There are many different settings in which the above statement has been used. With each of them the prevailing understanding is that you cannot judge the product based solely upon its size. There have been many occasions when the smaller has defeated the greater, or has at least proved to be greater in strength than previously thought.
Throughout the Scriptures the emphasis is placed by God, not upon the size of the individual(s), but upon what they do with what they have. The first example that comes to many people’s mind in this regard is David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Though David is younger and much smaller in stature than the Philistine giant, his heart and faith are in the right place, and with the courage and trust he places in God, he defeats the Philistine with a sling and a rock.
Nationally, the people of Israel on many occasions faced this particular quandary. Accounts such as Gideon in Judges 7, and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14, who were willing to go up against adversaries when greatly outnumbered because of their faith and confidence in God. These and many others show us that God does not regard numbers to be the definition of superiority.
We must understand that God acknowledges this to be true in religion as well. God does not determine acceptability or condemnation based upon the numbers involved in the activities. One of the greatest examples in Scripture of this principle is found in First Kings 18, with the account of Elijah’s confrontation with the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. If numbers were the key, the prophets of Baal would have won hands down. Instead, Elijah and the Lord win the duel and the false prophets of the false god are put to death. It is further emphasized in chapter 19 when Elijah flees to the wilderness and is confronted by God for thinking he’s the only one still serving the Lord. The Lord responds in verse 18 by telling Elijah that he has 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Though small in number, this group is strong in faith, even in the face of the queen’s persecution.
We can draw a great deal of strength and confidence from these accounts in Scripture. However, such examples are not found only in the Old Testament. God approaches his people and congregations the same way today. God is more concerned with the faithfulness of the congregation than the size of it.
This is shown very vividly in the letter to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13. They are described by the Lord as a congregation that “have but little power” (Vs. 8). They are not the largest, strongest, or most powerful congregation when it comes to numbers and ability. However, they hold one prize which cannot be taken from them. They are told by the Lord: “yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Vs. 8). They are commended because they, though small, have done everything within their power to keep the word of the Lord to its fullest. They are one of only two congregations to which the Lord wrote in these chapters of which nothing condemning is said.
It is indeed a wonderful thing to understand that size doesn’t matter to God. Instead, God is more concerned with what his people do with what they have been given. If it is used to the best of our ability and according to his commands, we will be found acceptable.
Do not allow the size of your congregation or the perceived limitations of the servants around you diminish your desire and ability to serve the Lord with all your might. Let us endeavor to be as the church at Philadelphia and those servants of old in our work and faithfulness to God.
“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10)