“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” (Napoleon Hill)
This quote is very similar to what I sensed the Lord said to me years ago. “Steve, instead of waiting to do great things, attach great faith to what you are doing now and they will become great.”
We live in an hour where we can be tempted to feel powerless. There is a seeming daily bombardment of negative news coming at us (covid, governmental decisions, crises in nations, loved ones getting sick, crime, etc.). These things can seem overwhelming and too much for us to handle.
When I face things like this, I have been tempted to believe that if I cannot do anything big, then I cannot make a difference.
If I cannot do a big fast, I won’t fast at all.
If I cannot pray long and hard about a need, I won’t pray at all.
If I cannot give a big amount of money, then I won’t give anything.
If I cannot volunteer much time to the cause, then I won’t volunteer at all.
If I cannot go to college or a ministry school, then I won’t commit a few hours a week to a class or online course.
If I cannot have many followers on my social media posts, I won’t post at all.
If I cannot pray with my spouse every day, I won’t pray with them at all.
“Despise not the day of small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10).The Bible is full of stories of the little things that made a big difference. :
A boy’s two fish and five loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) – It seemed like nothing compared to the need, but it fed a multitude.
The widow and her “little oil” (2 Kings 4:1-7) – As the widow came into contact with a prophetic perspective, her eyes were taken off of what she thought she did not have to see that she already had the key to breakthrough and provision.
Widow and the two mites (Luke 21:1-4) – Even though her offering was much smaller than others, Jesus said she gave more than them all. Heaven celebrates and blesses the heart behind what we do more than what we do.
A cloud the size of a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:44-46) – Elijah stopped praying and attached his faith to very small evidence (a small cloud) that the drought was over.
Faith the size of a mustard seed (Luke 7:5-6) – “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘“Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’”
Gideon’s 300 men – He started out with over 30,000 before his army was reduced to a few hundred. Even so, they won a great victory for their nation. You may lead or be a part of an organization or church small in number (or decreasing in numbers), but God does not need a lot of people to make a big difference. (See Judges 6-8)
Jonathan and his armor bearer (1 Samuel 14)– Two men took a courageous step and brought great victory for their people .
We can see that little things make a big difference, but why, then, do we have this tendency to only attach faith to the big things we do? Here are some reasons:
We might not understand how having big faith for small things is the training ground for our having faith for big things.
We might not understand the process of planting, watering, and harvesting. We tend to only release our faith when we can see an immediate harvest. In farming, the farmer’s faith is constant through the whole process.
We misunderstand that “selective enthusiasm” is a character issue that must be overcome.
We misunderstand that we are being trained to stay excited when things don’t feel exciting.
We might not believe our assignments are significant and important.
Here are some ideas for how we can build the “muscle” of doing small things in a great way:
Develop the habit of acting more enthusiastic than you feel (Some would be opposed to this because it would feel fake, but we do many things we don’t feel like doing and don’t call it fake. We worship extravagantly when we might not feel like it. We love our spouse when we might not feel the emotion of great love. This is not fake worship or fake love, but choosing to stir up our passion for the commitments, relationships, and priorities in our lives).
Pray a short, faith-filled prayer (as often as you can) as soon as you hear of a need or crisis.
Become the most thankful person you know.
Take a minute to speak appreciation and value to a child, youth, or someone less fortunate than you.
Give small amounts with excitement to a cause or need when you cannot give a big amount.
Develop short evangelistic phrases that you have faith for.
Share short texts or voice messages of appreciation, encouragement, or a prophetic word.
“If we cannot do great things, let’s do small things in a great way.” What a great word for us.
And here is one more thought on little things that make a big difference.
Honor those who can only contribute a little in our lives and organizations. Not everyone is called to make a big contribution to what we are doing or to us personally. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says “each one must give as he decided in his heart.” People will decide differently in bringing varying levels of commitment to the things important to us (and in their relationship with us). Certainly, we are to call people to right priorities and higher commitments, but if we disapprove of those who are only contributing small things and believe what they have to offer won’t make a difference, then we are unwise and might miss an opportunity to see God use our small things in a mighty way.
For more on topics like this, listen to my podcast by clicking the link below.
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.