Do you remember as child throwing rocks into a pond or creek? I remember doing that on more than occasion. It was a simple thing, but a lot of fun for a kid. Oh the simple joys of childhood! Of course, you remember what would happen. Once the stone hit the water, ripples of waves were created from that one solitary rock.
In his teaching, Jesus would often refer to things people in his day were familiar with to make a point. He even referred to small things that can have a big effect. He talked about how a very small amount of yeast could effect a lump of dough: “It is like the yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” He told of a mustard seed: “It is like a mustard seed which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.” (Mark 4:31)
“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.’” (Matthew 13:31)
Sometimes as Christians, we think we have to do the “big thing” for God. And occasionally, some of us are called on to do such. But by in large, many of the things we do as Christians in our eyes are small. Even though it may seem small to us, these things can have very big effects.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have written a short note to someone. It may have been a "thank you" note or just a word of encouragement. At the time, I didn’t think it was any big deal. I came to find out later that for some of the people who received those notes, that it was a big deal to them. They would go on and on telling me what that note meant to them.
Likewise, I have received hand written notes from people over the years that meant a lot to me, but I suspect that when those people wrote those notes, they didn’t think it was any big deal either. I have received phone calls from others that have encouraged me greatly.
Yes, even seemingly small things like hand written notes, phone calls, or text messages can have the ripple effect for good on others.
The words that we speak to others in conversation may seem small, but they can also have a great impact, for good or bad. James says that words are like a rudder of a ship. A rudder on a ship is very small in comparison to the size of the ship, and of course ships in our day would dwarf ships in James’ day. Yet the rudder can determine the course of the ship.
Parents can build a child up or tear him down by the words they choose to speak. Scolding or correcting seems to come easier than words they build up. And yes correction is necessary, but look for ways to praise your child as well. A simple compliment to your child can have a big effect in building his self-esteem. That word of praise may not seem like a big deal to a parent, but it can be so huge for a child.
I can still remember a compliment I received as a child from another adult. Several different parents in our neighborhood would take turns taking some of us kids to elementary school. As we passed a water tower on the way home from school, I noticed that some graffiti sprayed on the tank. Mrs. McKoy said that I was very observant. I cannot tell you what impact that one statement had on my life, even to this day. Those few words were small to her, but they were large for me.
Go out of your way to compliment others. Speak a kind word. You just never know what it might mean to that person.
When you and your family get in the car and drive to church on Sunday morning, you could be impacting some of your neighbors who see you do this Sunday after Sunday. When you bow your head and give thanks for a meal in public, you are impacting others who see you. When you share a gospel tract with a stranger, you just never know what the outcome of that small act will have on that person and on others.
You may be widow with limited income, but even the smallest amount that you give to support missionaries who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth can have a ripple effect. Children may not feel that they can do much to impact the world, but when they pack a shoe box at Christmas to go to kids overseas, it can have a large effect on the recipient of that box and even ripple out to their family or village.
Prayer may seem like a small thing to us, but only eternity will reveal how our prayers have brought about great and mighty things. Teaching that preschool or children’s Sunday School class may seem so insignificant, but you are planting seeds that only time will reveal the full effect you had.
The next time you think that the little things you do for the Lord are insignificant, think again. Seemingly small things can have a big effect that can ripple on and on.
Chip Warren is the past president of the Albertville Ministerial Fellowship.