The Power of Little Things

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32, Matthew 17:20, Luke 16:10
Date: 08/21/2004 
The topic for this sermon is the power of little things. The Bible speaks of the power of little things--like faith that can move mountains. Little sins can be lethal. We should not let the devil had a little hook in our hearts.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Matthew 13:31-33 “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’”

Morning. As you can tell from the bulletin the message for this morning is dealing with the power of little things. And I’d like to give our young people a challenge. This may apply to you more than you think. Every time you hear me say the word little I want you to make a mark so at the end of the service I want you to see if you can keep track of how many times you hear me say the word little. That would be three so far so you can start counting from there. Please indulge me. I got a new Palm Pilot. I don’t work for HP. This is not a commercial, but I need to tell you that I am really impressed. It is mind boggling what this thing can do. And you know what; I haven’t even plumbed a fraction of the depths of what this technology is capable of. There’s a point. Bear with me. First of all, one neat thing that I like is it’s got the whole Bible on it and I’ve got the Bible right now in oh I don’t know about seven different versions, the commentaries on the Bible, search engines for the Bible. I can click on it; it’ll tell me what it says in Greek. It’s got all these notes and features that are just really outstanding. It even has the Greek print, not that it does me any good I can’t read Greek. Matter of fact, I’ve got two or three Bible programs here. I can just scribble notes and it deciphers my writing and translates it into type. Have any of you ever seen me sign anything? I was showing Karen last night, I said, “Look at that!” She said, “Work on your sermon.” That’s the truth. I’ve got the Spirit of Prophesy; it’s in a Microsoft Reader program. I’ve got five or six books there, and you could have almost innumerable. Andrew Jones has helped me to develop that. It has video on here. You know the video we have on our Internet of heaven? I’ve got that video on here now and it’ll play (I don’t know if you want me to play it for you), but it’s got this video of heaven. I better turn on the sound if I’m going to do that. And if I get discouraged I can look at heaven right here. Someone said you can convert DVDs now. Oh, the speaker is on the back of this. I like my other one better. But of course you can talk in it and it takes notes. You can do your email on here. It’s got all kinds of programs. I won’t even go into it because I forget everything right now which is why I’m using this thing because I have a tendency to forget. The technology that now fits in this unit, they used to have a UNIVAC computer. Any of you remember the days of this big UNIVAC computer? It would have taken a three story building filled with computers to house a fraction of the technology that’s in this. That’s just mind boggling to me the power of these little things and you know what they say if the ability, the power of semi-conductors, the amount of information they’re able to put on one of those silicon chips doubles every year. Can you imagine? Is that mind boggling for you? What these things will do now is just so incredible. You know if… I’ve got one of these big G-Shock watches here and the reason is I’m pretty tough on watches, you know. I buy a normal one and then I take it to play racket-ball, it lasts about a week so I have to get a G-Shock watch and then Karen gets mad because I go to hug her and I hit her in the head with it and take her to the emergency room. But if you showed this to the Apostle Peter he’d probably turn you over to the church and you’d get burned as a witch just with what the watch will do. Now that leads me into my point of I’ve been impressed lately when I think about the Christian life the power, the importance, the potency of little things. In our scripture reading Jesus tries to get us to understand that salvation rises and falls and hinges more on little things than maybe we really know. In that parable that we read in Matthew 13, starting with verse 31, he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that a man took and sowed in his field.” Now mustard seed is a very small seed you can see up on the screen there, but it has the ability under the right conditions, many of you have seen mustard plant and it doesn’t look impressive, but in the Middle East things grow differently in different parts of the world. For instance the mosquitoes you find in Alaska are a lot bigger than the mosquitoes you find in California. Any of you ever been up there? Yeah, they’re all registered up there because they can lift up a moose. They’re pretty big. Well mustard seed in the Middle East grows better under right conditions and I’ve read reports where it actually grows into something that resembles a tree and you can climb into the limbs of this plant. And it starts, it’s not the smallest seed, Jesus knew that, but it is a very small seed and yet it grows into something that is so big. Christ tells us that salvation is like that. It can begin with something very small. Don’t underestimate the power of little things. And then of course he tells us also that this is compared to a little faith that mustard seed. Again you read in Matthew 17, he said if you’ve got faith like a grain a seed of mustard seed, you can move mountains. Little things make a big difference. In Luke 16:10 Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is the least is faithful also in much.” Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Ben Franklin said in Poor Richard’s Almanac, you’ve probably heard this before, “For the want of a nail,” the word want means lack of. “For the want of a nail the horseshoe was lost.” Someone putting the shoes on a horse forgot a nail and it came loose and the horseshoe flew off. “But for want of that shoe the horse was lost. And for the want of that horse the rider was lost and for the want of that one additional rider” because that one rider was missing “the battle was lost. And because the battle was lost the kingdom was lost” because of the lack of a nail. It really makes you think sometimes. You’ve all heard the expression “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” Sometimes these little things make a very powerful difference. And I think we underestimate the distinction. I heard a story one time when they were getting ready to build the first bridge across the chasm where Niagara Falls is, the engineers were standing thinking about how were they going to get the first cables across because the current was too fast for boats and the engineer took this problem home and I understand his young daughter said, “Well, why don’t you use a kite?” And he said, “Keep explaining.” She said, “Well if you take a kite and fly it across, the breeze is always blowing across, fly a kite across and let it land on the other side, use that string to pull a stronger string because kite string is very fragile and then use that string to pull a cord across and you could use that cord then to pull a rope across and that could be used to pull a cable that would pull the big cable to build a bridge.” And lo and behold that’s what the engineers did. And so there are bridges that span the Niagara chasm and it started with a kite string. Don’t underestimate the power… Sherle, you did a good job on that slide. I just gave her a picture of a kite and Niagara and she actually did it. I’m impressed. Obviously we don’t have any photographs of that so we had to create them. So with a little faith great things can be accomplished. Jesus said, “If you’ve got faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say unto this mountain ‘Be removed’ and it will be cast into the sea.” First time I read that I thought that God gives us this faith so we can impress our friends and we could do tricks and we could move mountains. But then I later read in the Bible that God takes our sins and casts them into the depths of the sea. So where do we need the greatest faith? The faith that God can change our hearts and forgive our sins. And if you’ve got faith, just a little faith, you could ask the Lord to move that mountain of sin and it can be done. Some of you think, “How could I ever be like Jesus? How could I really be a Christian?” Do you have a little faith? I’ll submit that you do. The Bible tells us God has dealt to all men a measure of faith, and I know you’ve got faith. We all have faith. We just have faith in different things. You’ve got faith in this building in spite of a few structural defects it’s still not falling in on us, amen? We’re here. You’ve got faith in the pew on which you’re sitting and you’re sharing with a number of friends. Did any of you get on your knees and inspect the pedestal before you sat down? No, you’ve got faith it’s been sat on before it probably will still hold you, right? Wouldn’t it be just as I say that now one of them would come crashing down. I always like to say, “I know you’ve got faith because I’ve seen you all at a potluck.” You go through line and you scoop it in and you have no idea what it is. You don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know who made it or what their kitchen looks like and you eat it. You pray first, but you’ve got faith. I remember one time, sometimes faith and presumption can get you in trouble. I went through line at a potluck one time and what I thought was French dressing I put on my salad turned out to be the dessert. It was butterscotch pudding and so sometimes faith won’t help you. But a little bit of faith incredible things Jesus said can be accomplished.

