The Significance of Insignificance


I wonder if you’ve ever experienced the feeling of being small. I’m not speaking of childhood smallness when we all looked up at everyone and everything else. And, I’m not speaking of adults who are not as tall as others. I’m speaking about the feelings of being insignificantly small? We may move even closer to my thoughts of insignificance as we look into the starry sky and muse on the question of the psalmist, “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man, that You care for him? (Ps 8:4 and Heb 2:6)

Perhaps, most of us can identify a bit better with the unexpected flush of embarrassment when we’ve said or done something out of character or out of order and said to ourselves quietly, “I wish I could crawl into a hole.” There we stood red faced with no place to hide. Such embarrassing moments are indeed humbling and even years later when brought back to memory we still say quietly, “I can’t believe I said that, or did that.” Sadly, I have a number of those moments that I would dearly like to erase from my memory bank. I could give a litany of personal illustrations, but wisdom races to my rescue.

Some time ago in a quiet time, and again in more recent days, as we focused on our Worship of God from the pulpit, I experienced the overwhelming feeling of being really small, insignificantly small. It was not an embarrassing moment. I had not done or said anything untimely or unfitting. I had not thought anything that would have been embarrassing if someone knew what I was thinking. I just felt small. I had the sense that I was but a speck in the universe. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by my smallness. I didn’t feel as though the world was crushing in on me. I didn’t feel afraid. I just felt small, insignificantly small. There was no awareness of the roles that define my life. I was not inhibited by the sense of being a husband or father, a friend or a pastor, nor did I attempt to hold on to any of those roles at that moment to guard some sense of significance. I was content just being in God’s presence and being very small. There was no need to rehearse any accomplishments before Him. No cause for personal pride. And I sensed no need to compare myself to anyone else. At that moment, there was no need to be anything but who and what I am, small, but not insignificant to God.

As I write these thoughts on the threshold of 2105, the significance of my insignificance is brought back to life for me. And, in some ways I see with greater clarity my place in God’s kingdom, in His Church, in my family, and in the future. Today, I better understand my feelings and find far greater contentment in being significantly insignificant. I’ve learned afresh there are wondrous child like truths for those who are willing to be small in the presence of God. There are rich blessings awaiting those who will abandon self to the significance of insignificance for God’s glory.

I now understand what my feelings have been affirming from the Scriptures. Perhaps, this is what the Apostle Paul was saying in Philippians 3:7 when he wrote, “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He had learned the significance of his insignificance. Perhaps, this is what John the Baptist was also saying in John 3:30 when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Both Paul and John had learned the significance of being insignificant in the ministry of God’s Kingdom for His glory.

In these present years of my ministry I think to myself that that is what God wants me to learn also; not with my head, but with my heart; not with my mind only, but also with my feelings. Maybe that’s why the increasing feelings of being so very small is not at all a fearful or threatening experience. Maybe that’s the feeling I’m supposed to feel. Maybe that feeling is ordained to translate my understanding of “the sound theology” of God’s Word into the fabric of my soul. Maybe it’s feeling insignificantly small, after forty-four years of ministry, that helps the man regain his childlike faith. Maybe our significance is not found in any of our accomplishments or credentials; maybe it’s to be found in the comfort of being significant in His eyes alone.

Allow me to open the door of understanding just a bit, so that you too can join with me in the comfort of “not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…” (Rom 12:3); the comfort of being very small without fear of being overwhelmed or crushed by the world around you; a world searching for significance in self-achievement; in the skewed thought that being bigger and smarter and richer is better; in a world pumping its chest and flexing its muscles and sharpening its tongue with the latest ideologies, philosophies, theologies, and methodologies; in a world pushing itself into further insignificant as its searches for significance in all the wrong places.

No one who is called in Christ is insignificant in the eyes of God! Not even me. With that truth settled afresh in my heart I am free to be insignificantly significant. Why should I strive for significance in ‘their eyes’, or in ‘your eyes’, or even in my own eyes, when I am already eternally significant to Him?

God’s promise to Abraham on Mt. Moriah still stands in principal as a pattern for all God’s people today. Abraham was willing to give back to God the son of promise he had waited so many years for. He believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead if that was God’s will. Abraham was ‘a significant man’ in his world. But, the affirmation of the covenant God made with him many years before awaited his willingness to give it all up, if that’s what God wanted him to do. Abraham learned the lesson of significance in the eyes of God alone, and God blessed him for his faith in God and his love for God: ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’ “ (Gen. 22:15-18)

I find it very comforting to see myself as one grain of sand on the immense seashore of God’s Kingdom. That may sound a bit too insignificant for some. But, when you see each one of those grains of sand carefully as being chosen by God, and redeemed with the life of His Son Jesus, and carefully placed exactly where it is; it makes all the difference in the world! And never grow tired of this truth: He knows each grain of sand by name! It doesn’t get any better than that! I am significant to God.

Content in being significantly insignificant for the glory of God. That’s my prayer for each of us in 2015.

Pastor Ralph Wetherington