Tiny Start. Huge Wallop.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
One man, John Wycliffe (1325-1384) of England, was the “Morning Star of the Reformation.” He was a radical, believing every person should have the right to read the Bible in their own language. In his day, England’s King Richard II was wed to Anne (1366-1394), sister to King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia (1361-1419). Influenced by Wycliffe’s teachings, she became a conduit through which his ideas entered Bohemia, where they were embraced by John Huss (1369-1415). When Huss was burned at the stake, Wycliffe’s Bibles were used as kindling. The writings of Huss profoundly influenced Martin Luther, who resurrected Scripture from a liturgical grave with his Reformation trumpet call, “Scripture only.”
Fast forward to today. Wycliffe’s radical idea, each has the right to read the Bible in their own language, lives. The world has 6912 languages; 2286 have no Scripture. United Bible Society, with 145 members, works in over 200 countries, distributes 400,000,000 Bibles a year, and is working on 688 translation projects.
Wycliffe translators, working on 1379 languages, begin a new translation project every 5 days. We are on target to have a Bible in every language by 2038.
Gideons give out a million Bibles every six days, two per second. They have distributed over 1.3 billion Bibles in 80 languages and 180 countries. All the Gideon work can be traced to two men, who met in a crowded hotel in 1898.
For the first time ever, it is conceivable everyone on the planet could have a Bible. A Bible for every reader, a notion we take for granted, has a long turbulent history. Its roots can be traced to one Reformer, Martin Luther, influenced by one Bohemian, John Huss, whose ideas came from one morning star, John Wycliffe. Tiny start. Huge wallop. This is the way God tends to work in all of our lives.
Matt. 13:31-32 (Holman) He presented another parable to them: “The
kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and
sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when
grown, it’s taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that
the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”
A mustard seed, the smallest seed commonly used in Jesus’ day in gardens, was proverbially used as a symbol of anything tiny. Oddly enough, this smallest of seeds grew to be the tallest of garden plants, sometimes ten feet high. Its limbs could support the weight of birds, which landed on the branches to enjoy shade from heat, rest from tiredness, be sheltered from storms, and eat seeds they loved.
This lovely parable of hope tells us two facts about the kingdom of God. First, its start will be tiny. Second, it will grow big and pack a huge wallop.
One, the start of God’s kingdom will be tiny. John the Baptist and most other Jews believed God’s kingdom would be worldwide and glorious. They were right, except for timing. Most thought God’s political power would be manifest at the kingdom’s beginning. Jesus corrected their error. It would happen at the end.
The Twelve were among those who expected clashing swords and marching troops to carry the day. They were right to think God’s Messiah would conquer, but wrong as to the way they anticipated He would accomplish His triumph.
Conceiving God as working only in the big and gaudy, they underestimated His power in tiny starts. Christianity, one of the world’s largest religions, began small: a baby in a manger. It began its conquest of Europe small, one convert, Lydia (AC 16:14). It began its march through Asia small, one believer, Epaenetus (RM 16:5b). It was taken into Africa by one, an Ethiopian eunuch (AC 8:27).
Regarding God’s work in our lives, don’t measure success by size, but by His power. Despise not the day of small things. Tiny does matter. Bigger is not always better. Small starts, coupled with God’s power, bring mighty results.
Are you the only believer at home, at work, or in your social circle? Be optimistic. If you’re yielded to God, odds are in your favor. A believer right with Jesus holds an unfair advantage. “The soul that is united with God is feared by the devil as though it were God Himself” (John of the Cross). Jesus loves to work in us, to accomplish His big results from our tiny starts. This way He gets the glory.
Two, God’s kingdom will grow big and pack a huge wallop. The parables of the Sower and the wheat and weeds were not overly optimistic. They implied lots of failure. The Twelve probably wondered if God’s Kingdom could survive when many rejected it. Jesus told them unfavorable odds are not a death knell.
Christianity will overcome soils that reject it and weeds that resist it. Tell it far and wide: God’s kingdom will not fail, but will prosper and grow. It will in the end win, plus along the way hugely bless. In the parable, birds came to nest in the tree, finding rest and security. Blessing lives and thrives in the shadow of God’s kingdom. From tiny starts, His kingdom over time yields wonderful results.
Consider three tiny starts from only one city, London, in only one century, the 1800s, that went on to yield huge wallops. William Booth wanted to convert and feed the poor. Preaching salvation sermons “wrapped in sandwiches,” he founded Salvation Army, which now disburses $3 billion a year to help the needy.
George Williams, knighted by Queen Victoria, is buried under the floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral as a beloved hero of England. Westminster Abbey has a large stained glass window dedicated to him. Why this honor? He saw boys abandoned on the streets, where they were becoming pickpockets, thugs, and drunks. He decided to try a tiny start, make a difference, to supplant these activities with Bible study and prayer. A grateful nation paid him homage for founding the YMCA.
In 1816 William Johnson left London to minister at Regent’s Town in Sierra Leone. The population of 1000, taken from the holds of slave ships, represented 22 nations. They were devil-worshipers, brutal, wild, unclothed, hostile to each other, with no concept of marriage. Johnson, at first extremely discouraged, began preaching the simple Gospel of Jesus, a Savior who was the Friend of sinners.
People began to soften. They started slipping away into the woods to pray. Soon at night the area was filled with hymns of worshipers. The people were changed. They learned trades, became farmers, built a parsonage, school-houses, and a stone church large enough to seat 2000. Drunkenness, meanness, and stealing ended, all in the space of seven years, all resulting from a tiny start, one man who preached Jesus to people gathered from the slave-ships of West Africa.
Tiny start. Huge wallop. Wherever you are, whatever you’re current role or spot, do not lose heart. Remain faithful. In your given corner of the world, succeed with seeds. Give God a tiny start from which He can grow a huge wallop.