Doing Little Things (Dickson)

The Elder and His Work

Jesus said “one plants, another harvests” (John 4:37 NLT). Paul wrote “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow” (1 Cor. 3:6 NET). These and other teachings in Scripture show that God uses various people to accomplish his purposes. One thing this means is that we aren’t necessarily called as Christians to do great things that everyone notices. We are not called to become popular, well-known, or to accumulate many social media followers. Instead, as the saying goes, we are to do many little things with great love.

On this note, David Dickson made a great observation about doing little things. Dickson was Presbyterian elder in 19th century Scotland who quietly touched many lives in a deeply Christian way. In one section of his book for elders, he wrote about doing God’s work. Here’s one great quote about doing little things in Christian humility:

[We might be] apt to forget a great principle of God’s Word: “One soweth and another reapeth” (John 4:37). In the rescue of a drowning man, one person might give the alarm, a second might bring a rope, a third might throw it to him, and a fourth might draw him to shore. It could be said truly of all these four that they were instruments in saving the man from death.

So it is in the salvation of souls, as proved by the history of individuals. God works all in all, but he often uses several different instruments for the ingathering of his elect, “that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:29). How often would our poor hearts try to get credit for being the only instrument in the salvation of a sinner! Now, we can be of much use, and I believe often are of much use, where we see no necessary connection between our own work and the salvation of men. It is, in one sense, a humbling view. It excludes all boasting in ourselves. It is well for many that the good they do is hidden from them till they are able to bear it. And yet it is very encouraging too, for though we may not be able to do any great thing, we can yet do many little things.

Let us rejoice to be even the smallest and humblest link in that chain of love and grace by which Jesus is drawing sinners to himself. How well for us and the souls we care for that, from first to last, “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9)!”

I’ve read this quote more than a few times and each time it’s been a blessing for me as a teaching elder (pastor). My prayer is this: “Lord, please make me a tiny link in that chain of grace, keep me content in that, and help me to do little things with great love.”

The above quote is found on page 127 of David Dickson, The Elder and His Work.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015