Now I tried to find a delicate way to put in one of the most important points. I wanted to begin with something positive but then we need to talk about the danger of little sins and not recognizing how lethal they can be. If the doctor tells you, “Don’t worry. You’ve just got a little bit of leprosy.” Or if he tells you that your leprosy is really poison oak, or poison ivy if you live back east, is he your friend? It needs to be called by its real name. You know I like to collect oxymorons. I know I’ve probably shared some of these with you but I’ve added to my list. I remember when I first heard someone use that phrase I had no idea what an oxymoron was, I thought it was an insult. But oxymoron is a phrase, a couple of words that are assembled together, it’s really a phrase but they contradict each other such as “pretty ugly” or “airline food, politically correct, military intelligence, an elevated subway, a holy war,” isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Or you’ve ever heard them say “recorded live?” If it’s live then why is it recorded? “Awful good, spend thrift, rap music, a silent protest, instant water,” what do you add? “A starfish stampede, black light, a light heavyweight.” For those of you who know boxing. “Criminal justice, resident alien, freezer burn.” There’s an oxymoron for you. I won’t read the whole list. “Jumbo shrimp, tight slacks, an original replica, a dry lake.” Did I mention “female driver”? You were going dim on me there. Let me see here. “Legally drunk,” oh, some of these I won’t… “randomly organized, a linear curve, budget deficit.” It goes on, but you know an oxymoron that sometimes we don’t recognize is a real contradiction is the phrase “little sin.” Is there such thing as a little sin? When you think about it, Jesus died for the sins of the world. Now it’s important to understand this because unless we realize there really is no such thing as a little sin. Now I agree there are varying degrees of sin but all sin is lethal. Unless we understand that we don’t appreciate our Savior. Some of us here might view ourselves as little sinners. You know it stands to reason that if there are little sins some of us are guilty of big sins, some of us are big sinners, some of us are little sinners. That kind of thinking is dangerous. There was a dinner where Jesus was invited as a guest by a man named Simon who Jesus had healed from leprosy. That’s why he is called Simon the leper. Jesus ate at his house. He doesn’t have leprosy any more. He healed him. And at that dinner another person came who may not have been invited Mary Magdalene and she not feeling worthy to sit at the table she stood behind. They used to sit with their torso at table, their feet went away from the table, and she poured this ointment on Jesus’ feet, washed his feet with her tears and put some on his head and Simon thought within himself (this is in John chapter twelve), “If this man was a prophet he’d know who and what manner of woman this is that’s touching him for she’s a sinner.” And Jesus said, “Simon, I’ve got something to ask you. A certain man had two debtors; one owed fifty pence” let’s say $50.00 “and one owed five hundred. Neither of them could pay, he freely forgave them both. Which of the two that were forgiven would love most?” And Simon said to Jesus, “I suppose the one who was forgiven more.” And he said, “That’s right. I came to your house and you didn’t kiss me.” They used to give a Middle Eastern kiss as a welcome. He said, “She’s kissing my feet.” Only two people kissed Jesus. Judas kissed his face and then betrayed him. Mary kissed his feet and then served him. He said, “You didn’t wash my feet” which was a custom. You know they would provide that. Every now and then I’ll fly on one of these higher class airlines, before you eat they bring by the hot towel. Any of you ever had the hot towel? That’s sure nice. You almost hate to turn it back in. But they used to wash feet in the Middle East. He said, “You didn’t wash my feet. She’s washing my feet with her tears. Her sins are many but they’re forgiven. That’s why she loves much. But to whom little is forgiven the same loves little.” If we view ourselves as little sinners we will have little appreciation. It’s the little sinners who have a little savior. Those who see themselves as great sinners they appreciate the greatness of their savior. And while I’m on that point, it is those who view themselves with an attitude of humility that God can do the most through. I remember reading where Gideon said, “Lord, how can you use me? I am the least in my father’s house.” And again David said, “I’m the least. Why would you use me, a shepherd boy?” Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles.” That’s why he could do a lot through them, because they saw how little they were. When we become great in our own eyes, God can do little with us. And you’ve heard me quote where Martin Luther says, “God creates from nothing so until we become nothing He can do nothing with us.” But there are no little sins. Sin is very dangerous. You remember the second half of the parable that Tori read for us. Matthew 13, “Another parable he said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman takes and hides in three measures of meal until all is leaven.” And I’m not much of a baker but I’ve done my share and I know that you can put a little bit of yeast or a little bit of baking soda in, you mix it and you kneed it and that little influence which by percentage is just a fraction of the whole but it effects the whole, doesn’t it? It spreads and it permeates and that’s the way it is with yeast and that’s the way it is with sin. It has a contagious effect and if it’s not checked it will permeate the whole life. Any area of your life, no matter how small or insignificant you might think it is, where the devil still has access gives him access to the whole. You know there is a law that if you’ve got a large piece of property and in the middle of that property someone else has a piece of land if they have legal access to their land they end up going all across your land and if there’s a part of your heart that you’ve not surrendered or some little area that you think is insignificant where the devil still has a hook in you, you can lead a bull around by one little ring in the nose, just a little bitty ring. And sometimes the devil he gets a hook in us, we say, “It’s a little thing.” But he’s controlling us with that little thing. It can make a big difference. “A little leaven,” Paul says, Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven can leaven the whole lump.” Have you ever considered David who was a great king killed Goliath, man after God’s own heart, there’s one primary area where David got into big trouble. Who was it with? Bathsheba, you know this story, David and Bathsheba. And as a result of that bad experience four of his sons died, he lost the respect of the people, one of his sons rebelled and took the kingdom and tried to kill him, there was a lot of tragedy, he murdered a friend. You know how that began? With one little lingering lustful look. I had to work on that get all those L’s in there. That’s how it began. Oh well you know it’s just a look. And I’ve heard men say, “Well it doesn’t matter if you, as long as you’re just window shopping…” and they make jokes about that and women, I suppose, do it too, but those little things that we don’t take seriously can grow. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” I’d like to read a quote for you. This is from 2nd Review & Herald, that inspired commentary, “It is one of Satan’s most successful devices to lead men to the commission of little sins, to blind the mind to the danger of little indulgences, little digressions from the plainly stated requirements of God. Many who would shrink with horror from some great transgression are led to look upon sin in the little matters as trifling, but those little sins eat out the life of godliness in the soul.” And I think sometimes we don’t appreciate those little things and we downplay our little sins. You know we joke, “Well, boy, I ate a little too much there at the pot luck. It sure was good. Couldn’t stop myself.” Gluttony, we’ll make a joke out of it, don’t we? I mean, have you ever heard a church board get together and say, “We’re considering brother so-and-so.” “What’s the problem?” “He’s a glutton.” No, not going to happen, right? Because most of us would probably be out of membership if we did that. I don’t lie, I exaggerate. I don’t think dirty thoughts, I daydream. My wife and I don’t fight, we just disagree. I’m not proud, just high self-esteem. I’m not greedy, I’m motivated. I’m not lost, I’m just experimenting with the world. We play things down. You know what the Bible says, Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at sin.” Fools joke about sin. That which killed Jesus is not a funny thing. You just go to an airport now and make a joke about a bomb while you’re standing at the security desk. I dare you. Try it. Come back and tell us what happens. No, don’t try it. I want to issue a disclaimer, I didn’t mean it. Come back and, but pastor told us to… Why is it such a serious thing? Because that which killed so many is not a joke, is it? What is it the killed Jesus? If your son or daughter was butchered by some fiend with a knife would you make a joke about the implement of murder? If it’s sin that killed Jesus then how can we joke about it? But we do that, don’t we?

