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Small Things Make a Big Difference


Hi again, John Cress here. I want to talk to you about small things make a big difference. What would happen if all of a sudden there were no more honeybees? It takes more than water, sunshine and soil to make the world green. It also takes pollination. At least 30 percent of the world's crops and 90 percent of all plants require cross pollination to spread and thrive. Something as small as a honeybee is vital to our very existence.

The Scripture says the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah in the form of a question: "Who has despised the day of small things?" (Zechariah 4:10). While this question is framed in the context of Zerubbabel's mission to rebuild the temple, it has application goes way beyond the immediate context to identify a central characteristic of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus gave two illustrations to underscore this principle in the book of Luke.

  1. “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

  2. And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Luke 13:20-21

We all know the mustard seed is extremely small. In fact, the black mustard seed was the smallest seed ever sown by first century farmers in this part of the world. It would take 20,000 mustard seeds to weigh just one ounce because of their size. A mustard seed was used in the first century as a metaphor for anything was small and insignificant. But even though the mustard seed was small, it grew to be the largest of the herbs grown in the area. In fact, it typically grew to 12 feet high, which is two feet taller than a basketball goal. It was big and bushy enough for birds to fly in and nest in and be protected.

As a boy, I'm sure Jesus watched His mother make daily bread. She would have used yeast to make it rise, but she didn't use the dry used as we might use today. Rather, she would use a very small lump of dough taken from the previous day’s making of bread, and she'd take that lump of dough and knead it into the new flour mixture and eventually that yeast would permeate and influence the entire batch. But the most important part of this illustration is the amount of flour into which the small amount of yeast was mixed. The amount is lost in the translation from the Greek; my Bible calls it a large amount, but the Greek is more specific. It says "three status." Three status is about 42 pounds of flour, which would feed about 100 people. This is more than just daily bread. No housewife would have an oven large enough to hold that amount of flour.

The very vastness of the dimensions of Jesus' story shows us that He was not describing an ordinary household baking situation. Even though the original ball of yeast was small, as you could see, it would have a huge, huge influence in the Kingdom of God. Small things make a big difference. When it comes to spiritual things, God uses small things to do big stuff.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Mother Teresa

Several years ago, it became popular to do random acts of kindness, small acts such as paying for the toll of the car that's behind you. What a gracious example of living the Kingdom of God principle. When I was in high school, believe it or not, I was not a model student in any shape or form, neither in my GPA or my attitude. The bottom line is I wasn't going anywhere, academically or spiritually. But my principal wrote in my freshman annual, believe it or not, he wrote, "John, you could be a leader and a pastor someday." Those simple words written on a blank page of a high school annual have made an incredible impact on the page of my life. God uses small things to do big stuff. I love the words of Mother Teresa who said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

In the Greek, the word "ministry" is diakonia. The root is konis, which means dust or grit. In other words, ministry is dirty work. It's to roll up your sleeves and do things that seem unimportant to the world. In fact, we get our Greek word for ministry from the Latin root word “small things,” as in the word miniscule. In other words, ministry involves small things. We are involved in little acts, small gestures of everyday service. You see, few of us have big lives or careers that make a huge visible impact in the public sphere. Our lives and our ministry seem to deal with such ordinary things that often make it difficult to believe that we could ever, by doing these things, make any impression that has a lasting word.

The mission of the Southern California Conference says: "We exist to exalt Christ by serving our diverse communities of networked and creatively engaged churches and schools." Now, can you imagine the power of many people networked together, doing a multitude of small things that God can do to multiply the influence of the Kingdom of God?

A few years ago, they started selling a little compact fluorescent fluorescent light bulb, a quirky looking twist of frosted glass in the energy business. They call it the CFL, or the energy saver. One scientist called it "the ice cream cone spiral," because even in its most advanced, most appealing version, it had the appearance of a cone of swirling soft serve ice cream.

Here's the deal. Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic 60-watt bulb, but use 75-80 percent less electricity. That means that if every one of 110 million households bought just one ice cream cone bulb and took it home and put it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. In terms of oil not burned or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to 1.3 million cars on the road.

Robert Kennedy understood the power of small actions. He said, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance."

"If Christians were to act in concert moving forward as one under the direction of one power for the accomplish of one purpose, they would move the world."

Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9

Listen to the words written by Ellen White in Testimonies for the Church, volume 9: "If Christians were to act in concert moving forward as one under the direction of one power for the accomplish of one purpose, they would move the world." She also writes the following in Prophets and Kings: "Success depends not so much on talent as on energy and willingness. It is not the possession of splendid talents that enables us to render acceptable service; but the conscientious performance of daily duties, the contented spirit, the unaffected, sincere interest in the welfare of others."

You see, the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It's like yeast. So don't just wait for someone to start something. Take the initiative and jump in and be the one to start a chain reaction of ministry through small acts of kindness. There's an incredible life-changing power when one person grabs hold of the fact that through Jesus Christ, one life could make a difference. One life could touch a life, touch a life, touch another life that touches another life. One church can truly make a difference. One church touching its community, joining with other churches in a powerful movement of Christians putting their faith into action. It's truly amazing what these small acts can accomplish.

This is what it means to be the church.

This is what it means to be the church. I know some of our efforts to serve others and grow the team of God could seem like a drop in the bucket, but that is precisely what we are. A single drop that joined with God on His mission to become a mighty river. And here's the deal: God can use little old you, me. And together, we can make a big splash. We can help bring in the Kingdom of God into our communities because God uses small things to make a big difference.