One of Hans Christian Anderson's most popular fairy tales is called "The Princess and the Pea." It involves a young girl who discovers that she is actually a princess, because she can't get a good night's sleep! Although she's lying on a pile of twenty mattresses and feather beds, something is digging into her soft flesh (the mark of a princess, apparently), and in the morning she's sore and bruised. It transpires that her hostess, the mother of a bachelor prince, has placed a single pea under all the mattresses, to test the girl's sensitivity. And, despite all the comfort and padding of the mattresses, the girl can't rest without aching and suffering.
But doesn't it seem that, although you're probably not a princess or a prince, the story is really your story, and mine?
Most of us, over a certain age, have experienced something similar to the princess' problem. When we're young, we can sleep on the floor, or in the back seat of a car. But as we get older, a single wrinkle in our pajamas, or a crooked crease in a sheet, or a lumpy pillow make it impossible for us to get comfortable and rest. We toss and turn and thrash until the problem is corrected.
But there's something much more important in this little story than the inability to get a good night's sleep. We all know about the big, important crises and problems that disrupt our lives, or interfere with our fellowship with Jesus Christ - - - or, sometimes, keep people from coming to Christ in the first place. But a man or woman can also be kept from receiving Christ, according to John 1:12, by something very small; and a Christian can be thrown off his or her spiritual stride by something so apparently insignificant that it's hardly considered a problem at all.
We all know about the big problems, and the big temptations. Most genuine Christians will think twice about cheating on their taxes, or cursing, or committing fornication or adultery. I'm not putting these sins on a par, but they're all obvious things that we know we must avoid. But what about the "little" things that we all have in our lives, that displease the Lord, and impede our fellowship with Him?
I'm not talking about chronic, "besetting sins." (I'll talk about that in another post.) I'm talking about things that seem so insignificant that we scarcely consider them.
What do you do with your money? I'm not talking about tithing, or how much you give to the Lord's work: that's between you and God (and nobody else, including the preacher). I'm talking about what you do with the money that's left over. We all look at a deadbeat dad, or a welfare chiseler, and say that they're irresponsible: but how responsible are you with your money? A man buys a tool that he really doesn't need; we've all done that. A woman spends just a little too much on a dress (or, in this economy, a dress pattern); that's to be expected. A young man (or an older man) goes out to buy the latest DVD or video game; okay. The question is, do you do these things habitually? Has appearance, or entertainment, or acquisitiveness gotten a hold on you, so that these things are a regular part of your life? We all overeat or oversleep at times; but do you do it habitually? Is it the norm for you? A man works late at the office because he's under a hard deadline; that's fine. But when he makes a habit of spending more time there than he's expected to, by choice, and his family suffers from his repeated absence....
None of these things are big, dramatic sins, although the Bible doesn't exactly endorse them, either. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," says Romans 14:23; and "All unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17). But even though they're not "big" sins, or obvious sins, they can get underneath the mattress like a pea, and disturb our spiritual rest in the Lord - - - or worse, keep us from coming to Him at all. If we have "little" areas in our life that are not committed to God on a daily basis, those areas can grow and occupy us until they crowd out the Lord, or at least our desire for the Lord.
"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths," Proverbs 3:6. In the big, important things, like choosing a mate or finding a church? No, in everything. Do you know what "all thy ways" means in the "original Hebrew?" It means "all thy ways."
You want to buy a certain dress, or watch a football game, or eat a candy bar? Fine; the Bible doesn't condemn those things - - - as long as you've committed them to the Lord. If He approves, enjoy yourself! If He whispers "No, I don't like that," you'd better not do it. You might find a pea under your mattress, and the Lord's guidance in your life will be gone.
It's not the hippopotamus or the elephant who stomps all over the vineyard. It's the little foxes that spoil the grapes (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Fellowship with the Lord, and guidance from the Lord, and rest in the Lord, are very precious; most of the world's people don't know these joys. Don't let the little foxes spoil them. Don't put a pea under your mattress!