The things I just mentioned are conspicuous culprits of bad health and premature death. We know that drugs are extremely detrimental. We fear the horrors of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS. We tremble at the thought of a gun. We pray that God’s grace and mercy will spare us as we drive the dangerous streets. We know the odds are stacked against us if we are drafted into war. We have all heard the warnings of indulging in the vices of smoking and drinking. Yet none of these things are the leading cause of death in America!
Well, what is this dreaded terror? It is heart disease! It is commonly and appropriately referred to as “the silent killer.” You see, we stand guard against the obvious killers and ignore the subtle ones. Heart disease, which is mainly diet related, is a subtle killer. Little by little we destroy our lives. In a very real sense, we are digging our own graves with our teeth!
The “Today’s English Version of the Bible” contains a scripture which says, “Catch the foxes, the little foxes, before they ruin our vineyard in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). They are the little things, which when left alone, can add up to big danger. We are vigilant over the obvious killers. But we are very unpretentious when it comes to caution with silent, subtle killers.
The little things are the culprits that undermine our infrastructure. Think about it. If we see a spider or a roach in our house, we will kill it to keep our homes pest-free. Yet we will rarely ensure that little things, like termites, are not destroying the house from the inside out. You see, little things do not work on the surface. They work internally. They work subconsciously. They work systemically. They work gradually.
Disease is generally caused by a microscopic bacteria or organism. You cannot even see it with your naked eye! It is hard to believe that something that small can snuff out your life. As a result, we give more attention to pimples that surface on our faces than to lumps that may develop in our bodies. They are the little foxes that spoil the vine!
Therefore, when Satan wants to do something, he does not come as a big devil. He comes as a little, sly fox. Satan is very subtle. The changes he brings come very gradually. He diverts our attention little by little. Then one day, you wake up and wonder, “How in the world did I get in this condition?” People who lose fellowship with God do not do it overnight. They get slack day by day and week by week. They begin skipping their time of prayer. They become irregular in reading the Bible. They start skipping church services. Then before they realize what has happened, they are out of fellowship with God.
You have to be very careful about minding the little things. When the little things get out of hand, the big things will soon follow! What generally destroys marriages is minutia. I mean, Satan will use every available little thing to irritate and exasperate marriage partners. And, of course, the older you are, the less tolerant you are of little things that aggravate you. Once you reach a certain age, whatever comes up, comes out. So Satan does not get us suddenly. He chisels away at us, little by little.
Remember how Satan deceived Eve? He distracted her attention and made her look at the forbidden fruit. Then he posed a provocative question and let her meditate on the temptation. He wanted to get her in the realm of human reasoning so he could destroy her faith in what God had commanded. Satan spoke some truth, but he mixed it with “little” white lies. Those “little” white lies led to the downfall of all humanity.
We always have to be very wary of little things. Watch for signs of little things that are moving in the wrong direction. Nip them in the bud, before they can bloom. The earlier you deal with potential hazards, the better. There will never be an opportune time to stop or correct something that spells trouble. As soon as you smell something foul or detect something wrong, stop it! As little things come up, deal with them and
Just take everything a little at the time. That reminds me of the adage which says, “Life by the yard is hard; but life by the inch is a cinch.”
Many parents watch “little foxes” consume their children, while diminishing the significance of the “little foxes.” Seeds of disrespect emerge at young ages, but many parents dismiss those little foxes as “cute.” Sometimes when little foxes emerge, parents think that “this is just a phase; and it will pass.” But birthing children out of wedlock is not a phase! Developing a sexually transmitted disease is not a phase! Being strung out on drugs is not a phase! Drunk driving is not a phase! Disrespect and blatant rebellion are not phases! These are very damning habits that will shape lifestyles.
In a certain sense of the word, ignoring these detrimental “little foxes” in children is a form of child negligence. To ignore possible dangers in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones is to welcome the danger. You see, love is about protecting. Love is about disciplining. So when we discipline, we are trying to protect our children from things that can lead them in the wrong direction and destroy them.
