Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It's The Little Things

I recently celebrated another birthday. As we grow older there is a tendency to reflect on our lives. Sometimes I wonder what difference I am making for the kingdom of God. In my counseling practice and pastoral ministry at my home church I am in a position of authority and constantly pouring out and pouring into people. After awhile I begin to feel emotionally exhausted and wonder if what I am doing really has any significance. Every year I choose a different devotional to work through in addition to "Our Daily Bread." This year I am working through "Dare To Journey" which is a collection of meditations written by Henri Nouwen. One of his most recent meditations was entitled, "The Call of the Small." The focus of the meditation pointed to the fact that many small acts make us into the people we are becoming. Many of us, myself included can get caught up into thinking that only great acts of sacrifice or things that are recognized and held up for all to see are more important. However, Nouwen pointed out that, "Sometimes we are called to do great acts of kindness or make great sacrifices. But this is seldom normal. Usually we have the opportunity for many small acts of love and service and are called to make many small sacrifices." He goes on to state that there is power in these small acts towards others. He calls it the "mystery of small acts of faith." In Matthew 8:5-13, it was the small act of faith of a Centurion that yielded great reward. The Centurion came to Jesus seeking His help in healing his servant who was paralyzed at home and greatly suffering. Jesus offers to come to the Centurion's home. However, the Centurion in humility believes that Jesus can heal his servant and doesn't need anything more but Jesus' word. Jesus goes on to point to the Centurion as an example of great faith and subsequently pronounces the servant healed. Here was a man in a position of power, most likely despised by many because he was a Roman soldier. Yet, he made no public display about his position but humbly in a small act of faith trusted that Jesus would do what He asked. It appears that Jesus was trying to impress upon me the same truth, that the small acts of faith that He sends me to do carry as much power or in some cases even more power than truths that I can declare from the pulpit. Nouwen goes on to state, "Some acts of faith produce unexpected results, others are more predictable, and some, downright disappointing. But all--and herein lies the mystery--weave a pattern for our being, thinking, responding, and acting. This pattern thus becomes an expression of our truer self. It makes us what we want to be." In essence Nouwen is helping us to understand that the big acts of faith that are applauded by many are not in and of themselves wrong but rather can feed into our ego and a false sense of self. When we operate in the ordinary of everyday life, we demonstrate who we really are without hiding behind a mask of seeking to impress others. We also need to be aware of small acts of faith that we receive from others. It is God's way of loving us back. For example, I have come to befriend an elderly gentleman that bags groceries in the supermarket where I regularly shop. I can't quite remember what initiated the conversation between us. Perhaps I was wearing jewelry or a shirt or maybe my key chain which says "I Love Jesus" indicating that I was a Christ follower. Regardless, this gentleman took note and began speaking to me. Last summer God arranged a "holy encounter" wherein my husband and I ran into this gentleman and his wife at our favorite ice cream stand in Connecticut. From that point forward I always look for him whenever I am in the grocery store. Every time he sees me, he makes it a point to encourage me by saying, "Just remember Jesus loves you." Sometimes he will also express his desire and excitement for Jesus to return soon. I have come to accept this gentleman's words as a small act of faith that God is speaking into my heart. As a result, it has motivated me to increase my awareness and sensitivity to God speaking to me in small ways as well as working through me to bless others. I close with this encouragement from Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, "You are the salt of the earth....You are the light of the world....Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify Your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13a,14,16) Don't overlook the little things and miss the opportunity to bring glory to God!
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Sheree