Date: June 15, 2016 (Training)
Bible Text: | Betty Swann
Series: Pillar One
Do you know the verse in John 15:1 where Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches?” Why is the vine so important to God? It is because that is where the life is. Just like in your life, the real life is in Jesus. That is where the nourishment goes out to all the branches in nature and that is where the nourishment goes out to you. The closer you are to God, then the closer and the better the nourishment can be that comes to you.
Little things can come along in your life, and you know it as well as I do, that can spoil your life with God. They are the little foxes that the Bible talks about. It is talked about in the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is a very intimate book. Little Jewish boys were not even allowed to read it until after their Bar Mitzvah because it was considered almost erotic. It is very personal. What is it all really about? It is about the intimate relationship you can have with Jesus that He wants to have with you. It is the love relationship. We are called the Bride of Christ. That is kind of hard for men to deal with, but we are the Bride of Christ, men and women who give their hearts to Jesus, allow Him to come into their lives and take over their lives completely. These people live for Him. We are the Bride of Christ and some day there will be a great marriage supper in Heaven. The Book of Solomon talks about the intimate relationship you can have with God. Anybody can have it. It is about being hidden away with God. Just think, the Lord of the universe wants to spend time with you and He cares about you. Never make the mistake of saying, “He wouldn’t care about me.” Oh, yes, if you were the only person who ever lived on the face of the earth, Jesus would have come and died just for you, so that you could spend eternity with God.
Look at this first Scripture in Song of Solomon 2:15. “Catch all the foxes. Those little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of love for the grapevines are blossoming.” (Look at this picture of this little fox. That is not a big fox, but a little one.) They could go in and out among those vines and nip at them. That is what happens in your life. The most wonderful thing about knowing the Lord and discovering that the Bible is written for you, is that you can learn how to have a deeper relationship with God . However, things come along; all the time, every day on a regular basis, that could keep you from having this with God. He wants to have it with you. What does it mean? What are we talking about? I want you to think about what are the little foxes in your life. They are not that big. They do not seem that important, but they spoil the time with you and God.
Let me tell you about a little fox I have trouble with. I am kind of a doer. I am a high energy person. When I sit down to have my quiet time around 6 o’clock every morning; you would think that I could just sit there, be alone with God, hear God talk to me, hear the angels sing or whatever. You know what I start doing? I start thinking of everything I need to do. I have to put in a load of clothes. I need to clean out that drawer. I need to get on my computer and check my e-mail. Maybe I should call Sherry, my best friend, and see what is going on with her. See, those are the little foxes coming and nipping at my relationship with God. There are other ones, too. Sometimes these little foxes can seem really big in your life; but in terms of life with God, which goes on for all of eternity, they are not big. You see, you are just beginning your life with God. There will come a day that you will wish that you had spent a lot more time with Him.
Have you ever heard men who worked too much for too long all of their lives say, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids?” Some day that will happen to people that stand before God. They are going to say, “I wish I had spent more time with God. I chased things that did not last for eternity. I chased money. I chased big business. I chased fame. I chased whatever. It is all gone and it meant nothing. And yet those things that looked so big at the time, like fame or position or power; in the long term with God, were just little foxes nipping away at the most important things in life. Life with God is more important than anything you will ever do. Life with God is done on a daily basis. It is not done on a monthly or weekly basis. God never set it up for you to go to church on Sunday morning and say, “Well, that was my God time. Now the rest of the week I have to get into real life.” No, God did not mean it that way. He wants you to be able to handle all of the temptations and the distractions that come at you and be able to judge and say, “No, ignore that. Don’t even pay attention to that. Or, no, stop, do not do that. Sometimes they are little sins. Now sin is sin, just no other way to get around it. Sin is sin. But they are like cripplers and they slow you down. My husband says, “You have to watch little foxes because they can grow into big foxes. Big foxes were once little foxes and a big fox can do a lot of damage.” So, what am I talking about? How do you recognize when a little fox is trying to come and nip at the vine, Jesus and the nourishment He is trying to get into your life? It is that first rising of simple thoughts, desire or something like that and you do not stop them.
Many people think, “Oh, I just can’t believe I thought that, that is just so bad. Why did I think that?” I will give you a little saying, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can certainly stop them from making a nest in your hair.” It is the same way with these little thoughts that just nag, they just kind of come through. That would be a little fox. You have to stop right then and say, “No, get out of here in the name of Jesus. I don’t want you.” And, especially, there is someone watching this show right now and you have really made a difference in your life. I think you are in prison. I believe that is what the Lord is telling me. You are in prison and you are one of those people are really determined to serve Jesus, and these thoughts keep coming back in your head and you feel defeated. You think, “I thought I was through with all of that. I thought I was really trying to serve God, and now I’ve got this same thought back.” It is just the devil sending a little fox just trying to get in there again. All you have to do, and I would say it out loud if I were you, “No, no, get out of here, Devil. I don’t want you. In the name of Jesus, get out.”
