A Little Deviation

Little ends up being much here, too.

Little is Much (7)

It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out 
to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11.1

No big deal
It must have been regarded by everyone as no big deal. David had earned his rest, or so he may have suggested to Joab and the army. If he wanted to remain in Jerusalem, rather than go out with his army as was his custom, and the custom of all kings at this time of year, nobody seemed to mind.

It was just a little deviation from the norm, from expectations, and from David’s normal practice. But that little deviation would lead to big disaster.

Just as Hezekiah’s little deviation into pride and self-puffery did, when he showed the evidence of his greatness to the emissaries from Babylon (2 Kgs. 20.12-19).

And just as Judas’ little embezzling of pocket change from the disciples’ treasury must have seemed like no big deal. He’d pay it back some day. Maybe (Jn. 12.4-6).

And Demas’ little clinging to some worldly indulgence – no big deal. He could handle it. Until he no longer could (2 Tim. 4.9, 10).

And Peter’s little lapse into ethnic favoritism at Antioch. Just a little thing, a slight deviation from what the council in Jerusalem had declared. But he paid for his little deviation by being publicly embarrassed by the apostle Paul (Gal. 2.11-21). We can be sure Peter rued ever compromising his convictions just to stay in the good graces of the big-boy theologians from Jerusalem.

Little is much when God is in it. This is true, as we have seen.

But when God is not in the little things we do, when those little things are little deviations from Biblical truth, much can happen as well, but not the kinds of things that glorify God and bless us and our neighbors. Indeed, often the exact opposite is the case.

The narrow path
Jesus explained that the gate of discipleship is a narrow one (Lk. 13.22-24). The path leading to that gate is a clearly-marked thoroughfare, with guardrails Old and New, a firm roadbed of apostolic example, and the Holy Spirit as our constant GPS, pointing and fueling the way to ever-increasing Christlikeness.

But that thoroughfare is cluttered on the right hand and the left with exit ramps offering a wide range of tempting alternatives – short-cuts, scenic routes, improved roadways, interesting diversions, exciting no-guardrail excursions, get-rich (or get-popular) quick schemes – and all of them promising “easy exit, easy return.” We can’t not see them – all those glitzy billboards, blinking arrows, friends waving from the overpasses, and the like. And we might be tempted to think that a brief excursion from the well-defined path won’t hurt anyone. After all, I can get right back on the discipleship thoroughfare and be none the worse for it, right?

Wrong.

Little deviations are deviations, whether large or small. A little deviation at any moment on a journey to the moon will find you lost in deep space before you know it, beyond reach of radio or telescope, all alone and cold, and dying a slow death.

It is the same with the deviations we allow in our walk with the Lord. We might think them inconsequential and, after all, nothing worse than what other believers are doing. But deviations from the Word of God can sear the conscience (1 Tim. 4.1, 2), pollute the heart (Matt. 6.22, 23), harden the mind (Eph. 4.17-19), and turn you from the path of discipleship to one of self-indulgence and lying to the Lord.

Continue on that path, and sooner or later you will find the thoroughfare of discipleship no longer alluring, the goal of Christlikeness not worth the trouble, and the life of faith you pretend to be living a mere cultural accoutrement to wear before your family and friends.

Little is much
Little deviations can lead to much trouble, disappointment, confusion, and collapse. Do not give in to them, and do not harbor them in your soul. Recognize them for what they are, and as you’re thinking about giving in to the little deviation, remember the much trouble and destruction to which these can lead.

Every temptation to deviate from the path of discipleship also offers a little opportunity to remain faithful to the Lord. When we’re tempted to veer from the path of following Jesus, we have a choice to make. Either we will follow that temptation and fall through it into sin, or we will resist that temptation, hew to the path of discipleship, and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Resist the little temptations and see how much God can do to form you into the likeness of His Son.

Because God is with us when temptations arise, and when you seek the Lord in the face of every temptation to deviate from His way, you will find that faith and obedience lead to much growth and blessing by keeping you on the thoroughfare of discipleship and of glorifying God.

For reflection
1.  What is temptation? How can we know when we’re being tempted? Can we recognize the “off ramps” of deviation if we’re ignorant of the “guardrails” of Scripture? Explain.

2.  Paul says that every temptation also has a way of escape, so that we can bear up under the temptation and not fall through it into sin (1 Cor. 10.13). How can we find “a way of escape” in the face of temptation to deviate from the Lord?

3.  How can Christians help one another to stay on the path of discipleship and resist the little deviations that tempt us?

Next steps – Transformation: Make sure you know what to do when temptation arises. Mediate on Psalm 73. How did Asaph face down the temptation to covet and complain? What did he do?

T. M. Moore

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This week’s study is part 3 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. Click hereto download part 3, “Little is Much.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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