A ship once wrecked on the Irish coast. The captain was a careful one. Nor had the weather been of so severe a kind to explain the wide distance the ship had swerved from her course. The ship went down, but so much interest was attached to the disaster that a diver was sent down.
Among other portions of the vessel that were examined was the compass that was swung on deck, and inside the compass box was detected a bit of steel which appeared to be the small point of a pocket knife blade. It appeared that the day before the wreck a sailor had been sent to clean the compass, had used his pocket knife in the process, and had unconsciously broken off the point and left it remaining in the box.
The bit of knife blade exerted its influence on the compass, and to a degree that deflected the needle from its proper bent, and spoiled it as an index of the ship’s direction.
That piece of knife blade wrecked the vessel.
Shamgar had an ox goad,
Rahab had a string,
Gideon had a trumpet,
David had a sling,
Samson had a jawbone,
Moses had a rod,
Dorcas had a needle–
All were used of God!
When Milan Cathedral was finished, in the vast throngs of people assembled to witness the dedication was a little girl who was heard to cry out in childish glee, as she pointed to the great building, “I helped to build that!”
“What!” exclaimed one of the guards who was standing in brilliant uniform. “Show me what you did.”
“I carried the dinner pail for my father while he worked up yonder,” she replied. Her part, though humble, helped to complete the plans of the architect.
In relating this story, Bishop Leonard makes this comment: “Our part in life may seem small, but it should bulk large in our thought when we remember that it is helping to complete the plan of the Divine Architect.”
Robert A. Heinlein, science-fiction writer, on jacks-of-all-trades: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, steer a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, pitch manure, solve equations, analyse a new problem, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialisation is for insects.
Years ago there was not a single thistle in the whole of Australia. A Scotsman who very much admired thistles thought it a pity that such a great island should be without that marvelous and glorious symbol of his great nation. He therefore collected a pack of thistle seed, and sent it over to one of his friends in Australia. Well, when it landed, the officers may have said, “Oh, let it in; is it not a little one? It is only to be sown in a garden.”
Aye, yes, it was but a little one; but now whole districts of the country are covered with it, and it has become the farmer’s pest and plague. It was a little one, but it would have been a blessing if the ship that brought that seed had been wrecked. Take heed of the thistle seed; little sins are like it.
In a gun factory, an elongated bar of steel, which weighed five hundred pounds, was suspended vertically by a chain. Near it, an average-size cork was suspended by a silk thread. “You will see something shortly which is seemingly impossible,” said an attendant to a group of sight-seers. “This cork is going to set this steel bar in motion!” The cork was swung gently against the steel bar which remained motionless. For ten minutes the cork, with pendulum-like regularity, struck the iron bar. Then the bar vibrated slightly. At the end of an hour, the great bar was swinging like the pendulum of a clock!
Many of God’s children feel that they are not exerting a feather’s weight of influence upon others, or making a dent in the bastions of evil. Not so. How powerful is the cumulative influence for good which emanates from the obscurest of God’s children!
A teakettle singing on the stove was the beginning of the steam engine.
A shirt waving on a clothesline was the beginning of a balloon, the forerunner of the Graf Zeppelin.
A spider web strung across a garden path suggested the suspension bridge.
A lantern swinging in a tower was the beginning of the pendulum.
An apple falling from a tree was the cause of discovering the law of gravitation.
O.S. Marden’s motto, which he picked as a schoolboy & kept in front of him throughout life, was, “Let every occasion be a great occasion, for you cannot tell when fate may be taking your measure for a larger place.”
You think, “Oh, just this one little tiny sin, just this little thing–it’s not important!” But that little crack in your armour is where the Devil begins to seep in, & then his gas of deceit begins to poison your mind because you disobeyed, & pretty soon you’re totally off the track!–Dad
Do you know that one speck of dust in an automatic flight-control instrument is sufficient to cause a multimillion-dollar supersonic jet airplane to veer widely off its course?
Do you know that lint from clothing and moisture from fingerprints can make a guided missile, zooming along at twice the speed of sound, go awry, and miss its mark?
Do you know that smog and humidity can cause intricate flight instruments to fail and endanger the success of vital military missions?
G.M. Giannini, a noted American scientist, says all this is so! This is a reminder that there are many tiny things that can cause the finest specimen of humanity to go awry and miss the glorious destiny which his Maker has made possible for him to enjoy. It is not necessary to commit some glaring evil in order to become a failure spiritually.
A brief news item told how an express package from England came to a South African town. The man to whom the box was consigned refused to pay the delivery charges, and for about fourteen years the box was used as a footstool in the express office. The consignee died, and later the box was put up at auction with other unclaimed articles. Out of curiosity a man bid it in at a low price. When he opened it he was greatly surprised to find several thousand pounds of sterling in English banknotes. Because the consignee had refused to pay comparatively trifling delivery charges, he had missed a considerable fortune.
