Holding Freedom Up: 2 Weights We Must Bear

Man holding weight up

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

Thomas Paine

Freedom isn’t free, and staying free is costly. Holding freedom up is effortful. The default setting on the freedom toggle is off. “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man,” a wise one said, “is eternal vigilance.”

I’m no expert on our Founding Fathers, but I know that was an incredible deadlift to get America off the ground. Had it not been for their tenacious strength, we’d be singing, God Bless The Queen.

But we weary of holding freedom up.

Weight #1: Virtue

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Being virtuous is tiring. The Spirit’s fruit is free, but it’s work to pull out weeds.

Virtue means living up to high moral standards. It is not automatic. The strongest battles I face are the ones I fight inside my soul, to live out the new me Scripture calls me to be (1 Corinthians 5:7). Daily I fight for meekness over self-pity, forgiveness over bitterness, contentment over envy. Virtue doesn’t come easy.

Benjamin Franklin knew this need for personal virtue. He said, “It is a grand mistake to thing of being great without goodness[…]there was never a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.”

Patrick Henry knew too. “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue.

That’s the only way. Without virtue, the blessings of liberty evaporate.

Freedom Cannot Exist Without Virtue

This used to be common knowledge. At least our Founding Fathers knew.

George Washington said: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” and “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” 

James Madison stated: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical [imaginary] idea.” 

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and […] their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice.” 

Samuel Adams said: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.  He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue.” 

John Adams stated:“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

No human government can contend with passions unchecked by virtue. Not one.

Let Us Not Grow Weary

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give upWe will reap, and we do reap the fruit of our Founding Fathers’ virtue. All of them were flawed, sinful men. Yet we reap the fruit of their virtue—of Washington’s integrity and Hamilton’s fortitude, of Jefferson’s high sense of justice and Adams’ unflagging perseverance. 

We have enjoyed the fruit.

Weight #2: Civility

Let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. 

Ephesians 5:25-26

Beyond the daily weight of living virtuous lives, of fighting against the sin in their lives, they also bore this huge weight. I cannot overstate the civility and grace required to create a government from scratch. The lively debates in Independence Hall are proof of the Founders civility.

What is civility? We don’t use the term much anymore, and the word tolerance has muddied the waters.

Civility can be loosely equated with the word “respect.” Tolerance applies to how we treat people we disagree with, not how we treat ideas we think are false. We respect those who hold different beliefs from our own by treating such people courteously and allowing their views a place in the public discourse. 

We may strongly disagree with their ideas and vigorously contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect to their persons despite our differences. 

Gregory Koukl

We misunderstand. As G.K. Chesterton famously said, “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place […] A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.”

Civility means we respect people because of Imago Dei, but may contend vigorously against ideas.

Freedom to Speak, Strength to Listen

With a few notable exceptions, when the fathers didn’t all see eye to eye on every idea, they refused to walk away.

They valued freedom of expression over the cocoon of comfort. “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation,” Benjamin Franklin noted, “must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” This freedom is the dread of tyrants, tyrants who would rather we live by lies than bear the burden of hearing both sides.

Listening to what we don’t want to hear is a heavy weight—so heavy that we issue trigger warnings and ban alternate views.

When the “right” to feel comfortable trumps the right to speak, we have become fragile and weak.

To suppress free speech is a double wrong,” abolitionist Frederick Douglas said. “It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” We are all stronger for freedom of speech.

Even as I type, in the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, I am aware that as thankful as I am for the ruling, others feel outrage. I feel the weight of disagreement from my heat to my feet, and I pray that in all matters we can stay civil when we disagree.

Don’t Disengage

But when our ideas conflict it’s natural to walk away. We wander off and find Facebook groups for folks who think like us. We say, You have your ideas and I have mine and we never speak again. And we are all the weaker for it.

Representing ourselves winsomely with those who oppose our ideas is exhausting. Civility requires great endurance and patience. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had every reason to disengage.

Jefferson was Adams’ greatest political rival. And 50 year-long friends. The two met at the First Continental Congress in 1775. Their friendship waned when they faced off in the 1800 presidential race. They did disengage. But in a truly amazing grace story as much about the care of their peacemaking, dreaming mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, they reconciled.