Another little fox that can come into your life is what could be called a trifling pursuit. In other words; you are supposed to be serving God, He has told you what He wants you to do, you are doing it, you love it and you are going after it. But then all of a sudden you start thinking, “You know, I’d like to take guitar lessons or I’d like to buy a motorcycle.” Well, I am not saying anything like that is wrong, but you have to run it by the God filter, the vine filter. Lord, do you want me to do it? There are things in my life that I would really like to do or would enjoy learning about it, but I have to ask the Lord. I can tell you there have been times He said, “It is a diversion. It has been sent to get you off track. Do not pay any attention to it, but keep going.”
Little foxes like to spoil those tender young grapes. What is that? That is those new beginnings in your life, those good beginnings. Some of you are what we call a baby Christian. You just accepted the Lord. You are so excited about what you are learning and that Jesus is real. You want to know Him better than ever and you want to tell everybody about Him. I can understand that. Those little foxes come to just crush your new beginnings. How does that happen? You talk to the wrong person about Jesus. You say, “Oh, I’m so excited about Jesus” and they say, “You know what, that is just a crutch. You are just not strong enough to do it on your own.” Well, what is that? That is that little fox coming to just crush that grape of Jesus in your life.
There are foxes in life and there are jackals. Do you know what a jackal is? It is a different kind of animal from a fox. Foxes tend to be more secretive in what they do. Jesus called King Herod a fox. He said, “Go tell that fox.” He had a lot of nerve, did He not? That was the king and yet, what did He mean? Herod was being secretive and Jesus saw through it all. He knew what he was doing.
Sometimes you have to crucify your flesh. That is the fox in your life. There are just things that your flesh wants to do that you just cannot do. I can tell you one right now, the Lord is telling me about. There is somebody watching this show and you used to go and get drunk and get high when you got real frustrated with life. That was your way of checking out and solving your problems and God says, “Crucify your flesh.” The next time you want to do that, you need to say, “No, that was my old life.” Instead pray,” Lord, I’m coming to You and presenting myself to You, saying, I just want to check out, God. Tell me what to do. I am going to listen and do what You say.”
Sometimes it is the case of good versus best. You may be a person watching this show and you say, “Well, I don’t really get into all that stuff you’re talking about, Betty.” Well, good. Praise God you don’t. But sometimes, even you can get caught up in something that is good and God says, “It’s not My best for you. I want you to avoid it. It is nipping at the life I have with you. I want you to let it go.”
Stress is another one, too. Sometimes this feels like a big fox but it is really little. I can remember when my husband was going to school in the late 1960s. He came home one day and said, “We had a man come in and talk to us about some new phenomenon that is going to be starting to hit America called stress.” I said, “Stress, what’s that?” He said, “I don’t really understand it. I don’t know, it is something like life gets hard. I don’t know. I don’t understand what that word means. I never heard that word before.” Well, boy, we all know it, don’t we? And what do you do when everything hits at once? Here are those little foxes; frustration, exhaustion, strife, you want to scream, you want to throw up your hands, you want to cry, you want to lose it. How do you fight that little fox? God’s way. Praise God out loud anyway, even though you do not feel it at all.
Another way is to look for the good in the situation. There will always be good if you look for it. Another is to get quiet, just make yourself stop, center in, think about Jesus in your mind and in your heart, look at Him. Get peaceful. In today’s world, there are so many things that can come and nip at your life with God. They can be big. I am not saying they are not, like a new marriage. Maybe you served God and you are so excited about Jesus and you met a girl and she loved Jesus. Then you got married and got so caught up in your new marriage that you quit serving Jesus. A new baby also takes a lot of time. A baby takes 24 hours a day for about three or four years. How about a blended family? How hard is it to make it work? Maybe you have a lot of kids. Maybe you are single. Maybe you are single with a lot of kids. That is the hardest one of all, I think. Maybe your job requires that you work all the time. Maybe your work takes an enormous load on your life, and you do not get very much sleep. Maybe you have lots of meetings. You are just going from one meeting to the next, to the next. Maybe you are never at home except to eat, sleep and change clothes. You have to be really careful with your children and your desire to help your children experience everything that is out that would be good for them. You get them so involved that it nips away at them, the quietness and solitude and just being a kid. I know a child who said to his mom, “I don’t want to play on a team. I just want to play in the neighborhood with my friends.” How far away have we gotten from that?
Look at the second Scripture in Daniel 7:25. This is talking about what the devil is going to do at the very end. “He shall speak great words against the most High and shall wear out the saints of the most High.” You see, Satan, if he cannot get you to walk away from God, to deny God, he will try to wear you out serving God. (Look at this picture. This grapevine. Now, do those grapes have to do anything to get that luscious looking? Do they have to work that hard, strain and grape. Oh, I got to be a big grape. I got to work so hard to be a big grape. No. They were just right there in the vine, abiding in the vine, letting that nourishment come into their lives.) God wants that for you.