While we’re talking about little things, let’s talk about little words and the power of little words. In 1871 you’ve probably heard about the Great Chicago Fire. Evidently in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn there was a cow that twitched his leg, kicked over a lamp that then broke and fell and caught a wisp of hay that then soon sent the barn up in flames, that spread through the city and hundreds died, millions of dollars of damage coming from a cow twitch. James says in chapter 3, verse 5, “Even the tongue though it is a little member,” it’s a very small organ in the body compared to your lungs or your heart and “it boasts great things. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles.” And sometimes we might utter a careless word and people will seize upon that and it spreads and that gossip can cause a lot of heartache and pain. Someone said termites destroy more property than earthquakes. More fires are caused by matches and cigarettes than by volcanoes. More heartache and sorrow is caused by a few little careless words and unkind deeds of friends than by the acts of an open enemy. You know what the most deadly animal on earth is? It’s not the lion or tiger or bear, it’s not a stampeding elephant or rhino. Hippos are actually, you know more people in Africa are killed by hippos than lions, but that’s not the animal. You know what the animal is? A mosquito. The most deadly animal on earth is a mosquito. More people have been killed, listen to this, every year malaria still kills up to three million people. A lot more than, you know they’ve got all these programs about “shark week.” People hear about lions, and have you ever seen a documentary on mosquitoes? They’re the killers! It says between three, up to three million people, more than half of those deaths are children and three hundred to five hundred million fall ill with the disease. Some doctors even argue that it may have caused the death of one out of two every human being who’s ever lived on the planet. Now we’re living in an age where there’s a cure for it. Back in the time, you know most of the people in the world live around the tropics, live closer to the equator, being killed by mosquitoes. And I think maybe we underestimate our words are biting and stinging people sometimes. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 12, “In the judgment we will give an account for every idle” let me rephrase that for ever little “word that we speak for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” Words are very powerful. Words that are carelessly spoken can really injure. I think you’ve probably heard me say before that Karen Carpenter that great vocalist died of anorexia and her brother says that when she was younger someone referred to her as Richard’s chubby little sister and she could never get that out of her mind and it just ate at her until it killed her because it destroyed her self-esteem and the person who said it had no idea. We need to take our words more carefully and you know the opposite is also true. Words of encouragement, words of hope we sometimes underestimate the power of our words for good. You might just say to somebody, “You know you’re looking good today.” And that might be a day when all hope was gone. Or “You know I really appreciate you and what you do.” I’m trying to learn to be more encouraging because I know when someone says something nice or I receive a compliment it always lifts you and encourages you and we could all be fountains of encouragement through words that are carefully chosen, little words, doesn’t take a lot. Through encouraging words some children their whole lives the course of their lives have been changed. It’s like when Robert Moffat told David Livingstone he patted him on the head, he said, “Do you want to be a missionary for Jesus?” and he didn’t think that the boy was even listening, changed his whole life just that one phrase. Little words can make an incredible difference. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:3, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips will have destruction.” When I say September 11th what do you think of? 2001, right? New York City. Do you know there’s another September 11th in New York City? A lot of people lost power and they got stuck. In 1995 a squirrel on a power line near New York City’s power grid loosened a bracket by jumping too many times on this one wire that then fell, wasn’t a very significant wire but it fell on a track. It didn’t electrify the train but it got caught on the train and as the train continued moving it pulled all the wires out and it caused a blackout stranding 47,000 commuters in Manhattan for hours that evening. Squirrel! It’s a little thing, cute little squirrel could make a big difference. Little words. Ecclesiastes 5, especially when you come to the house of God be careful what you say. Be careful little lips what you say. Any of you remember that song? Be careful little hands what you do. Be careful little feet where you go. “Do not be rash with your mouth and let not your heart be hasty to anything before God for God is in heaven and you upon earth therefore let your words be few.” You know when I talk about the little words I’m prone to get discouraged. It encourages me to try and do better but if it wasn’t for the mercy of God, the blood of Jesus that could wash away some of the careless, dumb, unkind things I’ve said… Karen and I are sort of trying to help each other because we were talking earlier this week; you know it’s so easy to slip into the mode of saying something negative about somebody. And so we’re trying to challenge ourselves if we catch ourselves saying something negative about somebody to stop. We haven’t had much to talk about, but it’s been kind of nice. No, that’s not true. No, really. Try it. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you that special… you know when you run out of gas in your car you get an idiot light that goes on and reminds you? The Holy Spirit will do that for you if you ask him. Say, “Remind me, Lord, if I start talking about people and it’s not gracious or it’s unkind and unnecessary, lighten me up. Help me realize it.” You’d be surprised how often that light’s going to flash.

