An ancient proverb reads:
“For want of a nail, a shoe was lost –
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost –
For want of a horse, a battle was lost –
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost –
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”
This poem is about the demise of England’s King Richard III in the battle of Bosworth in 1485. The King wanted to go with his troops into battle. His horse was hurried to a blacksmith to be shod. The smith ran out of nails on the last shoe. He explained to the King’s representative that he’d have to hammer out another nail. The king’s man said that there was not time to wait. He wanted to know if the shoe would hold. The smith said, “it should, but I can’t be certain.” That was good enough for the King’s man and he took the horse, one nail short on the last shoe. In the battle the shoe did come off. The horse stumbled and fell. The King was thrown to the ground. The horse got up and galloped away before the King could remount. The rebel forces soon moved in upon the King. The King cried out, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” However, there was no help to come. His end had come. The battle was lost.
This story shows us that sometimes seemingly little things matter immensely. Let’s consider some applications.
One – some church members neglect to regularly read their Bibles and pray. Such may seem like a little thing but the wise do not cease to meditate upon God’s word (Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8) nor do they cease to pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need such to overcome temptations. We need such to stay focused. Many a Christian fail because they start neglecting such details.
Two – Some parents get so busy working and providing for their children that they have little time or energy to have family devotionals, or to impart spiritual understanding to their children. Often spiritual matters get neglected. Some deceive themselves that such neglect is okay since “they do go to Bible class each week.” Psalm 127:1 warns, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Parents have a tremendous responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Fathers are instructed to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Don’t let such be a small thing with you. Time is passing. They are growing up and soon will be out on their own. Your greatest opportunity to steer them in the proper direction is right now. Remember your influence might even influence the upbringing of your grandchildren and beyond (cf. Genesis 18:19).
Three – Don’t neglect the “little issues” between you and your friends, and family. I’ve seen some people allow a “little problem” to fester into a huge issue that destroys a friendship. They simply don’t deal with the perceived wrong. Friendships require maintenance. Relationships in general do (husband-wife, friend – friend, church member – church member). Read Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18:15-17; Matthew 18:21-22; and Luke 17:3-4. Failure to do proper maintenance will bring down a relationship just like a shoe off a horse.
Four – Watch your attitude. It is not just truth that matters. It is also our attitude toward truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Colossians 3:16; Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9). Johnny Ramsey once told me that the longer he lived the more he understood just how important one’s attitude is when it comes to the Christian life and the work of the church.
Watch the details. Many things may well seem to be small details but these small details, if overlooked, can bring the big horse down and cause ruin.