Shelby G. Floyd
Long ago when God’s people were rebuilding the temple, the prophet Zechariah asked this question,
“For who has despised the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10)?
After all these years there are still many who despise the day of small things. This week I received a little circular that described the “Little Things” that saved the lives of those who survived the attack on the World Trade Center and the destruction of the Twin Towers:
“As you might know, the head of one Company got in late that day because his son started kindergarten.
Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring doughnuts.
One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off in time.
One was late because of the being stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an auto accident.
One of them missed his bus.
One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.
One’s car wouldn’t start.
One went back to answer the telephone.
One had a child that dawdled and didn’t get ready as soon as he should have.
One couldn’t get a taxi.
One man put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.”
These are the kind of “LITTLE THINGS” that annoy us so much. But I am sure that every one of these people who are alive today because of these “Little Things” will not be nearly as frustrated in the future when things like these happen to them again.
In Our World of Big Things, Little Doesn’t Count Much
We live in a world of big things. Our cities are getting bigger, our buildings are taller and bigger, business is bigger, budgets are bigger and we will have to admit that our problems are also bigger. In this world of bigness, there is an attitude that one person doesn’t count for very much, whether it is for good or whether it is for bad. So today people are tempted to do evil. They will say, “Well what will it matter if I do a little evil? Nobody will know about it, and it won’t count for much, for I’m just one person.” Then on the other hand, in the church, many times people will say, “Well, I’m just a little person, and I can’t do very much for good, so I won’t do anything.” Our lesson is designed to emphasize the importance of little things. God judges and reckons people on individual character and work. So I want you to know that even though you are just one person, and though you may not have great talents, what you can do as an individual is important in the sight of God.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LITTLE THINGS ILLUSTRATED
Little Horseshoe Nail
Let me give you an illustration of the importance of little things as was stated by one of our greatest statesmen, scientist and philosophers in the early days of our country. Benjamin Franklin, in his Poor Richards Almanac, pointed out the importance of little things. He said:
For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider, the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle, the kingdom was lost
All for the want of a horseshoe nail.
I believe that points up the importance of little things. A little horseshoe nail theoretically could cause a kingdom to be lost.
Because Of Little Things We Do Nothing!
Someone has said, “Between the great things that we cannot do, and the little things that we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” I believe that well sums up the situation. Sometimes we want to do great big things, and yet, we don’t have the power and ability to do those things, but then we look at the small things that we can do, and we look down on them with contempt and say, ”Well I won’t do those things, they are beneath my dignity.” We then end up doing nothing.
Little Drops Of Water—Small Fire
Let’s look at the importance of small things in several different areas. A small drop of water is not very much, but enough of them can fill a mighty ocean or a raging sea. Julia Fletcher Carney said, “Little drops of water, little grains of sand make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land; so the mighty minutes, humble though they be, make the mighty ages of eternity.” A small match is not very large is it? But think what a small match can do for a man that is freezing to death. It could start a fire that would save his life. A small fire is not very much, but according to legend, it was a cow that kicked over Mrs. O’Leary’s lantern and caused the great Chicago fire.
Galileo and the Swinging Chandelier
Small things are important, either for good or for bad. Consider the scientific realm. Back in the middle ages, there was a deacon or sexton, as they were called then, who left a chandelier oscillating from side to side. It was a small thing that Galileo just happened to step into that cathedral at that exact time; he was an observant man, and looked up and saw that chandelier swinging back and forth, and it suggested to him the idea of a pendulum. And when you think today how important a pendulum has been in measuring time and distance, then you see the importance of small things.
The Spectacle Maker and the Telescope
I have read where a spectacle maker’s sons left their father’s eyeglasses laying over the top of a book with some letters in them. It just happened that they turned the concaved surfaces on top of each other. When the little boys looked, they noticed that the characters beneath those glasses were magnified, and it was pointed out to their father! The scientists heard about this and it wasn’t long until Galileo had come up with a telescope that magnified three times. Of course from that small beginning, today we have gigantic telescopes that reach out into space itself. Small beginning, but it was an important thing.
The Clapping Lid and Steam Power
Also someone noticed that a pot on the stove where the lid on the kettle was clapping from the steam that was escaping suggested the idea of steam power. We know that in the early days of our country they used steam power, and it was a powerful means to move the gigantic locomotives, but it was all suggested by a small beginning, just a little old pot sitting on the stove with the lid clapping, but it suggested the idea that there was power in steam.
