Ant Man. He hides in my carpet, gets stuck between my toes, always the one we can't find. Why they made this action figure true to character is a mystery. I’m surprised he’s still in the LEGO bin and not sucked into the abyss of dust and dirt in the vacuum canister.
In contrast to the Hulk, whose power comes from his intimidating size (and color), Ant Man’s strength is becoming small - saving the world from reactions between the molecules we can’t see.
We often calculate the degree of our own influence as dependent on the position - or title - we carry, the number of followers, likes or viral posts we have on social, or the amount of people gathering to our ministry.
Objectively speaking, numbers can provide some measure of growth and impact of a ministry, but they are never defining. Consider David counting the Israelites, caught in a moment of pride despite even Joab cautioning him against it. He already held the title of king, he’d been victorious over surrounding nations, yet the nudge of vanity prevailed.
How Israel had prospered and populated wasn’t the point. What mattered most was their Almighty God, that they belonged to Him and were set apart for Him.
When influence is determined by titles and numbers and we don’t meet the criteria, we consider our impact small, insignificant, or even unimportant - like Ant Man getting lost in the carpet.
But what if our influence isn’t about size but rather our calling and purpose as His disciple?
Not in Doing, but in Becoming
There’s a lot of things we can “do” for the kingdom that don't depend on the difficult work of sanctification. We can hide ourselves behind the busyness of serving without bringing our heart and character into the light. Becoming more like Christ doesn’t occur in a vacuum, it takes discipline and effort - to be led means we must follow.
That’s not what we like to hear when it comes to our faith.
But imagine a garden left unattended. Weeds infiltrate, the soil turns hard and dry, leaving vegetable plants we intended to harvest wither, without producing any fruit at all. It’s messy, chaotic and functioning without any purpose.
Following Christ means we obey His commands (1 John 2:3), hold fast to the gospel we’ve been taught (1 Cor 15:1-2) and grow in our knowledge of Him (2 Pet 3:18). Following is a verb, it’s not passive, but active. It’s living with the purpose we were created for, to glorify God and to enjoy Him.
While becoming more like Christ requires action on our part, it’s also what God graciously does in us. Consider this definition from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (Q.35).
This is exciting because I want my life less prone to sin and more inclined toward good, to be a beautiful garden, well-tended, with healthy plants, freshly tilled soil and blooms holding the promise of lasting fruit; to be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master.
Are we more concerned about what we’re doing than who we are becoming?
The Way Up is Down
The mother of James and John, bless her heart, asked Jesus to bestow honour for the godly devotion of her sons. If she thought they’d already earned it, she didn’t know what was yet to come.
But Jesus did.
He’d just explained to them (for the third time) that when they got to Jerusalem he would be delivered over to be crucified. Then she kneels before him, making her request, with glowering disciples in the background.
Once again, he patiently goes back to the drawing board, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:26-28).
Jesus didn’t just teach humility, he modeled it. becoming human in his incarnation and humbling himself in obedience to death.
Would we say Jesus’ influence was small?
Of course not. The work and person of Christ is central to the gospel. But, glancing at his numbers, his devoted followers numbered 11 and his earthly ministry lasted 3 years. But he fulfilled the work God gave Him to do through obedience and surrender by serving others wholeheartedly, keeping those God had entrusted to him, and faithfully teaching God’s Word.
His ministry characterized by sacrifice and surrender rather than power and earthly rule.
Are we more concerned about our own honour, prestige, and title than we are about the people we’re serving?
Accepting What We’ve Been Entrusted
If you glance around the people in your life there may be a spouse, children, family members, neighbors, friends, a local church, or workplace. These are your people. Ministry is relationship. In this circle of influence where God has already placed you, are you serving faithfully?
Just as Paul urges the Colossians to work hard in everything they do, we too strive in serving others well with our gifts and our love, whether it’s many or few, noticeable or discreet.
This is investing the talents given us, in contrast to digging a hole to hide them in. Faithfulness in small things develops our character, demonstrating our willingness to persevere, obey and surrender that when the master returns we’re called faithful instead of slothful, good instead of wicked, rewarded instead of punished.
For the one who is faithful in very little will also be faithful in much (Luke 16:10).
With whom have you been entrusted?
Could we flip back the pages of our aspirations and read the introduction again, rooting ourselves in the gospel, remembering our commission from the Lord Jesus to make disciples and bear lasting fruit. To trust that though we're small in our own eyes and like Ant Man feel small and hidden, God is fulfilling His purpose for us and for His kingdom.
“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Prov 3:3-4).
How are you growing in habits of faithfulness?