Rush suggested that Jefferson write Adams. Jefferson agreed, and when Adams wrote back, and their friendship was rekindled.

Weight-Bearing Brings Strength

What makes makes muscles strong is bearing up under heavy weight. I tell my work-out loving son it’s doing two more reps when you don’t think you can do one. I tell myself it’s running one more mile when Im tired as a dog.

What makes a marriage, friendship, or nation strong, I think, is not 100% unanimity. Instead strength comes when with civility, patience and grace, we press on through disagreement.

Fifteen years after Dr. Rush helped the two Presidents reconcile, Jefferson and Adams’ friendship ended.

[O]n July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other. Their deaths occurred — perhaps appropriately — on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that his friend had died hours earlier, Adams’ family later recalled that his last spoken words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

The written words of Jefferson and Adams, however, survive to this day, testimony to their friendship, thoughts, and ideas. In their later years, Jefferson responded to a reflective question from Adams: “You ask if I would agree to live my 70. or rather 73. years over again? To which I say Yea. I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, framed on a principle of benevolence . . . . I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern.”

Hope, not fear, led the way as our Founders forged this nation. This hope enabled them to bear freedom’s weight, to press on with virtue and civility.

May our hope in the Founder of our Faith remain unflagging, even if the nation grows weak.

Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31:24

Confirm Thy Soul In Self-Control

“Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.”

Do you recognize those lyrics? Can you name that tune?

In case you’re drawing a blank on that line- it’s from America The Beautiful, near the end of verse two.

Whether you’re more ashamed at the state of our nation or  “proud to be an American” this post is for you.

Despite the twin truths that peace and righteousness do not reign in this land and that the Christian’s citizenship is in heaven, it wouldn’t hurt to listen to Catherine Lee Bates’ lyrics today.

Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law. 

What One Ought To Do

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, Benjamin Franklin wrote.

A nation’s soul can’t be stronger or more free than the sum, or soul, of its parts. And without individual ability to self-govern, without willpower, national government has no hope. A nation of souls enslaved to their sinful ways will not a free nation make.

Michael Novak explains that true freedom is not being able to do what what desires at the moment or is impelled by passion to do.

To be free as a human being ought to be is to be able to discern, not only what one desires to do or is impelled by passion to do, but also, and even more clearly, what one ought to do…In short, in “the American ideal”… is not the capacity to do what one wishes but the capacity to do what one ought. It is, in short, to be capable of self-government, self-mastery, and self-control.

Paul knew this too.

For he knew that true freedom is not found in following our hearts and acting out our selfish desires. Rather, it is found in subverting our desires to serve one another. Paul knew how easy it was stay slaves to sin:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Confirm thy soul in self-control. 

Strong (Joyful) Souls Are No Accident

Add to the self-control mix, this common refrain I keep hearing as I talk with strong Christian friends. Can you hear the repeating theme?

Believe me, I could definitely down that whole pan of brownies tonight. I could. That’s why I can’t even sneak a bite. I’ll share them Friday.

It’s hard to get to bed by 11. There’s so much I can do when the kids are asleep. But when I stay up so late I overeat. Then I’m short and grumpy come morning.

I’d sure love to sleep in, but I make myself get up and work out early. There is some value in exercise. I’ve learned it won’t happen if I wait.

It seems a little over the top, I know, but I add my husband whenever I text or email another man. It’s just a safeguard. I’ve watched affairs start.

I try to practice giving others the last word, especially when we disagree. It’s hard to bridle my tongue and resist setting the record right. But it’s good.

In short, my faithful, fruitful Christian friends didn’t get that way by accident. They had all learned to exercise self-control. 

No One Drifts Toward Self-Control

There was quite a lot of Spirit-powered, self-control happening behind the scenes. They don’t toot their own horns, but day after day, they discipline themselves. Oh, sure, they stumble and fall sometimes. Then they get back up because they know the joy of self-control.

Do you know that joy? The joy of going to bed on a hungry stomach? Or of leaving a well-deserved zinger unsaid?

