Summary: This message focuses on the way God is able to use small things in order to do great things. Using the Text from Luke 13:18-21, Jesus gives two examples of small things God can grow into great things.
Faith in Action series
Small to Great
CHCC: May 16, 2010
1) Which country has the largest population? (China: 1.3 billion)
2) What is the world’s tallest mountain? (Mt. Everest)
3) What type of tree is the tallest? (Redwood)
4) Who is the world’s richest man? (Bill Gates)
So far, so good! Now let’s try the second half of the quiz:
1) Which country has the smallest population? (Vatican City: 920)
2) What is the world’s smallest mountain? (Mt. Greylock, in Massachusetts)
3) What type of tree is the shortest? (Dwarf willow – 2 inches full grown)
4) Who is the world’s poorest man? (Jed Matthews owes $22.4 million and has no assets due to a bad investment in an Internet company.)
(Adapted from “Is Bigger Really Better?” by Larry Sarver on sermoncentral.com)
The point of that quiz is that we tend to notice and remember things that are BIG --- while we tend to think very little of things that are little. In all kinds of ways we seem to believe that “bigger is better” … even when it comes to spiritual things. We think big attendance, big budgets, big buildings, big programs, and big talent is what it takes to do anything significant for God.
And we tend to think the opposite about small things. We sometimes feel like God is not doing much through a small church with a small budget and small programs. We think if it doesn’t look impressive, then God must not be blessing it. And not only do we think that way about churches and ministries, we also tend to think that way about ourselves. We may feel like we’re not good enough, rich enough, talented enough, or important enough for God to use us in any really significant way.
I cut my teeth in youth ministry back in 1970 -72 by serving as a summer intern at First Christian Church in Dodge City, Ks. First Christian was a fairly large congregation … running about 350 on Sunday mornings … at any rate, it was the biggest church I had ever worked in up to that point. My youth group was a large and energetic group of around 30 to 50 students.
It seemed that everything I did during those two summers in Kansas went great! As a result, I got to thinking that I must be a top notch youth minister. After all, everything I tried in Dodge City worked!
My reality check came in the fall of ’71 when the Adrian Christian Church hired me to be their week-end youth minister. The Adrian church was smaller … with about 120 for worship on Sunday mornings … and the youth group was only 1/4 the size of the Dodge City youth group. I quickly discovered that in Adrian, the High School and its activities ruled over everything else. If I planned anything and it conflicted with a school event, my event suffered.
For the 9 months I was at Adrian, most everything I tried in youth ministry either sputtered or failed altogether. I literally descended from the heights to the pits of youth ministry. And my self-image as a youth minister suffered accordingly. All I could see was that I went from spectacular in Dodge City to “underwhelming” in Adrian. What made the difference in how I viewed my ministry? It would seem that SIZE was the difference … or so I thought.
But is bigger always better? According to Jesus, the answer is a resounding NO. Look at the two illustrations Jesus gave in Luke 13 to make this point.
Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."
Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:18-21
Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God. But the interesting thing is, he never DEFINED what the Kingdom of God was. Instead, he told stories and gave comparisons to help people catch on to this new kind of Kingdom.
In this first example, Jesus says that God’s work is like a mustard seed. A mustard seed is very … very … small. (How small is it?) The black mustard seed was the smallest seed ever sown by farmers in Jesus’ time. But that tiny seed grew to be the largest herb. It typically grew to be 12 feet (2 feet higher than a basketball goal.) It was big and bushy enough for birds to build their nests in it.