It was John Maxwell who brought to my attention the fact that experience is not the best teacher. Otherwise, everybody would be getting better and more mature as they grow older. Rather, evaluated experience is the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the experience that is reflected upon and where lessons are learnt and growth in maturity follows.
As I have taken time to reflect on my own life’s experiences, certain discipleship lessons have come to the surface. One that has consistently occurred is what is called the little / big principle, and is mentioned four times in the parables of Jesus.
(Matthew 25:21, 23. Luke 16:10, 19:17)
“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in change of many things.” “Whoever can be trusted with very little, can also be trusted with much….”
In other words we don’t promote people on potential but on faithful performance.
On reflection, I could see that this principle was at work right from the time I became a Christian, as my timeline shows.
- I committed my life to Jesus Christ at age 15.
- I went to school the next day and felt a prompt to attend the weekly lunchtime Christian meeting, but I chose not to attend. I was not faithful in a little thing.
- Two years later I started working in a city office. Again I became aware of a weekly lunchtime meeting for Christians and chose to attend occasionally. I was occasionally faithful in a little thing.
- Three years later I was conscripted to serve for 2 years in the Australian Army. On my first day I found myself assigned to a hut with 15 other recruits. Somehow I knew that this was a defining moment for me. A church service was to be regularly held on Sunday mornings. I knew I needed to attend, but not only that but I needed to invite the men in my hut to the church service. A battle raged inside of me, but the breakthrough came when after inviting the men to the church service, 2 others accepted my invitation to join me. We were three of seven men who went to the church service that morning out of a battalion of 1500 recruits. I was finally faithful in a little thing.
- Two years later I returned to work in my office and found that the weekly meetings for Christians were no longer being held. However, someone asked me if I would resume the meetings and lead them. Another defining moment. I knew that I needed to nail my colours to the mast and not just attend, but lead the meeting. I had been faithful in a little thing in the army. I was now being entrusted with more, the leadership of the office Christian fellowship. I placed a notice on the workplace notice board and when I walked into the first meeting, there were 10 people waiting for me. I had now gone to the next level in a life of faithfulness. At that point I felt a breakthrough came which resulted in further doors of opportunity opening for me to serve the Lord. On reflection it seemed that He could now entrust me with greater things. One of them involved me leading a ministry for teams of Christian basketballers in Australia travelling to the Philippines and Hong Kong to share the gospel with large numbers of people that would lead to the planting of many churches.
Never did I need to take the initiative. With each new opportunity I was aware of the Lord opening doors of service involving a gradual increase in my sphere of influence.
The little / big principle was at work. God was sovereignly guiding my life in ways that I could never have imagined.
- Then at the age of 30, after being married to my wife Sue for only a few months, I received a phone call from the Senior Pastor of the largest Baptist church in Australia asking me if I would accept a call to burn my bridges and join the pastoral team of his church in another state. Again a door opened for me in the most surprising way and it would take me to a new level of impact in the one life that the Lord had entrusted to me. I still don’t know how he connected with me. Other steps followed in succeeding years.
“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
I came to realise that in the scriptures this little / big principle was consistently at work and that God had always been looking for faithful people to be entrusted with important areas of responsibility.
- Moses was required to faithfully shepherd his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years before the Lord called him to shepherd the Israelites for 40 years in their journey from Egypt to Israel. (Exodus)
- Of all the people in the world, Noah was entrusted with the building of the ark because he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6)
- Paul told Timothy to entrust the things he had taught him to faithful people. (2 Timothy 2:2)
- Paul wrote to the Thessalonians of how God tests people’s hearts to approve them and then entrust them with the ministry of the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
- Philip faithfully served in the distribution of food to the widows in the Jerusalem church and then was led through open doors to powerfully preach in a number of strategic locations in areas beyond. (Acts 6, 8)
What can we learn from the little / big principle?
- Be faithful where you are right now and trust God to lead you into growing areas of service. Focus on maximising your potential and trust God to maximise your opportunities.
- Follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit and be prepared to burn your bridges as the Father guides you through the seasons of your life.
- Trust the timing of God and know that He is never too soon and never too late.
- Don’t promote people on potential but rather on faithful performance.
- Evaluated experience is the best teacher; it turns experience into insight.
- Continually set growth goals in your life and always be taking steps to further equip yourself.
- Find mentors along the way.
- Maintain a teachable spirit. We need to come under authority if we are going to exercise authority.
- If you aren’t progressing in God’s purposes, stop and evaluate if there are areas in your life where you are not being faithful in the little things.
- Always bring your A performance with you in whatever you do. Remember that you always have an audience of one, no matter what you may be doing.
Then at the end of your life, plan to testify as Jesus did, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:5