Small Beginnings

Zechariah 4:1-10 (NLT)
1 Then the angel who had been talking with me returned and woke me, as though I had been asleep.
2 “What do you see now?” he asked. I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl of oil on top of it. Around the bowl are seven lamps, each having seven spouts with wicks.
3 And I see two olive trees, one on each side of the bowl.
4 Then I asked the angel, “What are these, my lord? What do they mean?”
5 “Don’t you know?” the angel asked. “No, my lord,” I replied.
6 Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
7 Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”
8 Then another message came to me from the Lord:
9 “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me.
10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

(Background:
Zerubbabel – The leader of the tribe of Judah at the time of their return from captivity in Babylon.
Zechariah – A priest and prophet of the tribe of Judah who encouraged the people in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.)

Today we’re not going to dwell on the prophetic symbolism in the passage we just read other than to point out that many of Zechariahs prophetic visions were related to the coming of the Messiah for whom Israel had long awaited. Our focus, however, will be on one message the angel delivers to Zechariah which has significant implication for us every day.

How many of you are familiar with the phrase, “Don’t despise small beginnings”?

What does it mean?

It’s akin to the axiom, “The longest journey begins with the first step.” (or a single step)

Everything we undertake begins small. The largest, most complex projects often begin with a tiny idea. The largest buildings began with a small excavation. Yet, in an age when everything seems so instant, we often want to skip over the small part and jump to the large conclusion.

Recently my son and I built him a shed next to his house. We spent the entire first evening placing 12 pier blocks in the ground. They would constitute the foundation on which the structure would stand. It was slow and tedious but absolutely essential for the successful completion of the project. Today only 4 of those blocks are easily visible but all were necessary for the building to be strong and level.

You see, the small things matter. This is true for buildings and it’s true for practically every meaningful endeavor in life. If you skip the small things, odds are the end product will be disappointing. It will lack integrity and it will likely not endure.

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Have you ever purchased something which needed to be assembled before you could use it? Have you ever gotten down the road with the assembly process and realized you skipped a step (or more)? Maybe you turned two pages in the instruction book or you simply missed a step that was absolutely essential to the final outcome. I have. I’ve had to take apart things that were almost done because I left out an important step (and some important parts).

When something like that happens you realize how important the little things are. You realize that a moment of care and attention would have saved a lot of extra work.

If you launched a spacecraft for the moon and were off course by 1 degree you would miss the moon by 4169 miles, you would miss the sun by 1.6 million miles and you would miss the nearest star by 441 billion miles.

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In your life and mine, there are things which seem small which need our attention. You are not going to lose 10 pounds before you lose one. You are not going to learn difficult and complex processes for work or recreation without having first learned many smaller, seemingly, less important skills.

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You cannot rush excellence. Most excellence is built upon a foundation of many small things which are done right. You get the small things right and the end result is excellent.

In the coming weeks, we will talk about applying ourselves to small things – some people call them disciplines – in order to qualify ourselves for bigger things.

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