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“Go to the Ant, Thou Sluggard” – Proverbs 6:6

Don’t you love this strong admonition of Solomon’s? Often we hear moaning and groaning that Christians are not doing their duty. We might have even joined in such a tirade. To some this explains why the Lord’s church seems to be dwindling in our time or that preachers or brethren in general will not take a stand for the truth as they should. Some get so depressed they seem to have in common the woeful sentiment Elijah expressed, “…And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1Kings 19:4a) I hope we do not actually go this far when we are discouraged. No doubt many of God’s children are content to be “sluggards.” But I have noticed a peculiar thing about those complaining and that is they are not talking about their own personal efforts but are mostly bemoaning that others are not doing enough or we blame others for causing our state of mind.

Let us go to Proverbs and read 6:6-11, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, 8 Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. 9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep- 11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.” This is an excellent passage for our application to be good workers in life to provide for earthly needs but we can also gain the application for spiritual activity in so-called “church work,” with perhaps a special view to the work of converting the lost of this world or simply standing for the truth.

Let us go back to ants for a moment. How many of us as children spent hours lying in the grass watching and completely fascinated by the activity of ants. There is always a lot going on close to an anthill. Ants are very tiny and their works seem inconsequential, especially to young children. However, as small as ants are they accomplish a tremendous amount.

According to NOVA’s (PBS-TV), Edward O. Wilson, PhD. in Entomology, the combined weight of all ants in the world is about equal to that of all the humans on the earth! That means that for every one of us, there are millions of them. Mostly unappreciated by us until maybe we are stung or bitten by them, their constant hustle and bustle actually alters the environment everywhere these creature thrive. Think about this: entire ecologies are shaped by the untiring work of countless worker ants that as individuals are never named or remembered as individuals. Thanklessly, without any notice they spend their entire lives working for the hive. The result of this remarkable industry is that ants are as numerous as they are. There is no worry at all that ants will at some point go on the endangered species list. Sometimes we actually worry that Christians may be on the endangered list!

One of my favorite observances concerning ants is a time I watched a single ant carrying a bit of straw that was several times its body length and weighed perhaps twice or more than the ant itself. It struggled under this awkward and mighty load but nevertheless the little ant diligently carried on. The amazing thing was that the ant came to an insurmountable fissure in its path and so it put down the load. The ant then walked up and down the length of the impassible chasm for a second or two as if trying to reason out what it was going to do. Then seeming to figure out this daunting conundrum, the ant once again grabbed up the straw and laid it across the deep crack in the earth. Then it simply and matter-of-factly walked across this self made bridge and once across, picked up its temporary bridge and continued its journey once again bearing the mighty load!

In our passage from Proverbs, which causes us to consider the nature of ants for a moment, the Lord wants us to make some applications that really can be wide ranging for us and can also help to correct some attitudes toward others.

  1. Put a smile on your face! The prime thing is “to be of good cheer” (Matthew 14:27). Have confidence that in serving the Lord Jesus we have made the right commitment of our life and efforts, Romans 8:37, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Generally the child of God should always have at our very core the knowledge that our choice to serve the Lord was the best decision any person could ever make of all the choices in life. Therefore, be confident!
  2. You can overcome whatever has hurt you! Now when we have done much in the Lord’s service it is possible from time to time to become even physically tired, spiritually discouraged and emotionally exhausted. We are only human. All the mature among us in the service of the Lord will eventually have friends in Christ who disappoint and hurt us (but remember to count the friends who have not forsaken you, Proverbs 18:24; Paul relied upon Luke and Timothy after Demas and others had forsaken him). We can have physical concerns and just simply our getting older that will begin to limit us and these can take time and patience to learn to deal with. We may lose loved ones and experience the awful longing of grief. These kinds of real experiences in life can deal us blow after blow that we actually feel doing us harm. After the beheading of John, Jesus exhorted those so obviously discouraged by saying, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Sometimes we need a little time to “recharge our batteries” but we must not use what should be a very temporary condition to become a permanent and abiding attitude. Remember: We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! There is a reasonable amount of time for every cause of discouragement to eventually be shaken off so we can continue faithfully our part in the cause of Christ. I think of the element of real hope in the woman with the issue of blood who thought within herself, “If I may but touch the hem of His garment I can be made whole” (Matthew 9:20-22). Faith! Remember Paul’s statement about his own goals, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Peter’s exhortation is priceless: 1Peter 1:13, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  3. Get to work for the Lord! Someone has said, “Dig someone else out of his troubles and you dig a hole in which to bury your own.” Simply taking up the cross once again, we can actually make a new start. We want to join with Paul with no small amount of irony, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). With the knowledge you have gained from your experience remember what James said in his epistle, 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” No matter what your hurt may have been, just know that the devil cannot lay a glove on you!