The very reality of this title might indicate that there is something wrong with smallness, but my purpose is not to debate the value of big versus small or vice versa. Bigger is not always better. Depending on the context, either could have greater value. Yet, when it comes to the essence of our faith, there is nothing in Scripture that would indicate that a small faith would do us well within any aspect of life.
On the B2 Zeeland office/warehouse wall is Ephesians 3:20. “Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, according to the power of his work within us.” Relative to the ultimate essence of smallness, this statement by Paul compels me to ask two questions. First, is this a promise that God “WILL” do a great and mighty “large” work. My conclusion is no. I decisively say “no” because of the word “able”. The verse doesn’t read that God WILL do immeasurably more… no, it says that God is ABLE to do immeasurably more. For me, this means that you and I have a role, and that role involves faithfulness undergirded with the power of prayer. If I am interpreting this correctly, God stands ready to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, however we must, through faithful obedience, cry out and call upon him to do so. I further embrace this because of the second part of this verse, “according to the power of his work with us.” God will be the One to do this unmeasurable, unimaginable work within us, and it will be accomplished as a result of his “power” at work through us. This requires an act of surrender and submission, an intentional action to set aside our “smallness” for his “greatness”. My second question is the more difficult one to ask and address because it is extremely relevant to our current context. If God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, why is that not occurring in most of our lives? Is God “holding back” on his promise or have we failed to ask believing in faith that he stands ready to release his amazing power? Fully entering this question requires honesty and transparency, seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit.
It’s Sunday morning as an I write this blog, just two days removed from the news that Luke Sullivan, the recently hired Aviation Director for Paradise Bound Ministries, laid down the ultimate sacrifice of his life, as a PBM plane crashed in Guatemala. Receiving this news caused our hearts to immediately grow heavy as thoughts turned to his wife Ashley, their three little girls, and their fourth child on the way. Loss is real, and grief is real, and so much emotion must cause us to call upon our God, seeking comfort and peace in the midst of uncertainty. Yet, upon reading some of Ashley’s social media posts, I was moved from deep heartache to celebration of a life given in the hope that others would find Christ. Heartache still remains as through our communal compassion we intercede for Ashley and Luke’s extended family, yet we recognize and embrace a strange sense of faith transforming triumph in the pain. There is nothing small about a faith decision, to give up the security of a well-paying job in America, to move your young family into a radically new culture and take up the risk of flying pastors and missionaries to remote villages. Luke and Ashley certainly understood these risks, yet were obedient to God’s call, to follow a giant forming faith in their hearts that would result in God doing immeasurably more than they could ever ask or imagine. Because of such faith, a faith that cost Luke is life, I believe the ministry and reach of Paradise Bound Ministries will be manifested hundred-fold or more. Luke’s story will be retold many times, resulting in many coming to faith and others deepening their faith. Such a life laid down for the sake of the gospel can’t help but have that type of immediate and eternal impact.
Luke’s story challenges us today, because the ultimate essence of smallness, in relation to faith, is a lack of trust in the sovereignty and supremacy of our God. Many of us are living small, because we place our trust in security and comfort, instead of the ultimate supremacy of our God. In a recent message by John Piper, he pointed to the transformational power that results from “tasting of the majesty of God.” If such transformational power is available to us by pursuing and tasting of the majesty of God, then I want more than ever to pursue and taste more. However, there is a problem for most Christians living in America, or at least a roadblock to such pursuing and tasting, that keeps us small. The truth of God’s word reveals that it is impossible to serve two masters, God and money at the same time (Matthew 6:24). In our American context, this simply means that if a competing pursuit is to “taste” greater financial wealth or security, we have embraced the ultimate essence of smallness. If financial sustainability and comfort becomes more important than “pouring ourselves out” to serve others in the name of Christ, then we’ve traded a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine for the “smallness” of our financial security. In such a case, Scripture tells us that “we have our reward” (Matthew 6:5) and we may NEVER see the greatness of God fully revealed in and through our lives. This is a bold statement, but one I believe Luke understood as he chose sacrifice over security.
How we are positioning and posturing ourselves for the greatness of God to be manifested? Consider this possibility. The greater work of God (immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine) will NEVER be fully manifested in a life that has not been completed stripped of self-sufficiency. Self-reliance or self-sufficiency has no place in the life of the Christian, and it represents the ultimate essence of smallness. Do you and I want to remain small? All we need to do is rely on ourselves, and my experience has taught me that God will allow just that. We can preach and teach and lead out of our self-sufficiency and we might see some impact, but it will be small or shallow by comparison. In the meantime, while we function out of such smallness, I believe God moves on to Luke and Ashley’s who will be fully surrendered to His strength and power at work within them.
The church in America, and certainly the light of the church in America, has been reduced to a flickering, dim glow, possibly because God has removed his lampstand from us (Revelation 2:5). We have become small, and because of this, we face a crossroads. Will we be faithful in following God into the risky, unknown, unpredictable reality of his call, with a willingness to lay down our lives, or will we fall back into the safe, controllable, and predictability of our own self-sufficiency and false security. The choice we make today and in the days ahead will determine if we become the ultimate essence of smallness.