GO FROM THIS MOMENT AND DO SMALL THINGS

Commencement Address, Southern California Seminary, May 14, 2016

Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D

 

It is one of the great honors of my life to have been invited to share these precious moments with you today. I express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Coombs for that invitation. We shall see in about fifteen minutes if he regrets that move. I pledge to do my best to see that he does not.

 

I am doubly honored to address you, the 2016 class of Southern California Seminary, not only because of my love for Dr. Coombs, and for the entire faculty and staff at SCS, but also because of you. You are our faithful co-laborers. You have fulfilled your task and have run this stage of your race with endurance, and you have finished well. In more than a few instances I have witnessed this personally. I have had the privilege of sharing the classroom with many of you, during which time some of you were actually awake. As do those granting your degrees today, I know you to be worthy of our investment in you.

You are why we teach. You are why we are here. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your examples. Thank you for allowing us to share in the joy of your success.

160514 Cone SCS Commencement 2016Speaking of your joy, regrettably, I must postpone it for these few minutes of academic tradition, but I ask you to make the best of it – it is your final and perhaps greatest hurdle to overcome in your academic journey. Remember, it’s not too late to quit. Walk out now, and you will be spared. If there are no takers, then away we go. If there are takers, please exit discreetly so as not to humiliate us any more than we already have been by donning these peacock dresses called academic regalia.

As we begin this brief journey I ask you to consider a serious point. Graduates, the culmination of your labor, celebrated at this gathering, tempts us to dwell for these moments on grand flattery and phony significance. We could pretend here that we are the guardians of the present and the gateway to our world’s future.

We could cry out that these desperate times call for our vigilance and for our action, and we can lament that if we fail to accept these mantles, then all is lost and we are surely doomed. We could believe that the world needs what you have to offer, and if you are not up to that monumental task, then God’s designs will be left undone, and He will be thwarted. Defeated and broken, all because of you.

We could even follow familiar themes, weeping for melting glaciers and dying trees, for endangered birds and disappearing bees, thinking that we hold, through our own efforts, the very world in our hands.

We could repeat the often-sung mantra that if we will but be true to ourselves we can change the world for the better and leave it a grander place than when we all first started.

Indeed, an opportunity for such pomposity presents itself now to us. Yes – pomposity. We could focus on lofty platitudes that lift us for a moment, then leave us empty, inadequate, and even render us without any sense of hope or attainable purpose.

But I assure you my intentions here are humbler, and my encouragement to you is far simpler than all that.

Yes, of course we should be vigilant and act when and where we can. Yes, of course, there are times to weep and others to be impassioned. Yes, of course, there are great and weighty moments to embrace. I don’t here advocate passivity or uninvolvement. It is actually true, you know, there is an entire world out there that desperately needs what God has entrusted to you.

But my charge to you today is not to focus on the grand themes that often distract, dissuade, and disenchant us, but rather I exhort you to simply do this: go from this moment and do small things.

When we first meet God in the opening verses of Genesis, He is doing small things. Yes, He created the heavens and the earth, and that surely sounds big, but then He populated this tiny little planet – insignificant in a universe that resounds with His glory – He filled it nonetheless with small creatures, who would do small things, have small moments, in small places. We learn a lesson early in the pages of Scripture. Small is simply not insignificant to God. Small matters.

In the body of Christ we learn that there are many members, but just one body. In that body the small things are just as necessary as the big. “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”[1]

More than once Paul employs the metaphor of an athlete competing as an illustration of the Christian life.[2] He urges us to run in such a way as to win.

You may have heard it said that we should never underestimate the heart of a champion.[3] A champion realizes that in those small moments of exhaustion, adversity, frustration, failure, and even despair – it is in those moments that winners are made. It is in these small moments that faithfulness is forged. Run in such a way as to win.

Go from this moment and do small things.

You see, small isn’t insignificant to God. Small matters.

I suspect Andy Warhol didn’t realize the brilliance of his exhortation that “You need to let the little things that bore you suddenly thrill you.” The Solomonic wisdom of that simple statement is found in the fact that the small things have significance because we can do them for our Lord, and we can do them with our Lord. They matter to Him.

How could the simple and the mundane possibly bore us, if we realize that in those small moments we can walk with Christ and honor Him? How could that ever be boring?

I have to tell you that growing up, my brother and I learned never to say we were bored. If we ever were so foolish as to announce to our wise and loving mother that we were bored, our proclamation would be met with a laundry list – literally – of things to do, including but not limited to laundry.

We learned quickly to find joy in the small things of life, and gradually came to understand that the joy of significance was found in small things and in small moments because those things and those moments matter to God, and they can be engaged for and with Him.

This is what I ask of you today: Don’t miss those small and beautiful moments of fellowship with your Lord. Don’t miss the small tasks that should be done in His company.

It is beautiful to come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses.

It is there, in those small moments that He walks with me (through His Spirit), and He talks with me (through His word), and He tells me I am His own.[4]

And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known – except for every other person who has ever spent those small moments themselves doing small things with our Lord. This is not an exclusive deal here. He is not so busy that He can’t spend these small moments with all of us.

So don’t look for big things to define you, don’t rely on big dreams to drive you, and don’t wait for big opportunities to find you.

Go from this moment and do small things.

Here’s another interesting tidbit about small things: they often have profoundly great outcomes.

The Hebrew midwives did small things. In their fear of God, they just tried to be good midwives. God used their small deeds to deliver the man through whom God would deliver the whole nation of Israel.[5]

Boaz did small things. He simply loved a woman and cared for her. God used those small deeds to build the Savior’s lineage.

