“A big fish in a little pond?”
Have you ever heard or used that phrase?
We generally equate the size of the fish with the size of the pond! If the pond is small, the person is smaller. If the glances are few, the woman’s beauty is smaller. A big name and lots of attention spell significance in our world!
I am certainly not saying that big works or large platforms are wrong. God does often move/promote His people from smaller to larger assignments. But what I am saying is that this in itself has nothing to do with significance!
Oswald Chambers addressed this issue in the classic daily devotional My Utmost For His Highest:
Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints. According to the judgment of the world, God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say—‘God intends me to be here because I am so useful.’ God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.
Chambers touches on the note of real significance here. It’s not the size of the place that determines the significance. It’s the commitment of the person so assigned to the glory of God… wherever he or she is planted! Whether in a small or large assignment, what matters most is our consecration to the honor and glory of God. All preoccupation with our own significance or reputation is of the flesh.
There are no big or little people, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.
Significance, therefore, is being wholly committed to God, in the place of God’s calling, regardless of any other factor! Period. Hear Schaeffer again,
Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us – pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and non-professional included – are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: We should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord himself extrudes us into a greater one. (No Little People)
But didn’t Paul choose metropolitan centers for planting model churches?
He certainly did and for good reason. They were cities of commerce and communication that helped spread the gospel. Yes, God wants cities reached and not just the little places!
But don’t forget that Paul didn’t begin his ministry at Corinth or Ephesus! He began in Arabia! (See Galatians 1:15-17) He spent a considerable number of years in apparently insignificant works. By his own admission he was “personally unknown” during those years! But with full consecration he faithfully served God in those places, until the Master made it clear that He needed him in a different assignment. Paul moved from city to city not because he saw in other locations the potential for greater significance! He moved on because of his commission. He was “extruded” out time and time again – often with stones and whips!
Size does not necessarily equal success. Bigger is not always better. The only little people in God’s service are the unconsecrated ones. These are those who are too ambitious, or lazy, or offended, to grow where God has planted them.
How many of our Lord’s original twelve disciples became famous?
Outside of Peter and John, who were widely published, (and cruelly rejected), we have little to suggest the men became well-known in their day.
And so it is for most of God’s saints – they are known by God but more or less unknown by man. If you find yourself despising or mocking at this statement, you should perhaps diagnose where that reaction is coming from.