Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

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Our culture is obsessed with big things.  We like big TVs, big followings, big ratings, and big personalities.  The marketing industry appeals to this by convincing us we need an endless supply of super-sized combos and service upgrades.  Whether it’s on a menu or in a commercial, the message society preaches is consistent: bigger is better.

Until I heard Sunday’s sermon, I didn’t realize how easily this belief pervades our spiritual lives as well.  We serve a God who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  He can split seas, move mountains, heal the sick, and conquer death.  Because His power is limitless, we are right to believe He can move in big ways.  In fact, I believe He is honored when we ask big things of Him – things only He can do.  Where we go wrong isn’t in our belief that God works in big ways, but in our overlooking much of His seemingly small activity.

If you’re familiar with the prophet Elijah’s story, you likely recall some of the miracles he witnessed – how God provided a replenishing supply of oil and flour for a widow, how He withheld rain for over three years as an act of judgment, and how He sent fire from heaven to consume a drenched sacrifice.  Having seen God work in such grand ways, it’s surprising that Elijah was later paralyzed by fear when his life was threatened by one individual.  Perhaps even more surprising, though, is that while he was running for his life, the Lord chose to comfort him like this:

“And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’  And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Unlike the awe-inspiring phenomena he’d seen before, this time Elijah encountered God through “a still small voice”.  What the prophet needed most was to be reassured of God’s love and nearness, and that wasn’t accomplished through the grandeur of an earthquake or fire.  It amazes me that in Elijah’s moment of desperation, God ministered to him in a way he could’ve overlooked.

I’m afraid to think about how many times God’s work in and around me has gone unnoticed because I’ve been waiting for Him to do something different.  Something bigger.  Something with more fanfare.  But what if, while I’ve been holding out for the figurative earthquake, He’s been whispering to me all along?

In my desperate pleas for Him to alter my circumstances, how often do I thank Him for graciously sustaining me when nothing changes?  When I beg Him for healing, how often do I recognize the ways He restores my soul?  As I ask for provision, how often do I rejoice at the abundant life He offers?

You and I are right to plead with God to do what He alone can do – to heal, to save, and to restore.  After all, He is capable of doing all that and so much more.  But in our pleading, it’s important we also stop and listen, because sometimes instead of dazzling us with His power, He’s more concerned about delighting us with His presence.  

And when the Lord’s message to us is better conveyed through a whisper than an earthquake, His still small voice reminds us that big and grand don’t always mean better or more significant.

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