We live in a day of extremes, and sometimes it seems our culture’s highest virtue is going overboard. Everything is super-sized, quad-shot, high-energy, maximum-strength, full-throttle.
I wonder and worry about how much of that infects our faith. If being radical for Jesus means being totally committed to the kingdom, that’s great. But if we’re obsessing on doing something big for Jesus, as if that’s the only thing that counts, then we’re missing something. The truth is that holiness and kingdom service are found in the small occurrences of normal days.
“It is a great misconception to think . . . for the sake of heaven . . . that one must undertake great, reverberating tasks,” said Theophan the Recluse, a nineteenth century Russian bishop.
“Not at all,” he continued. “It is necessary only to do everything according to the commandments of God. Just what exactly? Nothing in particular — only those things which present themselves to everyone in the circumstances of life, those things which are required by the everyday happenings we encounter. This is how God is. God arranges the fate of each man, and the whole course of one’s life is also the work of His most gracious foreknowledge, as is, therefore, every minute and every encounter.”
The theologian, philosopher, and doctor Albert Schweitzer said something similar:
Always keep your eyes open for the little task, because it is the little task that is important to Jesus Christ. . . . The great flowing rivers represent only a small part of all the water that is necessary to nourish and sustain the earth. Beside the flowing river there is the water in the earth — the subterranean water — and there are the little streams. . . . Without these other waters — the silent hidden subterranean waters and the trickling streams — the great river could no longer flow. Thus it is with the little tasks to be fulfilled by us all.
Schweitzer of course did great things as well as little, a point that adds credence to the observation. Don’t neglect the little things. And don’t be discouraged if the little things are all you seem to accomplish. The kingdom is built of little things. What’s more, God has ordained them. The small tasks are exactly those good works that God has providentially prepared for us to do, and faithfulness is all he asks.
God is surely calling some people to big, hairy, audacious things. But he is also looking for trickling brooks and subterranean streams, without which the great flowing rivers shrink and dry.