The prophet Zechariah was one of the exiles who returned from Babylon to the largely destroyed city of Jerusalem. The city no longer included a temple: it didn't even have walls. Some of the exiles were trying to rebuild the walls of city but others were saying that that was pointless: the walls were so pathetic that even a fox could get through them, so why bother? In this context, God says through Zechariah:
“The hands of Zerubbabel [the governor] have laid the foundation of this house [i.e. the new temple]; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet [i.e. plumb line - an essential tool for building the new temple] in the hand of Zerubbabel.
So some people were saying that progress was so small it was pointless, but God comes in and says 'no, they're part of achieving a big thing'.
I've been really convicted by that. In the weeks since I've heard it, I've realised I'm very much in the habit of despising small things. I look at people achieving small (but hugely positive) things and feel depressed, rather than celebratory. That happened the other day when I listened to this radio programme about the work of Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust. They train dogs to help people with a range of disabilities, with the radio story mostly focussing on the experience of a young girl with autism. The dog had clearly made a huge difference in her life, but all I could focus on was the fact that they only had something like 7 dogs in training, that a client had to contribute $20,000 towards the cost of their dog etc. etc.: all the things that meant that very few people were going to get the help that this girl had received, rather than what an awesome thing at least some people were getting...
Similarly, when I look at what I contribute to the world, I'm much more likely to see the way that my illness prevents me from doing big things than to value the small things God gives me to do.
I despise the day of small things. I'm praying that God will change my attitude in this area!
If you're interested, you can listen to audio of all four talks here, or watch video of the first three here (they're the ones marked 'Summit').