A little time, a powerful thing. Mountains are made of little sands and life is made of many little moments. When we waste our moments we in effect can waste our lives. I remember reading one time the outline of the day for Thomas Jefferson while he was president. That man was so incredibly organized. He was just, he was a renaissance man, just incredible. He would wake up early and he would map out his day and he’d say, I’m going to… and of course he’d been influenced by the Methodist culture where they were very methodical in how they lived their lives and planned their time and they had their goals and it was all structured. And he’d say, wake up at such and such a time, spend time in study, read, eat breakfast and while he was eating breakfast he would be reading, didn’t want to waste time, practice the violin, do your experiments. I mean he was doing science and music and agriculture and his whole life was involved in so many things. Then he’d be doing his correspondence then go to the White House and meet with all these people and you look at the list of how he outlined his day it’s no wonder that he changed the course of the history of a nation. It’s because he recognized the value of time. I’m also inclined to think that those who appreciate that live longer. God keeps them around longer because they’re making use of the time they have. If we’re wasting our time God might say, might as well let you go now. You’re not using what you’ve got very wisely. He lived to be eighty-seven. Died on the fiftieth anniversary, died on the fourth of July, fifty years after the signing. Isn’t that interesting? Fess up. Have any of you directly or indirectly seen any of the Olympics this week? Heard it on the radio, seen it in the papers. Come on! What kind of American are you? Well it’s been on a time or two in the Batchelor home and I think we all know that victory and defeat can be separated in the Olympics by the fraction of a second. In some cases I forget they had some swimming event where these two guys they slapped the wall at just about the same time that the clock measured 1/1000 of a second difference. Meant the difference between whatever it was gold and silver or silver and bronze. I don’t remember. Little bitty fraction of a second. Don’t tell me that a little bit of time cannot be a powerful thing. Proverbs 24:30, here’s a parable from the wisest man. “I went by the field of the lazy man and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding and there it was all over grown with thorns. Its surface was covered with nettles, the stone wall was broken down. When I saw it I considered it well. I looked on it and received instruction. A little sleep a little slumber a little folding of the hands to rest” a little, little, little. I’m making it difficult for the kids. Little, little, little, little, little. You count that? “Folding of the hands to rest so shall your poverty come like a prowler and your need like an armed man.” A garden left to itself just breeds weeds, isn’t that right? Had the boys out there in the yard with me weeding the flowers yesterday and the poor kids, dad’s a slave driver. After five minutes they were ready to come in. I said, oh man. Any of you ever listen to stories your parents tell about how hard they worked when they were kids? I think every generation indoors this. My dad yeah he used to walk ten miles to school in the snow uphill both ways. That’s right. And he used to pick beans. It’s true. You’ve heard about the dust bowl? My dad was in the midst of that. He came from Oklahoma, worked in the farms you know here in California and that’s how he migrated out here. And my kids hear me say well I used to pick oranges for hours. They get so tired of hearing that. We’ve been out here in the blazing sun for ten minutes now, Dad. How long are you going to make us do that? But a garden left to itself just breeds weeds. We need to use our time.

