03 February, 2009

It's the Little Things That Make the Difference

So, this morning I've just come in from taking Ashley to school and I am in the middle of making some ham and eggs for breakfast when my cell phone rings. It is my wife's distinctive ring, so immediately my heart skips a beat, because if she is calling me that early, it is usually because something or she needs something done, so either way, my plans for the day are about to be messed up. Turns out this time she has just heard good news on the radio concerning the school system she works in and she just wanted to share it with me. (Whew!) As she is saying her good bye, she asks, "Oh, did you do something to the car? It's getting 3-4 miles per gallon better mileage since you had it." I answered, "Yeah, I turned the air conditioner off." For the last couple of weeks she had been driving with the air conditioner turned on at the same time she had the heat running in the car, and my son and I discovered this Sunday when I drove her car to take him back to school. Turning the air conditioning compressor off improves the gas mileage a couple of MPG, and when you drive 100 miles a day round trip to work, that will add up.

OK, so the purpose of my writing this is not to poke fun at my wife. (Really, it's not!) After I hung up the phone I was kind of chuckling to myself about the conversation and then began thinking about how such a small thing as pushing a button on the dashboard can make such a difference. The wheels started turning in my head about how the small things in life can make such a difference. I immediately thought about the car accident my wife was in back in December. The impact was forceful enough that the van she was driving was totaled. Thankfully, the SUV that hit her in the side hit exactly on the support between the driver's door and the rear door which made her van much stronger at that point, absorbing the impact. Had that SUV hit a fraction of a second sooner, the impact would have been into the door and Libby most likely would have been hurt much worse than she was. Only a fraction of a second, and a few inches difference, but the outcome was vastly different. There are countless examples that could be given, but I think the reader has the idea about how something very small can make such a big difference. I've read of numerous discoveries that have been made simply because someone altered a formula by a minute detail. The impact has been huge.

Now, let me shift gears a little and let's look at this in a spiritual sense. As pastor I frequently have conversations with people who are seeking for answers to issues or problems in their life. Inevitably I will hear something like this, "It's not like I'm that bad of a person pastor. It's not like I'm out killing someone or robbing banks or doing drugs." Hidden within the statement that the person is making to me is the underlying, unspoken statement, "I know I'm not doing what I know is right... but I'm not as bad as others." The fact is, people generally try to judge their life by comparing themselves to others, but the only standard by which we can really make such a judgment is God's standard; the Word of God.
Those of us who are Christians can find ourselves slipping into the habit of saying, "Thank God, I'm not like them." (Seems like I read that somewhere.) First and foremost, let's remember, no matter how "good" or righteous we think we are, the Bible clearly tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. It's not about how "good" we are, but rather have we confessed our sin to the Lord, asked for (and received) forgiveness, and repented (stopped doing) those sins. In other words, we must have the blood applied. Forgiveness and righteousness comes from God and God alone through Christ Jesus. Never forget that.
That said though, there is an expectation that we cease to live in the manner we did before we accepted Christ. Most people would immediately say, "I have changed! I don't drink, don't cuss, don't (fill in the blank)"
Point being, we don't do all the "big" sins anymore. I understand that. I am no longer a drunk, an addict, a thief (and so many other things) like I was before I met Jesus, and I thank God for the change he has made in me. But can I tell you, that those "big" things that used to be such a temptation in my life, they just are not a temptation anymore. I have no desire to do those things. None, zip, nada. Just is not there. And the devil knows that it is pretty much useless to try to throw those temptations in front of me, because I recognize those things right away and run from them. But what he does do is he tries to slip little things under my spiritual radar. The Bible tells us that "the little foxes spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes." Let me share it this way. The devil seldom goes for the areas of our life where we have matured. He goes after the tender spots, the parts that have not yet matured and we have not learned to guard. The tripping points in most of our lives are not the "big" sin areas that we all know and recognize. It's those little things. They creap in and catch us unaware and we find ourselves slipping away from God and losing our passion for God. It may be something as simple as hobby that begins to pull us away from times of corporate worship and private study of the Word of God and our private worship. It is our drive to earn more money, so we take a second job that takes away from these areas. It may be a boy friend or girl friend that comes in and now we are so captured by them that we slowly slip away from God. It can even be that we become so busy doing the "religious" things that we find ourselves detracted from our relationship with Jesus. Over the years I've been in the minsitry I have sat with literally hundreds of people who have said something like, "I don't know how I got to this point. I didn't mean for this to happen. How...?"
It was the little things. Those small things that crept in... the small changes... and before they knew it, they found themselves far away from God with a broken marriage vow, a DUI, or some other place or problem that would have never imagined happening in their life. The small things make a difference.

I remember a few years ago when my family and my neice and her children were vacationing on Galveston Island and we were all out in the water just relaxing. The waves were not very strong one day, but we did not realize there was a strong undercurrent. Over and over we'd realize that we had drifted quite a distance down the beach from where we had started out and we would have to call to all the kids to move back to where we belonged. At one point we were out in the water and Libby was floating in a tube. Suddenly Libby began to call out for help. She had been pulled much further out away from the shore than she had realized and the tide was pulling her out to sea. I had to swim out to get her and tow her back in, which was not easy fighting the pull of the tide. When we got back in closer to shore, Libby was crying and kept saying how she did not realize that it was happening to her until it was too late.She said she kept trying to swim back in but that she just kept getting pulled away and she was wore out. Thankfully, she swallowed her pride and called out for help.

Folks, that is exactly how it works in the spiritual realm!
Satan lulls us into a place of complacency, and begins to slowly pull at us, not with a sudden jerk, but little by little, until we find ourselves in a place that we are helpless in ourselves to do anything. We need a savior. But we have to swallow our pride and admit that we've drifted away and need help. Jesus is right there waiting; waiting patiently for us to admit that we cannot do it our own. Our own works, our righteousness just is not enough and it never will be.

I guess I'd just end this today by asking you to take a good look at your life and ask yourself where you are. Have the little things crept in?

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