When most things collapse suddenly, we have the propensity to think that destruction is immediate. But it is not! Somewhere down the line, there was a small leak or an erosion or deterioration in the foundation. This is where the devil seeks to do his work. He wants to destroy the foundation. The Psalmist asks the question, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3). The dismal truth to the question is that we can do nothing without a properly fortified foundation. You see, the most serious dangers in life are practically hidden. Cosmetic damage is generally very superficial and rarely crucial.
Have you ever noticed how long some people can make it with bad health habits before they break down? Some people can smoke, drink, do a few drugs, eat fried and high cholesterol foods for years before they finally fall out with a heart attack. Remember, the devil’s plot is to tear you down so slowly that you will not realize anything is happening until it is too late. There are initial warning signs, but we dismiss those as “little, harmless foxes.”
Just because something is little does not suggest it is harmless. A termite is little, but it can cause big damage. That is exactly why the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, said, “Catch the foxes, the little foxes, before they ruin our vineyard in bloom.” Your vineyard is your life support system. It is the place you reap God’s blessing in your life. Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1a). So if you are not careful, little foxes will destroy your perception and understanding of Jesus! In Scripture, foxes have been a symbol of destruction and false prophets or doctrine. In Luke 13:32, Jesus refers to Herod as a fox, and that is not a good sign. When you address someone as “You little sly fox,” that is synonymous with saying, “You little sly devil.”
Although “little foxes” may present themselves to be harmless, they are just the opposite. When things are stolen little by little, you barely notice anything missing. Of course, anyone would notice if an entire room of furniture had been burglarized. But if a small ceramic item were stolen or a certain book or CD, you would not notice it immediately. In fact, you probably would not notice a small item being gone until it is time to use it again.
Most people do not budget themselves well because they spend a lot of money on several inexpensive items. But what they do not realize is that those inexpensive items add up. Two dollars here and five there will add up to all your extra money very quickly. Buying little things which are not on your grocery list can skyrocket your checkout total. So never underestimate how quickly little things add up.
A few years ago, I noticed a hole in a water line in my basement. The hole was about the size of a sewing needle. Since it was so small, I ignored it. Well, not only did that hole cause the carpet to get soaked, it caused my water bill to be about $230 more than normal. That incident taught me the value of attending to things while they are small. Now, I really understand the statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
If you are not vigilant over little things, big problems can emerge. You may struggle desperately to lose weight over several months. Yet, when you reach your desired weight, you must remain conscious of keeping off extra pounds. Weight is shed very gradually, but it slips on very quickly. You do not notice a significant change in weight just because you eat a sinfully delicious dessert. So you eat another and another and another until you notice an increase. Then one day you notice that your clothes do not fit comfortably. After you have put on a few additional pounds, you cannot retrospectively decipher which meal caused the gain. The gain from each meal was so small that you did not register it as a hazard to weight control. So you see, ignoring a small problem can result in a greater problem. Anything that increases or decreases little by little is difficult to track without making a determined, cognizant effort.
I now realize that little things can teach a big lesson. In fact, the genuine truth about things is not found in the great aspects of life, but in the little things. If I really want to know something about the character of a man, I do not look at how well he does his job. I do not consider the worth of his reputation in the community. I do not even judge it by his involvement in the church. Rather, I check to see how he relates to his wife and children. If his immediate family loves and respects him, he is generally a man of genuineness and quality. You can tell much more about a man by the way he treats his wife and children than by the way he treats his job!
If a woman wants to know how a man will treat her as a wife, she should take note of how he treats his mother. If a man disrespects his mother, he will disrespect his wife. If a man expects his mother to do everything for him (cook, clean, wash clothes, etc.), he will expect the same from his wife. By the same token, if a man wants to know something about the way a woman will relate to him as a husband, he should observe how she relates to her father. If she manipulates her father for what she wants, she will manipulate her husband. If she adores and serves her father, she will do the same toward her husband. Of course, these are general truths, which means there are many exceptions. But I have found that there is a great parallel between the attitudes of children toward their parents and the attitudes of those same children toward their spouses.
