Richard Wurmbrand was a hard, atheistic, Romanian Jew. He had an interest in religion and Christianity, but found the church empty and meaningless. Deep in his heart he wanted to believe in God, but saw no evidence for him and so settled on Atheism after challenging God to reveal Himself. Then one day he ended up in a village high in the mountains of Romania and everything changed.
According to Richard there was not even any real reason to visit the village. There he met an old carpenter whose prayer was, “My God, I have served you on earth and I wish to have my reward on earth as well as in heaven. And my reward should be that I should not die before I bring a Jew to Christ, because Jesus was from the Jewish people. But I am poor, old, and sick. I cannot go around and seek a Jew. In my village there are none. Bring a Jew into my village and I will do my best to bring him to Christ.”
According to Richard, “the carpenter courted me as never a beautiful girl had been courted.” The carpenter, who amazed Richard by being full of a divine love not only wooed him personally, but also gave him a Bible of which Richard wrote, “That Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers. I could barely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity with His righteousness; my hatred with His love and He accepted me as one of His own.”
Years later, Richard went back to that village and preached in a church. He gave his testimony and told what God had been doing. An old man wept the whole time. At the conclusion of the service Richard asked him why he was weeping. He answered, “I led the carpenter to Christ.” Two seemingly insignificant people, each one leading another seemingly insignificant Romainian to Christ had the startling effect of launching a global mission to the persecuted church with untold fruit over the last 50 plus years.
I am sure that you probably pray at times for the big things like world revival and the nation and other large, important events and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is vital. It is critical that God’s people come in unity and express a single voice in prayer to Him for things that He wants done upon the earth. Large prayer gatherings such as The Call that focus on some of the monumental issues in our nation are very significant and very special to God.
It is critical that we raise our voice in unity with other believers for things that are on a large scale because we do not know the day, the hour, or even the minute where one voice may be enough to overflow the vials of heaven and cause our God to act upon the earth in response to the cries of His children.
As important as these prayers are, there can be something almost abstract about them. Large numbers of people are praying for these things so you sometimes feel like just one small cog in the wheel. At times you may lose faith, but there are so many others that have faith in the same direction, that their faith carries you onward. Regardless, as important as prayers like this are, let us direct our attention to another area of prayer.
What small, seemingly insignificant prayers are you praying? It is easy to join in the big prayers. It is easy to feel the burden for the “big things” when there is the enthusiasm of the crown to help you go along. The small prayers are another matter. They rise and fall with your personal commitment which makes them entirely different.
Voice of the Martyrs is now an international organization and one of the leading organizations in the world for ministry to the persecuted church. It equips the persecuted church to evangelize and minister and meets the practical needs of those that suffer for the gospel. They have ministered to untold masses over the years and raised awareness of the treatment of believers on a global level. The entire organization came from Richard’s faithfulness. It began with an attempt to evangelize the Russians and others around him in every conceivable way. It then led to faithfulness in prison and in torture, including years of solitary confinement 30 feet below the ground. The brutal and inhumane treatment is well chronicled in his first book, Tortured for Christ.
All the ministry over the years all came from the faithfulness of that one man who was so soundly converted. Or did it? The faithfulness of Richard is not worth anything if you remove the faithfulness of an old, weak carpenter who prayed one simple prayer. And even his faithful prayer is rendered worthless if you remove the act of another man in effecting his conversion.
Do you see how the whole thing falls apart like a house of cards once you remove just one critical element? This is the way it is with the Lord’s body, His church. God wants to make much of His Son. Jesus is the human incarnation of God and so God will exalt His Son. His Son is the perfection He always desired in humanity.
The sin that runs rampant through the hearts of men is painful for the Father. He sees a twisted, perverted creation. Just as we recoil at a birth defect or a horribly disfigured or mutilated individual, so our God is forced to look upon men who are a twisted version of what He created. A version of what God desired that is mutilated so much farther beyond the original design than we can know. Looking upon man as he is now is a painful thing for the Father.
How different it is as He looks upon Jesus. There He sees the desire of His heart. He sees the one that represents all He originally desired to create. He sees the one that is the picture of His desire for mankind. God loves mankind with an intense love that we cannot understand. He has taken an incredibly personal interest in this unique creation of His. An interest that He has not taken in any other creation. He suffered through the cross to have unity with mankind. The intimacy He desires with man is so unique that the closest picture He can give us in the Scriptures is the picture of an intimate marriage.
