the Spirit Watch

The Little Foxes

By Ethel Meadows and Rafael Martinez

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines,"  Song of Solomon 2:15

The importance of little things is stressed many times in God's infallible Word. The act on which hung the most stupendous issues was seemingly least of all: that of eating a little fruit in the Garden of Eden. How small the deed: how tremendous the consequences: it was not the outward deed, however, but the underlying principle - disobedience leading unto sin - that brought about the fall of man, throwing the whole world into chaos and death. 

The same principle lies back of every small transgression today. So the little foxes under consideration here are  not small at all in God's sight. May we never minimize what God forbids. Our entire future as fruitbearing Christians is at stake here. Bearing fruit is depending on getting answers to our prayers and answers will be delayed until we deal with the sinful obstructions in our lives (see Psalms 66:18 and John 15).

The little foxes that spoil the vines are numerous. These foxes are the yieldings of ourselves to sin and the vines they spoil are the outgrowth of our Christian lives. Not one of us can fail to recognize how quickly our personal testimony to the world about Jesus and our personal walk before God can be trashed by our failure to deal with the sin that so easily besets us. What are these foxes? How do they spoil our lives? Let us see how what the little foxes in the vineyards of our daily lives can become destructive forces that not only keep us from growing closer to God but will divide us from one another and even break complete fellowship with Him, to the point of the greatest spiritual loss of all, separation from God's grace altogether.

PRIDE is a sly one - with many disguises. He is seen best at a distance or in our neighbor's garden. Consequently, it is often completely overlooked in self. This is a thrifty little fox and if allowed to remain, becomes the mother of self-conceit and eats the very core of spirituality out of the heart and life. God hates pride: remember that Satan's fall from heaven was over his pride (Isaiah 14:12). If angels can fall over pride, certainly we will too. To shelter it is surely disastrous to our efforts to walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). The way to the Celestial City leads through the earthly Valleys of Humbling. Let us not allow our personal pride make the walking out of this necessary path to Glory any more rockier or difficult than it already is. May we always walk in this good way.

EXAGGERATION is closely related to pride. This is so "small and innocent looking" that many ministers love him, and allow him a place in their vineyard. While exaggeration may seem small, all that goes beyond the truth is closely related to a lie and all lies are of the same color of God. Exaggeration only leads to outright lying, and the Bible says that those who lie open themselves up to further sin (Proverbs 17:4) Satan is rightly called the father of lies by our Lord Jesus (John 8:44) and all liars will share elbow room with other sinners in eternal punishment (Revelation 21:8). Let us keep our speech "salted" or purified by truth (Colossians 4:6), speaking the truth in love and in honesty.

SELFISHNESS is not little at all, but appears so, to many. This is a cousin to COVETOUSNESS which is so big and ugly and obvious that we do all we can to fence against him. His smaller cousin, however, has a universal home everywhere in too many lives. This little fox poisons many a life so subtly. Our living for self is so evident in all of the ways we so freely justify habits and priorities and expenses that serve our own desires. But Jesus came to serve, and said the greatest among us are those who are servants of all  (Luke 22:26). If Jesus, the Lord of Glory, came among us to live a life where he served the needs of the people around Him, how can we dream of "training for reigning" if we don't do as His servant Paul so well said, to "by love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13)?

DISCOURAGEMENT is a scrawny fox that seems least of all, a weakling that is ready to die. But he has survived for thousands of years in his pitiful state and is good for many more to come. Being small of stature, he creeps into every Christian's life at one time or another. Those who detect and guard against the others often fall victim to this one themselves when things go wrong or an answer to prayer is delayed. This fox paid visits to Jonah under his gourd vine and Elijah under the juniper tree. But he can be and must be repelled from our lives through our continuous remembrance of God's grace to us in times past and times present (Lamentations 3:21-26) and our trust in His ability to yet win the victory for us. When we are weak, He still is strong (1 John 5:4-5). 

COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD is a fox welcomed freely throughout every church circle known around us. He dwells in the church executive suite as well as in the battered streetfront church. He, like the others, appears so necessary and harmless at first. But as time goes by, the Christian - and the Church - is sapped of power and true spirituality as their springs of living water are fouled by their choice to subordinate God's Word to cultural pressures. This is a declaration of hostility against God and is a betrayal of all those who would yet walk in His ways. "Be not conformed to this world," the Bible says, "but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 2:2).

DOUBT AND FEAR are so unlike their cousins, yet these tiny twin foxes wield enormous power over the children of God. They slip in and out of our vineyards so frequently each that we've almost built them places of refuge for them there. When we let them magnify themselves into being bigger than they really are, they easily keep us and multiplied thousands in their bondage and sadly, also bar many of them from entering the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:8). Jesus had to constantly chase off these foxes in the lives of the Apostles (Mark 4:40). He was always amazed at how they so freely neglected the gift they had to chase these troublemakers off, that being their faith in Him (Romans 12:3). These two foxes cannot dwell where faith rooted in a trusting love of God abounds (1 John 4:18). 