Any of you ever get a little speck in your eye? I don’t know how you are but I hate having anything in my eye. And when I get something in my eye I mean the world can stop turning as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got to go find a mirror or something and get it out. You know what really drives me crazy now is as I’m getting older and I wear glasses? I used to get something in my eye, you look in the mirror, and you pull it out. Now I can’t see it and I don’t trust anybody else to go probing around in my eye and some of you will say, “I got something in my eye.” And you trust somebody and they’ll get it out for you. I haven’t gotten to that level yet. So I went to the store and I bought one of these magnifying mirrors you ladies use. Have you ever tried to use your glasses to look at something in your eye? I’m going like this. That didn’t work and so I got one of these magnifying mirrors to try and get it out of my eye because I just hate that and it blurs my perspective of everything else. A little speck. Jesus says sometimes we’ll see a little speck in somebody else’s eye and we can’t enjoy anything else, we don’t see anything wrong with ourselves because we’re so preoccupied with a little speck in their eye and we’re consumed with criticism. And that little speck, we go around judging them and thinking you know the problem with the world is the speck in their eye and meanwhile, Jesus said, we have a log. Let me translate that for you. A 4x6 in our own eye. I don’t like to have an eyelash in my eye or a little speck of sawdust in my eye it’s hard to imagine having a 4x6 in your eye. Jesus used that irony to illustrate sometimes we’ve got all these problems but all we can see is the little problem in somebody else’s life and we become so distracted with that we lose our happiness. Song of Solomon chapter 2, I like to give you a scripture for every point, verse 15, “Catch us the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” We have often lost the tender beautiful things in life because the little foxes that we come in. You know a fox in the Bible was considered something devious and we get distracted with that.

