Big Change Happens in Small Steps
"Do not despise these small beginnings"
When we think about areas in our life that need to change, the temptation is to make large changes to overhaul everything. Want to eat healthy? Cut out all sweets. Want to spend time with God? Aim for one hour every day. It is hard to tell how much comes from living in America, where everything is a silver bullet, and how much is a universal human tendency to misunderstand God’s timeline. He works so much more slowly and patiently than we are used to or that we want.
This more gradual approach to change is backed up by research on habit formation. James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits: “A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination. Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be.”
God’s word to Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4 came as Israel was in the midst of returning from the Babylonian exile and rebuilding the Temple. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and his army 70 years prior, and had essentially lain desolate until Zerubbabel and Jeshua the High Priest returned. Rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city must have seemed like an overwhelming task. And the Temple they were able to build was so small compared to the glory of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12.)
The cell studies and this devotional are exploring some of the hidden dangers in screen time. We are surrounded by screens and almost everyone uses social media. Surveying your life might feel a bit like Zerubbabel surveying Jerusalem: the problem is everywhere! Any step that I take doesn’t seem like it will make a dent in the issue! To “despise” something is “to hold it as insignificant,” with a negative connotation. For example, “This won’t work, this is dumb,” would be thoughts indicating we are despising something.
God’s command to Zerubbabel not to despise the day of small things is because God knows that small changes add up. God knows that small steps on their own don’t always make a difference, but they put us on a path of change. Clear points out, “If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.” God is in it for the long haul. He is not in a hurry.
God also knows that if the step is too big, it will be overwhelming. If we get overwhelmed, we are more likely to either fail or get burned out, and then we quit. Ironically, it might actually be God’s enemy, Satan, trying to convince you to delete social media or stop watching Netflix, because he knows those are unrealistic long-term. He would be very happy with an extreme approach because he knows it won’t work.
Instead, view this as the day of small beginnings. Ask God to show you how to be patient with the process.
- Review your goals from cell group – are there any you can break down into smaller steps? Brainstorm with a few others on this – sometimes our friends can see things more clearly that we can.
- Put your goals in a visible place, along with this Zechariah verse.