His passion for mankind makes the current condition of most of the world unbearable for Him, but then He just looks upon His Son. There His heart is so full of joy unspeakable as He gazes upon the manifestation of the design He had for mankind all along. Make no mistake about it, the Father will make much of the Son. He will lift up the picture of what mankind was designed to be.
The body of Christ upon the earth should be such that as the Father gazes upon it, He sees the Son. The Father only wants to see one thing when He looks at the church and that is the Son. He wants to see that same likeness that so thrills His heart. That likeness is a single body. There is no room for individual stars in the body. There is only one star and that is Christ Himself. There are no little kingdoms with their own rulers, there is one kingdom and one King. There are no sects and divisions within this body; for the Father sees only one body.
To separate a body is mutilation. A body is only beautiful and fully functional as a whole. You cannot dismember it and still have the beauty of the body. Whenever you dismember it you find something ghastly and horrible. So too with the Body of Christ. You cannot dismember even one small piece without damaging the body. There are distinct limbs and distinct parts of the body, and yet each part of the body is attached and dependent on the rest of the body. It is inseperable. You cannot separate the body. Bones, muscles, and blood vessels all interweave and overlap and tie the body together.
To remove a Romanian carpenter is to tear, not only him, but also Richard from the body. Removing his one life does not just destroy him, it destroys a large part of the body. And the same thing goes for the man who led the carpenter to Christ. The body is so intertwined that you cannot remove a piece without damaging the whole.
So let us return to the original question. What small prayers are you praying? The carpenters small prayer to convert just one Jew is a foundation that a worldwide ministry assisting innumerable persecuted believers rests on. Remove his one prayer and the ministry falls to the ground.
In the West we tend to look for the big hit. We impress you with our size and power. We want to build something that will be large and impressive. Our self worth is tied to how visibly impressive our accomplishments are. Unfortunately we have carried those same values over to ministry. Just as the businessman seeks to grow his empire and establish his brand, so we also seek to conquer and promote our little kingdom within Christianity and call it a ministry.
As opposed to seeking to be part of a body, we are really more like a franchise. A small, booming business in our own right that franchises Jesus’ name and many of His benefits from the Father. We have our organization under God’s organization. Whatever our market niche is we try to take it for God and outperform the other franchisees. We have conventions and conferences with the other franchises and swap prayers and training since we are all in the same business, but once that is over and we are back to business we are again building up our own individual franchises in our own individual silos.
We are far more interested in making our particular ministry a success than truly living as a body. Do we ever realize how deadly that one decision in the garden was to go our own way and become our own gods? Ever since the fall we are constantly trying to create our own kingdom we can rule over rather than taking our place as a ruler within the kingdom of our God. Rather than live in our place, like Satan we challenge God’s kingdom by creating our own. And let us be brutally honest, do we not build up our own kingdoms in ministry as well?
The body is critical. It cannot function with any piece removed. It is designed to look just like Jesus, not like a collection of individual performers and franchisees. It is interwoven together in such a way that any attempt to separate and divide produces disfigurement and severely weakens the body.
We see then that the role of the individual believer is to expand the image of Christ on the earth rather than just create a ministry. Our goal is not to build up own own ministry or produce results, but simply to glorify Jesus Christ and extend His dominion on the earth. What a load this removes from our American shoulders that always need to produce and make things happen. There is a subtle poison in the western way. It is never enough. No matter how much you conquer or achieve, there is always one who has achieved more. You either settle into apathy where you are or continue to drive yourself into the ground trying to catch up with the next target.
The kingdom works in an opposite way from the world. We are not here to build big; we are here to find our place within the body and begin letting God’s heart pump His blood through our veins so that we might have the power to simply be Jesus on the earth. Whether what God gives us appears to be big or not is not our concern. This is why the small prayers are so critical.
Do you realize that unless you take your place the body suffers? The body is incomplete with just one member missing. No matter how small and insignificant you think you are, the body will be disfigured in some way if you do not take your place.