It’s counter-intuitive, the joy of self-control. Because the pleasure of Spirit borne fruit is way deeper than the fleeting joys of giving in to sin. Knowing that you didn’t cave, but by grace overcame- now that feels great.

Confirm thy soul in self-control. 

Like a city with walls broken down

Like a city with its walls broken down is man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

Cities with broken down walls will crumble. They are open to enemies and become slaves to invaders.

A person without self-control is like an unprotected city. When we don’t exercise self-control, when we don’t say yes when we should and no when we shouldn’t, we are vulnerable to our soul’s enemies. In time, our city-souls will crumble.

Self-control matters. In this age of distraction and endless temptation to drift online and through social media, we so need self-control.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, President Lincoln said, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Soul-strength or city strength depends on walls of self-control. When we lack-self control we destroy our city from the inside, as individual and as nations. But exercising self-control confirms and bolsters the soul.

Confirm thy soul in self-control. 

Foundational, Not Flashy

Being self-controlled is central to what it means to be a Christian.  With love and holiness, self-control is used to describe the essence of Christian conduct (2 Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:6, 12; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 1:6).

When Paul was called to explain the Christian faith to the Roman Governor Felix, he summed up the Christian gospel and worldview as “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25). He didn’t tack on peace or patience or kindness with Felix. He talked about self-control.

Not surprisingly Sir Secular Felix didn’t drop to his knees and convert. No- he was alarmed. “Go away for the present,” he said. Self-control is not flashy or flamboyant or fun. In the moment, anyway.

Author David Mathis describes self-control as not terribly attractive, but, frank and functional. And difficult.

It doesn’t turn heads or grab headlines. It can be as seemingly small as saying no to another Oreo, French fry, or milkshake — or another half hour on Netflix or Facebook — or it can feel as significant as living out a resounding yes to sobriety and sexual purity. This is the height of Christian virtue in a fallen world, and its exercise is quite simply one of the most difficult things you can ever learn to do.

Self-control is not easy. But it is possible.

Not only is it possible, but if Christ’s Spirit dwells in you, His fruit will come. And self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

But as with any fruit, tending the soil can help it grow. So, the really difficult thing might be to take Jesus at his word and take time to abide in the Word. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, Jesus said. We must abide to be self-controlled.

But even then- I won’t kid you- it’s still a fight. Reining in my tongue, my stomach, my controlling appetites.

By the grace of God, self-control is possible.

And America, you listening? God has shed his grace on thee.

But America? The grace God shed on us is one and the same as the grace that confirms our souls in self-control, our liberty in law.

So, yes, America: Happy Independence Day!

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:11–13


O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

-Catherine Lee Bates

America The Beautiful

5 Myths About Self-Control

I’d always assumed my trim senior friend Gwen was just that way. That she was one of those blessed few, those naturally thin ones, who needed no self-control.

Until the other day as we walked, and Gwen confided,

Oh, those Sweet Lane cakes are so good! I could have eaten all eight slices. It was all I could do two stop at two.

Then Gwen told me how the cake was a gift and how she almost didn’t accept it. She shared how sometimes she struggles with food: too late at night and too often to soothe. Then she told me how she makes herself step on the scale each week.

I hoisted my jaw off the sidewalk, Seriously? You, Gwen? I always thought thin came easy. You’d never know.

And so Gwen’s cake confession busted my myth #5. Here are the other four that crumbled too.

#1: Self-control means restraining behavior.

A month ago, I would have said it was all true. But I’ve been studying the Paul’s letter to Titus lately. And self-control comes up a lot.

And restraining actions and behavior isn’t the whole truth.

One of the Greek words translated self-control is sophron. The first part of the word, so, means “safe or sound.” The second part, phren, means” mind.”

So sophron means “having a safe, sound mind.” It’s also translated “sensible,” “sober,” “temperate” or “discreet.” Sophron allows us to have self-controlled behavior, but it starts with a sound and self-controlled, sensible mind.

Put on the Brakes of Your Mind

I’ve read that modern Greek uses the word phrena for car brakes and that in Spanish the term for handbrake is phrena demano. That word for brake– phrena- comes from the same root as that second syllable of sophron 

So, self-control means we “put on the brakes” in our mind and we don’t we don’t let our mind sit in park while our emotions drive us around. This sophron kind of self-control is what we all- men and women, young and old are called to be (see Titus 2). 

