‘Why shouldn’t you hire short people as chefs? Because the steaks are too high.’ ‘I met this really little guy today… he was so down-to-earth.’ ‘Little men are oppressed… they’re always getting overlooked.’
The world loves to laugh at the little. But God delights in the small. After all, Israel was not chosen because they were ‘the largest of nations, but because they were the very smallest’ (Deut.7:7). God told Samuel ‘not to consider height’ and commanded him to choose David, the smallest of the brothers (1 Sam. 16). In the Gospels, the ‘little girl’ is healed (Mark 5:41), and the ‘small in stature’ Zacchaeus (Luke 19:3) is invited for tea. For the eternal kingdom of God belongs to those who understand themselves to be little. ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’ (Mark 10:14-15). While every passing generation mocks the small, the everlasting God welcomes into heaven those who humbly recognise their littleness. There is a delicious irony here. Time is ever expanding for the little
people of God; they shall receive an eternal kingdom. Yet the big and powerful of this world who persecute them are getting smaller by the day. They shrink, since their sands of time are sinking.
How, then, should the people of God see those who seek to bring them down? How should God’s people around the world understand their suffering at the hands of the evil enemy coronavirus? How should Christians at home and abroad construe evil racism that they experience at the hands of those in positions of worldly power? How are believers in this country to process the threat of increasing persecution for living with Christ as Saviour and Lord?
For a little while
There are many answers to these questions, but the apostle Peter reminds us of one in the first chapter of his first epistle. By considering the vastness of our eternal inheritance we, as the little people of God, should rejoice remembering that our great trials are comparatively very short. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says: ‘[You] are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’
Christians feel the grief of being God’s exiles here (1 Peter 1:1). And like Israel in Babylon they will be treated harshly by a big bad world. Yet the knowledge of their eternal glory as God’s elect frames their time. For when we focus upon our exile and so our eternal home we remember the littleness of suffering. Suffering is not nothing, but it is comparatively less – a short stop at the services on the way to the greatest holiday ever.
‘It is not long’
The Puritan minister, Samuel Rutherford, picked up this notion and illustration when he wrote a letter to one of his little friends who was suffering greatly at the hands of a dominant world.
‘Be not cast down in heart, to hear that the world barketh at Christ’s strangers … this is one of our Lord’s reproaches, to be hated and ill-entreated by men. The silly stranger, in an uncouth country must take with a smoky inn and coarse cheer, a hard bed, and a barking ill-tongued host. It is not long to-day, and he will to his journey upon the morrow, and leave them all. Indeed, our fair morning is at hand, the day-star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home. What matter of ill entertainment in the smoky inns of this miserable life? We are not to stay here, and we will be dearly welcomed to Him whom we go to. When I shall see you clothed in white raiment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and shall see you even at the elbow of your dearest Lord and Redeemer, and a crown upon your head, and following our Lamb and lovely Lord, whithersoever he goeth you will think nothing of all these days! And you shall then rejoice, and no man shall take your joy from you. It is certain there is not much sand to run in your Lord’s sand-glass.’
Jonathan Worsley is also pastor of Kew Baptist Church, London