KIDOGO KIDOGO HUJAZA KIBABA. It’s an African proverb that a Kenyan friend recited to me often when I, as a newly arrived missionary, would become discouraged at my very slow pace in learning basic Kiswahili, or when I would get confused over the local currency or make embarrassing cross-cultural social blunders. He would say the proverb to remind me that great things start out small and mastery happens gradually over time.
KIDOGO KIDOGO HUJAZA KIBABA. Little by little fills the measure. I am not a fan of the truth of those words. I’d much rather good things just happen when I want them to. However, I can’t argue with the wisdom. It does seem that most good things develop over time, after much practice and patience.
Spiritual growth is like that. It usually happens gradually. Sometimes it is so slow that we really can’t see it in the making. But it is there. In fact, I think it’s a little like hair growing! I’ve never seen my hair grow, but every few weeks when I look in the mirror I think, “I need a haircut.” The growth is visible, but the growing is not.
The key to mastery of anything we want to learn is faithful, steadfast persistence. Musicians don’t ever perform scales in public. But they play them over and over privately to continually build up the foundations of their skill. Athletes don’t usually do pushups in competition, but doing them regularly in practice helps to develop and maintain strength for the event.
Both musicians and runners have routines they work on every day that help them grow in ability and endurance. Eventually pianists may master the complex Étude No. 36 in G Sharp Minor by Chopin-Godowsky. Athletes may medal in the Olympics. But each grand accomplishment will have had small beginnings. KIDOGO KIDOGO HUJAZA KIBABA. Little by little fills the measure.
What are the small beginnings for great faith? What are the routine practices we can start that will build us into the people God uses for his bigger purposes? Well, just as the musician repeatedly practices scales and the athlete has a daily workout routine, there are disciplines, or regular activities that help to strengthen our faith and equip us for service. Perhaps we could look at these as components of our “plumb line,” as mentioned in Zechariah 4:10 (above). They are the basic regular practices that keep our spiritual growth sure and steady.
Here are just a few. Keep in mind, we start little by little …
- Daily Bible Reading. A chapter or even just a passage. (See also https://bible.org/article/31-bible-reflection-tips.)
- Daily Prayer. Three things about God you appreciate. Three things you are thankful for. Three things you need forgiveness for. Three needs you and others have. Three minutes to just be still and listen.
- Regular Fellowship and Corporate Worship. Church, small group, Christian friends.
- Increased Giving. Your time and money. To your church. To your community. To ministries. To missions. (See also https://blogs.bible.org/engage/carol_dowsett/leave_it.)
With these small beginnings we grow. Gradually we add more disciplines or build up the basics toward more intricate practices. Bible reading becomes reflective Bible study. Prayer becomes rich times of worship and intercession. Fellowship/worship becomes ministry. Giving becomes generosity.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Yes, these beginnings are small, but instead of dreading (despising) them, we do them. God loves to see us start on the foundations.
Not just for beginners
I have a friend who is a marathoner. She worked steadily over time to build up the strength and endurance to run well. But then she went through a period of illness. When she was well enough to start running again, where did she begin? With the small things.
There are times when we go through difficult seasons spiritually or the complexities of life just wear us out. Even if we have walked with God a long time and have practiced many spiritual disciplines over many years, sometimes we just have to begin again. Where do we start? With the small things. Bible Reading. Prayer. Fellowship/Corporate Worship. Giving.
KIDOGO KIDOGO HUJAZA KIBABA. Little by little fills the measure. The Lord rejoices to see us begin again and we can be sure that steadily and gradually he will fill us up. Like hair growing, we may not notice the changing; but over time we will see changes like these: We have increased faith. We have more opportunities for service. We have new insights. We discover we are kinder, more patient and have increasing joy.
At some point we may even find our measure filled and our cup overflowing.
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Carol Dowsett is a career missionary and communications consultant. She teaches Reflective Bible Studies and writes regularly on prayer and daily faith.