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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Success in the Little Things

We all find ourselves having to handle difficult situations from time to time. There may be stressful problems at work, or a tough family situation. They may involve interpersonal relationships or temptations. It may come as a crisis of faith. Rest assured, they will hit us sometime in our lives. How do we prepare ourselves to handle these big critical issues of life? I believe it is by successfully handling the small insignificant areas of life. Having a pattern of successfully handling many small tasks at work makes it easier to handle the large ones. Day after day faithfully taking care of the minutia at home makes it easier to deal with large issues that require more effort. In our life of faith, faithfully following God in the little areas, makes following Him in the larger areas becomes easier. I believe God tests us in the little things of life to measure our potential to handle the large things. By being faithful in the little things, we increase the likelihood that we will be faithful when the big tests come.

The life of Daniel and his friends illustrate this principle. While still in their youth, they were uprooted from their family, friends and country and taken to Babylon. They were chosen to receive elite training at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. How were Daniel and his friends able to stand firm as they faced the lion’s den and the fiery furnace? They did so by first refusing to compromise their convictions in the little things. They began by refused to eat the food fit for a king. Instead of rationalizing “It’s only a little food, what will it hurt”, they said “No”! When asked if he could interpret dreams, Daniel replied “No, I can’t, but God can.” He refused to take the credit. By passing these little tests, Daniel and his friends were prepared to handle the next larger test, and the next, up to the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. God first tested their potential for greatness in his kingdom with a few morsels of food

We all face the same issues. We are constantly being tested to see how faithful we are. Some of the tests are quite mundane, like faithfully taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes or vacuuming the carpet. Others may involve successfully avoiding temptations. They may involve faithfully reading the Bible. We all have different tests for we all are different people. But they all have one thing in common: They build our spiritual character.

Unfortunately we all fail. We are far from perfect. We yield to temptation and succumb to sin. But we have a forgiving God who, when we acknowledge our failures, forgives us and gives us a new test. We can observe this fact in the lives of two familiar biblical characters. King David was a murderer, an adulterer and an absent father. Yet he is described as a “man after God’s own heart” because he was contrite. The apostle Peter, denied Jesus three times, but became the leader of the early church. Each learned from their mistakes. This helped them when the next test came.

As we think about this, two questions come to mind. In what small insignificant area is God testing me? How can I be faithful to him in this area? It is often helpful to keep a record of our progress in moving from one test to the next. Then when the big tests come, we will have a lifetime of faithfulness in little things backing us up.

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