By Jasmine Timm
“Did we do enough while we were here? Did we even make a difference?” These were the types of questions that ran through my head as my husband and I packed our house into boxes, preparing to move out of our neighborhood. We had loved living in this home and had loved getting to know our neighbors, but we regretted that we did not see them more often. How could we know whether we’d done anything worthwhile for the kingdom during our time here?
To our shock, our neighbors expressed their sadness over our departure when we told them we’d be moving. “Are you serious, God? What on earth did we do that could have made an impact on these people?” I thought to myself. During our time here, we had hosted one block party and spoken with neighbors somewhat frequently but always in passing. We definitely could have done more.
Yet God demonstrated His ability to perform great work out of our small obedience. God is capable of doing so much through us — infinitely more than we could have ever expected — when we commit ourselves to Him and remain faithful in the small things. In our 1 Peter study this year, we discussed this passage:
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
As exiles and sojourners in this land, we are called to be faithful and self-controlled, living honorably among our neighbors, so they might be able to catch a glimpse of the glory of God through our lives. When we read verses like this, we often feel we have to do everything perfectly if we are to have any impact at all on our neighbors — we need to deliver cookies to everyone for every major holiday, we need to invite every single person over for dinner at least once a year, we need to be praying for them 24/7. While all these things are good and admirable (and good goals to strive for), God is capable of honoring Himself in the eyes of our neighbors through our small, daily obedience. It begins with us trusting Him as capable to use us. In the past year and a half, we have prayed for our neighbors, sought them out, baked a pie or two, mowed a lawn, and hosted a block party. Yet we could have done more. But doing more is not the point. The point is trusting God to do what He says He will do, and He says He will glorify Himself through our good deeds as we walk with Him in trusting obedience.
I share our story with our neighbors not to boast about the good things we did while we were here (really, I wholeheartedly believe we could have done more for them), but to encourage us that God is capable of doing so much even through the very little we have to offer. As Christians, we do make an impact. When we plant our roots in a neighborhood, whether it be an apartment complex, a rental, a family’s home, or a cul-de-sac, we can certainly make an impact. Why? Because our God is gracious, mighty, and capable of touching lives through any act of obedience, whether it be small or large. An often overlooked portion of Jeremiah 29 encourages us:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (verses 4-7).
Although we are exiles, we are called to make our place of exile our home, but not for our sake. While we wait for the Lord to gather us home, we set our roots down for the sake of our neighbors. We make the places we live better by small acts of obedience. We actively seek the welfare of the city where He has sent us, and often, seeking our neighbor’s welfare looks like meeting their needs on a day-to-day basis whenever we are given the opportunity. We miss out on God’s bigness when we minimize the impact our small acts of obedience can have. Speaking with your neighbor, while you’re unloading groceries, matters for the kingdom. Asking your neighbor how they have been matters for the kingdom. Praying for your neighbor when they cross your mind matters for the kingdom. That one party you threw for your neighborhood a year ago matters for the kingdom. Including your neighbor in your life in the small ways matters for the kingdom. Every act of small obedience matters for the kingdom because our Great God can do infinitely more than we could ever ask for or expect.
You may never get to see exactly how you are leaving an impact on your neighborhood, but you can rest assured that if you are seeking to be obedient to the Lord in the small, mundane, day-to-day tasks that He has set before you, you are making an impact. We are called to actively seek the welfare of the place where He has sent us into exile, and as we make that place our home for the sake of our neighbors, we will be used. In our neighbors’ welfare, we will find our welfare.
If you have yet to engage your neighbors, start now and start small. Ask God for wisdom in how you might honor Him and obey Him. Knock on someone’s door and introduce yourself. Offer to weed their yard. Ask them what they love about the neighborhood. Ask them their story. It doesn’t have to be a massive endeavor, for He can do much through very little. Our small obedience matters. If you are feeling discouraged about your efforts with your neighbors, take heart that He is faithful. Every small act of obedience matters, and He can make much out of very little.
Because of His great faithfulness to us and because of His great might, our prayer and expectation can be this:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
He is capable of using you, and He loves to perform great things through your small acts of daily obedience. Let’s seek the welfare of our neighbors and wait with eager expectation to see what our God will do.