And the prerequisite for sound, self-controlled living is sound thinking that is based on sound doctrine (Titus  1:1, 9, 13, 2:1).  

Find The Why

But when we think of self-control as behavior only, we rush in to fix what we’ve done– or failed to do without delving into why we did it. We ignore the gap in sound thinking that led to the lapse in behavior. To grow in self-control we must probe the why.

Mary Kassian shares some real-life examples of how a “why-probe” might go,

Why did you lash out at your mother?

Well, because she made a cutting, sarcastic comment.

No. What happened is that the situation revealed your unsound thinking. You think you have the right to retaliate for past hurts and return tit-for-tat. You do not have a sophron state of mind.

Why did you scream at your child?

Well, because he drew a mural on the wall with a permanent marker.

No. What happened is that the situation revealed your unsound thinking. You think life should be easy and blame fatigue and stress for your over-reaction. And your child to blame for the way you react to him. You do not have a sophron state of mind.

It’s a lie that we have the right to return evil for evil and a lie that we deserve and easy life. A self-controlled mind knows this.

Sophron helps us take those thoughts captive so we’re not taken for a ride.

Myth #2: Self-control is about saying no.

It is. But it’s only half the truth.

Mary Kassian again– Self-control is the “I will” power to say “yes” to what’s good and the “I won’t” power to say “no” to what’s bad.  As in, Yes to bed by 10  pm, no to ice cream then.  

So it’s wrong to think of self-control as only denial, It is that. But that’s not the ultimate goal.

Self-denial is the just the means to the end. And the end is love. Self-control is the grace that allows us to say no to indulging ourselves for the sake of others. You could call it love… Even Alcoholics Anonymous has discerned that there is a connection between how we live with others and the flare-ups of addiction. Love others and you will be fighting your tendencies to self-indulgence. (Ed Welch, Self-Control: The World’s Secret Desire)

Love others and you’ll fight self-indulgence. Yes to seconds for your guests means no to your second helping. Yes to teaching Sunday school means no to sleeping in.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14). 

Self-control does say no to self. And yes to Christ.

Myth #3: Self-control confines us.

This one’s another half truth. Self-control is restrictive. In fact, I’ve heard it said that the best way to define a Christian is a slave of Christ. 

But self-control also frees us.

The Psalmist wrote, I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free (Psalm 119:32). Peter put like this: Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves (1Peter 2:16). The greatest freedom comes when we’re under God’s control.

And living self-controlled frees us to enjoy life. It’s those without self-control, who stray off the path of God’s good ways, whose lives will sooner or later fall apart.

Because we all will be slaves to something. J. Hampton Keathley III brings that humbling truth home,

Simply put, without self-control, we become the slaves of all our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil) and become incapacitated, unable to serve God and one another or even our own best interests. We end up not only serving ourselves, but we become slaves to our appetites. “By what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

Do our thoughts take us captive or do we take captive every thought? Self-control frees us from rebel thoughts and enemy masters so we are free to serve a loving- and forgiving– Master.

Myth #4: Self-control is self-taught.

Wrong. We need help.

Self-control, the Christian kind* anyway, the kind that brings freedom to humbly love otherscannot be self-taught. We cannot muster it up. Which is why God’s Word specifically calls older women to teach younger women to be self-controlled.

Human Teachers

I struggle with overeating and I needed Gwen to teach me. I struggle with resentment and I’m so grateful for older women- who’ve been hurt far worse than I’ve ever been- who teach me seek a pure heart and forgive. 

You teach, too. We all have a sphere of influence. And our godliness or ungodliness- our self-control or indulgence- teaches others. How we live is never neutral.

Pastor Christopher Ash explains,It matters to others that I cry to God for his help and his grace, that I may begin show the beauty of God to others. No one lives to himself alone. It is a wonderful thought that by the way we behave this week people who see us…will get a glimpse of the goodness and kindness and beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is a wonderful thing. And a little daunting too.

Divine Teacher and Enabler

Thankfully, we have a greater teacher than the best human mentor.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age… Titus 2:11-12

God’s grace is our teacher. He teaches us to keep in step His Spirit so self-control’s fruit will grow.

