It’s the middle of January in a new year (exactly where mid-January usually lands on the calendar) and, if you’re like most people, the new years resolutions are starting to run out of gas! Is it because we’re impatient and undisciplined? Maybe our idea of positive change isn’t something we honestly desire in day-to-day living (it just sounds good)? Or… could it be that our goals are so LARGE and we despise small beginnings?
This isn’t really about new years resolutions. I love them! I think I’ve even kept one! It’s really about anything we want to do, feel we should do, wish we could do, if only we had ___________. Yes, we could always “settle” and take a tiny step toward that huge goal but such a move seems so insignificant that we get discouraged and just give up. Again. Besides, we’ve never had ___________ and we never will right?
But what if we gave up on the insurmountable goal (for now) and just took one, little step toward it? What if that teeny, tiny step became a habit? Maybe you can’t read the entire Bible in one day but what if you just put aside 15 minutes a day (and didn’t throw in the towel when you missed a week)? Maybe you can’t give up that addiction cold turkey but what if you consciously tried to back out of it little by little (and opened up, however slowly, to accepting help from others). Maybe you can’t stop from flying into a rage at work but what if you started counting to 10 every once in a while before yelling (even if you do still lose control occasionally)? Maybe you can’t pray for 3 hours every morning but what if you just prayed every morning (with no formal, set length of time)? Maybe you can’t ___________ but what if…
God gave Zechariah some pretty stout resolutions to deliver to His people. This came after spending many years in captivity because they failed their previous “resolutions.” Just check out how the book of Zechariah begins:
…say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.’ [Zechariah 1:3-4 NLT]
Well now, what do you do with that! To top it off, part of this return to God included rebuilding the temple- a truly monumental task. The responsibility for the temple project fell to a man named Zerubbabel (you may remember that name from the lineage of Jesus- I didn’t because I usually skim those lists). Zechariah speaks specifically to Zerubbabel when he says:
Then he [The Lord] said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”
Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” [Zechariah 4:6-10]
I think we should take encouragement from Zerubbabel and take the small steps- pick up the plumb line- and continue the journey toward what we know is right. Lao-Tzu said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And it’s not a journey that we have to travel alone: we have brothers and sisters who want to help us, crowds in Heaven cheering us on and God is with us every step of the way.
All that said, will we still fail from time to time? Yep. But failure is no reason to give up on success- it’s just another reminder of the grace God provides for our weakness. Grace gives the power and the motivation for the first small step all the way to the last when we step into God’s perfect Kingdom. In fact, without the grace and unconditional love of our Father God through Jesus Christ, everything I’ve written is just depressing garbage! But with this divine acceptance and help, all things are possible!
So be encouraged this new year and take a small step. Don’t undervalue your small beginnings but be filled with hope!