Don’t underestimate the power of a little gift. Now I could spend a lot of time on this. I wish I had more. First of all, when you become a Christian God gives you gifts of the Spirit and we might bemoan that maybe we don’t have as many natural gifts or spiritual gifts that somebody else has but God gives a gift to everybody. And I’ll submit to you that if you give your gift to him he will multiply your little gift. Don’t underestimate the power of your little gift. There was a boy living in Italy. His father was a sergeant in the military back about thirty years ago and he had heard about Dr. Albert Schweitzer who at his medical clinic there in Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize and how poor the mission was and this boy told his father who had been flying some missions to Africa he bought a bottle of aspirin, the boy’s name is Bobby Hall thirteen years old, bought a bottle of aspirin, gave it to his father and said, “Dad, when you fly over Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital will you drop this bottle of aspirin by parachute or something so they have a little medicine?” People heard about the request of that boy and they were so moved by his interest to spend his allowance to buy a bottle of aspirin for the hospital well the short version of the story is they raised $400,000.00 and they sent military jets to the hospital and Dr. Schweitzer was so overwhelmed by the generosity that had been stimulated by the gift of this one thirteen year old boy who could only afford a bottle of aspirin. You remember when Jesus tells the story about a widow who comes to the temple and all she’s got is her two mites but she gives her two mites. Have you ever thought about how many billions of dollars have come to the cause of God because of the sacrifice of that widow? Won’t it be fun for her when she gets to heaven? She thought, “I don’t have much.” Matter of fact, she didn’t want anyone to see her give it. A lot of the religious leaders and the wealthy were going by, they’d blow the trumpet and they’d drop with a thump their bag of gold into the offering box with a lot of fanfare, photographs being taken of their gift, pews in the church named after them (he says tongue in cheek) and then she waits until the crowd disperses, she tries to go by very quietly and drop in her two cents which was everything she had, just a little bit and Jesus called attention to her and he says, “She’s given more than anybody.” It’ll be fun when she gets to heaven and the angel says, “You see that mountain of gold over there? That is the mountain of gold that you sent on ahead, your treasure in heaven, because of the two mites you gave, your little gift.” Think about this. Isn’t it true in our relationships? If I want to impress Karen I could go buy her a new washing machine, we’re almost due, and she’ll say, “Oh, thank you, Doug, for this new contraption to wash your dirty clothes! Thank you!” But if I take time and I go get a card, if I write the card or draw the card that may even make more, if I put a little poem or something in there. I did that when we got married, haven’t had to do it since. Or and then get a rose. It doesn’t have to be a dozen, sometimes one and I give it to her. She lights up more over that little gift than a washing machine because she knows a washing machine is to wash my dirty shirts but that rose and the card is just for her. You know what I’m saying? Sometimes those little things make a bigger difference than the big things that we get distracted with. Don’t underestimate the power of a little gift. Andrew came to Jesus, he said, “Lord, I’ve got a boy here and he’s got five loaves and two fish, but what is that among so many?” Jesus said, “You know that little gift, you’ll be surprised what I can do with that little gift.”

