Little by Little

It's how God works; it's how we must live.

Making Progress in the Life of Faith (5)

“And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once…” Deuteronomy 7.22

What’s the big deal?
As a people Americans are inclined to think in terms of what we might call “the big deal.” 

Don’t bother me with the small stuff in life; show me the big deal, the big splash, the blow-me-away bargain, the out-of-this-world program, the superstar, the ginormous scandal, and, well, you get the idea. 

Christians are as prone to this kind of thinking as anyone else. We are of the mindset that bigger is better, sooner rather than later, loud clappy worship rather than contemplative silence and individual soul-searching, big programs and events rather than small, everyday steps. I’m not quite sure why we think this way, since everything else in life indicates that real and lasting progress comes incrementally – slowly and gradually, over time, and with patient persistence. Little by little, not one big blast after another.

Think of the coming of spring, the growth of a baby, acquiring an education, learning a trade, mastering a language, and much more. As Israel prepared to take up the conquest of Canaan, God told His people to gear-up for the long haul, since it would take a considerable amount of time for them to realize the objective of obtaining and settling the land of promise.

Making progress in faith is not so much a matter of the occasional “big deal” as of the everyday steps of obedience. If we’re always seeking the next big thing, we’ll neglect the daily little steps, and this will cause our faith to stall.

Little by little
We know, in fact, that the conquest of Canaan, which began right after the book of Deuteronomy, occurred as a series of military campaigns. The Israelites engaged in many battles over some years, and, even when Joshua’s days came to an end, there was still much to conquer. 

Little by little, day by day: that’s the Lord’s way of making progress. Like the slow trickles of water from the leaves of mountain trees, as they combine to fill rivulets, streams, creeks, and the small rivers that drain into such mighty concourses as Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi, such is the way we make progress in the life of faith. 

The key to making such progress is threefold: vision, contentment, and perseverance.

Three keys
We will not be content with small steps as we take up the work of seeking revival, renewal, awakening and restoration unless we are able to keep the larger vision and objective in mind. Without an eye to the far horizon, and the light of glory that beckons just beyond the final ridge, we will weary of small steps, thinking them inconsequential and going nowhere. We will envy the “big step” guys and their widely touted ministries or achievements, and we’ll regard our every next step as of no consequence in the Lord’s grand plan.

But it is precisely in the little-by-little, every next step that we make progress in the life of faith.

Small steps – like the time we spend in prayer and meditation, working at relationships, serving in your church, speaking up at a school board meeting, helping a colleague on the job, getting to know your neighbors, working your Personal Mission Field, and the like – will seem pointless unless we see them against the backdrop of where we’re seeking to go. We seek the Kingdom, righteousness, and glory of God, and we will only get there a little at a time.

Then, we must learn to be content with small steps, faithfully taken, every day of our lives. Rejoice to be praying more, to have begun a new friendship or started a conversation that can lead to the Gospel, helped a new believer learn the importance of daily Bible reading, written a letter to the editor, made a change in your workplace, learned the name of a sales clerk or postman, made a gesture or spoken a word of grace to a perfect stranger, and so forth. 

Then come back the next day and do it again. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, asked in the 1970s what it would take to bring down the Soviet Empire and restore freedom to Russia, answered, “All it will take is for every Russian to take a moral step within his own power.” This is precisely what happened in the Velvet Revolution in Romania in 1989, as people gathered with candles in the public square, calling out their neighbors to truth and freedom. The fall of the Soviet Empire was the ultimate result.

Small steps of faith, taken day by day, become a path of righteousness leading to revival, renewal, awakening, and restoration. Don’t despise them, but seek them out, and walk them faithfully each day.

Don’t weary of the small stuff!
And finally, don’t weary of the small stuff. Stay the course. Persevere. Stop thinking that you’ll never amount to anything for the Kingdom of God unless you start some big ministry, run a powerful program, or otherwise make some notable splash. Stay the course of small, daily steps of faith and glory. Don’t get weary of doing good (Gal. 6.9, 10), and don’t fail to see that all the little good things you do each day represent real progress in the Kingdom of God.

God has promised that we will overcome all the obstacles before us and realize His promises if we stay on task, little by little, in everyday situations and roles, every day of our lives.

God is the God of little by little. If we accept His strategy for bringing about revival, renewal, awakening and restoration, we’ll seek out the small steps we can take, every day of our lives, that will bring us just that much closer to the far horizon toward which He is slowly but surely leading us.

For reflection
1.  What are some examples of little-by-little in your life? What small steps are available to you? What can prevent you from seeing these small steps as significant vehicles for the Lord’s grace and truth?

2.  Meditate on Hebrews 10.24. Whom can you encourage in their every next step today?

3.  Mediate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. Try praying this every day for the next week. Do you think this will help you to be more mindful of the importance of your every next step? Explain.

Next steps – Preparation: Psalm 90.12 encourages us to “number” our days – make a daily plan for our walk with and work for the Lord. What would such a daily plan include? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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