Jesus said the following, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 AMP). The very Son of God lived this way. He was born to a plain girl of no particular social standing. And do not forget that only one tenth of His life was public ministry. The rest was working with his hands as an ordinary man and ministering to God in His private life. Human pride, on the other hand, looks to exalt itself and is always looking for something big. This human tendency is so deeply rooted in us that it can even creep into ministry that we do and our ministry can be a thin veil covering the same human ambition that we always had.
Listen again to Jesus’ words, “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way.” Again, Jesus shrinks back from significance and importance and shifts the focus of the world’s most significant ministry back to the Father. The implications here are profound. I simply do what the Father tells me to do. Notice Jesus is not even driven by human needs and demands. He is driven by the direction of the Father. Now obviously the heart of the Father will drive men to reach out and meet human needs, but the source of the call to ministry is not the demands of men it is the call of the Father.
How often do we miss what God wants to do because we are looking to do something “big” for the kingdom? Now if God has given you a big vision, do not let me steal that from you or discourage you, but let me give you one little secret. The genesis of that large vision will more than likely be small steps of obedience and small responses to God. How often do we miss what God is wanting to do when it is right in front of us simply because it is not big enough? We are always looking for a big hit, so we fail to be faithful in the little things.
Do you realize that Asuza street was a small gathering in a small, dirty mission? Do you realize that a larger, more prominent church had been praying for the outpouring and had some real moves of God’s Spirit, but in the end was not the one chosen for the outpouring? How many alive then rejected that store front move because it was small and took root among insignificant people.
Listen again to the words of Jesus, “He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not proved faithful in that which belongs to another, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12 AMP)
How often do we neglect faithfulness in little things and sit around waiting for big responsibilities? Our vision is so fixated on the large things coming on the horizon that our we look right over the small things directly in front of us. In so doing, we forfeit the larger vision that God wanted to accomplish because we did not take the necessary steps in the small things. We are looking for those big moments and big opportunities, but fail to be faithful in the day to day moments of life. It is those day to day moments that Jesus and men like John the Baptist were found faithful and trustworthy. In both cases, powerful ministry flowed from a daily faithfulness in small and obscure things.
Consider the state of the world in the natural. America has the mightiest military machine the world has ever seen. It can invade and occupy a country like Iraq in a very short amount of time. It is a machine that can steam roll almost any army in the world when the full resources of the military are brought to bear. But consider the damage that a few devoted insurgents and suicide bombers can do. A few so dedicated to the cause that they will give their lives have been causing havoc for the American military machine for some time now.
We so often are looking to be a mighty machine for God, full of power and ability that impresses the world and we can steam roll our cities for God in massive demonstrations. God perhaps is looking more for some devoted revolutionaries that will give their lives to the cause. Their day to day obedience and day to day laying down of their lives will cause the enemy more havoc and more upheaval than the big machine does. The problem is that the big machine is impressive and allows the five star general to stand over his conquest proudly. On the other hand, the insurgent is not effective at all until he has made the decision that his life is to be given for the cause. In addition, to be effective he must do what is necessary and then step back out of the picture and lay low drawing no attention to himself. I believe the days of the big machine for God are drawing near a close. There has been some blessing and many men of God that were used of God; however the times are shifting. The world is different. God is calling for a fresh, new believer that has more in common with the apostles walking the dusty roads and losing their lives to the Roman machine that they challenged than they do with a successful American.
What is the whole basis for Heidi and Rolland Baker’s ministry? They are doing something “big” for God with thousands of churches and outreach into many different countries. But what is the primary message? It is “stop for the one.” In Rolland’s words, forget your ministry, forget your plans just come to an absolute stop for the one hurting person in front of you. Now that message is not Africa centric. Everyone of us can apply that every day. The problem is that it is a small vision. It does not look grand and we are afraid it will never lead to the big dreams we have. However, it is more in line with what God wants from us every day than our vision for large ministry. The Kingdom of God is hindered because He cannot find those who will commit to the small vision.
What small thing could you do, or what “small” person could you reach that might impact eternity? God has an incredible way of always using the small and insignificant. His humility is so unlike ours. He does not delight in big, showy things and that is why He hides Himself so often. He does not display His ability and impress the world. He keeps in in hiding. When we take “small” steps for the kingdom, we are delighting the heart of the Father that takes the very same small steps.
In Matthew, Jesus makes the following statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. Of all the seeds it is the smallest, but when it has grown it is the largest of the garden herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and find shelter in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32). This one statement can teach us more about the kingdom than we ever imagined.
