The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Small Beginnings’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/28/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click
Don’t Despise Small Beginnings
Zerubabbel was a man with a monumental task ahead of him. Zerubabbel led a group of Jewish people – 42,360 according to historians – back to Jerusalem in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. The Hebrew people had been in Babylonian captivity for years, and were finally returning home. But someone had to lead this ragtag group of people.
Ultimately, Zerubabbel was tasked by God to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.
Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:3
King Solomon had built the temple in the 10th Century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar had razed the temple in 587 BC. Now, Zerubabbel had the pressure of rebuilding the temple to its former glory. And do you know how he planned to do it?
Then he 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!’” – Zech 4:6-7 (NLT)
God’s message to Zerubbabel (through the prophet Zechariah) was a strong one: as you’re building, don’t try and do it yourself. The temple wouldn’t be rebuilt by force, or by strength; but by God’s Spirit.
What has God asked you to build? What work has He asked you to do? You have to know that whatever monumental task He has given you is not going to be accomplished through your own self-effort. It will only come together if you ask His Holy Spirit to do the work!
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.” – Zech 4:8-10 (NLT)
“Do not despise these small beginnings.” God knew, in advance, that Zerubabbel would encounter moments of extreme frustration because the plan of God was taking a long time to unfold. But God’s caution to His servant was not to despise the work – no matter how small the beginnings stages seem. God had started the work, and God would complete it; and when all was said and done, the Temple would be a testimony to God’s faithfulness for all the world to see!
You Are Called to Greatness
You are called to greatness! Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Your life is a testimony of God’s faithfulness! But greatness takes time. Zerubabbel had a choice as he started to build the temple: would he celebrate every victory as it happened, no matter how small? Or would he allow the enormity of the remaining work to cause him to despise what God had already accomplished?
You have the same choice. God has given you big plans. Maybe you have trouble celebrating what God has already done; and instead, you’re upset because so much is left to do. But this is how God often works! He will give you big plans, and then ask you to celebrate the small victories along the way. He will ask you to demonstrate a thankful heart by being a good steward over the small victories, before He leads you into the monumental ones!
Any major breakthrough typically involves a string of smaller, gradual victories. Any big deal usually starts with a small beginning! Are you able to thank God for the victories – no matter how small – as they come?
David’s Small Beginnings: The People God Gives Us
Do you remember the call on David’s life? Historians estimate that David was between 10 and 15 years old when he was anointed king over Israel:
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:13
But it would be decades before David would actually reign:
David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. – 2 Sam 5:4-5
So what did David do in the interim? Yes, he “behaved himself wisely” (1 Sam 18:5): he went wherever Saul sent him, and did whatever Saul told him to do. But he also refused to despise small beginnings.
Saul persecuted David for years. 1 Samuel 22 tells us just how bad things got for David. Here is a man who was supposed to be the next king! Yet eventually we find David, trapped in a cave:
David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. – 1 Sam 22:1-2
There are two things to note here that signify just how small David’s humble beginning was. First, David was in a cave. Kings don’t belong in caves (see the Resurrection)! David doubtless had countless opportunities to harden his heart. God, I can’t wait any longer! he could have cried. My life isn’t supposed to be like this! he could have pleaded. But instead of despising his situation, David kept his heart pure, and his eyes on God.
Second, look at the quality of the soldiers God sent David. When God finally decided to give David an army, He didn’t send David the best of the best. God sent him, “…everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who has discontented” (v 2). God sent David the most bitter people in the kingdom (the Hebrew word for “discontented” means “bitter of soul”)! But David didn’t turn them away. He “became captain over them.” Here was David, trapped in a cave, with four hundred losers! But did you know God makes losers into winners?
David made an intentional decision to treasure the people God had sent him, instead of despising them. And look what God did as a result:
Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and [a]attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” – 1 Sam 23:1-3
David’s men had zero confidence. They were afraid in hiding; so how much more afraid would they be in battle (v 3)? But David didn’t care. He saw potential in the people God sent him. So he took God at His word, and the result was victory!