CARNAL LUST is a fox that many immature and wavering Christians give so much room for in their vineyards, often quite without realizing it. This fox is actually desire allowed to run wild, without restraint, and without regard of the Lord of the vineyard's command that we "know how to possess" our  "vessel in sanctification and honour," the vessel being our bodies and minds which are to be the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:4, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:16). This fox must be dealt with firmly every time its familiar presence tries to squeeze into our vineyard to defile it. Crucifying the fleshly desire by submission to the Spirit's leading in us will free us from falling into these ungodly affections and lusts "Put off the old man" (Galatians 5:24 and Ephesians 4:22).

RESENTMENT AND RETALIATION are crafty and stealthy little foxes! Burning with jealousy over the blessings of others and desiring to wreak revenge for wrongs are indeed two potent spoilers of our vineyards. The great and small find these foxes tripping them up over and over in the quiet places of their souls. We find ourselves making room from them when we feel wronged, feeling sorry for ourselves and when we harbor their injurious presence. For this kindness we show them, they eat the heart out of us and leave our souls devoid of good, replacing violent evil wishing instead. The secret to running them off is to learn, as we all must, to be content in all things (Philippians 4:11-13) to rejoice in God's goodness and to completely forgive those who wrong us (Luke 6:35-37).

GOSSIP, BACKBITING AND TALEBEARING. What a team these are! They are so closely related and so deadly they are virtually siblings to the foxes of ADULTERY, HATRED and MURDER, yet are allowed by many who profess to love God and His Kingdom. There is surely "death in the pot" or spiritual destruction in the lives where these foxes do their dirty work through the tongues of accusation and assassination. God's judgment is clearly on these things when He commands to "not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people," and the careless usage of the tongue is a pathetic attempt to remove the splinters in others eyes we think is there as we are wilfully ignorant of the logjams in our own (Matthew 7:5, James 2).  They must be thrust out of our vineyards!

IMPATIENCE is a fox so well known to us all. Still this irritating little fox has many excuses made in his behalf. He often shows up in the most unexpected places in our lives, often when we find ourselves preoccupied by their cousin of Selfishness as he too runs with his cousin. We become impatient when we give room for self-centeredness that determines we want something NOW, usually because we've let the spiritual fruit of patience wither in our vineyards (1 Timothy 6:11). If harbored and nurtured this fox's effect in our lives often will terminate in sinful anger and wrath (Ephesians 4:26), which none would think of condoning who owns Christ as Lord and Savior. "Let patience have her perfect work .. in your patience, possess ye your souls" (James 1:4, Luke 21:19).

MURMURING AND COMPLAINING are closely related foxes that also seem so small, insignificant little things. Still, these seemingly small sins so provoked God's righteous judgment at one time that multitudes of the nation of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness after leaving Egypt were plagued and slain for letting this fox stir their discontent into vocal rebellion (Numbers 11). To murmur and complain when in the midst of struggles and problems is to give room for these foxes to trample over the vines of our determination to be content in all things. It is also a sign that the fox of Impatience still is running free in our lives. No one ikes to be around someone who complains and murmurs. Let us keep our eyes on Christ Jesus and "do all things without murmuring" (Philippians 2:14).

Satan surely has gained more victories among God's people through seemingly small things than the great. How he must laugh in diabolical glee to see ministers and laymen alike chasing the "lions" and "dragons" away from around us while the little foxes, unobserved and almost unhindered, spoil their vineyards. How often have we majored in minors! How often have we, as Jesus said of the Pharisees and Saducees, so totally give ourselves to things that don't matter, to issues that in the end mean nothing to God and ignore His higher way?

".. Hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."               Matthew 23:23

We must kill off these sly little foxes (our carnal leanings) if we would attain God's best for our lives, no matter whoever and wherever we may be in our Christian lives. One may escape us now and then, of course, but we must determine to keep their pack out and let the Good Shepherd and Lord of the Vineyard rule over the lands of our souls. May we stay on their trails within our vineyards until the last is slain and the Garden of God's plantings flourish again under perfect obedience to the Spirit's promptings within us to follow His every word.

If we would stand among the overcomers we must OVERCOME. There are battles to fight and victories to win, if, at the reckoning time, we would hear His glad "well done, my good and faithful servant."

Ethel Meadows is the author of this ancient old tract I came across years ago. Who she is and where she lives or once lived is completely unknown. This version of the tract contains much of my own personal writing, but the seed thoughts of the tract here are indeed her own, as are some of the exhortations.. As you can see, old tracts have been powerful influences in my life, and I pray that this truly be a blessing to you as you are challenged by Meadows' thoughts and my own.              RDM

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