It has often been said, "Big things come in small packages." The meaning of this familiar adage is quite clear - though something may be small in size, its importance may be far greater than we think. Periodically, Christians need to be reminded of this important principle in their walk with the Lord. Repeatedly, the Scriptures emphasize how important "little things" are in the lives of God's people - each example filled with meaning.
When Israel returned from their seventy-year captivity in Babylon, they needed to be reminded of the importance of "little things." Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, work immediately commenced to restore the temple in Jerusalem which lay in ruins. When it was completed, it proved to be significantly less impressive than the one previously built by Solomon. God had to remind His people through Zechariah not to despise "the day of small things" (Zech. 4:10) Encouraging them, He declared: "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former" (Hagg. 2:9). Though it was smaller, God promised that its glory would be greater.
It has been through this text that the hearts of many of God's children have been greatly encouraged through the years, especially those who have wandered from the Lord. Like the Prodigal Son, they doubted if they would ever be welcomed back into their Father's favor or be useful to Him again. Discouraged and disheartened about their own unfaithfulness, they have felt that their testimony was forever ruined.
But as they pondered the implications of this verse, they found great encouragement and renewed hope. They came to realize—as did the apostle Peter— that the God of all grace can restore them to an even greater level of usefulness if they allow Him to do so. The lesson is powerful: God can renew a person's hope, lift their spirits, and strengthen them in their service for the Lord. How big are the little things!
Elijah needed to learn the importance of "little things." Standing before Ahab, he courageously spoke for God in a day of spiritual declension - and suffered the consequences. Led to Cherith, he had his daily needs provided at the brook there; God miraculously fed him through ravens that brought him food both morning and evening. When the brook dried up, Elijah had God's provision from another source. He was directed to the house of a destitute widow in Zarephath (I Kings 18:8-16)
Approaching her, Elijah requested a "little water" and a morsel of bread. Her response was telling: "As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die" (1 Kings 17:12) The extent of her possessions consisted of a little flour, a little oil, a little pile of sticks, and very little reason to attend to his needs since she was convinced that she was about to die. On top of this, Elijah asked her to make a "little cake" for him first and then for herself, with the promise that her supply would not run dry.
The lessons from these "little things" are invaluable to the believer. First, for the servant of the Lord comes this forceful truth: God adequately provides for the needs of His workers as they are led by Him. Service done for Him according to His Word never lacks His supply. Elijah learned this in private at Cherith, but now he was learning this principle in the public arena. God promises to provide for His servants, though at times it may be in the most unusual and unlikely ways.In this instance, Elijah was on the receiving end. But there is also a lesson for those on the giving end, illustrated by the actions of the widow. Though she had few resources, God multiplied them to give her an increased ability to minister to Elijah. Her focus at first was on herself, yet when she put the Lord's things first, she also learned the same valuable lesson as Elijah, albeit from a different perspective.
We too, like the widow, may try to offer reasons why we do not have the time or resources to serve the Lord adequately or to attend to any matters but our own. Yet if we look beyond ourselves for the Lord's enabling, putting Him first, then our needs will be met and our efforts blessed! As the apostle Paul stated to the Corinthian assembly: "Now may lie who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness" (2 Cor. 9:10) It was a principle that the Lord also wanted to inculcate in the minds of His disciples when He said: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33) . This destitute widow learned that she was far "richer" than she thought as the Lord provided for Elijah and her household during the entire three-and-a-half years of famine. There were other "little things" that surfaced in the ministry of Elijah — each one carrying weighty lessons for him — and us. After the showdown on Mt. Carmel and the execution of the prophets of Baal at the brook Kishon, Elijah went up again to Carmel to pray for rain. The Lord had already commanded Elijah to show himself to Ahab to say that He would send the rain (18:1). But amazingly, when he prayed no answer came! It took seven separate petitions for Elijah's request to be answered. When the answer did finally come, it appeared in the form of a "little cloud" as small as a "man's hand" (1 Kings 18:44). It was the encouragement in prayer that he was looking for (and needed) after praying so long. Put simply, prayer is work! Like Elijah, we must labor at it and not be discouraged when answers do not come immediately. At times, the Lord will respond quickly as He did with Elijah before the prophets of Baal. But here in the same place, the same person is under a different set of conditions.
