For he was but one: the power of insignificance


Things were tough for God’s people. And worse was coming.

In the midst of it all, Isaiah called the people to look to the rock from which they were hewn, to look to Abraham their father and Sarah who bore them. And then he makes this statement: “For he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him” (Isaiah 51:2).

For he was but one.

How many times have you felt alone, abandoned, misunderstood or powerless in the face of circumstances? How many time have you looked enviously or wistfully at others who do not appear to be in such a hard place?

For he was but one.

How many times does the church regard success in terms of numbers? Speakers are invited to conferences simply because of the size of their church. I once heard a very godly and wise pastor say he knew God had given him one of the largest churches in America simply so that people would listen to his message. He said it with regret that this should be the case. Yet so often it is.

For he was but one.

At Gethsemane, Scripture records Jesus was deserted by all of his disciples.

He also was but one.

Sometimes God strips away our outward success. He removes our popularity. He puts us in a place where it seems we have only him. But here’s why. It’s when we have nothing, when we know we are nothing, when we are but one, that he can begin to bring a harvest out of our lives.

If Abraham had not been one, God could not have been glorified in the miracle of multiplication that followed. Abraham was significant precisely because he was insignificant.

Many years ago and though very difficult circumstances, God brought me to the devastating realization that I wasn’t his greatest gift to the body of Christ. Something in me died, but because of the death, God slowly but surely began a process of resurrection which, I hope and pray, has brought blessing to the lives of others, blessing that would never have come had I found myself in a place of self-defined success.

We so foolishly think God is most glorified in our great ministry gifts and successes. What a lie! Advertising our ministry accomplishments brings glory only to us.

In truth, God’s glorification is found in our desperation. And that usually comes at the moment we feel we are but one.

I am so glad Abraham did not give up. His greatest qualification for leadership was his refusal to walk out. And because of that, the covenant line was preserved for the Messiah to come and save you and me.

We so often read the stories of the Bible with the end in mind. We forget what it was like for the disciples in the boat before Jesus showed up walking on the water to rescue them. We forget what it was like for Jairus at that awful moment when the messengers told him there was no point bothering Jesus because his daughter had died. We forget what it was like for Peter in Herod’s prison the night before his scheduled execution. We forget what it was like for Abraham during all those long years when he was but one.

If that is where you are today, hang on. Know that God is not deserting you, he is preparing you.

Knowing you are insignificant qualifies you to be significant.

Another day will come. Just hang in there and stay faithful.

You are not but one. He is with you.