Little victories. Big wars are won through little victories. “Little by little I will drive them out before thee until thou be increased in the land.” Now you might wonder, I’ve actually been trying to lose weight. I don’t have a terrible problem. I got, any of you get the National Geographic last month? Come on! Fess up some of you. I know it’s got a lot of evolutionary stuff in there but they’ve got great photography. You know what the cover was? The cover was fat. That’s the cover and it had this, this person, you don’t see their face just ripples of fat on the cover. And then I went to the article and I noticed, you know I’ve been traveling a lot. You know I was at all those camp meetings and I wasn’t playing racquetball and I couldn’t button my pants. I didn’t want to tell you this, but now it’s out. And it really started bothering me and so I said what can I do? I’m a vegetarian. I said alright I’m going to go vegan. You know I’ve heard, I’ve sort of been somewhat vegan but I said I’m going to go vegan. Which meant, you know I don’t drink milk, but it meant the Hagan Doss, I had to do something about that. And this has been tough. So I’ve been eating tofutti and soy dream. And I didn’t notice anything happen but just one bite at a time. That was really it’s the only significant difference that I’ve made. I’ve lost seven pounds! I’m so excited. My pants are actually buttoned this morning. I’m not going to show you but it’s true. And you know how it happens? One bite at a time. Hey you know our head deacon had prayer this morning. Where are you at? He’s probably out doing deacon-like things. Greg, you here somewhere? Sherri, how much did he lose? I think he’s lost like forty pounds. He’s probably out doing his… One bite at a time you do that. Little by little, little victories. Now that same principle applies to living the Christian life. You might say, “How can I ever be like Jesus? I’ve got so far to go.” You know how it happens? Little victories. We think that someday we’re going to overcome with this big titanic battle with us and the mark of the beast, face to face or something. That’s not how it happens. It’s he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. We overcome the little things and you develop a pattern. When Daniel finally went up against the king of Mede Persia…<> When Shadrach Meshach and Abednego went up against the king of Babylon and those battles and when Joseph stood before the king of Egypt and they had those battles of faith where they had to take their stand. When Moses went before the pharaoh when did he really win that victory? Was it that day? You know when Moses won the victory? Watching sheep for forty years, he was faithful taking care of sheep. Oh, by the way while I’m talking about sheep, you know how a person backslides? You notice it’s not called back-hopping jumping or skipping. You don’t ever say, “They don’t come to church anymore because they backjumped.” It’s not something that’s done suddenly. It’s a slide. A rancher or shepherd was saying you know how a sheep gets lost? “All we like sheep have gone astray.” He’s nibbling his grass and they never hardly lift their heads. Sheep don’t stand up on the fence and look for greener grass. They look at the next tuft of grass right in front of them. And he nibbles his way here, he says, ah there’s a nice one. They wander over, they nibble there and then they look through the fence and say, “That looks better.” They nibble their way through the fence and they just, they keep nibbling. They nibble their way into being lost. They don’t, you ever seen a sheep gallop off and say, “Good-bye! I’ll send a postcard!” They wander and that’s how Christians backslide. You know, “Ah, I’m tired. I don’t think I can make it to church today.” You know, “I’ve got this sty on my lip. I don’t want to go.” Little things keep us away. Then it gets a little easier next week to say, “Well, you know I, you don’t have to go every week.” Or someone hurts our feelings and we little slights and something keeps us away. It’s very rarely something big. We nibble our way into being lost. We start neglecting our personal devotions. We say, “I’m too busy today to pray,” and then you look back and if you trace the history of those who end up falling out it’s usually because they nibbled their way out. Someone was interviewing one of these spies that had been selling secrets to the Soviets and they were found out long after the Soviet Union fell and the Iron Curtain dropped. This spy was confessing, “I didn’t wake up one day and say I wanted to be a spy.” He was interviewed. “Someone came to me and they said, ‘Would you be willing to share a phone number?’ And I thought, ‘Well this phone number won’t do him any good. It’s actually listed.’” And he said, “Sure.” And they paid him for a phone number. He said, “I’ll take the money. There’s nothing secret about that.” But they got a wedge in, and then they’d come and they’d ask for a phone number and an address and then little by little and those that recruit double agents they know that it’s a slow process until pretty soon they’re not just selling phone books and addresses, they’re giving government secrets and a lot of American CIA agents died because their names were given by this American who had no intentions of being a traitor, liked his job, but he nibbled his way into treason. And sometimes we betray Jesus the same way. We sell out little by little. These little things can end up making a bigger difference than we realize.

A little light can make a big difference. You ever sung that song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” You might not think that your little bit of light is going to make a difference, but it does. I remember hiking up the mountains for miles in very treacherous terrain and all I had to go by was moonlight but the moon would sometimes reflect off the rocks and give me just enough to see the trail. There are times that I have woken up traveling; I’m in some hotel room. I remember waking up one time and there was a fire alarm that went off in the hotel. The reason the alarm went off is not because there was fire but because they’d lost power and the alarms were set so that if you lose electricity they go off. It is very disconcerting when you wake up to this (alarm noise), but I was used to it because we have a smoke alarm in our kitchen. It goes off all the time so I was used to waking up that way. But I’m stumbling around in this dark room because there’s no electricity. Usually you’ve got even the light of the clock or something and it’s black. Do you know what I did? My Casio watch. Did I mention my Casio watch? My Casio watch, I just pressed it and this little blue light. I was able to see my way around the room by the light of my watch because when it’s dark enough a little light makes a big difference. You know what I’m talking about? You’d be surprised. You’d be laughing too if you could have seen me that night. I had to keep pressing it because it only stays on for a couple of seconds as I negotiated my way around my room. You might be thinking what difference can I make for Christ? You know I’m not a teacher, I’m not a preacher, and I’m a little meek. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Yes, you can make a difference. You just got to let it shine and you know what? The darker it is, the brighter your light will appear by contrast and we’re living in a dark world, friends. So don’t be ashamed to let your light shine. Don’t be ashamed to say you’re a Christian. It’s become very politically incorrect to say I am a Bible Christian. People look at you like you are an alien or you’re the enemy. Let them look. That’s their problem. Jesus is the one that we care about what he thinks, right? You let that little light shine and don’t be ashamed. “Noah had a hammer, David had a sling, Samson had a jawbone, Rahab had a string, Mary had some ointment, Aaron had a rod, Dorcas had a needle, All were used for God.” Use what you’ve got and let your little light shine.

