Satan has too much sense to tempt some people with gross sins. He knows very well that it would be time wasted and thrown away. We are fortified against the great evils that engulf many of the ungodly. But how about the little things that creep in and spoil the experience and interfere with our communion with the Holy Spirit?
It is one thing to protect a vineyard against the large animals that wander out upon the common, and quite another to guard against the little vermin that creep through the cracks of the fence or underneath.
These little foxes will get in and pick off the young buds, and may, if not watched, do more harm than the beasts of the field. Where there is danger, ought there not to be careful watching? What Christian is there that has not been more or less troubled with these "little foxes that spoil the vines?" Perhaps you are never tempted to steal, or murder, or swear; but the little petty trials and annoyances of life will creep in on you, and the first thing you know you will be getting lean, or chafed, or find your joy leaking out. This will surely come if there is not a constant guard set over these little things.
When a boy, I used to irrigate berries on [my] father's farm. Sometimes we would find instead of the water running along by the row of berries, as it should, it was going down a gopher hole. Proper watchfulness would have observed it when there came a leakage, and a little effort would have stopped the flow; but, as it often was, that which at first was a tiny stream escaping, soon enlarged more and more till it carried all the water away.
So it is in our Christian experiences. If we are careless about these little things, they will wear a larger channel, till the whole stream of salvation is flowing away.
There are four ways to sin: [b]y word, thought, deed, and omission of duty. The little foxes will creep in along these four channels, and if they are not properly guarded will soon gnaw a hole through and our Christian experiences will begin to leak out. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should run out as leaking vessels" (Heb. 2:1).
Where we find a weakness we should set a double guard. If the devil has tripped one on a given point, he certainly will attempt it at that same place again. When the rats have gnawed a hole in the granary, though you may plug it up. . . they will attempt it at that same place next time. Reader, if you should ever fail and go down, it will probably be at your weak place.
It is said, our experience is no stronger than our weakest place. Like the chain that holds the ship to the anchor, it is no stronger than its weakest link. Would it then not be well to learn our weaknesses and then fortify ourselves against backsliding?
Let us watch every action, and every word, and every thought. Let us be careful and not neglect any duty. The question may be asked, "How can one be thus fortified so as not to be overcome by these little foxes?" We are taught in the Word that "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."
Then, in the first place, we must have this indwelling Conqueror abiding within. We must be absolutely given up to Him, so that He can have His own way with us and manipulate our lives as He will. We must not neglect two very important things [that] make one "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might," and these are secret prayer and the study of God’s [W]ord. To get careless here lets down the bars or opens some crevice, and in troop the little foxes, and sometimes larger ones, and the first thing we know we are in the dark.
Take a retrospective glance over the past and see if you cannot note times when this very thing took place in your experience. We are told to "Watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation." If we constantly depend on the Holy Spirit to keep us, and then watch and pray, it will save us from the "little foxes that spoil the vines.”
Rev. W. E. Shepard, The Nazarene Mesenger, September 14, 1899
Used with permission from Nazarene Archives for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.