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REFLECTION: “The day of small things”

Be faithful, and don’t despise it!


“For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10)


Wb 036


It seemed to be a “day of small things”. God’s own covenant people had returned to their land after a time of captivity in Babylon. The magnificent temple that Solomon had built had been destroyed by the Babylonians more than seventy years before, and the task of rebuilding now faced them. Under the direction of Zerubbabel the work had commenced, but the new temple seemed only a poor shadow of the former glorious house. Compared to Solomon’s prosperous and peaceful reign this was a “day of small things” that they tended to despise.



Their attitude was wrong. Human effort counts for very little in the work of God. It is not by our might that things of significance are accomplished but by His Spirit (v.6). The people were failing to take account of the divine providence and power of God. The Lord wanted them to remember that He was still on the throne. His eyes scanned the whole earth (v.10) and saw things differently. Not restricted by the bounds of time, He knew that His servant Zerubbabel who had laid the foundations would also finish the construction of the temple.


Some believers today feel that we are living in a “day of small things”. We can look back to a time when the work among children and youth was flourishing and when unsaved people would frequently be found at a Sunday service listening to the preaching of the gospel. Today there is not the interest — and, sadly, not the manpower to do very much for the Lord. In Britain there are a lot of churches that, numerically, are small. At one time they were much stronger, but now they are struggling to continue. Some former members are with the Lord; others have joined the more popular and fashionable churches — or have simply gone into the world. Many dear saints of God, from their own experience, feel that this is indeed a “day of small things”. They are perplexed to know what to do and wish that somehow the clock could be turned back. Help is certainly needed!




A missionary who was serving the Lord in Spain gave a report on his recent work. He had been engaged in an extensive gospel campaign and had visited thousands of homes, offering a Bible study course to any who were interested. Just a few people had responded, but the missionary felt encouraged that a little group wanted to study the Word of God. Meetings with these people were arranged, and their questions were answered, but after two or three sessions the interest began to diminish. It soon became evident that none of the people wanted to continue the studies. Naturally the missionary was disappointed, but he concluded his report by quoting the words of Scripture, “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).


Listeners appreciated that missionary’s honesty. This was not the glowing report of a man riding on the crest of a wave and seeking to impress others with his evangelistic “success”. Here was a man who laboured to the point of exhaustion and then experienced the bitter disappointment of seeing the little interest that there was evaporate before his eyes.


What went wrong? Did the missionary in some ways fail to maintain the interest of these people? No, that was not the issue. The fact remains that the salvation of souls is the Lord’s work — not ours. Zechariah reminds us that it is not by our might or our power but by the working of the Spirit of God that souls are saved. Only He can bring new life to lost and perishing souls. All too often we imagine that the method adopted is paramount. One advocate of a particular course favoured it because, in his words, “it works”. Caution is necessary because it is possible to manufacture results. A “method” may generate interest — but more than this is necessary. The interest generated may in fact be nothing more than the flesh responding. Interested folk may be convinced intellectually or won-over emotionally without experiencing genuine conversion. Remember again the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zech.4:6).




An experienced servant of the Lord from London was discussing this scenario with a friend. Faced with shrinking numbers in his own church fellowship, he said that if the day comes when they have to close the doors, they want to do so with dignity. It might be possible to keep the doors open longer by moving with the times (as many today are doing) and changing certain long-established practices, but he felt it would be more glorifying to the Lord to have to close the local church than to face the charge of disobedience to Scripture. Compromise did not feature in this man’s vocabulary, and disobedience to Scripture was not an option to consider. The glory of the Lord was the most important consideration.


Like this man, let us not compromise but seek to be faithful to the Lord and do things in the way that He wants them done. His work of salvation has not altered. Christ’s provision for man’s need through His work at the cross is still all that is needed. Becoming fashionable or “seeker-friendly” is not the answer to the need. A programme of popular activities has built many large churches without the aid of the Spirit of God. Handing over a struggling church to an organization that does things differently and appears to be more “successful” is not going to merit credence in “that day” when our service is evaluated. We must never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Builder of His Church. Our methods and efforts may create a structure that is simply made from stubble. We must carry on proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, looking to the Lord to save souls in His own time and way. He is not looking for success but for faithfulness.


In many ways we may feel that this is a “day of small things” in our work for the Lord. Little seems to be happening. Let us not grow weary — or complacent. We must not give up or “despise” the day in which we live! Also we must not forget that He has not changed. We need the Lord’s strength if we are to continue. However, could it be that this “day of small things” is yet another pointer to the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ?