How many plans have been started with grand vision and then abandoned because of how insignificant and underwhelming the idea later felt? My visionary follow-through often struggles. Emotions of discouragement settle in when the glorious things I imagine don’t swiftly materialize.
Not seeing an acorn rapidly sprout into a mighty oak, could easily keep me from watering, nurturing, or even planting it in the first place. Difficulty envisioning a broken, painful relationship restored to something beautiful and lifegiving could keep me from pursuing it, praying for it, and persevering in hope. Even the process of what God desires to transform within me could stall before it starts as old fears, mindsets, and doubts stubbornly refuse to surrender their dominance. It’s so difficult to go all in when what I’m starting with is pitifully miniscule or deformed, carrying no resemblance of what I’m hoping for.
Exercising faith can be so hard.
Yet a tiny, mediocre, or unlikely beginning best describes the inception of so many significant undertakings. Only later is the fully-matured outcome looked upon as grand and imposing. God seems to have no problem starting with something or someone that is tiny, broken, or unimpressive. In the book of the prophet Zechariah, He warns His people to not wrongly judge the initial steps of rebuilding the temple. All they could see was a sadly mediocre foundation. It promised none of the greatness of the awe -inspiring place of worship that Solomon had built.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin . . .” (Zechariah 4:10a NLT).
He Sees it Differently than Us
God was the hopeful One. He was delighted that what He had in mind was being acted upon. He didn’t degrade any part of the project that had begun in faithful obedience. But what do we tend to do when we despise something? Reject it. Neglect it. Disregard it. When we can’t see the significance, we easily turn our attention to other things, and in the process miss what God is doing and what He has in mind for our future and the future of the world.
God confronted the people of Israel because they were not following through with their part of rebuilding the temple. He had miraculously done His part up to then, bringing a remnant out of captivity back to the Promised Land and providing the materials needed to rebuild the physical structure required for worship at that time. And yet because they were less than awestruck by the foundation and their enemies were ridiculing their “puny” efforts, the people were pulling away from the labor and in danger of giving up on worship completely. God saw what the temple was to be used for. Beyond reinitiating sacrifices for sin offerings, it would be the very building in which His Son, Jesus, would proclaim His word for all nations. The people had to choose to trust that great good would come from their obedience, regardless of what it felt like at the moment. Countless people would one day experience the Lord’s mercy through this apparently insignificant thing in front of them.
They just couldn’t see it.
A Simple Offering
Even knowing this, it is still difficult for me to invest my resources beyond a logical outcome I can personally see. One story that helps make such faith practical for me, however, is when Jesus fed more than 15,000 people in one day. It’s a significant narrative, and is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).
We’re told that His disciples first laid out the problem of having thousands of people together with no food concessions nearby. Jesus’ solution was simple: “You feed them.” After they freaked out and assured Jesus how impossible that was, John’s account tells us that Andrew brought a little boy forward who had packed a lunch of two fish and five loaves for himself. “But what good is that with this huge crowd” (John 6:9 NLT), Andrew asked. Jesus, however, did not scorn the pathetic contribution of a single sack lunch, but merely said, “Tell everyone to sit down.” He then thanked His Heavenly Father for what they had been given and began to distribute it. And everyone “ate as much as they wanted.” There were even 12 baskets of leftovers. The people who witnessed this were so impressed, they wanted to forcefully make Jesus their king on the spot. Who wouldn’t want a leader who could provide for his followers’ needs like that?
A significant part of this story, in my mind, is that a little boy did not despise the smallness of his lunch to offer it to Jesus. I would have been embarrassed to make such a suggestion that the little thing I possessed could be used for something so profound. Yet this is a very useful picture of faith. It shows how to choose to believe. Jesus said that effective faith need not be bigger than a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), one to two millimeters in diameter to be exact. It is something, however, that when planted and watered can grow into a significant bush, six to thirty feet (two to ten meters) tall. I need not hold back going to Jesus till I come up with something grand to offer him. Small things, put into His hands, can grow beyond what is naturally imagined.
What Can We Do?
So, what are the loaves and fishes in your hands? What are the things that make up your life right now that feel too ordinary, too unremarkable, too embarrassing or unredeemable to offer to Jesus? What are the prayers you don’t bother to pray because they feel too inadequate. Your natural eyes cannot see the transformation that He has in mind, and so, like most people, you typically don’t bring them to Him. Yet it’s the places that are small, broken, or insignificant in your life that He delights in using as starting points for future greatness and blessing.
Don’t scoff at underwhelming starts, simple prayers, or little lunches. Just follow through, do your part, and offer them to Jesus. That’s faith. We never know how many people He has in mind to eventually feed and bless through our unimpressive offering and simple obedience. So, don’t be surprised if you hear Him say, “You feed them.” He’ll take whatever you surrender to Him in faith. He’s not asking for what you don’t have. And whatever it is, He’ll do something extraordinary that has His fingerprints all over it and echoes into the future.
You’ve just got to trust Him, and don’t despise those small beginnings.