Thomas R. Rowe, Jr.
A friend has been going through a series of disruptive and disappointing circumstances. She is a strong woman of faith and has always had a positive outlook, but the recent events in her life have left her feeling somewhat defeated. As she enumerated several “little things” that have added to her perplexity she smiled and said, “In the absence of serpents we perish by gnats.” I found her analogy humorous. Gnats! Those annoying little pests have irritated us all. As I have considered her words, I am reminded of other little things that are not only annoying, but also threatening. As an example, the plea of the Shulamite maiden in the Song of Solomon, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards— for our vines have tender grapes.” (Song of Solomon 2: 15). The little foxes were going after the fruit before it was fully mature.
It is often those aggravating “little things” that nag and gnaw at us, hindering our progress and preventing our plans from coming to fruition. For each of us it can be something different; a misplaced address, a computer glitch, a colleague who constantly quibbles over little things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things; a traffic tie-up that delays us for an important meeting; or just a little nail in our tire on a rainy night. Whatever the ‘issue,’ remember, that’s not the issue. The real issue is how we respond to the gnats and little foxes.
Have you noticed if gnats get inside the house, they always go to the fruit? The little foxes are in pursuit of fruit as well. These are metaphors for those little things that distract us from maintaining a vital relationship with the Lord. John 15 tells us, Jesus is the vine we are the branches, and the fruit that is produced, is His life manifested through us as we abide in Him. The gnats and the little foxes are after the fruit. In Galatians 5: 22-23, Paul identifies the fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The gnats and little foxes are on a mission to distract us from manifesting Christ’s character.
Guard your heart against the gnats and little foxes—those things that rob you of your joy, your peace, your patience, and cause you to be less kind and loving. It’s the little things in life that can spoil your testimony. Defeat the assignment of the gnats and little foxes by humbly accepting the less appealing duties of life though they may bring little recognition—the seemingly trivial pursuits that work to nurture character. A note of appreciation to that quibbling coworker, counting your blessings while stuck in traffic, little acts of self denial, a wise alertness to an otherwise missed opportunity, a diligent cultivation of care for and acceptance of another’s opinion; these are the measures by which you are forming character that will stand for eternity. We want others to measure us by our great deeds; but the truth is, our character is revealed by little things.