Fret not because thy place is small,
Thy service need not be,
For thou canst make it all there is,
Of joyful ministry.
The dewdrop, as the expansive sea,
In God’s great plan has part,
And this is all He asks of thee:
Be faithful where thou art.
When the first iron bridge was building at Colebrook Dale, England, it is said a fiddler came along and threatened to “fiddle the bridge down.” The workmen laughingly bade him “fiddle away!”
He tried note after note on his instrument until he hit upon one that coincided with the structure’s vibratory movement, and as he sounded that note with prolonged effort, the structure began to quiver so perceptibly, that the workmen begged him to stop lest the half-completed bridge should fall.
J.C. Penny, one of twelve children of an unpaid (not merely underpaid) minister in Missouri, went to the Rockies to cure his tuberculosis. In a 25-ft wide building on a side street of a small Wyoming coal mining town, he started a store. He lived in a sloping-roofed attic above the store with his bride. He built that store into a chain of more than 1500 stores, all of them on main streets. “It is neglect of little things,” he said, “not hard luck nor lack of talent, that trips up most men.”
Have you ever thought of it, that only the smaller birds sing? You never heard a note from the eagle in all your life, nor from the turkey, nor from the ostrich. But you have heard from the canary, the wren, and the lark. The sweetest music comes from those Christians who are small in their own estimation and before the Lord.
Sir Michael Costa, the celebrated conductor, was holding a rehearsal. As the mighty chorus rang out, accompanied by hundreds of instruments, the piccolo player ceased playing, thinking perhaps that his contribution would not be missed amid so much music. Suddenly the great leader stopped and cried out: “Where is the piccolo?” The sound of that one small instrument was necessary to the harmony, and the conductor’s ear had not missed it.
A great army, many years ago, invaded Scotland. They crept on stealthily over the border, and prepared to make a night attack on the Scottish forces. There lay the camp, all silently in the starlight, never dreaming that danger was so near. The Danes, to make their advance more noiseless, came forward barefooted.
But as they neared the sleeping Scots one unlucky Dane brought his broad foot down squarely on a bristling thistle. A roar of pain was the consequence, which rang like a trumpet blast through the sleeping camp. In a moment each soldier had grasped his weapon, and the Danes were thoroughly routed.
The thistle was from that time adopted as the national emblem of Scotland. God has His uses for even the simplest and humblest of us.
He was a humble workman
With the tools with which he wrought
And he built a common stable,
Or so it was, he thought!
And he fashioned there a manger
Where the cattle could be fed,
Never thinking that the Saviour
Would pillow there His head.
He had only built a stable
With a manger in the stall,
Yet it cradled there the Christ-child,
Who is King and Lord of all!
So although our task be humble,
Let us work each day with care;
For we may not know God’s purpose,
Or why He placed us there.
For the manger that formed the cradle
Of our Lord and Saviour here,
Was built by a humble workman
In Bethlehem of Judea.
–Henry B. Knox
Nelson Bunker Hunt, the Texas Billionaire, was walking down a hill on his Circle T Ranch near Dallas the night of his gala party when he noticed a clear plastic fork on the lawn. He picked it up, brushed it off & put it in his pocket. “That’s the way you save money,” he said with a grin.
Don’t worry if your job is small & your rewards are few; remember that the mighty oak was once a nut like you.
It is easier to organise a conference on the quality of the environment than to stoop over & pick up a gum wrapper.
Suppose we scan the pages of history to see some of the great issues which were won or lost by one vote.
Oliver Cromwell won control of England in 1645, when Parliament voted 91 to 90 in his favor. King Charles 1 was beheaded on the basis of the judges’ vote of 68 to 67. France changed from a monarchy to a republic in 1875. The vote of the deputies was 353 to 352.
During the American Revolution, anti-British sentiment was high in many colonies. A bill was presented to the Continental Congress which would have abolished English as the official American language in favor of German. The bill was defeated by one vote. In 1845, the Senate voted 26 to 25 to admit Texas to the union. Indiana’s Senator Hannigan changed his mind and voted in favor of its admission. And the senator himself had won his election to office by only one vote!
President Andrew Johnson escaped impeachment in 1868 by one vote. Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President of the United States in 1876 by an electoral vote of 185 to 184.
On November 8, 1923, the leaders of the tiny Nazi party met in a Munich tavern and elected Adolf Hitler as their leader–by a margin of one vote. What disastrous world war might have been averted if that group had elected a different man!
