I recently read the story of Thomas Austin. In 1859, as a new resident of Melbourne, Australia, he found himself longing for his home in England. He missed the rabbits that lived on his childhood estate, so he wrote home to his brother and asked him to send 24 rabbits, which he did. Thomas released the rabbits on his property, and it didn’t take long for them to multiply, as rabbits tend to do.
Over the next five years, the rabbit population exploded to the point that they had overtaken the Thomas property, destroying all of the grass, plants and crops. The problem was so bad that Thomas had to have 14,000 rabbits removed.
But this didn’t solve the problem. Two years later, rabbits had spread to cover 3,100 square miles of surrounding Australian farmland, doing considerable damage to crops in the process. In just 10 years, the rabbit population had grown by millions and reached over 450 miles away to the city of Adelaide, wreaking havoc the entire way.
By 1900, just 41 years after the release of the original 24 rabbits, they had migrated all the way to the western edge of Australia, to the city of Perth, nearly 3,000 miles away.
The migration of the rabbits was the fastest recorded colonization of any mammal in the history of the world. The rabbits thrived in the dry Australian climate. All in all, an estimated 800 million rabbits devastated more than 1.5 million square miles of Australian landscape.
When I first read this story, I was struck by the fact that something seemingly as insignificant and benign as releasing a few rabbits quickly snowballed out of control and caused a national crisis. I couldn’t help but think about how often this occurs in our lives as well. One small problem can escalate into a huge issue. What starts as a minor issue, rapidly intensifies into a major headache.
This is especially true when it comes to the area of temptation.
How many times have you done something that you know is wrong, unhealthy or hurtful to others, but you think, “This is no big deal”? Or you fool yourself into believing you can “handle” it. And before you know it, you find yourself consumed by this sinful habit.
What first started as “harmless,” quickly avalanches into a daily pattern that grows into an obsession. Giving in to a simple temptation can rapidly grow into an engrossing sin.
But there is hope.
James 1:5 reminds us that if we need wisdom or direction, all we have to do is honestly ask God, and He will give it to us. That’s great news. We are not left on our own to be a casualty of our situation. God will give us wisdom to get out.
And that’s not all. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that with every temptation God will provide a “way of escape” each and every time. That means that when we are tempted to do something wrong, there is a way to avoid doing it. The problem we have is that we often ignore that escape exit and cave in to the temptation.
So how can we avoid a “Thomas Austin rabbit” situation in our life? Or what if we find ourselves overrun with “rabbits” and don’t see a way out? What can we do?
First, reach out to God. He promises to be there for you.
Second, reach out to a close family member, friend or co-worker so they can help encourage, support and pray for you.
Third, rely on God’s promises. The Bible is filled with promises from God that will encourage, protect, comfort and help you find that way of escape.
It’s always easier to correct a problem before it multiplies and takes over. Just ask Thomas Austin.
Michael Kast is campus pastor of Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus.