We live in a culture where bigger is considered better. Where what appears great and powerful is seen as great and powerful. But this is not how things work in God’s economy. The church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) was small and weak, but God promised it an open door no one could close. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 it says that God chooses the weak and foolish things to confound the wise. Paul claims that when he is weak, then he is strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). But ultimately, God chose to save the world by becoming a man and dying a criminal’s death (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18; Isaiah 53:1-12).
This goes against the grain of our natural tendency in the American church. We believe that high numbers, efficient programs, and prominent leaders mean the blessing of God. It is not necessarily so. Christ says that He is at work in His church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7; Colossians 2:19). And this work is carried out through God’s power working in us (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28,29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Now I am not opposed in principle to high numbers, efficient programs, and prominent leaders. But I am opposed to trusting in them. Rather, we need to trust in God and His power (Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6; Proverbs 3:5,6). Now I am not saying we should not try to do things the best we can, and try to look for ways to do them better. Nor do I think we should be alarmed if God should grant us outward success. But I also do not believe we should be discouraged if things do not go the way we would like them to in terms of outward success. We may want to evaluate if there is a way we could do things better. But we should not jump to conclusions.
Jonah came only reluctantly to preach in Nineveh and had an impressive response. Jeremiah wept over the destruction of Jerusalem but had no discernible response. The important thing is that we remain faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1,2; Matthew 24:45-47; 2 Timothy 2:2). Now part of faithfulness may be asking the hard questions of whether we are doing the right thing the right way. But part of faithfulness is also staying the course, even if what we say is not well received or popular. And we must particularly beware of telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear (2 Timothy 4:1-4; Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25). But we must trust the power of God, even if we seem small and weak (Zechariah 4:6-10; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:1,2).