One little rat caused a dike to collapse in England recently. After the rodent had burrowed through the embankment of a canal, water began seeping through. Slowly but surely, the original trickle became a sizable stream. Soon one bank collapsed and a 40-foot break-through let the water pour out in torrents. Three million gallons of water escaped; the canal was drained for seven miles; more than a million fish were swept away and a twenty-foot gorge was channeled through a nearby field.
It took sixty men with bulldozers three weeks to shift thirty thousand tons of soil and repair the damages.
As one tiny rat caused the tremendous harm, so can one individual like you start a chain reaction that will benefit everyone. While it is true that “one sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18), it is also true that you may never be aware of the far reaching good resulting from a seemingly insignificant prayer, word or deed. But God is and that is what counts.
“To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28).
It’s the little things that make the World go ’round. God turns the gigantic wheels of His magnificence on the most infinitesimally small pivots, little people, so you’d better show some appreciation for those folks now & give them their rewards as much as you can now, or you’ll be sorry later.–Dad
The great doing of little things makes the great life.–Eugenia Price
We cannot all be great, but we can attach ourselves to a great cause.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the World so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the traveler in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright & tiny spark,
Lights the traveler in the dark–
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
One mischievous boy can break up a school. One false alarm can cause a panic. One match can start a conflagration. One false step can cost a life or ruin a character. One broken wheel can ditch a train. One quarrelsome worker can create a strike of ten thousand men. One undiplomatic word can provoke a war involving thousands of lives and destruction of millions of dollars in property. One hasty act of legislation can entail untold hardships. One wayward daughter can break a mother’s heart. One lie can destroy a person’s character. One false witness can send an innocent man to jail. One vote can decide an election. One kind word at the right time may save a person from suicide. One sermon may fire a man’s soul and set the course for his future life. One drink may start a person on the road to alcoholism. One wrong example may lead dozens down the wrong path. One decision for Christ will determine future destiny.
And the Bible says: “One sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).
Yes, just as one broken link can make a chain useless, just as one leak can sink a ship, just as one worm can spoil an apple. But we are glad to note that one can do good, as when one good word maketh a heavy heart glad (Proverbs 12:25), as one faithful ambassador is health (Proverbs 13:17), just as one word spoken in due season–how good is it (Proverbs 15:23), just as one word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11).
Mistakes are often costly in any business. A New York newspaper once published an advertisement of a magazine that was just being established. By the error of printer & proofreader, the cost of a year’s subscription was given as ten cents. The price given in the “copy” for the advertisement was one dollar a year. Thirty thousand readers of the newspaper sent in their dimes for a year’s subscription, & the newspaper had to stand good for the mistake. The one little error cost them twenty-seven thousand dollars.
From a little spark may burst a mighty flame.
The space ship Mariner II made big headlines when it completed its thirty-six -million-mile trip toward Venus. Until then, we did not know very much about our closest neighbor.
Most of us have forgotten that Mariner II had a forerunner, Mariner I, which attempted the same journey through space about 2 years before. What happened that time?
Well, there was nothing wrong with Mariner I. It was just as close to perfect as the scientists could make it. But when it was launched, it went off course and missed Venus by tens of thousands of miles. Why?
It seems that in typing out the electronic instructions to the missile, someone left out a hyphen. That meant that the signals were off by one electronic impulse. And, of course, the missile behaved–or misbehaved–in accordance with the faulty instructions.
Damage? The project was held up for two years–and eighteen million taxpayer’s dollars were wasted. That’s what a hyphen can cost!
So one wrong word we speak, one evil deed, one foolish decision can hurt much–and many.
During a lesson in a medical college the other day, one of the students was asked by the professor, “How much is a dose of ______” (giving the technical name of a strong poison.).
“A teaspoonful,” was the ready reply.
The professor made no comment, but the student, a quarter of an hour later, realised that he had made a mistake, & straightway said: “Professor, I want to change my answer to that question.”
“It’s too late, sir,” responded the professor, curtly, looking at his watch; “your patient has been dead fourteen minutes.”
Shortly before sailing back to England, foreign correspondent Quentin Reynolds was received by President Roosevelt in his office at the White House. While he was there the President put through a transatlantic call to another eminent statesman, Winston Churchill. Mr. Reynolds was slightly startled when, after a conversation, the President said: “I’ll have to hang up now. My three minutes are up!”
The late Thomas A. Edison had a very beautiful summer residence in which he took great pride. One day he was showing his guests about, pointing out all the various labour-saving devices on the premises. Turning back toward the house it was necessary to pass through a turnstile which led onto the main path. The guests soon found out that it took considerable force to get through this device. “Mr. Edison,” asked one of his guests, “how is it that with all these wonderful modern things around, you still maintain such a heavy turnstile?”
Said Mr. Edison, his eyes lighting up with laughter, “Well, you see, everyone who pushes the turnstyle around, pumps eight gallons of water into the tank on my roof.”
