I don't remember where I first heard someone say this, or if it was their original thought or something they snagged from another author or speaker. But it caused me to stop immediately and really ponder its meaning.
My initial comment is so say this does not mean that we are to live small lives in the sense that we don't actually follow and obey God, doing what He leads us to do. It doesn't mean we shut out the world around us, stay cooped up in our comfortable homes avoiding a world of people seeking something more than what the culture says is happiness and satisfaction. It doesn't mean we don't pray to the Lord and trust Him for big things in our lives, families, communities, or world.
What this quote has caused me to do is to stop and really consider what I'm living my life for. Many of us desire to leave a legacy, to do something significant that will impact the people that come after we leave this world. And that is a valid desire.
Growing up, I always wanted to do something radical for Jesus, to be set apart and different and be a person He would use to change the world. At the heart of this was a desire to see lives changed (again, a noble desire).
But if I'm being honest, a lot of that was for my own name and glory, although I didn't realize it at the time. I wanted to be remembered and not forgotten. Something about the brevity of life, and our inability to change that, creates a longing in us to ensure our lives matter.
But sometimes (most of the time) following Jesus doesn't mean a place in the spotlight. Actually, following Jesus ensures you are never the one in the spotlight, but rather that He is. It means you likely won't be a famous speaker, missionary, author or blogger–that your picture won't be known across the Internet or plastered to the back of a New York Time's bestselling book.
It may look a little more ordinary than maybe we hoped for. Doing the laundry and dishes every week to serve your family. Leading a Bible study at church where only three people attend regularly. Learning a foreign language with the hopes you'll be able to communicate on a deeper level to the native speakers. Praying with a friend in the corner of a coffee shop. Making dinner for a family going through a hard time. Writing a note to someone God put on your heart.
And a hundred other things we do in a typical week. Most of these things won't be seen by crowds of people. Many of them may go unrecognized and unappreciated. There will be days where doing the mundane routine of life can feel burdensome and pointless, wondering how it matters or is making a difference.
But faithfulness and obedience to God means doing what He's placed right before you, with a joyful and glad heart. Though the examples mentioned above may seem small, they are likely making a more significant impact than you can realize. Yet the goal is not to find out how much it is impacting people, but to serve others willingly and sacrificially and, perhaps, without recognition.
"Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever," as Tedd Tripp says in Shepherding a Child's Heart.
With this perspective, I can clean the house, grocery shop, talk with friends and family, interact with strangers, move to another country, learn a foreign language, work and live with a cheerful heart, seeking only that God would be made known and at the end of my life my reward would be to hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."