In his classic work The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis uses the voice of a senior demon to speak of the power ofNothing to destroy a Christian life. Screwtape advises Wormwood,
And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them…
In other words the ho-hum of life is a very dangerous warrior. The daydreams of a businessman can lead him to perdition. Improving his serve on the tennis court can lead him a thousand miles from his desired destination.
Screwtape goes on to encourage Wormwood that small sins are probably more effective in subverting faith than extravagant transgressions.
You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
What are we to do in the light of this terrifying truth? How shall we avoid the power of Nothing? Surely the Scriptures are clear. Success in the Christian life comes only to the persistent. As the writer of Proverbs has it,
Keep your heart with all vigilance. . . Let your eyes look directly forward. . . Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil (Proverbs 4:23-27).
May it be so in our lives.