Some years ago a great actor was asked at a drawing-room function to recite for the pleasure of his fellow-guests. He consented and asked if there was anything they specially wanted to hear. After a minute’s pause an old minister of the Gospel asked for Psalm 23. A strange look came over the actor’s face; he paused for a moment, then said, ‘I will, on one condition–that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same.’
‘I!’ said the preacher, in surprise, ‘I am not an elocutionist, but, if you wish it, I shall do so.’
Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound, and, as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from his guests. As it died away, the old man rose and began to declaim the same Psalm. His voice was not remarkable: his tone was not faultless; but, when he finished, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The actor rose and his voice quivered as he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I reached your eyes and ears: he has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Psalm but he knows the Shepherd.’
Stewart Anderson, in preaching on temptation, reminds us that Bobby Leach, the Englishman, startled the World by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel without suffering serious harm. Some years later he was walking down the street, slipped on an orange peeling, & was taken to the hospital with a badly fractured leg. Dr. Anderson adds: “Some great temptations, which roar around us like Niagara, may leave us unharmed. But a little insignificant incident may cause our downfall simply because we are not looking for it.”
Termites destroy more property than do earthquakes. More fires are caused by matches and cigarettes than by volcanoes.
More heartaches and sorrow are caused by little words and deeds of unkindness than by open acts of dislike and enmity.
When the suspension bridge across the Niagara was to be erected, the question was, how to get the cable over. With a favoring wind, a kite was elevated, which alighted on the other shore. To its insignificant string, a cord was attached, which was drawn over, then a rope, then a larger rope, then a cable strong enough to sustain the iron cable which supported the bridge, over which heavily-laden trains pass in safety.
When I preach I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have above forty in the congregation; I have all my eyes on the servant maids and on the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, well, the door is open.
One rainy afternoon a small woman wearing a common raincoat went into a furniture department. The salesmen were chatting with each other. “She’s not going to buy anything,” one of them said. “She’s too frowsy. She just wants to look around.” But a younger man did not let the general impression mislead him. He spent an hour showing her furniture & explaining its fine points. She left without buying & the other salesmen said, “We told you so.” A few months later the store received a cable from Scotland, asking that the young salesman be sent to help select furnishings for Skebo Castle. It was signed by the woman in the frowsy raincoat, Mrs. Andrew Carnegie.
Recently a huge tree in Colorado fell to the ground with a resounding crash after having stood majestically on a hill for more than 400 years. A mere sapling when Columbus landed in San Salvador, over the centuries it had been struck by lightning 14 times, braved great windstorms, & even defied an earthquake. In the end, however, it was killed by some little beetles! Boring under the bark, they chewed away its mighty fibers until one day the lordly king of the forest came thundering down.
There was once a girl who had a bracelet with a beautiful turquoise blue stone in it. The bracelet had come from America, & she was very proud of it.
But one day, after she had been out shopping, she found that the blue stone was gone. She had been into a number of shops, & although she went back & looked in all of them, she never found it. She felt that it was hopeless–she would never see her beautiful blue stone again.
“Oh, well,” she thought, “no use fretting. I had better do something useful. I’ll clean out my kitchen.” The kitchen was quite small, so the job was soon done. But then a little voice inside her seemed to say, “You haven’t cleaned out the saucepan cupboard.”
“Oh, no,” she thought, “I really can’t be bothered.”
“But the job isn’t properly done till you have,” the little voice pointed out.
“Oh, very well,” said the girl at last. And she pulled all the saucepans out of the cupboard & swept right to the back of it. And as she pulled the brush out, something seemed to rattle. Was it a pebble? A crumb of dry bread? No, it was a little blue thing–her precious turquoise blue stone. How glad she was that she had listened to the small voice inside her & done the job thoroughly. It was like a little present to her for having obeyed it.
Great events, we often find,
On little things depend,
And very small beginnings
Have oft a mighty end.
A single utterance may good
Or evil thought inspire;
One little spark enkindled
May set a town on fire.
What volumes may be written
With little drops of ink!
How small a leak, unnoticed,
A mighty ship will sink!
Our life is made entirely
Of moments multiplied,
As little streamlets, joining,
Form the ocean’s tide.
Our hours and days, our months and years,
Are in small moments given;
They constitute our time below–
Eternity in heaven.
In the Louvre, in Paris, there is a famous painting by Murillo. It is entitled “The Miracle of San Diego.” A door opens, & two noblemen & a priest enter a kitchen. They are amazed to find that all the kitchen maids are angels. One is handling a water-pot, another a joint of meat, a third a basket of vegetables, a fourth is tending the fire. The message of the picture is that no labour is common unless we make it so. Jesus Christ Himself toiled in a workshop.