David did small things. He took care of sheep. I am guessing he wrote songs while watching them graze. He did small things, and God made him king of a nation.

The Bible is filled with examples of small moments, small things, but great outcomes.

Remember James’ reminder of the great power of the tiny tongue? He compares its power to the small bit in the horse’s mouth, to the miniscule rudder that directs a ship, and to a small spark that scorches an entire forest.[6] Like the Songwriter says, it is the little foxes that are destroying the vineyards.[7]

Our daily experience is also full of such accounts.

We are told of a second officer who, in a small moment, forgot to hand to a ship’s crewman the key to his locker. In that locker was the pair of binoculars which were intended to provide the crew the vision they would need in order to identify dangers on the sea. This pair of binoculars in particular remained inaccessible in a locker on board the Titanic, unavailable to help the crew see the dangers before them. How might history have changed for all involved if in a small moment, a simple key had been passed from one man to another.

Steve Jobs once shared how his dropping out of college due to financial pressures allowed him to attend classes that interested him. He showed up at a calligraphy course, where he learned about serif and sans serif fonts, about letter spacing, and the aesthetics of written letters.

Without the small decision to attend that class, it is likely that computers and devices wouldn’t have had a diversity of typefaces, and would likely be as monotone as was the typewriter. If Steve Jobs hadn’t dropped out of college and showed up at a calligraphy class…a small decision – ironic to mention at a graduation ceremony – and one that has impacted how virtually all of us see and write. A subtle thing, with a significant outcome.

(Forgive me as my mind wanders, considering what small tormented moments brought about our wearing these dresses as if your celebration would be impossible without them. Sometime, somewhere, somebody actually said, “Hey, I have an idea…” I would love to know that person’s name. I am guessing it is anonymous for their family’s protection.

It probably was the same person who brought us the necktie, Spam, and the Turabian style guide).

Great tragedies and successes alike are brought by many small yet pivotal moments. Think upon those moments that led to your being here today. Indeed, there is much to be thankful for. We are told that unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.[8] God builds great houses, and He does so using many small things in many small moments.

Because of this truth, we need not worry about all that He controls; we simply need be faithful with the stewardship He gives us. He’s got the whole world in His hands. My hands aren’t big enough, and neither are yours. This is our Father’s world. I didn’t make it, and neither did you.

It is His job to convict humanity of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He asks for no help from us in achieving this task. It is His to build the church, not ours. It is His kingdom to populate, we don’t hand out keys. If the big things are His, then what is our task? Go from this moment and do small things. Small things matter. “Whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God our Father.”[9]

Go from this moment and do small things.

Have a joyful countenance.

Sweep floors.

Change diapers.

Go through open doors.

Laugh a little.

Cry sometimes too.

Work hard.

Play the song again when it’s through.

Pray for people.

Keep your word.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Thank Him when you see a pretty bird. Or an ugly one.

Pray without ceasing.

Speak the truth in love.

Let the word of God be at home in you.

Like the hand in a well fit glove.

Honor your spouse.

Honor your kids.

Honor your parents.

Honor everybody. It’s just simpler that way.

Love God.

Love what He loves.

Spend every moment knowing He is with you.

Remember that eternal life started the moment you believed in Him.[10]

Delight in the Lord, knowing that He will give you the desires of your heart.[11] Those desires will be shaped by Him as you learn to take delight in Him and in what He desires for you.

Pursue your dreams, but don’t let the magnitude of those dreams get in the way of the beauty of the small moments before you. Enjoy those moments with the Lord. Be faithful in the small tasks.

Go from this moment and do small things, because the small things matter to our big God, and He has a habit of using those things that seem small as world transforming forces. The writer of Hebrews describes such men and women as people of whom the world was not worthy.[12] Be people the world doesn’t deserve. Go from this moment and do small things for Him and with Him.

As you go, pursue your dreams, but always be pliable. God has a path paved ahead of you. Even now you have a glimpse of what may lie ahead. Pursue that glimpse, but never trust it fully.

It is certain that as we grow closer to Him our vision improves, and what may have been merely a glimpse before we can then recognize either as a misguided and empty mirage or as something of greater depth and truth than we had imagined possible. Pursue the glimpse, but don’t trust it fully. Trust only the One who has created you for the good works which He prepared beforehand.[13] Pursue dreams. Be pliable.

Whether one, two, or five talents, as in Jesus’ parable,[14] your education here is just a part of the capital with which you have been entrusted. You have been equipped by His word, and He’s got things and moments ahead for you. What will be your small things? What will be your small moments? Will you rejoice in those, appreciating that He is with you? Or will you miss out on the fellowship with your Lord who asks you to draw near to Him, and promises that He will draw near to you.[15]

Never, never forget that one who is faithful even in a very little thing is also faithful in much.[16]

I urge you, brothers and sisters, graduating class of 2016, go from this moment and do small things.

 

 

[1] 1 Cor 12:18.

[2] 1 Cor 9:24-25, 2 Tim 2:5.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-1jgNhopNo.

[4] 1 Jn 3:1.

[5] Ex 1:15-21.

[6] Jam 3:3-6.

[7] Song 2:15.

[8] Ps 127:1.

[9] Col 3:17.

[10] Jn 6:47.

[11] Ps 37:3-6.

[12] Heb 11:38.

[13] Eph 2:10.

[14] Mt 25:14-30.

[15] Jam 4:8.

[16] Lk 16:10a.

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