(And no, by "expanding" I am not referring to my hips!)

You know, I really didn't intend for my Journal to become a place for Bible lessons, but that's the way it seems to be turning out. Still, this is what I think about when I'm not writing fiction. So...

I finished my study of Chronicles, and now am going through the Two-Track Plan that was developed by mega-bestselling author Phllip Yancey. I'm using the plan as a guide for daily Bible reading. Today my reading included Mark 1, which I've read, like, a gazillion times. Even so, something jumped out at me that I hadn't really thought about before.

This chapter describes how Jesus got his ministry started. Verses 35-39 tell us that after Jesus healed a bunch of people in the little town of Capernaum, he got up early in the morning and went off to a solitary place to pray. His newly minted disciples found him and said, "Hey, everyone's looking for you!" Jesus told them, "Let's go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So they did.

I noticed a couple of things. First, Jesus started out small. Not that his ministry was small - not at all. He was healing people and teaching with power right from the beginning. But he started ministering to the people in a small town. Then -- and this is important -- he prayed. Once his name started to become known, he took time to go off by himself and pray. I assume he was praying for direction, based on what he told his disciples. It was after he prayed that God gave him the go-ahead to widen his audience. And then he left Capernum and went elsewhere, even though the people of Capernum obviously wanted him to stick around.

We all have a ministry, a God-given mission, tasks that we want to accomplish. Some might feel called to teach, others to manage people, to preach, to sing, to start a web-based company. Mine is to write. It's such a temptation to want to start out big. We want to see our work reach as many as possible immediately, because that means our work is successful, right? But God doesn't always work that way. Sometimes He wants us to start out small, get a little experience under our belts first.

So here's my take-away from that passage. If I want to accomplish big things for the Lord, I can look to Jesus as a model. First, God might be directing me to start out small. That doesn't mean my work won't be powerful and meaningful - it just means I can't judge the value of my work by the size of my audience. Second, I need to pray. When I feel the urge to expand my audience, I need to separate myself from the work for a little while and get to a place where I can hear the Lord. Ask Him for direction.

And finally, when God says, "Okay, you're ready. Let's go!" I need to go. I might have a faithful audience in that small start-up group. It might be hard to step away from them. After all, they like me. They're looking for me. I might have said I wanted to expand my reach, but when it comes right down to it, it's hard to walk away from a sure thing, isn't it? It's more fun to be a big fish in a small pond than a guppy in an ocean. But when God gives the go-ahead, I'll have to move on if I want to accomplish the tasks He has given me to do.

Okay, that's enough deep thinking for one day.