The difference between success and failure
Attention to the little things in life can often make a huge difference to the outcome – sometimes making the difference between success and failure.
On one occasion the British army lost nearly a thousand men in South Africa, massacred by a terrifying tidal wave of Zulu warriors. The reason? Their ammunition cases were screwed shut and their runners didn’t have enough screwdrivers to supply the troops fast enough! This tiny oversight compounded a series of other misjudgements to result in a catastrophic defeat. And the situation was worsened by army quartermasters who refused to supply these troops with what they needed from a different company, even though their supplies were much further from the front lines. They refused to see the bigger picture, but within an hour or so the bigger picture had found them. There were almost no survivors.
'Buy now, pay later'
And it is often the little foxes that spoil the vines.
Financially, the universal truism certainly does hold water: ‘look after the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves’. If we spend more than we earn, we can only ever live in debt. And carrying debt will quickly raise the cost of the original item. The slogan ‘Buy now, pay later’ is often true in more ways than one!
But woe betide any believer who takes this as an excuse for being stingy. We can never out-give God, and meanness cuts us off from the very source of our prosperity: ‘as a man sows, so shall he also reap’.
But life is more than money. “The tongue is only a small part of the body,” says James, but how easily it can get the whole of you into trouble! Learning sometimes to say nothing may be difficult, but it is vital if we want to avoid unnecessary conflict. Yet, plainly, knowing when to speak up is also essential. Eli the priest was condemned because he failed to restrain his sons, and he brought the judgment of God on his whole family, landing a terrifying legacy on his descendants (1 Samuel 3). Yet, even then, there was a window of opportunity left open for anyone hungry enough to see that faith could still find a way back to God.
The Bigger Picture
And so often the bigger picture is simply a matter of putting the needs of others first, as every parent knows and the Cross of Calvary so graphically demonstrates.
In all these areas, it is a balancing act between the rigorous self-control required to be a success in this life and the ability to grasp the bigger picture. A tough call, but by no means impossible as so many Bible characters demonstrate.
Elijah was a man of great passion and extreme swings of opinion, but he learned to hear God in the still small whisper. And, as James so fittingly puts it: “Elijah was a man just like us.”
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