Zechariah was frustrated.
It was around twenty years after the people of Jerusalem had returned from exile in Babylon. They had begun rebuilding the Temple, but shortly after they laid the foundation, opposition had caused the work to stall and it had never restarted.
Zechariah’s high hopes for returning and rebuilding – for restoration – had been overcome by disappointment, and the Temple still lay in ruins.
And yet, into the midst of this situation, God sent an angel with a message.
It was a message of comfort and reassurance: The work will be completed. God is more powerful than any opposition and nothing can stand in his way. He will finish the good work he began.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
How often do we despise the small beginnings (or the “day of small things” as some translations put it) and feel the same frustration as Zechariah when we look at slow progress and know that we long for more?
I relate to Zechariah as I look at the promising beginnings of a new ministry interrupted by the pandemic. The foundation was laid, God was undoubtedly at work, and hopes were high – and yet the work has stalled.
I’m sure it’s something that many of us can relate to in different areas of life.
On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a writers’ seminar online, and this verse from Zechariah was the theme. The seminar explored how we can often feel this way when it comes to writing.
We have our dreams – of writing a book, of publication, of growing our number of readers, of succeeding at particular tasks – but all too often, life gets in the way, we struggle to find the time, or we actually do manage to submit something, only to face rejection. At times, progress can feel painfully slow.
The aim of the seminar was to encourage us to keep taking those small steps because they do count for something. A single blog post, half an hour spent working on a project, time spent reading to help us in our writing, time interacting with other writers online… None of these things seems like much on its own but each one is a little step along the way. The seminar likened the process to building a house. If you keep laying one brick at a time, eventually the house will be built.
One of the suggestions I found most encouraging was the idea of putting together your “writer’s CV” – a list of the small steps you have already taken – articles, guest posts etc. Often our focus is on what we still want to do, but I was genuinely surprised to reflect on how much I’ve already done.
Those small steps matter.
It got me thinking about other situations where small things count:
- A smile or a simple word of encouragement that has the power to brighten someone’s day
- A little glimmer of hope in the midst of a challenging or testing time
- The first step on a long journey – you may not have got very far yet, but it’s significant that you’ve made the choice to start
There are lots of examples in the Bible too:
- Five loaves and two fish that, in God’s power, were enough to feed thousands (John 6:1-15)
- A tiny amount of flour and oil that sustained Elijah, the widow and her son for months (1 Kings 17:8-16)
- Two copper coins that were valued more highly by Jesus than the more extravagant offerings (Luke 21:1-4)
- A tiny amount of yeast that permeates every part of the dough (Matthew 13:33)
- Faith the size of a mustard seed that has the power to move mountains (Luke 17:5-6)
Rather than despising the small things, it encourages me to see their potential, to view them as steps along the way, and to remember that, where God’s involved, the small things can matter even more than we imagine, and that if he has begun a work we know he will see it through to completion.