Consider the following comments by John Dominic Crossan from the book “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant:”
What exactly is the correlation of kingdom and mustard plant?
Pliny the Elder, who lived between 23 and 79 C.E., wrote about the mustard plant in his encyclopedia “Natural History”:
“With its pungent taste and fiery effect, mustard is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand, when it has once been sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.” (Pliny, “Natural History” 19.170-171; Rackham et al. 5.528-529)
There is, in other words, a distinction between the wild mustard and its domesticated counterpart, but even when one deliberately cultivates the latter for its medicinal or culinary properties, there is an ever-present danger that it will destroy the garden….The mustard plant, therefore, is, as domesticated in the garden, dangerous and, as wild in the grain fields, deadly. The point is not just that it starts small and ends big but that its bigness is not exactly a horticultural or agricultural desideratum….I prefer, methodologically, to bracket both Luke and the Mishnah and to conclude that the core image of the parable is of the mustard plant, whether of the deliberately sown but still relatively dangerous domestic variety or of the intrusive and so absolutely dangerous wild variety. “It is hard,” Douglas Oakman rightly concludes, “to escape the conclusion that Jesus deliberately likens the rule of God to a weed.”
The point, in other words, is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three or four feet, or even higher, it is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas where they are not particularly desired. And that, said Jesus, was what the Kingdom was like: not like the mighty cedar of Lebanon and not quite like a common weed, like a pungent shrub with dangerous takeover properties. Something you would want in only small and carefully controlled doses—if you could control it.
Now Crossan himself is hardly what one would call an orthodox believer in Christianity, but he makes some interesting points. By realizing what Jesus was referring to, we can greater grasp his statement about the mustard seed. A mustard plant is more of a small, leafy vegetable-like plant than a tree. This has lead several scholars to believe that Jesus’ comments to the birds lodging in the tree are references to the church becoming a large institution that the enemy’s kingdom would then infiltrate. This is based also on the fact that birds are used as a picture of the enemy’s workers in other parables in the passage.
Regardless, a mustard plant is more of a large leafy plant that can grow several feet tall. Notice some key points. Wherever the seed is dropped, it takes root and spreads. According to Pliny, the seed germinates quickly so it can take root and grow anywhere the seed is dropped whether or not there was an intention to grow the plant. Notice that this fast growing ability also gives the plant the ability to spread quickly. The plant then is a danger in a wheat field or even in a cultivated garden because it will keep spreading whether you like or not. Ask the ruler of any country that has persecuted Christianity whether or not this is an accurate description of the kingdom. The seed falls quickly, germinates and the plant spreads like wild fire even though you try to put it out.
The kingdom then is less like a large monolithic oak tree that takes decades to become a powerful, towering tree and more like a small vegetable like plant that quickly germinates and spreads to another. Whenever we sacrifice time to try to plant and build something large, permanent, and impressive, we are losing the battle because in that same time we could have simply taken the seed of the kingdom that was given to us and spread that to another where it would quickly germinate and then spread to another.
The principle of Christianity is that I give everything I have in Christ to another because that is what Christ did for me, and then that one gives everything they have to another. Is this not what Paul said the apostles did? The early apostles suffered through all sorts of distresses, troubles, and persecutions and why did they do it? To see Christ formed in another. Not to build up their ministries, but to see Christ formed in another. They were this small plant that made sure another plant was germinated and rooted and then that plant rooted and germinated another and Christianity spread uncontrollably across the Roman Empire.
In the time they could have built a towering, monolithic structure, they were conquering the world by this method of quickly, personally spreading the seed from one individual to another. Because we think from a western mindset, we often spend great time and sacrifices to built something monumental, large, and impressive when the time would be better spent simply taking the one in front of you and spreading a seed to let it germinate in them. The kingdom then grows quickly because we are relying, not one one big bang, but on multiplication.
This principle is probably one of the many factors that contributes to the growth of the persecuted church. They do not have the freedom to build big churches and big campaigns like we do, so they instead focus on taking the seed they have and passing it to another one and having it germinate in them. That individual then gives the seed away likewise. Now, this is in no way the “one big secret” to the success of the persecuted church, but it is doubtless a pattern that is very successful for them.