A Tear in the Eye and Moses
A tear is not very big is it? But perhaps it was a tear in the eye of the daughter of Pharaoh that saved Moses when he was in the Nile River. Anyway, we know that she was moved with compassion upon Moses, she saved him, and he was reared in all the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians; but when he came to years he realized that he was a Jew, and he identified with God’s people, and God used him to be the great deliverer of his people. Yes, little things are important.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ABOUT LITTLE THINGS
Let me give you just a few statements of what others have thought about little things. Some writer has said,
“It’s the little things we do and say that mean so much as we go on our way, what joy or sadness often springs from just those simple little things.”
Sir Thomas Buxton said, “There are no little things with God.”
Charles M. Crow said, “We seek here to play a duet with God, we bring our small weak talents and they are glorified and multiplied and made useful by, the Master himself. It is not what we can do, but what God can do through us.”
Helen Keller said, “The million little things that drop into our hands, the small opportunities each day brings leaves us free to use or abuse and goes unchanging along His silent way.”
You know, God made us, and he made the little creatures out here on earth. Man is the crowning climax of all God’s creations. In fact, in Psalms, chapter 8, the Bible says that God has put all things under the authority of man, the ox, the sheep, even the fowl and the fish that pass through the sea. God has placed man in dominion over all of His creation. Sometimes we get lifted up with pride, and we feel like we can’t learn anything from the little creatures that God has made beneath us, but we can.
FOUR WISE LITTLE CREATURES
In Proverbs, chapter 30:24-28, the wise man Solomon gave us an example of four little creatures from which we can learn. They are little, but they are wise; and even though man is great, he can learn from the humble creatures of this earth. In Proverbs 30:25 he says, “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.”
The Little Ants Are Strong through Preparation
Now do you know of any creature that is much smaller than the little ants? I am not aware of any, there may be some, but ants are mighty small we will have to admit but they are also very wise. While ants are not strong they do gain strength through preparation and social organization. They form social groups and work with “ant teamwork!” Myrmecology is the study of ants. There are 8800 known species of ants and their population of ten million billion is more than any other of God’s creation. Edward O. Wilson described the strength of the ant several years ago when he wrote:
“The ant colony is essentially a factory within a fortress, a splendid arrangement of soldiers, builders, nurses and other specialists united in single-minded dedication to…more ant colonies.”
The Ant and the Grasshopper
I remember when I was a boy that one of my favorite stories was one of Walt Disney’s stories about the ant and the grasshopper. Maybe you young people have read it even today. You know the grasshopper fiddled, and he danced, and had a big time all summer, while the little ant went about his way busily preparing his food for the winter. But when winter came and the grasshopper was about to starve to death, he had to go and ask the ant for some food. There was a lot of wisdom in that story. It was teaching us that when we are in the summer of youth, we have to prepare for the autumn of maturity, and ultimately for the winter of death and finally for the spring of eternity. Learn from the ant the value of preparation:
Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest–
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
Now here is the bit of wisdom we learn from the little ant. He is small, he is not strong by himself, but he gains strength through preparation. We’re not strong when you get right down to it. We think that we are sometimes, but we’re not. We gain strength by preparing ourselves to meet God, and by preparing to use our lives in his service:
“The harvest is past,
The summer is ended,
And we are not saved!”
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In Mathew, chapter 25, Jesus told the parable of the ten virgins. Five of these virgins were wise and five were foolish. The wise took extra oil in their vessels along with their lamps, but the foolish took just the oil that they had in their lamps. The Bible tells us that they all slumbered and slept while the bridegroom tarried but at midnight there was a cry made,
“Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But, he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:6-12).
The application of that parable is this: we need to prepare ourselves while we have time and while we have opportunity. If we do not prepare ourselves, we will be foolish. We can learn then from the five wise virgins who prepared for any emergency!
Let’s prepare ourselves, just as Amos the prophet said to the nation of Israel,
“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, 0 Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, 0 Israel” (Amos 4:12).
Maybe that is what the Lord is saying to us today, “Prepare your selves to meet me in judgment and in death.” Anyway, an ant is a small animal but he is wise in that he prepares himself in the summer for the winter months, which will surely come.
The Small Rock Badgers Are Strong in a Strong House
Then Solomon says,
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
Their Houses Are In The Rocks
These little badgers are feeble within themselves, yet they compensate by building their den in the rocks. It is difficult to reach them because they make their houses in the rocks and in dens. Now we are a people that are not really strong. We think that we are strong sometimes, but when we get to rely on our own strength, we realize how feeble we are.
