Have you ever felt spiritually small or insignificant? I have. I have been praying and thinking a lot lately as to the significance of my faith. Not my personal faith or the impact I have on the people immediately surrounding me, but how does MY FAITH, have impact on the world?
I understand that I am the spiritual leader of my household, i.e. wife and children. I also understand I have a biblical duty to raise them up and teach them the way Jesus taught his disciples. Additionally, I understand that as a disciple of Christ, I have an obligation/calling to spread His teachings and make other disciples wherever and whenever possible. This is not the type of spiritual smallness or insignificance that I am talking about.
With all the pressures of the secular world pushing for equality, acceptance, non-judgement, and equal opportunity, I am wondering how I can impact this world. Now before you go on a “…that’s not your concern as a disciple…” rant, I know. Scripture tells us – in Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6:33-34
33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I also know that if my story, testimony, or whatever you want to call it, plants a seed with just one person, than that is a win for God. I get all that. Sometimes (and I find it hard to believe I am the only one) I just feel that I am so small in the grand scheme of thing’s, how do I matter?
Well because God is listening when I pray, I can tell you how I (we) matter…
God uses small people for great things. There is evidence all through the Bible. In the Old Testament God took Moses, a man abandoned by his own mother. A man raised by Egyptians. A man who murdered one of his own people. A man who fled in fear for his life to escape his crimes. God used this man, Moses, in one of the most powerful ways recorded in the Bible. Even when God call Moses to greatness, Moses knew he was a small, insignificant, flawed man and tried to refuse, but God knew that with Him, Moses could do anything. This is played out for us in Exodus 3: 4-12:
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. 5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father[a]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
God knew what Moses thought of himself. God knew Moses’ past, but God also knows that with God all things are possible (Philippians 4:13).
Later in the Old Testament, God chose a small boy named David. Literally a small boy. David’s own brother called him full of “pride and deceit” (1 Samuel 17:28). David was only a boy when he defeated Goliath in the name of the Lord. (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”
God knew that David, from an early age, was bound for great things. Even when his own mentor, Saul wanted David dead, God intervened. David was deceived by his own men, prompting and telling David to kill Saul, yet David could still hear God calling him to greatness. We see David’s trust in the Lord and the Lord’s confidence, heart, and significance in David in 1 Samuel 24: 1-15:
[a]After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. 2 So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. 3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.”
7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 8 David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. 9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. 12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. 14 Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? 15 May theLord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”
David would spare Saul’s life a second time and go on to be one of the greatest leaders in the Bible by the time he was 30 years old. David still made mistakes and sinned horribly against God, even once he was king of Israel. Still, time after time, sin after sin, David’s heart would continue to be convicted in spite of himself. David would confess his arrogance and sin to the God, and God would forgive him. God showed mercy and love for His chosen one. Whether a small boy, a great king, or horrible adulterer or murderer, the Power of God, is evident on the small and insignificant that He chooses.
Another Old Testament story of God using small insignificant people to accomplish great deeds is Jonah. In Hebrew, the name Jonah means “dove”, a very small animal. Jonah is considered to be disobedient because of his initial denial and running from the Lord’s command, and narrow-minded because of his anger with God for showing mercy on the city of Nineveh once he carried out God’s calling.
Jonah’s denial allowed God to get double the miles out of His servant, this small “dove”, because He also brings redemption to a ship full of non-believers. God came to Jonah and told him to go to the great city of Nineveh and announce His judgement because of how wicked the people there were (Jonah 1: 2). Jonah instead ran east, the opposite direction, to hop on a ship leaving to go further east. The story unfolds for us like this in Jonah 1: 3-17:
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from theLord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from theLord by sailing to Tarshish. 4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” 7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?” 9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” 13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” 15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
17 [a]Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
So because of Jonah’s fear and feelings of doubt, God was able to redeem a ship full of non-believers. If Jonah had not felt so insignificant, this story may have played out differently. Once he was released from the belly of the whale, (back where he started by the way) Jonah went to finish God’s original plan for him. Once in Nineveh, he starts delivering God’s message and instead of the destruction the Lord is calling for, everyone repents and changes there ways (Jonah 3: 6-10). Now this makes Jonah angry with God. To Jonah, apparently God’s message is so important, that even being swallowed by a whale can’t stop the delivery of the message and ultimate destruction of Nineveh. However, when Nineveh repents and changes their ways, that can stop the destruction? This infuriates Jonah the he even complains about it to the Lord. This is what happens in Jonah 4: 1-11:
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now,Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 4 The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
Jonah is frustrated because in his small insignificant view, he is unable to see the bigger picture. The picture of God’s love and mercy. Even by being disobedient, God uses Jonah for bigger things than he can imagine or believe.
When God realized that His people needed more than the prophets of the Old Testament to remain strong and trust in Him, He sent His Son, Jesus to walk among them. God used small insignificant people to do this. Jesus wasn’t born to a king and queen, He was born to a carpenter and his fiancé, a virgin. God imparted wisdom and sent messages to both of them, that in spite of their status and the judgements they would endure from society, they must stay the course and trust Him. Even before Jesus began his ministry, he lived a small, insignificant life as a carpenter. He could have been anything He wanted, but God’s plan doesn’t work that way. Jesus even chose his disciples from small insignificant roles. He could have chosen rabbi’s, priest’s, prophets, or kings. Instead, Jesus chose fisherman, traitors, and tax collectors (villains of the day), for his inner circle.
Feeling small and insignificant is easy to do in today’s world. I would argue that in biblical days, the same rang true. Oppression and manipulation are not new to our time’s. These were the methods kings and rulers used to keep their people “under control”. What we need to remember is that God has no chains of oppression. God can not be manipulated. God can do anything he wants, and often uses small and insignificant people to do his work. He does this to all the more show His power (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth:
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
The take away from all this, is when you are feeling small and insignificant, there is a good chance God is working on something big, through you. When you start feeling small, insignificant and overwhelmed, pray – pray – pray! You may never know what, why, or how, His work is happening, but you should trust that the love God has for you is beyond not only what we can see in front of us, but also beyond what we can imagine. In the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Romans 8:38), Paul tells us:
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
When you start feeling small, insignificant and overwhelmed, pray – pray – pray!