Easily Destroying a Hornet’s Nest

Rev. Tony Cooke

One of my early recollections in life pertains to my grandfather going after a good-sized nest of bees (or wasps) that was attached to a garage type of building next to our house. I watched in amazement as he used a broom to dislodge it. Even though I was standing at a distance, I still got stung on the foot when the nest hit the ground and angry bees went everywhere. For several years after that, I had a strong aversion to anything with a stinger. 

In the late 80’s, I was on my knees, working in the garden. All of a sudden, a large bee/wasp/hornet or something flew out of a hole in the ground very close to my face, and I immediately panicked. Instinctively, I turned to run, lost my balance, and fell. I rolled several times trying to create more distance from the threat, and when I looked up, my son was laughing hilariously at my clumsy reaction.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a few small wasp nests (emphasis on small) under the gutters of my house and have had no trepidation in taking a can of wasp spray (the kind that shoots a twenty-seven-foot stream) and eliminating the problem. My strategy in eradicating these nests is to do it when they are very small, and not waiting until they get huge and have large numbers of wasps in and around them. I certainly don’t wait until they look like the nest pictured at the top of this article.

I’ve noticed the same principle with yard work. I have a company that comes out and treats my grass each year with a pre-emergent which destroys most weeds before they even begin to grow. In follow-up treatments, they take care of other weeds before they get deep roots and spread. When there is a problem, procrastination and avoidance simply allows the problem to get bigger. It’s always easier to deal with wasp nests and weeds before they get big!

You may have learned the following phrase as a child: “A stitch in time saves nine.” That phrase was first recorded in the 1700’s (when people did a lot more sewing than they do today). It meant that if you have a little rip in your clothes, you may be able to fix it now with a single stitch, but if you wait and the tear gets worse, it will take you more stitches (nine, for example) to fix it later.  

This principle should not surprise us as it is also solidly communicated in Scripture. The idea of incremental change (growth or damage) applies both positively and negatively. As growth occurs, whatever it is becomes stronger and more established, and more difficult to stop. 

On the positive side, Jesus described this kind of growth and maturation by using an agricultural example. In it, he pointed to three stages, “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head” (Mark 4:38 NKJV). Think of that relative to the influence and establishment of God’s word in your life. When you receive the word and it begins to take root and flourish inside you, you become more and more persuaded. Perhaps you wavered early in the process, but with maturity you become stalwart in your faith.

On the negative side, when James explained the sin process, he said, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 ESV). Again, notice the process and the incremental progression. It starts “embryonic,” but becomes fully grown and totally destructive.

James’ reference to sin’s conception followed by full development leads us to some questions. Which is harder to overcome — an initial temptation, or something that has become a deeply entrenched habit? Why do you think that Satan inspired Pharaoh to have all the male babies of the Israelites killed? Why do you think Herod had all of the male babies around Bethlehem killed? They knew that it was easier killing a baby than it was to deal with an adult Moses or an adult Jesus!

When Paul spoke of false ideologies, he spoke of three dimensions: strongholds, imaginations, and thoughts (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV). I think he presented those from greatest to least. In other words, when the enemy wants to deceive a person, he doesn’t begin by having a stronghold on his or her life. Rather, he first presents a thought and perhaps an imagination. If the person regularly dwells on a particular thought and the resultant imagination, then the enemy has a much higher likelihood of getting a “strong hold” on that person’s life.

When Jesus was tempted, “the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8 NLT). If you stop and think about it, there is no mountain high enough to provide a physical view of all the kingdoms of the world. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that the devil was presenting Jesus with the thought and painting a picture — presenting an imagination for him to consider? Jesus didn’t meditate on this, mull it over, and ruminate over it. He immediately took the thought captive and cast down the imagination. As a result, the enemy never got a strong hold on his life (see John 14:30).

Below are some other verses that highlight the importance and benefit of dealing with things when they are small.

  • Scripture tells us that it’s “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Small things can bring significant damage.
  • After mentioning how small the tongue is, James writes that “a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire” (James 3:5 NLT).
  • When Solomon encouraged a person to remove himself from responsibility for the debts of others, he said, “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do” (Proverbs 6:4 NLT). He recognized that some problems are easily handled on the front-end rather than when it has become more complicated and more problematic.

  • Proverbs also talks about dealing with a problem in its earliest stages when it states, “The beginning of strife is as when water first trickles [from a crack in a dam]; therefore stop contention before it becomes worse and quarreling breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14 AMPC).
  • God asked, “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5 NLT). 

I especially appreciate that verse in Jeremiah. I appreciate vision, but if a church is talking about reaching the world but has done nothing to reach their own community, something is amiss. If you envision yourself being able to withstand all kinds of adversity, but a little bit of criticism discourages you, some growth needs to take place. Take care of the little things, and you will be better positioned for success.