Originally published Tuesday, 22 October 2013.
Sometimes, it's the littlest things that wield the most power in our lives.
A couple of weeks ago, my hosting company shut down my blog because it was pulling too much from their servers. I was powerless to do anything about it. Nor did I know how to fix it. But a friend investigated and found that a little plug-in I didn't even remember having was the source of all the trouble.
Often it is the little things in our lives, the things we don't pay attention to and the things that seem insignificant which are in fact quite powerful. Sometimes it's little sins, like gossip, worry, or complaining, that over time dig deep roots in our heart. They spread and grow into bitterness, self-righteousness, despair, and anger. Little distractions that we consider to have no impact on our life, slowly draws us into sin, damages our relationships, and inhibits our growth in faith. Those little temptations that we give into, like spending just a few more minutes pinning the things our heart desires or shopping when we know we don't have any money or comparing what we have to someone else, can take us down a destructive road.
In my own life, I've seen the power of little things affect my relationships, my faith, and my emotions. When I give in to irritability and let it shower on those around me, it pierces and hurts those I love. When I harbor anger and bitterness over my husband's constant pile of clothes left on the floor, it can create a deep wedge and break fellowship in my marriage. When I choose to immerse myself behind a screen rather than pour into the lives of people IRL (in real life), I miss opportunities to bless others and glorify God. When I admire what my friend has and dwell on all that I don't have, discontentment and ingratitude brews in my heart, distancing me from God.
For most of us, it's not the big sins or temptations that pull us away from Christ. Rather, it's all the little choices we make throughout our day. They slowly build up into towering giants of bad habits, sins, and idols. Like a wandering seed that finds itself in fertile soil, the little things in our life can grow and spread like a weed in our heart, wrapping itself ever tighter, choking out our joy.
James talks about the power of the tongue, as a small thing that can cause great trouble. “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (3:4-6). " The Apostle Paul referenced the power of one person's sin to affect the entire church, "Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6) A little laziness can go a long way as well, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:10-11).
My friend who came to my blog's rescue had to delete the plug-in that caused the entire problem. Song of Solomon says, "Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (2:15). The couple knew how little things could bring ruin to their love, like foxes running wild in a garden. We too have to catch the little foxes in our hearts, foxes like careless words, wandering thoughts, time wasters, and all the little distractions of our hearts.
Yet, while little things are powerful, Jesus' grace is even stronger. He came to die for all our sins, both big and little. We can trust him to save us for eternity and to save us from the power of all the little things in our lives. In John 15, he said “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (v.5). It is by abiding in him and trusting his finished work on the cross for our sins that we can resist the power of the little things that distract and pull us from living for him.
As we abide in him, we are empowered to take steps forward in faithfulness. And though those little sins and temptations are strong, our little steps of faith are strong as well. When we seek to glorify God in all our mundane and daily responsibilities, in all our small decisions, responses, and actions, those little steps add up to big changes in our lives. When we face each and every little mess, temptation, and distraction through the power of the gospel and rest in the strength of Christ, the pull of those things lessens.
Are there little things in your life that are causing you to stumble? Seek Christ in prayer. Ask him to help you recognize and identify them in your life. Ask him for strength to help you resist and turn from them. Abide in him and trust in his faithfulness as you seek out and catch all those little things. And as you remain connected to the vine, you will grow fruit, taking little steps of faith that build up to an amazing transformation in your heart.