Little things make a big difference! For us to be extraordinary, all we need is a little “extra.” It does not always take a great deal more. If we will simply sacrifice to do a little extra with everything we do, we will be distinguished as extraordinary! You do not have to be common. Put a little extra in what you do and become extraordinary! Yes, all it takes is a little extra in what you ordinarily do to make you exceptional. It is not nearly as hard as you think. I have talked with some people who have accomplished great things. Yet, when I asked them how they do extraordinary things, they really cannot adequately explain it. I have found this to be so because they do not see themselves as extraordinary. To them, it is ordinary for them to do what they do. Some people just naturally have better discipline and motivation than others. Some people naturally do more than what is expected of them. They do not wait until they are told to do things that obviously need to be done. Having this type of attitude sets a person apart. It causes a person who is ordinarily self-motivated to be considered extraordinary.
Extraordinary people are such a rare breed because most people will not do the little extra things without compensation or recognition. Most people who are asked to do something that is beyond the call of duty want to know how much overtime they will be paid. That is an ordinary attitude and response. But an extraordinary person will work beyond what he is paid to do without the boss knowing about it. Then the little extra effort he has put forth will manifest in his work and attitude. Eventually, those in leadership will recognize the extra effort and promote that person.
If you have two people who are equally qualified for a job, how do you choose the right candidate for the one opening you have? If the educational background and the experience of the two individuals are comparable, how do you make a decision? Well, when the major things in their lives are parallel, you have to look at details. Which one seems to have the better attitude? Who seems to be more likely to put forth the “little extra”? Who seems to be more energetic? Which seems to be better organized? Take a hard look at the little things in the personality, attitude and appearance and make the decision. The little things will tell you which one will be better in the long run.
I have a set of identical twin girls. Whenever we are out with all our children, people ask us, “How do you tell them apart?” Well, we are able to distinguish them by little things that make a big difference. We know that one twin is physically bigger than the other. One twin sucks her thumb; the other does not. One twin’s personality is a little more outgoing than the other. One twin has longer hair than the other. My wife and I readily notice these differences. Yet, strangers find it impossible to distinguish the two. You see, my wife and I are more sensitive to the differences in our twins that make them unique. We see them as distinctly different without making comparisons. They are the little things that show their differences. One is not better than the other, they are just different.
Some people can see some of the distinguishing factors in my twins. One lady said, “They look just alike, but one is bigger than the other!” I often say, “Whatever follows the 'but' is the most important part of what is stated.” “But” is a little word that makes a lot of difference in what is said. You may ask someone to go with you to a program. The person will reply, “I would really love to go with you to your program, but I promised my mother I would help her clean out her garage tomorrow.” The bottom line about what you want to know is what follows the “but.” Always learn to put your emphasis on what follows the “but.” The Scripture says “...weeping may endure for a night, BUT joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5b). That means we are not to concentrate on the weeping part which only endures for a night. Rather, we are to focus on the joy which is coming in the morning! Remember to focus on what follows the “but.” Another scripture says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: BUT the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19). Again, that means we are not to concentrate on the afflictions that come in the life of the righteous. Rather we are to focus on the fact that the Lord delivers us out of every affliction! This is what follows the “but.” “But” is a little word, yet it represents a major turning point for us.
Little things in life are like seeds. They have all the characteristics of the full grown tree. So all we have to do is water the little things — be faithful with them — and they will grow. If a big thing is made of quality little things, you will have a quality big thing. You see, the whole thing is the sum of its parts. This is why it is so important to be faithful and diligent in the little things. If we cultivate the little things properly, they will mature into wonderful plants and trees that will bear innumerable fruit!
The little seed determines what the big tree will look like. So do not underestimate the importance of the little things. If I am going to sit outside and do some work, I like to know the direction of the wind so I can position myself appropriately. I do not look at big office buildings or houses to determine which way the wind is blowing, I look at the direction of a leaf as it vacillates in the wind. The small things that move with the wind tell the direction, not the big things. So learn to pay attention to the small details because the little foxes can ruin your vineyard in bloom if you are not careful.