Sunday, May 27, 2012

For Want of a Nail

I enjoy reading history books.  Recently I have been reading about The War of the Roses in England.  The final battle of the War of the Roses was on August 22, 1485.  King Richard III met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field.  William Shakespeare wrote a historical play on the life of King Richard III around 1590. 

In the play the pivotal moment of the battle is shown. The morning of the battle, Richard hurriedly sent a servant to make sure his favorite horse was ready.  “Shoe him quickly,” the man told the blacksmith.  “You’ll have to wait,” the blacksmith answered.  “I’ve shoed the king’s whole army the last few days, and now I’ve got to get more iron.”  “I can’t wait,” the groom shouted impatiently.  “The king’s enemies are advancing right now, and we must meet them on the field.  Make do with what you have.”

So the blacksmith bent to his task.  From a single bar of iron he made four horseshoes.  He hammered and shaped and fitted them to the horses’ feet.  Then he began to nail them on.  But after he had fastened three shoes, he found he didn’t have enough nails for the fourth.  “I need one or two more nails,” he said, “and it will take some time to hammer them out.”  “I told you I can’t wait,” the king’s servant said impatiently.  “I hear the trumpets now.  Can’t you just use what you’ve got?”  “I can put the shoe on, but it won’t be as secure as the others.”  “Will it hold?” asked the groom.  “It should, but I can’t be certain.”  “Well, then, just nail it on.

When the armies clashed, Richard was in the thick of the battle, riding up and down the field, cheering his men and fighting his foes.  In the thick of battle as he valiantly rode into the enemy lines, one of the horse’s shoes flew off.  The horse stumbled and fell, and Richard was thrown to the ground.  Before the king could grab at the reins, the frightened animal rose and galloped away, leaving Richard all by himself.  Richard looked around him.  He saw that his soldiers were turning and running, and Henry’s troops were closing around him.  He waved his sword in the air.  “A horse!” he shouted.  “My kingdom for a horse!”  But there was no horse for him.  A moment later Henry’s soldiers were upon Richard, and the battle was over.

Not long after the battle the following rhyme appeared in print.  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.

As Christians we are in a battle; the battle between good and evil.  On the battlefield small things have big consequences.  In reality there are no small things on the battlefield.

The Apostle Paul gave us a list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7-10.  “To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another he gives the gift of special knowledge. The Spirit gives special faith to another, and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and to another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking. Still another person is given the ability to speak in different languages, and another is given the ability to interpret”.

Whether they are big or small, all spiritual gifts are important.  Spiritual gifts are given only to help others. They are not for our own selfish benefit.  Spiritual gifts are service oriented, and those who use them, those who exercise them, will grow.

I call it the River Principle. If your life flows like a river, always passing along life and energy to those around you, then you will be pure and clean.

But if you’re like a pond, face it; you can only hold so much stuff.  And then, no growth takes place.  The water becomes stagnant and stinky and bad stuff grows there and mosquitoes breed.

That’s why I believe Paul wrote what he did after giving us the lists of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.  What's the next chapter after 12? 

I Corinthians 13 is often called the love chapter.  In verses  1-3 Paul writes, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels."  (That's a spiritual gift)  "But have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy."  (That's a spiritual gift)  "And understand all mysteries and all knowledge."  (There's another spiritual gift)  "And though I have all faith."  (That is a spiritual gift).  "So that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor."  (There is yet another spiritual gift)  "And though I give my body to be burned."  "But have not love, it profits me nothing."

Love is the underlying principle of every spiritual gift.  No matter what we are doing, if love isn’t the underlying principle it is meaningless.

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.

Love is the nail that holds our lives together.  It is what gives us purpose.  Whatever else we think we are accomplishing, whatever gifts we have, everything will fall apart and the battle will be lost if we don’t have love.


  1. Have a fun Memorial Day!
    Enjoyed the post.

  2. AMEN! The opening story was one I had not heard before and the application right on target.

  3. wow! VERY are so true....and the app is dead center and as those before me have comment AMEN ....