“The devil is in the details” (or fine print). You’ve heard people declare that in exasperation. Are you aware that it belonged to God first? Taking the easy way out and relying on God to bail us out can lead to disaster.
Consider this explanation in Wikipedia:
“The devil is in the detail” is an idiom that refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected and derives from the earlier phrase, “God is in the detail” expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. (Emphasis added).
Did you catch that? “God is in the detail(s)” came before the one we know best. The phrase, “God is in the detail” has been attributed to some different individuals, most notably to German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969).
We hear the plural (details) devil-based one more frequently today because it serves to warn to be wary of something that looks too simple or good to be right at face value. You will also hear a version that reminds that the devil is in the fine print.
Aside from the insights from Wikipedia, details, precision and exactness have always mattered to God and He was here first! Every system and process in the universe operates within a well-framed, systematic and precise framework. It may look chaotic at times (think earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes as examples) but the little things matter. Modern science continues to take baby steps in comprehending the nature, functions, and complexities of the atom.
So, how did the original phrase of God being in the details become overshadowed by the devil getting the credit?
I believe there is a fundamental human desire to take the easy way out. We want the best, fastest and least resistant path to perceived success. In-depth planning, analysis, and rigorous assessment represent non-spiritual activities that require a skill set and effort level that many choose to bypass.
So, the devil can be in the details if we ignore common sense and avoid due diligence!
Believe and Work Hard
The challenge heightens for Christians who are encouraged to believe God, take steps of faith and expect Him to fight their battles. People often spiritualize a lack of effort because they think they will doubt God by questioning or analyzing what their natural eyes see.
“Nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 2:15)
I want to relate my own experience with small group/cell-based churches. Some of the largest overseas churches are cell-based, but the model has floundered in the U.S. for a variety of reasons. Many American churches have implemented home group structures on some level, but the success rate (as measured by growth) varies.
My wife and I have led and been part of small group ministries over the last thirty years. We’ve seen good fruit, discipleship, and ministry at times but none of the churches thrived or grew because of them.
This topic is near and dear to my heart because my home church, with a young and passionate pastor, is embarking on this venture. I hope and pray it goes well. The vision is good and biblically sound-the church in Acts was a home-based cell church.
Let me be clear: the vision is right, it is a good and “God” idea, and most sheep in the flock support it. So, what’s the issue?
The other churches were generally healthy and led by solid pastors who had sincere hearts. In retrospect, I believe that inadequate training and attention to the details, the “nuts and bolts” of the process, led to the demise of the small groups. They began, grew to a point and then stagnated. Three of the churches eventually closed.
Christian business people and leaders often err when they do not thoughtfully devise, implement and monitor a proper plan. It’s hard work, and I think it’s easier to ignore the need and just “trust God” to make it all work somehow. Humanists don’t usually fall into this trap because they have zero expectation of God being involved in their success. They believe it depends on their efforts and luck working together.
There is a difference between a step of faith and a leap of foolishness. Do you have a vision or desire for a ministry or business?
That’s a great start but not enough. Get help to develop a strategic and tactical plan that encompasses what you feel the Lord has called you to do and what best business practices suggest. It should be flexible, Spirit-led but also a reflection of your best analysis and process creation.
The devil is in the details if we ignore the “fine print” and he will work to torpedo your venture.
Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 illustrates the challenge. Mary spent her time at the Lord’s feet while Martha attended to the preparations. Martha comes off poorly in this scenario but churches and businesses need both types to be successful. We must pray, spend time with the Lord and then perform the necessary tasks with excellence.
God is in the details, if you need help, get it. Be wise and alert for God’s timing. Some people never get anything done because they are always waiting for the Lord to “open a door.” It’s okay to move out and start turning doorknobs too.
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