The Power of Little Things

An Amazing Fact: The first step in constructing a bridge over the Niagara Falls Gorge was made by a 15-year-old American named Homan Walsh. On January 30, 1848, Homan flew a kite he named Union from one side of the gorge to the other. Someone on the opposite side caught the kite and tied a stronger string to the end of the kite string, and Holman pulled the new, thicker string back across the gorge. The process was repeated with an even stronger string, then a cord, then a thin rope, then a thicker rope, and eventually a steel cable, which crossed the expanse and was strong enough to support workers, tools, and materials. Finally, a sturdy bridge, over which trains and trucks could easily pass, was completed. And it all began with a string.

Jesus says, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). According to our Savior, little things can make a significant impact on the big picture.

For instance, in the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31–32, He explains, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

As you probably know, the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds planted in the Middle East. But nurtured in the right conditions, it can grow into something resembling a small tree — even providing a haven for birds. It’s amazing what a tiny thing like a seed can become.

Faith is like that. If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move (Matthew 17:20 NKJV). Now, the first time I read this passage, I thought it meant that God gives us power so we can impress unbelieving friends. But the Bible also says that God takes our sins and casts them into the depths of the sea. I believe this ultimately means that if you invest a small, childlike faith in God, He can forgive your mountain of sins and cast them into the deepest depths of the ocean.

Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Jesus took a little lunch from a little boy and fed thousands. With a little jawbone, Samson slew an army. David took a little stone and brought down a giant. With just a little faith, great things can be accomplished.

The Danger of Little Sins
In the story of the mustard seed, Jesus wants us to understand that eternal salvation can pivot on a variety of little things in our lives, often more than we really know. So far, I have addressed the positive aspect of this phenomenon. But there is an opposite dynamic as well.

Neglecting faithfulness in the little things can lead to big trouble. As much as David brought down a giant with something little, a small indiscretion — a lingering lustful look — turned into adultery, deception, and even murder. He lost four of his sons and nearly the kingdom over something that started with a little look at Bathsheba taking a bath.

Yet I sense a trend in today’s churches to ignore the little details of Christian faithfulness. When someone identifies “little sins,” he or she is often accused of being petty or legalistic. Some churchgoing men say, “It’s just a look. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re just window shopping.” But the Bible says it can, and often will, turn into something much bigger. We know that addiction to pornography begins with just a little ad and addiction to drugs begins with just a little sample.

The Christian writer E.G. White puts it this way: “It is one of Satan’s most successful devices, to lead men to the commission of little sins, to blind the mind to the danger of little indulgences, little digressions from the plainly stated requirements of God. Many who would shrink with horror from some great transgression, are led to look upon sin in little matters as of trifling consequence. But those little sins eat out the life of godliness in the soul” (Review & Herald, November 8, 1887).

We need to understand the danger of “little” sins. Many Christians are going through life without recognizing how lethal they can be to our walk with Christ and, ultimately, to our very salvation. That’s why I want to look at some areas that many believers don’t take seriously. I pray that together our characters can become more like Christ’s.

The Power of Little Words

The Great Chicago Fire occurred in 1871. Evidently, in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, a cow twitched its leg and kicked over a lamp. That lamp broke and caught a wisp of hay on fire. Soon, the whole barn was up in flames, which then spread to and consumed the city. Hundreds of people died and millions of dollars of damage occurred, all from a twitching cow.

In James 3:5, we learn, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (NKJV). The tongue is a very small part of our body when compared to something like our heart. But it can create problems as bad as a heart attack if we’re not careful with how we use it.

Sometimes when we utter a careless word of gossip, when our tongue twitches, a person will seize upon that word and spread it like wildfire. Soon those little words can cause big heartache; in some cases, it can even start a war. It’s been said that termites destroy more property than earthquakes. And I believe more sorrow is caused by the careless words of a friend than by the open slanders of an enemy.

The deadliest animal in the world isn’t a tiger or bear — or a stampeding elephant or rhino. No, it’s a mosquito. This tiny beast kills about three million people a year through the spread of malaria. Some experts say it might have caused the death of one out of every two human beings who have ever lived. Yet we underestimate these creatures because of their size.

We also underestimate our words. They can be biting. They can sting. Jesus said, “Every idle word” — every little word — “that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36). They can take only a few milliseconds to say, but the effect of words can last forever.

The brother of famous singer Karen Carpenter, who died of anorexia, says that when his sister was younger, someone referred to her as “Richard’s chubby little sister.” She never got that out of her mind, and it destroyed her self-esteem and eventually her whole body. I’m fairly certain that the person who said it wouldn’t remember saying it, but if he did, he probably would want to take it back. How many times have you been in that unfortunate circumstance?

Of course, the opposite is also true. Little words of encouragement and hope can turn a life around. The phrase “You’re looking nice today” can restore self-confidence and hope instantly to someone’s spirit. Want to make someone feel better now? Say the little phrase, “You know, I really appreciate you and what you do.” Little words can make an incredible difference.

The Bible says, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3 NKJV). We should be especially careful with our words when we come into the house of the Lord, where what often begins as friendly banter can turn into careless gossip. We should keep our hearts reverent and our tongue in control always.

When you think about all the words we say in a day — and how easy it is to say something negative about something or somebody — you might be prone to get discouraged. If it weren’t for the mercy of God, who has washed away the penalty of the careless, dumb, unkind things I’ve said, I’d too be in big trouble. For something so small, it can be so hard to control.

