For who has despised the day of small things? (Zech 4:10)
Sometimes, God “thunders with his majestic voice” (Job 37:4). He sends fire or flood down from heaven and performs miracles. He speaks from a burning bush and writes on stone tablets with his own finger. He instructs kings and gives visions to prophets. He is an awesome God.
More often, though, God chooses to work slowly and speak softly as through “the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Zechariah knew this. When he wrote his prophecies, a remnant of the now scattered Israelites were busy re-building the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. Apparently, many were dissatisfied. Doubtless, there were scoffers, those who thought the whole project was a waste of time and resources, and laborers who were discouraged by the slowness or shoddiness of their own work.
As Jesus’ disciples, we also grow impatient with the typical day, the “day of small things.” First, when human nature compels us to see the speck in someone else’s eye before the log in our own (Matt 7:3-5), we criticize the “day of small things” that we see in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Second, we often doubt the Lord’s working in our own lives and come to despise “the day of small things.” Both attitudes are common and contagious.
However, we need to take Spurgeon’s warning seriously:
Woe unto that man who despises ‘the day of small things’ in the church of Christ, or who despises ‘the day of small things’ in any individual believer, for it is God’s day, it is a day out of which great things will yet come; and therefore he that despises it really despises his Maker’s work, and despises the great and glorious things which are to come out of the small things which are present apparent!
With most of the year 2021 ahead of us, what encouragement can we find to fight these two tendencies and renew our commitment to God’s will for our lives? Rather than despise them, how can we rejoice for each “day of small things?”
(1) The “day of small things” we see in others
We all regularly hear complaints and criticism, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all partaken in it. Like those who scoffed while watching others re-build the temple in Zechariah’s day, we call someone else’s work a “day of small things.” Past failures and other negative experiences make it all too easy to have a critical attitude. A ‘consumerist’ approach towards church can lead to criticism, too. This is where we get used to becoming spectators of church life instead of active participants; we shop for a church with the “right” setting, music, social life, and preaching style that suits our fancy. And we criticize the “day of small things” we see in those around us, knowing there’s no place safer than the sidelines.
But if we’re stuck criticizing others without getting into the church’s ministry ourselves, we miss Christianity’s heartbeat: the κοινωνία (koinonia), a fellowship not only of belief but also of sharing in the gospel mission and its accomplishment. As Pastor Eckenroth says, maybe the discontent we feel in our hearts is a sign that God wants to use us to build His kingdom, to move from discontent to holy discontent. This means replacing church-consumerism and negativity with an offering of time and talent at levels we have withheld for far too long. So, the next time we start to complain about how a recent evangelistic series ‘only’ yielded one baptism, maybe we should take it as a sign to volunteer to help the next series succeed. Or, when we hear ourselves saying, “I can’t believe the church doesn’t have a homeless ministry” or a “[fill in the blank]” ministry, God may be leading us to join others with similar burdens and start something in the very church about whose lack of ministry we are complaining. Are we up to the challenge?
(2) The day of small things we see in ourselves
In my experience, even more common than criticizing others, we doubt the “day of small things” in our own lives. Maybe we feel our contributions are insignificant. Perhaps, like the Israelites rebuilding the temple in Zechariah’s day, we see the slow progress and imperfection of our work and wonder if it really makes a difference in the vastness of eternity. Unfortunately, this attitude can be even more paralyzing than a critical attitude and just as contagious.
However, we need to fight self-doubt, because “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Sure, we are mere jars of clay, “but we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:6-7). Indeed, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8). With such powerful promises, how can we continue to doubt the worth of our kingdom work?
First, if we feel our contribution is insignificant, we should be encouraged: God builds His kingdom through seemingly insignificant people doing seemingly insignificant things. Sister White encourages us, “However lowly, any work done for God with a full surrender of self is as acceptable to Him as the highest service…however small your talent, God has a place for it.” She also counsels us, “only by faithfulness in the little things can the soul be trained to act with fidelity under larger responsibilities.” For instance, Noah’s years of tree-cutting and carpentry preserved Seth’s line; Joseph’s years of slavery saved Jacob’s nascent clan; David’s shepherding past-times prepared him to vanquish Goliath. God delights to build His kingdom this way.
Next, if we think what we do can never matter for eternity—that everything we have done for God’s kingdom will blow away like ash in the wind at death—we must think again. Paul beseeches us to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). By this he means that “what you do in the present, in working hard for the gospel, is not wasted. It is not in vain. It will be completed, will have its fulfillment, in God’s future.” Every ladle at the soup kitchen, every sandwich or blanket made to hand out downtown, every offering plate collected, every Bible study given, every moment of prayer, every poem of praise, every comforted child, every Bible bedtime story, every moment of genuine love and kindness, Christ gives all these things eternal significance through His resurrection and new creation. 
It’s easy to get discouraged with what might seem a “day of small things” in our lives. However, there’s more to the passage quoted at the beginning of this paper; Zechariah doesn’t stop at “who has despised the day of small things?” He continues:
For these seven rejoice to see
The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
They are the eyes of the Lord,
Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.
One could say that Zerubbabel was a minor figure, a leader among a largely scattered and exiled people. Yet, the eyes of the Lord rejoiced to see the “plumb line” in his hand! The fact is, God loves to see His human agents in action. And just as he rejoiced at Zerubbabel’s efforts, He rejoices in ours. Praise God for each “day of small things.”
 SDA Bible Commentary
 Charles H. Spurgeon. “Small Things Not to Be Despised.” Website, The Spurgeon Center, from Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 44, September 16, 1883, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/small-things-not-to-be-despised/#flipbook/.
 Strong’s concordance
 Kris R. Eckenroth, Grace Outlet: Creating Churches That Dispense the Unmerited Favor of God. (Lincoln, NE: AdventSource, 2016), 9-10.
 N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 221-222, 279.