From this we learn that God deals differently at different times according to His purposes and for His glory. He is God! Never should we assume that He is obligated to answer our requests at our bidding according to our time. His delays, though long, are not necessarily His denials. When the answer does come, it may not even catch our attention unless we are looking for it—just a "little cloud" as small as a "man's hand"—but nevertheless it is the encouragement and answer that we may need. Soon after Elijah spotted the cloud, the heavens opened up and the rains came down. So it is with prayer. Answers come quickly at times and more slowly at other times. The place and the people may be the same, but every situation is unique in itself. A "little cloud" may be all that is seen initially, but what an encouragement when it comes. How big are the "little things"!
There was still another "little" lesson that Elijah needed to learn in his ministry. Despite God's marvelous work in his life, this servant of the Lord was not without his deficiencies. After great spiritual victories, he lapsed in his faith, after he "saw" the fearful message of wicked Queen Jezebel who threatened his life. Cutting himself off from his servant, Elijah departed into the wilderness for a time of self-pity (1 Kings 19)
Even though he was ministered to by an angel of the Lord, Elijah continued his aimless meandering for forty days and forty nights, arriving finally at Mt. Horeb (Sinai). There the Lord would teach him a "little" lesson in a "big" way. Instructed to go out to the entrance of the cave, Elijah strangely remained where he was (v. 11) as the Lord signaled His approach through a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But Scripture records that the Lord was not in them. After the fire, however, a still small voice was heard — a little sound or gentle whisper indicating the presence of the Lord. With this, Elijah shamefully wrapped his face in his mantle and then went out to the entrance of the cave, pouring out his self-pity and complaint to the Lord. It was not until then that Elijah moved to the entrance of the cave. What object lesson was Qod teaching Elijah? His complaint focused on Israel's stubbornness to be moved by the powerful manifestations of God through His ministry. He groaned that he was the lone faithful witness in all of Israel. But he was ignorant that 7,000 in Israel had also not bowed the knee to Baal. Elijah erroneously assumed that great manifestations of God's power like the one shown on Carmel were sufficient to move the people to commitment. Yet like them, Elijah also failed to be moved when God powerfully signaled His approaching presence. It took the still, small voice to move him. It is always the quiet voice of conviction that God uses to move people to action. The powerful evidences are but a means to arrest the attention of the individual. These are the ways of God. The very thing that Elijah blamed the people for — indifference to God's indispu overtures — he was guilty of also. Elijah acknowledged this when he covered his face as he went to the entrance of the cave. What a lesson for us in our service for the Lord! We may not always see the fruit of our labors among the unsaved or even in the lives of God's people, but we can be assured that He is quietly at work in some hearts to His glory. How big are the littie things!
We also see the value of little things in the life of Elijah's protege, Elisha. In 2 Kings 4:8-17, we read of a no woman of Shunem who honored this venerable servant of the Lord by providing a "little chamber" in her home — a place where he could rest during his ministry travels. It served as a spiritual "get-away" where he could come aside from the demands of ministry in order to be refreshed and renewed. Simply furnished, it proved to be a continual blessing as he often passed through the area. As a result of her hospitality, this well-to-do but childless women conceived and had a child within the year — a direct consequence of the assistance she gave to the Lord's worker and work. What is the lesson? Hospitality, no matter how "little" it may seem, is very big to those who need it, and brings unique blessings from the Lord to any who take advantage of the opportunity. (Rom. 12:13) reminds all believers to distribute "to the needs of the saints" and be "given to hospitality." When we do, we can be sure that a blessing awaits.