Think Small

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One clear goal of Jesus’ life was to pierce the darkness in which we live and usher in the light of God’s redeeming grace. But this is not a mission that is exclusive to Jesus’ earthly season. Indeed, this is a mission that every one of his disciples must fulfill.

No exceptions.

His simple parables, tucked neatly into the middle of Mark 4, make this evident. There are three of them. One is about the power of light. One is about the necessity of mixing effort with waiting. One is about believing small things can yield great results. Look first at the power of light.

[quote]And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:21-23 ESV)[/quote]

No one would be foolish enough to take a small earthen lamp, fill it with oil, light if afire, and then slip it underneath the bench on which she sits. Not only would it obviously minimize its effectiveness, for the light would greatly contained, but it would be risky. The fabrics from the bench could catch on fire, or someone could accidentally knock it over. Lamps placed wrongly could lead to ruin. But a lamp placed properly, on a stand or on a sconce on the wall, illuminating the whole room, fulfills its purpose well—providing the greatest possible light by which one may see. In John 8:12 Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We who follow Christ are not to hide him, downplay him, or dismiss him, as if he were a lamp of which we are ashamed. Moreover, as his followers, we bear his light. We are not to hide ourselves, downplay his work within us, or dismiss his ownership over us. His light, shining through us, must come to light.

We are to reflect Jesus’ light in our lives. We are also to willingly mix Kingdom effort with waiting on God. Consider the following:

[quote]And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)[/quote]

God’s kingdom is characterized by one willingly scattering seed about the ground, and we recall that the seed in question is the “word” (see Mark 4:14), or that which represents a full portrait of God’s redemptive purposes and character. The one scattering is committed to the effort, intentional, faithful, watching. The determination and effort are definitely noteworthy—qualities every disciple must emulate. And when the harvest is ready the disciple must be ready, eager to reap the fruit borne by the seeds that were scattered. But it must not be missed that there is a need to also wait. the disciple cannot force growth. The circumstances that help the seed germinate are most often facilitated by a power higher than the one who scatters the seed—God himself. Disciples must learn the art of waiting; trusting. Attempting to hurry growth can damage the crop. Be faithful with the responsibility you have as a disciple; then faithfully trust God will manage the responsibility he has as God.

Small things can yield magnificent results.

[quote]And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32 ESV)[/quote]

It was proverbial to the Jews of Jesus’ day that the mustard seed was tiny. It was also remarkable that such a tiny seed could give way to such a mature and flourishing garden plant as a mustard tree. So too is the Kingdom of God, starting out humbly, small and seemingly unremarkable, but giving way to a scope that is surprising and significant. This is a terrific encouragement in a world where big things are always expected, in a world with so many moving parts; in a world wherein grandeur is bar set high, and anything less is seen as weak. For the disciple to faithful sow small things, with the confidence it can yield great results, is an invitation to joy and peace. In so many ways kingdom work is done by “thinking small”—one small prayer, one tiny light, one simple hug, one faithful gospel word, one little seed, keeping short accounts, one moment of waiting, one small step toward someone in need, one simple moment of truth, and so much more. Thinking small over and over and over gives way to great results for God’s kingdom.

So how do we think; what do we do? Be the light of Jesus, faithful and waiting, thinking small every step of the way.

 

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“Write This Down” is a summary of select teaching moments offered by Pastor Matthew. The preceding material is from the message “Think Small”,  part two of the sermon series entitled, “Piercing the Darkness,” presented on the weekend of September 29, 2013, at Bethel Church.

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