When Cyrus became king of Persia, God stirred him to allow Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed almost 70 years previously. So Zerubbabel returned and laid the foundation of the temple.
Apparently Zerubbabel had little resources available, so the new temple was smaller than the original. Neither did he have the gold and precious stones that Solomon had used to adorn his temple. It was a small beginning. Many of the older men who remembered the size and glory of Solomon’s temple wept aloud when they saw the new foundation laid (Ezra 3). It probably seemed doubtful they would even have enough resources to finish the temple. So God sent Zechariah the prophet to encourage Zerubbabel:
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zech 4.9-10
God told them not to despise “the day of small things,” for they’d see the temple finished. They would see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. Then God sent Haggai to Zerubbabel to encourage him further:
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, Haggai 2:1-4
God tells Zerubbabel and all the people to be strong and work, “…for I am with you” (4).
Almost everything God does begins with a “day of small things.” A gigantic tree begins as a tiny seed. Every human being begins as a microscopic egg in the womb. Jesus’ church began with a ragtag group of 12 disciples who abandoned him in his moment of greatest need. Our salvation begins with the imperishable seed of the word of God. A mission project may begin with no more then a $10 donation and a desire to help someone.
How often we despise the day of small things. Often when people first get saved, we see little fruit. We can’t imagine how many prayers it will take to see someone healed. A church building project can seem overwhelming considering the few resources we have. It may feel like we have an impossible mountain to climb before we ever get victory over sin. It may seem pointless to even try. It may look like we’ll never get established in life. It may look like our children will never become disciples. It might look like our friend is so far from God that our feeble few words about Jesus could never change them.
Don’t despise the day of small things. Don’t neglect to serve Jesus because you can only serve him in some tiny way. If you can’t read a chapter in the Bible in one sitting, then read one verse. If you can’t pray for a long time, pray for five minutes. If you can’t give more than a dollar to the church, then give that dollar. Jesus said the widow who gave one mite gave more than anyone else. Don’t be discouraged if your church is small. Don’t be dismayed if your children make small progress in the Lord. Don’t be discouraged if only 4 people show up for fellowship group.
Whatever it is you want to do for the Lord, just get started on it in some small way. Don’t be discouraged at small beginnings. If you want to write a song for the Lord, then pick up your guitar and start playing and singing. If you want to write a book for the Lord, you have to start with one word on the sheet of paper. A small beginning is better than no beginning.
We should encourage others for any small things they do for Jesus. We should try fan any spark we see into a flame. We should encourage our children and new believers for any small progress they make in the faith. We should celebrate the smallest victories over sin. Don’t forget, most of the time in both our lives and our spiritual lives, things begin small. Don’t despise the day of small things. And don’t forget The Lord’s words to Zerubbabel and the people of Israel: “Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts.”