These little foxes that spoil the vine can spoil a lot of things in your life. First of all, they spoil your relationship with God which is what I have been talking about. You begin to get further and further and further away from God and it is such a gradual thing and you think, “How did I end up here? I was just so on fire for God. Now, what happened?” It is because those little foxes began to nip, and he did not take care of them. It spoils your time with God. Everybody in the whole world only has 24 hours a day. That is all any of us have. Some of us pack it in so full that we do not have time for God. I heard a man say something one time in the very beginning in my Christian walk and it made an impression on me. He said, “There is only two things that are not going to burn up. God’s Word and people.” How much time are you spending with each? Think about it.
Another thing little foxes do is push your priorities aside. That is one I have to watch out for. I get so excited about what I am doing. I just have to be really careful. I keep all my priorities right.
What are your priorities? First is your walk with God. I am talking about alone with God. I am not talking about your ministry with God. I am talking about your time alone with God just to be with God. Then in priority are your marriage, children, family, job, ministry and your friends. You have to be real careful because those little foxes will nip away at the good things.
Another big one is the tyranny of the urgent versus the important. Look at your life right now. Do you feel like your life is being nipped away by things? Look at it. Urgency makes you think inside yourself, I have to do it right now. If I do not do it right now, it is not going to get done. I have to do it, versus the important. Have you ever stopped to think that the important things you can always put off? Spending time with your child, spending time with God, spending time doing something God has told you to do, calling that person that is really important like your mom or your dad or somebody. You see, you can put off the important. That is why it is called the tyranny of the urgent. It is just a little fox that nips at you. Sometimes you can allow those major relationships to suffer and God has put certain people in your life. They are there for you to bless and for them to bless you; for you to grow and for them to grow. Do not neglect them. How do you handle these little foxes? How do you make sure they are not nipping away at you and all that is really important?
Here are some guidelines to help you stay on track. We will start with first things first. If you have a big list of things to do; make sure you do the things that are the most important first to make sure they get done. I have always heard that if you take time to spend time every day with God, He has ways of expanding your time. I have seen it happen. Another is to constantly evaluate and eliminate anything that God has said, “This is not important in your life.” Sometimes it is something that was very important and now it is not. You need to evaluate it and eliminate it. It is kind of like the jungle. The jungle will keep growing back if you do not keep cutting it away. You have to watch and see where God is saying trim back, trim back.
Another little fox that is really dangerous is wrong friends and wrong influences. When you come out of the world and you start following Jesus, most of the time you do not have the same friends any more, but God gives you better friends. He gives you friends who will be there for you through thick and thin. You do not ever want to let go of the friends that God wants you to hold onto. I really love my friends. I have friends from kindergarten up. I just still love them. When I decided Jesus is going to be number one, I don’t know how you do it, but, God, if you will show me how, I will do it…there were friends that I no longer could run around with because we just were not going in the same direction.
Another way to avoid these little foxes and stop them in your life is to stay focused. What is it that God has called you primarily to do? He wants you to know what it is. What has He called you to do? A lot of times, women will say to me, “I feel like God is calling me to ministry, but I am just so caught up with my children I cannot get anything done.” You can pray, ”Lord, do I just concentrate only on my kids right now or do you want me doing this ministry?” You can do both, but you have to hear the Lord tell you how much time to allot to different things. You just want your children to know and feel they are the most important to you.
Sometimes a little fox can be something bad that is just a constant discouragement or a constant obstacle. One time my dad said to me, “Betty, don’t ever forget in the Bible it says ‘and it came to pass.’ It doesn’t say it came to stay.” You can say to yourself, “This, too, shall pass.” It enables you to keep going and put up with some stuff you just have to put up with. Have you noticed that? It would be so great if you could just get rid of it. It is a little fox nipping at your vine, nipping at your life with God, but until it is gone, you just have to tell yourself this, too, will pass.
Another thing is not to do more than God has called you to do in your life. I have heard it said, and I think it goes back to that Scripture we looked at in Daniel, that Satan will come to wear out the saints. Sometimes Satan will keep trying to push you to do more and more and more and you just have to stop and say, “I am overwhelmed. I can’t even have a life.” What do you do then? I will tell you what I do, maybe it will help you. I lay everything down at the foot of the cross, everything I am doing. I say, “Lord, I am only going to take up what you tell me to take up.” In my mind, I just go through the things. Of course, my marriage, family and walk with God, but what else? You know there are some things I thought were a great idea to do and really, were probably sent to just to overload me. Maybe it was me or maybe it was the devil, who knows? All I know is to only do what God has called you to do.
Somebody told me if you do more than what God told you to do, it is rebellion. Jesus said, “I only do what the Father tells me to do. I only do what I see him doing and only say what I hear him saying.” You see, God will guide you and help you watch out for this. You need to recognize it. It is a little fox that has been sent and drop it. The secret is to enter into His rest. Look at Hebrews 4:1, “Enter into His rest.” It is so good.
QUIET TIME QUESTIONS
1. Look at the Song of Solomon 2:15. Describe what is meant by the “little foxes.”
2. How do the foxes spoil the vine?
3. How do you recognize and stop little foxes that spoil your time with God and with doing God’s work?
4. When considering options that could affect your walk with God, what are we called to do before making those decisions?
5. How much time do you spend with God and with the people He has placed in your life?
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Topics: Basic Discipleship