.  But there was still one thing…

Imagine her, rushing home to a back room, pulling up a stone in the floor where there was a secret compartment, and pulling out a little box.  She goes down the road with that box hugged to her chest.  It’s the most valuable thing she owns, perhaps an heirloom.  She enters a house where Jesus is sitting, breaks that box made of alabaster, and pours the contents on His head. It was full of nard, a costly aromatic ointment.  The odor fills the house.

Some of the disciples who saw this were indignant and said, “Why this waste?  You could have pawned this and given the money to the poor!  You could have helped in the war on poverty.”

But Jesus said, “she has done a beautiful thing for Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.”  (Mark 14:6-7).

How beautiful was this deed to Him?

He said,   “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

He wanted this deed recited until the end of time.

We might not have many great things, but we have a multitude of small, valuable ones.  These include more than material possessions; they’re our private hopes and dreams, the plans we’ve carefully cherished.  It’s where we wanted to live and the standard of life we’ve always imagined for ourselves.  Or it’s the life we hope to live through our kids.  Maybe it’s the control we enjoy concerning when we do things, or how much we do them.  It might be the hope we harbor about being the next “hot” something (teacher, doctor, writer, model, musician, etc.).

Then along comes a season of life after the Holy Spirit’s patient work within you, when you determine Jesus is beautiful.  And you take out that little box, break it, and “waste it” on Him.

He doesn’t ruin the moment by saying, “I’ll pay you back.  I’ll give you ten times what you’ve given me!”

He just says, “Beautiful.”

This is an intimate relationship, where two people take turns doing beautiful things for each other.  We’ll miss those moments with Jesus if we’re busy hunting for a huge, ego-gratifying work “in His name.”

Yes, at some point in your life, you may be called into the big time, but life isn’t made of elephants.  Look for significance in the multitude of small, valuable daily things hidden under the floor in little boxes.

In God’s hand a small thing can become a great miracle: Recall the day when thousands of people were listening to Jesus out in a wilderness area.  It got late.  What would the crowd eat?  Jesus and the disciples begin discussing the issue, when out of nowhere a nine-year old boy walked by with a little bag of groceries.  He overheard the conversation about what the people would eat.

A thought seized his heart—I have something.

He stopped and offered the sack to Andrew, who then turned to Jesus and said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9).

Andrew may as well have said, What’s this going to do?

Jesus didn’t respond.  Instead, he looked to heaven, gave thanks to God for that “paltry” offering, and broke the bread and kept breaking it until He fed the entire crowd.  With twelve grocery bags leftover.

This is one for the ages.  Jesus fed the multitude, because Ralph offered the Lord his lunch bag.  We’ve taught and preached this story for two thousand years.  It seems no matter how many times it comes up, we find new significance in it.

You’ve received a gifting from the Holy Spirit, but you may not have found out how far it could go or how big it could grow.  Why? Because you haven’t yet offered it to Jesus.  Why?  Because it’s so small.  It’s just a cupcake.  You say to yourself, What’s this going to do? I would step up if I had an entire Wonder Bread factory.  Then at least I could really offer something!

The problem is, very few people start off with something big.  Even those with great talent must over time develop a corresponding level of character and spirituality.  Otherwise, they crash and burn as quickly as they ascend.

You have at least one mini-donut.  Don’t despise it.  It will remain insignificant until you place it into the blessing, breaking hands of Jesus.

 

(Part 2 next week).

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