But a self-controlled life, “does require effort and vigilance on our part. And we tap into the enabling grace of God as we take advantage of the means He has provided for our transformation and growth” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Adorned). In other words, self-control involves both God’s mighty power and our responsible effort.

It’s what Paul wrote “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And Peter said so too, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control... (2 Peter 1:5-6)

Self-control doesn’t just come. Grace teaches us- and enables us- to Make every effort, and Be diligent, and Work out. To cultivate the soil where self-control will grow.

Myth #5: Self-control will be easy when I’m older.

I used to think that if we fought sin hard when young, later on we could coast right through.

Remember Gwen? She’s around 70 years old.

If anything, the urge to cast off restraint and indulge comes hotter and heavier as we get older. From what I glean in my relationships with fading saints, the struggle never ends. Until our flesh is finally stripped away, the need for self-control remains.

D.A. Carson recounts how this truth hit home one day when read a page in his father’s diary. His dad was about 80 years old when he wrote,

Merciful Father. Save me from the sins of old men. Too much looking backward. A tendency toward self-pity. Whining because of aches and pains. The ease with which I turn on the television. Save me from the sins of old men.

The sins of middle-aged women are not the same as those of young ladies. But, oh, I feel the need to be saved from mine.  I feel my need for a sound, sophron mind.

The battlefronts will differ and the temptations may change. But we will struggle with sin and need self-control until we see our Master face-to-face.

Till then, we can pray. 

Dear Lord, Help me lean into you and learn from your grace so I can live self-controlled, love others well and run free in your good ways. 

 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

Titus 2:11-12


*Strong souls who don’t know God are capable of a certain kind of self-control. For sure, there’s that remarkable kind of discipline that Olympic athletes and great musicians must have. But it’s not the same strain as Christian self-control because the goal of control different.

One can subvert or sacrifice one’s lazy or indulgent side for the sake of another side that seeks fame and praise from others and is driven by ego or pride. For many, that sort of self-control for the sake of self can be mustered up. It needs no teachers.

But the goal of Christian self-control is to bring all of oneself under the control of Christ, for the sake of Christ. That kind of self-control- the kind that brings freedom to humbly love others– is only learned with help.

Small Things

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice. 

Zechariah 4:10a

Hi, Mom. This is Sam, our introvert ten year-old announced. You told me to call at two o’clock. It’s two o’clock.

It may seem a small thing, Sam’s call. But it’s big, because Sam isn’t much for talking on the phone. Besides that aversion, he was digging deep in Minecraft when the appointed check-in time came. In days past, he forgot. He lacked self-control. This time, Sam called. It was big small step.

Sorry for whining, Mom, our eight year-old reluctant writer confessed. I just don’t want to write it all again, but I will. 

That after self-cues to take three big breaths. And so Mr. Emotion took a small step toward perseverance. Instead of the usual moan-and-groan act we see when he’s asked to redo, Gabe took correction. Without a whine or tear, he rewrote the note. A small thing, and big. 

Small things are there for the seeing, if we look. Resisting an ice cream urge at nine at night is small. And big. Refraining from, I told you so, when you did tell him so is small. And big. 

Saying I’m sorry and Thank you and I forgive you are all small statements. But they have potential to cause huge growth, both in the speaker and the listener. The lips of the righteous nourish many.  

Eyes To See Small Things

It was 520 B.C. The Jewish exiles had come home to Jerusalem. Decades after their temple had been destroyed, the rebuild restarted. The foundation was laid. But the sight of the stacked stones struck onlookers as small and scant, at least compared to the former glory of Solomon’s temple. 

So friends of Israel wept while her foes jeered. Many doubted the project would ever be finished. It was a day of small things. 

Enter the prophet Zechariah and the angel who spoke God’s word. To the Prince Zerubbabel and the mournful or scornful around him, Zechariah (4:6, 9-10) offered big encouragement: 

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts…The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands shall complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel

Just you wait, Zechariah assures. It’ll get done. Zerubbabel will soon drop the plumb line down those straight temple walls. And when he does, you will rejoice. This little foundation, this groundbreaking, isn’t the sum total of the work God is doing. It’s the mustard-seed-small start of something big. 