In the future the church in the west, as it is prepared for persecution and the things that are coming upon the earth, will move more and more in this way. The large, impressive structures we have built (do not just think physical buildings) will fall to a more organic Christianity where many little mustard seeds full of fire will germinate and then pass to another one and take over places whether it be the rough “field” of the third-word field, or the more developed “garden” of the west. We have already seen the seeds of this change in the way church is being done with more focus on home churches and small groups meeting in the homes.
Just remember one thing. This seed is worthless if it falls to the ground and does not germinate. The secret to the spread of the mustard plant is that the seed falls and germinates. This is why Jesus said to go and make disciples, not converts. It is not enough to simply throw seed. We have to invest the seed in men and women until we see it germinated and Christ formed in them. In this investing, we give them all that God has done in us and then they are equipped to go germinate this plant of the kingdom in another. This commitment to making sure the seed fully germinates in the one in front of us will be key to the spread of the kingdom that we see.
To return to the place where we began: what small prayers are you praying? Those small prayers that God lays on your heart are the very thing that might be used to plant this fiery little seed in another heart where it can germinate. Like the Romanian carpenter, we do not know what just one seed that we germinate might actually do.
The secret to the explosion of the kingdom is right in front of us. We have to get to the place where it is more important to expand the kingdom and the visibility of the King than it is to “step into our ministries.” As we move the eyes off of ourselves, the chains of pride our loosed and we suddenly find ourselves investing in others to see the kingdom germinate in them. In so doing we may well find that our part in the kingdom was to launch another that will do the next “big” thing for God, all the while our vision is obscured to the fact that the “big” thing God is doing with us is using us to invest in others the way His Son did when He walked the earth. Can you handle the fact that the next big thing God does, He may do it through somebody else and not you? Will you still rejoice to see it even if it is the very thing you have asked the Lord for for years?
When God came to earth, he invested Himself in others and gave them everything He had. He sent them out to preach and cast out evil spirits. He gave them the same power of the Spirit that He had. If we look at the character of God, it is to humble Himself and use all His power and all His ability to increase another. He used all His power on the cross to rescue us from ourselves at great personal cost to Him. Jesus poured out into the twelve, even knowing that one would be lost. For Jesus the “big” thing He did for God was to plant His little leafy, mustard plant kingdom into the hearts of other men that would be used to spread it around the world.
So not only must we pray the small prayers, we must also invest ourselves in the small things. We have to see with the same eyes that God sees through. We need His vision for the small things in the world, for time and time again that is where you will find Him working. We have to put sweat and effort into those prayers which shows that we are actually invested in that small prayer we are praying and not offering lip service to a new idea. The Romanian carpenter did not just pray for a Jew; when God brought one, he wooed that Jew to Christ. The small prayer must be in the heart as well as one the lips.
This is where it gets close and personal. We are so terrified that God will not do anything, that we would rather write a check to some missionary half way around the world and consider that our duty done to God. First of all, we do not placate God by doing our duty; we respond to Him out of a heart in love with Him. We must be motivated by absolute love for Him. We have to forget the fear and go with God. If we fail, we fail but it is better to die humiliated going for the kingdom than to pass safely in the shadows.
We are so scared of putting God on the spot and embarrassing Him. We have so little confidence in His Word. Let us go for it and quit holding back, even in the small, personal things of life where it will be our neck on the line and not some big preacher or missionary in the jungles of Asia that will be embarrassed. Just remember that God does not reward presumption and is not a magic potion. His Word works, but it makes the requirement that the one for whom He acts is a life wholly given to Him. It might not be a life that has reached perfection, but it is a heart that has set its face towards God.
Just one final word. Do not read this and think that this is a message against large ministries or well known ministries. Far from this. God does raise up large operations from time to time as it suits His purposes. Voice of the Martyrs founded by brother Wurmbrand is now a large organization. Simple size is not the litmus test of a ministry. The litmus test is in the heart. Heidi and Rolland Baker have thousands of churches from that simple approach of stopping for the one. I am not hear to try to tear down anything that God does not want torn down. If you have a big organization or a big vision, submit it to God. If He exposes some of the issues mentioned here than repent and go on with Him. If not, then continue going on with God and the vision He has given not forgetting what the Word says, “Who [with reason] despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10 AMP)