But we have hope. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Just like when you are about to run out of gas and your warning light flashes on your dashboard, God’s Spirit will step in and give you pause to reconsider what you are about to say. Like I have been in the past, you might be surprised how many times that light flashes. You might wonder how little you will be able to say in a day. Don’t let it get you down, because the Bible says, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, emphasis added).

The Power of a Little Time
Mountains are made of many grains of sand, and lifetimes are made of many little moments. When we waste our moments, we waste our lives. The Bible says, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks” (Ecclesiastes 10:18 NKJV).

Thomas Jefferson was an incredibly organized human being. He was something of a renaissance man in not only the quality of his work, but in quantity as well. Heavily influenced by the Methodist culture, which preaches an emphasis on planning and structure, he’d wake up early to eat breakfast. While eating, he would read because he didn’t want to waste any time. After practicing the violin, he would turn his attention to his experiments. It’s no wonder he changed the course of history: He recognized the precious value of time.

I’m inclined to think that those who appreciate the value of little moments are given a little more life. Jefferson lived to be 87, but you might not be blessed with that much time if you’re wasting what God has given you. Proverbs 19:15 teaches, “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (NKJV). There is a direct correlation between those who are hard workers and are successful, as well as those who are lazy and don’t do well for themselves.

How important is time? In the Olympics, a fraction of a second can be the difference between victory and third place. A little bit of time can be a powerful thing. We need to use that time wisely, as God created us to be industrious.

The Proverbs have a particularly powerful passage on this subject. “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man” (24:30–34). There are a lot of littles in this passage, but they can turn into something big if we are not careful.

A garden left to itself breeds weeds. Sometimes I put my kids to work in our garden, and after just five minutes, they are complaining and ready to go inside. I’m a taskmaster, I know. But like my father who told me stories about how hard he worked, we need to create a mind for work in our children. We all need to use our time in a way that is productive and glorifies God.

The Power of a Little Speck
I don’t know about you, but I hate to get anything in my eye. As far as I am concerned, the whole world can stop spinning until I address that renegade eyelash. Most people are like this in spiritual matters too. Someone might cut you off in traffic and cause you to feel irritated all day long at work; then a co-worker offends you and you berate them for being insensitive to your needs.

Sometimes we’ll see a little speck in somebody else’s eye and we can’t enjoy anything else. We don’t see anything wrong with ourselves because we’re so preoccupied with their little slight and we’re consumed with criticism. Jesus had something to say about this.

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41, 42 NKJV).

All because of a little speck, we go around judging people and thinking we know the problem and how they can fix it. Jesus said that most of the time, we have a 4-by-4 in our own eye. Don’t let someone else’s little problems consume you, and refrain from judging their hearts. You’ll experience a lot more fulfillment and a closer walk with Jesus by focusing on your own little specks. “Catch us the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV). We have often lost the beautiful things in life because of the little foxes we allow to come into our lives.

The Power of a Little Humility
Jesus was once invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. During the course of their meal, a sinful woman, perhaps not even invited, entered into the banquet hall. Feeling unworthy, she’s didn’t sit at the table. Instead, she fell on her knees and poured ointment and tears over Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. The Pharisee thought to himself, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39 NKJV).

Knowing his thoughts, Jesus answered, “Simon, I have something to tell you. … Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

To Simon, the answer was clear. “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.”

Then Jesus explained, “I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

The point is, if we view ourselves as little sinners, we will have little appreciation for the enormity of God’s grace. It’s the little sinners who have a little savior. Those who see themselves as great sinners appreciate the greatness of their Savior.

Moreover, those who view themselves with an attitude of humility are those that God can do the most through. Gideon said, “Lord, how can you use me? I am the least in my father’s house.” David said, “I’m the least, just a shepherd boy.” Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles.” That’s why God could do so much through them, because they saw how little they were next to Him. When we become great in our own eyes, God can do little with us. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Martin Luther; he said, “God creates from nothing so until we become nothing He can do nothing with us.”

Jesus also warns, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Don’t Mock at Sin
If your doctor said, “You’ve just got a little bit of leprosy, so don’t worry,” you’d probably start worrying and look for another doctor. You probably wouldn’t be too happy with him if he called your case of leprosy “just a touch of poison oak” either. But that’s something like what Christians are hearing today from many churches.

We have lost an appreciation for the work of Christ. We have downplayed sins with pithy jokes. We say, “Boy, I ate way too much at potluck. It was so good, I couldn’t stop myself.” I know it’s a simple joke, but it illustrates something important. Why do we overlook gluttony so easily? Likewise, instead of lying, we “exaggerate.” We don’t have dirty thoughts; we just “daydream.” We don’t abuse our spouses; we just have “heated disagreements.” We’re not prideful; we’re just “confident.” We’re not greedy; we’re just “motivated.” And we’re not lost; we’re just “experimenting with the world.”

It needs to stop. “Little sins” is an oxymoron, a total contradiction in terms. When we think about the death of Christ for the sins of the world, is there even really such a thing as a “little” sin?

“Fools mock at sin” (Proverbs 14:9). Yet sin has led to the death of billions of people. Why do we treat some sins as if they were nothing? Well, Eve just ate a little piece of fruit, and look what happened! Yes, there are varying degrees of sin. But even a little sin can manifest a huge rebellion against the Lord. Just like a little faith can relocate those sins into the depths of the sea.

Little things can make a big difference!


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