Can a hurricane’s eventual path in Texas be influenced by something as small as the flap of a butterfly wing weeks earlier in China? Edward Lorenz was a mathematician and a meteorologist who discovered large changes in weather models resulting from very small variations in initial conditions. His work sought to promote a “chaos theory” whereby very small differences in initial conditions can result in very large differences. Lorenz used his theory to demonstrate that predictability in systems such as weather is inherently limited due to these small variations. In other words, small things can make a huge difference.
The “butterfly effect” as it came to be known, shouldn’t be difficult for us to understand given our world’s situation at the moment. A virus infected a single human being in China, and now the majority of the world’s population are staying home and wearing masks in public, economies are threatened, oil prices plummet, unemployment soars, close to 175,000 people have died worldwide as 2.5 million cases are confirmed. The only way a virus can replicate is inside the cells of a living organism. The virus is spread from one person to another when the virus makes the jump from one host to another. In the last month or so, this has taken place over and over again to arrive at the numbers we now see. A microscopic virus has agitated the entire world. Small things can make a huge difference.
Consider the life of one man named Jesus who lived two thousand years ago. The Population Reference Bureau approximates that 110 billion people have inhabited planet Earth since the beginning of human life. Yet, this one life continues to have such a tremendous influence. The message of the gospel, like a virus, is spread mainly through human contact. Faith in Jesus is passed from one person to another. The gospel of Jesus is not caught by accident, though. It is spread intentionally and received willingly. The gospel of Jesus cannot be seen through a microscope. Its effects are evidenced not in death and destruction but in life and love. The outcome of Jesus’ life perpetuates through your life and mine. It grows as we become more obedient to His influence in our lives. It spreads as others experience it and it is born within them as well. That one human life has eternal impact, because He was both God and man. It is a privilege to be included in a chain with links that extend all the way into eternity.
Consider how your small acts of kindness, accomplished in the name of Jesus, might make a big difference in this world. You may think your tiny, mustard seed act of faith will have very slight impact. But you would be wrong. Worldwide revivals are fueled by small acts of faith, the origins of which may never be known. British revivalist Henry Varley once told Dwight Moody, “the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” It was an inspirational word that Moody carried in his soul throughout his extensive evangelistic ministry. Later asked about it, Varley couldn’t recall having said those words. Think of the throwaway lines we speak each day that might inspire a future Moody.
Though the originator of the butterfly effect theory, Edward Lorenz, didn’t figure God in his calculations – we can. The small things you do to the glory of God today will yield surprising results spreading to eternity. So don’t neglect the small things. Flap your little butterfly wings. Don’t underestimate your diminutive contributions. As the musician, Kittie Suffield, wrote in an enduring hymn, “Little is much when God is in it.”