And finally a little hope. Don’t underestimate the power of a little hope. Sometimes people feel like hope is gone, they’re at their wit’s end and they don’t think they can go on. That’s why it’s important for us to encourage one another. You know sometimes having a good ending is better than a good beginning. A lot of people have gotten a bad start but as long as you end well as a Christian that’s what really matters. In watching the Olympics this week, I have not been watching all of it but I did take in a little of the gymnastics and I was very impressed when one of the favorites was Paul Hamm who was expected to do very well but then on the vault he basically slipped. Is that right, Karen, yeah, vaulting and he slipped on his landing and he fell on his posterior, which is pretty humiliating when all the cameras of the world are trained on you, and his scores went down he fell into the eighth place. And went back to the coach or came back up. He didn’t give up hope. He thought, “You know if I get a bronze…” The coach said, “No way! You’re going to get a gold.” He inspired him with a little bit of hope and he came back and got one of the highest scores that’s ever been hand. Not only him, almost the same thing happened to Carly Patterson. Did very poorly, didn’t give up, came back and got the gold. Don’t give up. God is, he’s an expert at when things look hopeless in completely turning the situation around. That’s the story of the Bible. Take people that look hopeless like Mary and Peter and children of Israel, saves the whole nation when it looks like they’ve got an ocean on one side and the Egyptians breathing down their neck. Little things make a big difference. Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Jesus said, “Except you become converted and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You know most of the people that accept Christ accept Christ between the ages of eight and fourteen. That’s while they’re young. I’ll submit to you that those that ever accept Christ all do it as little children. You’ve got to do it with faith. Jesus said, “Except you become converted and become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Salvation is not that complicated. Sometimes we think you’ve got to be a theologian to understand it. It’s really as simple as ABC. Can you all say ABC? Having grasped, believed, confessed. Admit that you are a sinner and ask Jesus into your heart; believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for your sins, was buried and rose again; confess your sins and ask him to forgive you, to come into your heart and then confess him to others that you’ve accepted him. Now there may be more to it but it’s a simple little beginning. Any good journey is begun with one step, isn’t it? My appeal to you would be you can become like little children right now and ask Jesus into your heart. It’s that simple. Those little things that we do make an eternal difference. The Lord looks after sparrows, doesn’t he? He fed a whole nation with little pellets of manna and it’s the little things that really matter with God.

In closing I’d like to have you turn please to 602 in your hymnal “O Brother, Be Faithful”. This is a song that was actually written by one of the pioneers in our church. Remember Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” Why don’t you turn with me to 602 and let’s stand together as we sing this.

O brother, be faithful! soon Jesus will come, For whom we have waited so long; O, soon we shall enter our glorious home, And join in the conqueror’s song. O brother, be faithful! for why should we prove Unfaithful to Him who hath shown Such deep, such unbounded and infinite love-- Who died to redeem us His own.

Before we sing the second verse inspiring us to be faithful with that which is least, there may be some of you here that need to work on your ABCs and like a little child decide to make that little step and come to Jesus just as you are. If you have not done that before or maybe you’ve backslid, you’ve nibbled your way out of the church and away from the Lord but you’re here today or maybe you’re watching on TV and you’d like to return, I’d like to invite you to come as we sing verse two if you would like special prayer or maybe there is some other area in your life you have a special need. Come as we sing verse two together.

O brother, be faithful! the city of gold, Prepared for the good and the blest, Is waiting its portals of pearl to unfold, And welcome thee into thy rest. Then, brother, prove faithful! not long shall we stay In weariness here, and forlorn, Time’s dark night of sorrow is wearing away, We haste to the glorious morn.

For the final appeal, some of you maybe you’ve felt some conviction we’re not being faithful with those little things: maybe our little words, the little minutes and moments that make up our lives, letting our little light shine or maybe there’s little sin that you have been treating and fighting something that needs to be dealt with that’s a serious thing with God. These little things matter. If you’d like to ask God to help you in one of these little areas come, we’ll have special prayer for you if you have that need as we sing the last verse. Verse four.

O brother, be faithful! eternity’s years Shall tell for thy faithfulness now, When bright smiles of gladness shall scatter thy tears, A coronet gleam on thy brow. O brother, be faithful! the promise is sure, That waits for the faithful and tried; To reign with the ransomed, immortal and pure, And ever with Jesus abide.

Father in heaven, Lord, we are thankful for this simple message that there’s great power in little things. I pray, Lord, that you would help us to recognize that life is made of these little moments and seconds, the little words that we speak, letting our little light shine, using our gifts. The great victory is won usually through a series of little battles. Help us, Lord, to be faithful in that which is least, knowing then that we will be faithful also in much. I pray that if there is anybody who is here today or watching and they need to go through those ABCs and like a little child accept Jesus as their savior, to believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that they will make that decision now. And as we go from this place today, Lord, I would also pray that we recognize that there is great power in the words that we speak and our witness. Help us to be faithful. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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