Decisions, decisions. Setting aside the routine chores of our daily lives, life in the twenty-first century has much to ‘offer’. What to do, what to buy, where to go … so many choices, so many attractions. Or, to put it another way, for us as followers of Jesus Christ — so many distractions.
We lead busy lives, and it seems there’s not enough time to get everything done. Life can be a bit of a juggling act. However when push comes to shove we all have to prioritise and to discern what the really important things are in our life as a Christian.
Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew gives us a pretty big clue as to what is really important. He admonishes us to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Seeking the kingdom of God should be our number one priority. On the face of it it’s a very straightforward statement, but in practice we all know it’s not quite so easy. Interestingly God has left us within His Word and as an example in His Creation a tiny insect from which we can learn many big lessons to help.
The book of Proverbs says that we should take note of the ant — learn from it and be wise. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).
From this little insect we can learn such qualities as diligence, acts of service, and focus. Each attributes can be expanded in our quest as a Christian to get our priorities right. Let’s see what God would like us to learn from the ant.
Proverbs 6:7-8, “Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”
God has built into the ant an instinct to be constantly working, diligently, and it doesn’t need to be told. It doesn’t need to have someone standing over it. It is not lazy. God’s word leaves us with no doubt as to what He thinks of a lazy attitude.
Proverbs 26:13-16, “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”
A lazy attitude can damage us, taking us down a path of trying to justify our behaviour. We can make weak excuses as to why we didn’t do something; it’s easy to find a reason for slackness if we want one.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” … but inevitably we will either harm ourselves or others because of that attitude. The diligence of the Ant means that they always store enough food to survive the winter. Imagine the ants without enough food stored for the winter!
Serving the Colony
The second point to note about the ant is that it serves both the colony and of course the queen. Ants use their abilities to the benefit of the whole nest to ensure its survival. If a fire or water threatens the colony, a stream of ants will carry eggs and food from the nest to a safe place. The queen too will be escorted to safety. So the lesson for us is we should be serving our church and local community with whatever opportunity or ability we have (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 18).
Do we have a serving attitude? Are we serving our fellow man, our fellow brethren in the Church and of course most importantly are we serving God?
If we are truly serving others then our conduct will reflect that, especially to our heavenly Father. The ants do this for their queen. Do we recognise the magnificence of our God? We are told in what is referred to as “the Lord’s Prayer” that Our Heavenly Father’s name is to be ‘hallowed’. That means it is to be treated with the highest honour, respect and esteem – treated as holy. As we represent Him, the way we conduct ourselves must reflect His values, and all that He stands for. If the Word of God is dwelling within us we come to see that service and serving is something that should be a fundamental part of our lives
The ant is truly focused. It seems that nothing will stop it from doing its duty, and it will keep on diligently working and serving until the end. If you observe a trail of ants, their trail will travel over fallen trees, across barren ground, and in the most unlikely places to carry out their tasks.
This focused behaviour will last for years! Studies here in the UK have shown that in controlled environments ants have lived up to nine years – that’s nine years of being diligent and serving the colony, and nine years of being totally focused on its purpose right to the end of its life.
Jesus Christ admonishes us and all who seek to follow Him to stay focused, in a world where there will be many distractions. Jesus calls these distractions ‘thorns’ that will choke off our service to God if we are not careful (Matthew 13:22). And the service we perform cannot end, as “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Endurance to the end takes among other things focus!
The ant has its priorities based on the instinct to protect and provide for the queen and the colony. Have we sorted out our priorities yet?
If we are to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) we cannot allow the distractions of society around us, or the constant non-essential demands on our time, to rob us of our future. The lessons of the ant will help us to make wise choices to ensure an exciting future – be diligent in what we do, serve in our God-given capacity, and keep our focus on the task at hand.
About the author: Gary Monks serves the London, England, congregation with his wife Jenny. They help the pastor, serving as deacon and deaconess.