The temple of the LORD will be rebuilt, because the Spirit of Almighty God is at work. 

Learning Zerubbabel’s Lesson

In some ways we’ve learned Zerubbabel’s lesson. We celebrate small beginnings of big buildings. We dig with silver shovels and cut ribbons and mark the new house starts with smily photo ops. 

We mark physical growth in all sorts of festive ways, too. Staggered lines and dates on the doorframe, walking, talking milestones in baby books, very big birthday bashes for very little people. We do these things-we celebrate and commemorate- because we know that big things start small. 

But what about the spiritual starts? Do we celebrate days of spiritual small things? Do we rejoice when the son shows growth in self-control? When he shuts off the iPad without being told and reins in complaint all on his own? Or the day the daughter uses words to build up and not bully her little brother? 

How about the day your friend chooses gratitude over grumbling, or timeliness over tardiness? Or when- after a quick fit of anger- a spouse turns and asks forgiveness? Do you rejoice? Do you praise the small actions borne of godly wisdom and fear of the Lord? A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30), and A man shall be commended for his wisdom (Proverbs 12:8). 

So maybe we should celebrate Spirit-led small things more.  Because, writes C.S. Lewis, 

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature into a hellish creature. 

Sow an action, reap a habit. Nail is driven out by nail; habit is overcome by habit. Sow to the flesh, reap corruption, sow to the Spirit-the mighty working Spirit that builds God’s temples-reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8)Little seeds grow into big weeds or fruitful trees. 

So, who will despise the day of small things?

Worth Doing Badly

It’s not ours to judge how great the growth. We don’t even know the starting point. But it is ours to see-and celebrate- progress in the faith (1 Timothy 4:15, Philippians 1:25). It’s not the size of the thing we see that really matters. The world knows, Every journey begins with a single step. 

More and more I mouth this motto-as I scratch out a short note rather than a long letter or stop in for a 20-minute visit rather than stay for the day- A little bit is better than none at all.

When we say, I don’t have enough- we despise the day of small things. Not enough time to listen, enough money to make a dent, enough wisdom to teach, enough wit to put in a word for Christ, we despise the day of small things. If you find yourself here, take heart.

Because, Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. 
 G. K. Chesterton didn’t intend the line to be an excuse for laziness or low effort (though possibly for poor results). Instead, to a culture plagued both by not gonna bother if it can’t be perfect, and drive for good results with minimal effort-or someone else’s effort- Chesterton says, in effect: Be an amateur. 

Do the thing for love and not for money. Do it imperfectly, but do it still. If the things is worth doing, do it, even it’s not perfect. Don’t wait for weekend at a waterpark, head to the beach for an hour. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Heed the Spirit and do the small thing.

Or do you despise the day of small things? The day when sons wash windows and multiply streaks and husband humbly bears wrong-size, wrong-color peace offering? Do you begrudge the hour because it’s not a day? 

Seek More Grace

Maybe you do see and celebrate the small things around you. But, what about in you? Do you despise the day of small things by not seeking more small things from yourself? I worked harder then them all, wrote Paul to the Corinthians, yet not I but the grace of God that was with me. 

In 1871, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on Zechariah 4:10, titled Encouragement for the Depressed. In it, he pushes us who do see and do rejoice in small things to do so yet more. Don’t settle. Don’t despise the day of small things by standing still, satisfied. Seek more grace. 

On the one hand, do not despond because you have the day of small things..but prove your value of the little by earnestly seeking after more grace. Do not despise the grace that God has given you, but bless God for it: and do this in the presence of his people. If you hold your tongue about your grace, and never let anyone know, surely it must be because you do not think it is worth saying anything about. Tell your brethren, tell your sisters, and they of the Lord’s household, that the Lord hath done gracious things for you; and then it will be seen that you do not despise his grace.

So I say-to the praise of His glorious grace-last week I was on time to the ladies’ group and went to bed without my Bear Tracks and didn’t say Told you so, when I did

Small things, all. But I rejoice. And want more grace.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you 
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 
Philippians 1:6