Then David inquired of the Lord once again. And the Lord answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. – 1 Sam 23:4-5
It’s not your strength that matters; it’s the strength of God, who fights for you. It’s not the quality of your team that matters; but the Spirit who works in and through them! Management theory says you have to be around people who make you better and smarter; but Scripture says only one thing matters. Is God with you?
If David had despised the small beginning God was giving him, he would have missed out on the opportunity to build the army God wanted him to have. But instead, he chose to celebrate his small beginning; and God brought him victory in the end!
Where do you feel like you’re stuck? What are you in the middle of, that you feel like you can’t do for one more day? Who are the people on your team, who you just can’t put up with for one more moment? Don’t despise your small beginning! God will use it for victory in the end!
Joshua’s Small Beginning: The Places God Puts Us
Joshua knew what it was like to have a small beginning. For years, he faithfully served Moses. Most passages refer to Joshua as Moses’ “servant.” But here is a passage that gives Joshua a different title:
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant… – Joshua 1:1
Talk about an opportunity for offense! Joshua was not just a “servant;” he was an “assistant.” This is not a glorious term! I mean, when you close your eyes and dream with God about whom He wants you to become, do you cry out to God, Lord make me an assistant? Of course not! The word “assistant” typically describes the least desirable role. But Joshua owned it. And look at the result:
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” – Josh 1:1-5
Joshua had faithfully served Moses for many years. When Moses met with God “…face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11a), do you know where Joshua was?
And [Moses] would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. – Ex 33:11b
Joshua was in the presence of God with Moses! Whenever God met with Moses, He met with Joshua. What Joshua could have despised as slavery, God meant to be a training ground.
Did you know you inherit the anointing of the people you serve? God talked to Moses; and because Joshua served Moses, God would now talk to Joshua. God promised Moses that every place his foot tread upon would be given into his hand (Deut 11:24); and because Joshua served Moses, God would now extend the same promise to Joshua. No man was able to stand before Moses; and because Joshua served Moses, no man would be able to stand before Joshua! As God was with Moses, so would He be with Joshua!
Joshua undoubtedly had a choice every single morning, Would he continue to serve Moses with a good attitude? Or would he get bitter because he thought he was called to something better. He was, in fact, called to something more; but that “more” would come on the other side of his service.
Joshua made a daily decision to embrace his humble beginnings, instead of despising them. You see, if Joshua had been unwilling to be an assistant, he never would have been promoted to leader. If you want to lead, you have to start with an assist. If you want to be an influencer, you first have to be a follower!
So, how do we avoid despising small beginnings? The answer is not to try to avoid despising them. The answer to sin is never to try not to sin; it is to invite the power of the Gospel into every area of your life, and trust that the light will force out all darkness!
The antidote to contempt – or despising something – is gratefulness. Here is where transformation is going to happen in your life: instead of despising your current situation, are you willing to thank God for it? Can you pray bold prayers, like, Lord, I know destiny takes time. Thank You for everything You have given me. I’m not going to despise the team You have put around me. I’m not going to hate the role You have given me! Help me to never despise what You are doing, in Jesus’ name!
Here is the key:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:6-7
When you make a decision to approach God with thanksgiving, His perfect peace will wash over you.
The peace of God “surpasses” all understanding. That doesn’t just mean that you are going to have so much peace, you won’t be able to understand it. That means you have a choice: you can either choose the peace of God, or you can try to understand. But Scripture is telling you what to choose in advance! The peace of God “surpasses” – or is better than – all understanding! So when you finally sacrifice your need to understand everything, and instead simply say yes to God and submit to His plan, you will receive a perfect peace that is better than any amount of understanding could ever be!
Don’t despise small beginnings. It might seem small to you; but to God, there is nothing greater.
© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 Hebrew nephesh; Strong’s H5315