How do you build a life of significance? How do small persistent daily steps lead to tremendous and lasting results? What does it mean that great lives are built on the foundation of a holy redundancy; a steady faithfulness?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jeff Manion (@ManionJeff) about his book, Dream Big, Think Small: Living an Extraordinary Life One Day at a Time (Zondervan, 2017).
You write, “Success in the Large Things requires deep, abiding commitment to the Small Things.” What are the “Large” and “Small” things you’re referring to?
Jeff Manion: The Large Things might include a thriving marriage or ministry, financial stability, or spiritual maturity. The Small Things are those nondramatic daily behaviors that move us forward in these areas over an extended period of time: such as the habit of resolving conflict swiftly, offering regular encouragement, saving money from every paycheck, and carving out quiet time each and every day. These Small Things feel insignificant when weighed individually but amass over time to build the most critical areas of our lives.
From the Bible, how do we know God wants us to concentrate on the Small Things?
Jeff Manion: Follow the lives of the heroes of the Bible. What tends to jump out are the monumental earth-shaking events. But dig deeper and you’ll often discover a steady, faithful, consistency in smaller things.
Before David’s encounter with Goliath, he’s faithfully watching his family’s flock of sheep (1 Samuel 17:15). Before the dramatic story of Daniel in the lion’s den, the aged servant is faithfully praying, day after day (Daniel 6:10). Carefully read through the ministry of Jesus, and you’ll discover that most of his miracles emerge from settings where he’s devoted to the comparatively mundane tasks of teaching or praying (Luke 5:16).
The extraordinary events of the Bible frequently emerge from lives devoted to ordinary faithfulness. I believe these mundane events are recorded in Scripture to remind us of the significance of faithfulness in the Small Things.
How does your book differ from the concept of “the power of positive thinking”?
Jeff Manion: In Dream Big, Think Small, the emphasis is really on the “think small” part. The focus is less on the dreaming and more on the small daily habits that form our lives—those repeated behaviors that make or break us. Many want to change the world—or at least their corner of it—but grow impatient with the time and sheer redundancy required to effect lasting change. “Thinking positively” is worthless if unaccompanied by steady, faithful, movement.
Why is faithfulness a quiet virtue?
Jeff Manion: Faithfulness generally doesn’t make a lot of noise. It’s built on the repetition of routine activity—that capacity to bring ourselves again and again, usually in the same way, and often to the same people, for an extended period of time. Because of this, it ceases to be new and interesting. It’s rarely attention grabbing. The power of faithfulness is in the sum of its activity over time, but the individual actions are rarely spectacular. Thus, it’s quiet when measured from day to day.
What does the Bible want us to learn from the ant?
Jeff Manion: In Proverbs, King Solomon councils the listener to observe how ants have little power but store up food for winter (Proverbs 30:25) by making steady trips back and forth to the anthill. The proverb uses the ant as an example of what can be accomplished through steady, faithful, activity.
In the matter of attending to “small things,” how should a person care for and strengthen their soul? Guard their heart?
Jeff Manion: Soul care is daily work. Don’t rely on a mountaintop weekend or life-changing sermon to renovate your life.
The work we do daily in quieting our hearts before God, asking for guidance, and dining on the story of the Bible can provide daily food for our daily growth.
What is the power of gratitude?
Jeff Manion: Daily gratitude evicts anxiety and envy. When I chronicle the innumerable blessings that flow into my life, I am less prone to fall into anxious worry (Philippians 4:6), or view others as blessed while I am shortchanged.
What does it mean for a Christian to persevere?
Jeff Manion: The opposite of perseverance is to give up. To call it quits. To throw in the towel.
The harvest is linked to our perseverance: the capacity to keep moving forward when we feel like giving up.
Explain your statement that goodness grows slowly?
Jeff Manion: Whether investing your life as a parent, a coach, or a pastor; these investments don’t tend to show their impact overnight. The Bible uses farming imagery: you plant, you cultivate. Then you wait. You never harvest in the same season that you plant. Goodness rarely produces immediate results. It tends to grow slow like a fruit producing tree.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Jeff Manion: I use Bible Gateway virtually every week. It saves a ton of time in locating Scriptures I’m looking for. I’m also able to swiftly move from translation to translation to see how a particular verse or story is worded in another version of the Bible. I’m deeply grateful for Bible Gateway.
Bio: Jeff Manion is the senior teaching pastor of multi-campus Ada Bible Church (@adabible) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for over 30 years. He’s the author of The Land Between, Satisfied, and Dream Big, Think Small. His great joy is digging deeply into Scripture and passionately teaching the story of the Bible in a clear and relevant way. Jeff enjoys running, cycling and hiking. He and his wife, Chris, have three adult children and are proud grandparents.
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