The Church Is Built On a Solid Rock
Like the little small badgers, we can learn to be wise by not relying upon our own strength, but by taking our refuge in a strong house. What is our house? Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church”(Matthew 16: 18). The rock there was the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. The church is built on a great foundation. Paul says, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 3:11). He says the church is built upon the foundation of apostles, prophets and Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Our refuge should be in Christ, and in his church for it is truly a strong house. It is the family of God and God is our Father. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”(Psalms 46:1).
Jesus Christ is the Rock of Ages
Now while we cannot take refuge in our own strength and our own houses, we can find strength through refuge in Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 13:5-6, the writer says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We need to realize that our strength is in God, and not in man. Therefore we should not fear what man will do unto us.
Where and on what are you building your spiritual house? We are either building on the rock or the sand:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Let’s make our house in the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ and his church. We can learn that wisdom from the little rock badger.
The Little Locusts Are Strong through Unity
Locusts Have No King!
Solomon says, “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” You know, a lot of times in the church, not very much is accomplished because everybody wants to be the ruler or oversee the work. As I used to hear it, when I was a young man working on the farm, they would say, “We’ve got too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” You know the locusts are little, but they don’t have any problem as to who is going to be “the chief” and who is going to be “the Indian.” They are all Indians. They don’t have any king or ruler, and yet, each one of them has a certain amount of kingliness in him.
Strength through Unity
You know what great and mighty things that a swarm of locusts can accomplish. How do they accomplish it? They accomplish it by unity. They go forth, “all of them by bands,” as the writer says. They work together to accomplish great things. Small people, who are little, can accomplish great things when a lot of little people or a lot of small things are put together. All the little drops of water in the ocean make a great ocean. By ourselves we are not very strong, but when we work together, and we’re unified under the gospel of Christ, we can accomplish great things. I heard of this illustration one time: you can take a match stick by itself, and it is easy to break, but you take a rubber band and tie a hundred matchsticks together and they are not so easy to break. They are strong.
The Unity of the Spirit
Think, from the example of the locusts how strong we can be through unity. Yes, locusts are small things, but they are exceeding wise and they work together. In Ephesians the Bible says,
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Christ’s Prayer for Unity
In John 17, in the great intercessory prayer of Jesus Christ, he prayed for all of us that might believe on him through the apostles’ word. He prayed that we might be one as he and the Father are one, that we might be able to convince the world that he is indeed the divine Son of God. Yes, unity preaches a great sermon to the people in the world. It tells them that we are united with Christ. It tells them that a house that is not divided is a strong house. Locusts are strong because they work together.
Laborers Together With God
In 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul says, “For we are laborers together with God.” We’ve got to work together, but we work together under God’s directorship or leadership and under his authority. We can learn from the little locusts (Compare 2 Corinthians 6:1).
The Little Spider Is Strong through Perseverance
The Spider Takes Hold with Her Hands
Finally Solomon says, “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” It doesn’t make any difference whether we’re rich or poor, a spider will be found in just about every house. You might go into a palace or a mansion, but somewhere there will be a spider that has spun her web and found her way into the kings’ house. What is the lesson we gain from the wise little spider? It is that we can have strength not only by preparation, not only by taking refuge in a strong house, not only by having unity, but that there is also strength through constancy or perseverance.
Strength by Determined Effort
The spider takes hold with her hands, and she doesn’t give up until she has accomplished what she has set out to do. How many times do we have failures in the church because people start and they don’t finish? Paul says that he put all things behind him, and he stretched and reached forth unto that goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-13). Jesus said that if we put our hands to the plow and look back, we’re not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Jesus said that if a man starts to build and doesn’t count the cost, he is foolish (Luke 14:28-30).
Persevere To the End
We need to learn the lesson of the lowly spider, that we can accomplish great things for God by persevering to the very end, by not giving up, by being faithful unto death. The writer of the book of Revelation says, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Paul says in Galatians 6: 9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Remember, there are no small people in the church. Every member is important to God and each other. Think about the lessons we have learned from little things. Yes, small things are important. Someone has said,
Shamgar had an ox goad,
Rahab had a string,
Gideon had a trumpet,
David had a sling,
Samson had a jawbone,
Moses had a rod,
Dorcas had a needle,
All were used for God.
Are you using the small things that God has given you? Remember, friends that our Lord said, “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). Do not despise the day of small things!*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon September 19, 2004, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 2455 Fairview Place, Greenwood, Indiana. 46142 Copyright © 2004, 2006, 2019 All Rights Reserved
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142