Most people want big things. To accomplish big things. To have big things. To achieve big dreams. Many people, including myself, love to watch movies with dramatic big endings, where the underdog team defeats the bigger and better team. We live in a world where we are told that we can accomplish anything if we really and truly believe. If we want to hike up Mount Everest, become president, win the Stanley Cup, be a millionaire, or own a successful business, then we must believe. At least that is what we are told. What we often forget is that to achieve big things like this takes commitment, hard work, and sacrifice. And sometimes we don`t make it or fail.
At the end of May I was able to complete a marathon. This was a huge accomplishment for me. But, I did not wake up one day and run a marathon. I spent over five months preparing. I had to run in the freezing cold, snow, and rain. It took discipline of running the small runs in order to achieve making it on marathon day.
The same concept is needed in finances. It`s not the big expenses that hurt us, rather its the small ones that do. It`s the $2 morning coffee at the coffee shop each day. The grabbing lunch at McDonalds. The quick soft drink or candy bar we grab as we fill up our cars with gas. For the smokers, it is the pack a day that empties the account. If we added all these little expenses up we would be shocked on how much we spend. Often we want to make landmark purchases in our life, but seem to struggle with finding the money. But, if we were disciplined in the small things, we would have enough for the big things. If we brewed our coffee and made our lunches at home, resisted the Coke and candy bar that entices us as we pay for gas, and quit smoking (I don`t smoke, but I know those things are not cheap or healthy), then we would have more money for the big things. But, this kind of living takes discipline, and most of us are not willing to pay the price in the small things in order to have the big ones. We want it all. It really shows our heart. We want to retire with enough to live on, but if we are not disciplined now to put away a small amount each month, then our dream retirement will never become a reality.
Why talk about this? Thanks for asking. I could use many other examples to make my point, but for the sake of time, I will not. Here is my point.
In the church, I hear many Christians talk about wanting God to do things today that He did back in the book of Acts. Things like healing the sick, 3000 people believing in Christ in one day, and earthquakes when the church prays. Reading about those things can make us feel so distant from the early church. I mean, I can never remember one single time that the ground shook when I prayed. I have never preached a sermon where 3000 people trusted in Christ. Again, I have never spoken to that many people at one time either. Maybe one day. We read about these big things in Scripture and we want things like that to happen in our lives today. But there is something we need to understand when reading about all these “big” things. The book of Acts covers a time period of about 30 years. With that kind of perspective, we see that there were many days and even years between some of the “big” things, and in between there was the daily grind and disciplines of the Christian life. The early Christians did not experience these “big” things on a regular basis. Some probably never saw them since many of these miraculous events were done only by the “hands of the apostles” (Acts 2:43; 5:12). The focus of the early church was not the “big” things. The focus were the daily disciplines of the faith: devotion to apostles doctrine, fellowship, prayer, the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). Between the ground shaking in Acts 4 and the prison doors opening up in Acts 16 there were committed Christians who regularly gathered together for worship, prayer, fellowship, serving, giving, and taking the Lord’s Supper. They lived ordinary daily lives where they had to go to work, raise children, fix the house, and manage their budgets.
Unfortunately many miss this truth today. We want the “big” things in the Christian life, but do not see the importance of or do not want the “small” things like daily Christian living. In other words, we want the marathon finish, but do not want to go through five months of training in the harsh conditions. Or to put it more plainly, we want the glory of the big things without the commitment of daily discipline. Why not? Simple: It’s costs. What does it cost? Our lives. We love big events. Christians love the huge outreaches, mass evangelism, and spectator Sunday services. My church does them. But, what about daily Bible reading and prayer? What about serving one another in the local church? What about giving your money away for the kingdom? What about being a regular part of the the gathered church? What about investing time and energy in the one person who needs it? What about sharing your faith with one person and then helping them to live to the glory of Jesus?
I may not have all the reasons, but I think I can give some. It could be because the daily Christian life requires discipline, commitment, and a worldview shift. It requires laying down selfish personal desires for a better one: God’s kingdom. It causes us to be different from the rest of the world and not be afraid of the world rejecting us. Should we not be more concerned about God rejecting us? Could it maybe be that many Christians love the idea of the Christian life but are not all that crazy about its God and His will. Is this why huge amounts will flood to big events, but we don’t see them much on Sundays. It’s the love of God and love for God that causes us to give our lives daily for His kingdom. The daily disciplines of reading His word and prayer comes not from guilt or legalism, but from a deep passion to know Him more because we love Him. The sacrificial giving and serving our brothers and sisters are not a religious show, but fueled by an overwhelming joy that comes from experiencing God’s saving grace. In other words, the small things of the Christian life are not that small. They are big. They are a picture of our love of God and love for God. I would argue that the “big” things we see in Scripture and hear about in other people’s lives are nothing more than a bunch of “small” things lived out one after another. So, why do we not see the “big” things? I think it is because we are not willing to do the “small” things for the glory of God. Because it would mean a change of life. It would also mean that we would have to admit that our life is not really about us. That we are not the center of the universe. That God is truly the center of all things. Even the “small” things.
The way to big is small.