Bettye Swann became a one-hit wonder with the song, “Little things mean a lot” several years ago. It had a catchy melody and the lyrics were tender and poignant:
“Blow me a kiss from across the room. Say I look nice when I’m not. A line a day when you’re far away. Give me your shoulder to cry on. Send me the warmth of a secret smile, to show you haven’t forgot, Little things mean a lot.”
An old allegory affirms that something of great importance may de-pend on an apparently trivial detail.
“For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of the horse the rider was lost. For want of the rider the message was lost. For want of the message the battle was lost.” There are several versions of this and Benjamin Franklin used one in his POOR RICHARD’S ALMANACK. The lesson is very clear, overlooking or ignoring the smallest detail can have disastrous consequences.
This was substantiated from the very beginning of mankind’s history. One bite from the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil set off the penalties of sin and death for everyone on earth (Gen 3:6) (Rom 5:12-14). One lustful look by King David at the beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, set off a firestorm of disastrous calamities—adultery, lies, murder and the death of a baby (2 Sam 11:2-4, 14, 24) (2 Sam 12:18). David was told by Nathan the prophet, “…the sword will never depart from your house.”
There are, of course, many other bad examples of small words and actions morphing into terrible results. However, there are possibly many more good consequences from a simple little thing. It would be hard to calculate how many conflicts have been avoided by heeding the proverb of Solomon, “A gentle answer turns away wrath…” (Pr 15:1). It is very probable that many conversions and new lives have started with a little thing like a smile (Col 4:5) (1 Th 4:12).
The greatest gift that ever could be started in a little thing called a manger in a little village and will stretch into eternity. The birth of Jesus Christ started with a small thing but means much more than “a lot,” it has resulted in freedom from the penalty of sin and eternal salvation in heaven for millions of people (Lk 2:4-6) (Jo 14:1-4).
This past week I was forced to reminisce about my past physical capacities as I cramped up while attempting to fix some plumbing problems. I remembered how much easier it was to quickly jump up from a sitting position than it is now. Reminiscence, recall, remembrance and retrospect all refer to the contemplation, reflection and evaluation of the past. This mental survey can cause one to smile or wince depending upon the event.
When faced with challenges to his authority as an Apostle, Paul is forced to list his sufferings for the gospel. He was imprisoned, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, sleepless and in constant dangers, yet in retrospect he said, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 11:12-33) (2 Cor 12:9). When he looked back in retrospect he also put things in perspective. He reminds us that, “…though the outward person is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). As he sees this happening he also says, “…if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven…” (2 Cor 5:1).
Unless retrospection becomes a pity party, and then an obsession, its judicious use can help us assess our spiritual progress, or lack thereof. Once again, however, the Apostle Paul points out a better plan, “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead…” I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14). Paul does look back in retrospect when recalling the love and growth of the various congregation he has visited. Nevertheless, like Paul, Christians today need to, “…fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb 12:2). Retrospection can sometimes help us to alter our present spiritual conduct, whereas introspection can help us maintain a steady march towards our heavenly goal.
On a recent cold, snowy morning, I opened our kitchen curtains expecting to see a bleak and dreary scene. Instead I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever witnessed, the curtains gave us privacy and darkness, but also concealed a gift from God that stretched from north to south in a brilliant red hue. Curtains come in many forms and sizes and perform several functions. They can be decorative to enhance the looks of a room or dark to allow someone to sleep better. A stage curtain is used to begin or end a performance. The Iron Curtain was a figurative phrase to indicate the barrier to exchange of information and ideas as was the situation between the Soviet Union and the Western World. In slang in the plural it can mean death by violence.
In God’s instructions to Moses, there were to be curtains in the Tabernacle made of, “finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn…” (Ex 26:1 & 31). They were used to separate the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (v 33). Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once every year with blood not his own (animals) (Heb 9:25). This room was called God’s throne room and the curtain was called the “shielding curtain” to indicate God’s separation from the profane and sinful things (Isa 59:2).
In the New Testament gospels we discover that this curtain has been torn in two at the death of Jesus Christ (Mt 27:51) (Mk 15:38) (Lk 23:45). Hope now allows us to “enter the inner sanctuary where Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf” (Heb 6:19). “Therefore brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body (Heb 10:19-20). The fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom seems to say that God the Father did it to allow sinners to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence because our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God loved us so much (Heb 4:14-16).
A pesar de is the Spanish equivalent of the above title. That is informative because pesar translates as weight or sorrow. So we might say, whatever the sorrow or burden, we will labor on and overcome despite any obstacles. In this secular life there will be struggles, roadblocks and reversals. Through experience mankind has learned to cope with most of the physical, mental and emotional problems. How one confronts, accepts and overcomes them can make a tremendous difference in one’s lifestyle. Of course, it is much easier to write or talk about it than to put it into practice.
In the spiritual walk there are also many “in spite of” moments. Surely Noah endured lots of mockery as he struggled to build a huge ark (Gen 6:13-22). Yet he persevered and saved his family from the great flood (1 Pe 3:20). Moses certainly had his trials during the desert wandering for 40 years (Nu16:1-3). Two of his many detractors were his own brother and sister (Nu 11:1) (Nu 12:1-2). Yet he finished the mission God gave him and saw the promised land (Deu 34:4 & 10-12). Joseph kept his faith in spite of the unfair and evil treatment by his brothers, (Gen 37:26-28) the lies about him by Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:12-18) and the forgotten promise to help him by a cellmate (Gen 40:14-15). This resolve and God’s help enabled him to become second in command in Egypt and to save his family’s lives (Gen 45:4-7).
In spite of being stoned, beaten, imprisoned, hungry, thirsty, and in danger, the Apostle Paul could say, “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (1 Tim 4:7). The prime example of persevering “in spite of” everything is our Lord Jesus Christ. He was, “…despised and rejected,” (Isa 53:3-5) pierced and crushed for our sins and betrayed by one of his own apostles (Mt 10:4) (Mk 3:19) and misunderstood by the others (Lk 9: 46-48). He was hated and killed by the leaders of his country (Acts 2:23, 36). Yet He was resurrected and returned to His heavenly home to set at the right hand of His Father (Mt 26:64) (Mk 16:19).
Christians will have their “in spite of” times as we live this mortal life, “…Everyone who will try to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12) (1 Th 3:4) (Jo 15:20). Those who endure and overcome will receive a crown of life and glory that will last forever
(1 Co 9:25) (Jas 1:12) (1 Pe 5:4).
Who hasn’t wished at one time or another that he/she could start over with at least one different attribute? “If only I’d been taller, smarter, faster or better looking.” If you were granted one wish, which could be expressed in one word and had a day to meditate on it, what would it be? Rather than blurt out some quick response, it would be much better to be analytical about it. One might make a list of possibilities and decide the pros and cons of each one. Wealth? That could give one many more options in life, but it could also bring stress and loss of sleep worrying about how to protect those riches. Health? Not having to spend all one’s time and money on medicines and doctors would be a blessing, but one could still die young in an accident. Knowledge, wisdom, compassion and many other choices could be considered, but all of them will have their ultimate fallacies.
King Solomon had that choice as he was about to succeed his father King David. God asked him to choose one gift that he desired most. He chose wisdom which pleased God and He told him would also bless him with wealth and honor (1 Ki 3:9-14) (2 Ch 1:7-12). However, as Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, wealth, pleasures, honor and even wisdom are “meaningless” (Ecc 1:18) (Ecc 2:10-11) (Ecc 2:7-9). He concluded, “The same destiny (death) overtakes all.” (Ecc 9:3). Even if God gives man wealth, pleasure and honor so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, “a stranger enjoys them instead” (Ecc 6:2). Jesus verifies this in his sermon about treasures on earth (Mt 6:19-21).
So, since everything ends in death, what possible choice could one make? How about immortality? Not on this earth which will be destroyed by fire (2 Pe 3:10-13), but in the new heaven and new earth. Those who know, love, honor and obey Christ will meet Him in the air and be with Him forever (1 Th 4:16-18). He has promised eternal life in a place He has prepared for them in His Father’s house (Jo 14:2-4). They will be given an imperishable new body which is spiritual (1 Cor 15:42-44). The choice then should be very clear, temporary blessing now or never ending ones in heaven with the Godhead.