Act Like an Ant

General Introduction

  • Proverbs 4:5 “Get wisdom; develop good judgment.
  • Wisdom is not automatic or hereditary – it is something we learn, practice and grow into…
  • The 9 is about living out 9 key practices that let us live wisely and well.

As I mention each week, framework for this series is from Henry Cloud’s book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.  

We have so far looked at the first 4 wise ways of living

  • Dig it Up – Go inside and invest in our dreams, gifts and talents
  • Pull the Tooth – Deal with the negative and hurtful actions and attitudes
  • Play the Movie – Make decisions based on their effects.
  • Do Something – Move from passivity to proactivity. Improve the situation whether you whether or not it’s your responsibility.

Our fifth wise way of living is this:

Act like an Ant

I am sure if ants were reflective like we humans they might question what does my moving this one little grain do… but it was precisely that each act moved his grain of sand did a colony build the incredible structure…because they moved one grain of sand at a time, one step at a time.

In your outline…our key verse says –

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” (Proverbs 6:6, NLT)  

Scripture speaks of how we can learn from ants. Especially when we are stuck in inactivity…where we do not want to face the pain of tackling tasks that seem daunting, overwhelming and just plain painful to accomplish the task.

Good goals and great hopes often feel overwhelming

When we think about the goals/dreams that God has placed on our hearts…a ministry, a new initiative, a great business idea, deeper faith, greater discipline, a healthier lifestyle both emotionally and physically, a happier marriage, a principled dating life…most of the things that matter to us most require great effort over time.

When we think about the big important goals we can simply become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task in front of us…and we get paralyzed, inactive, even thinking about it gives pain, taking the path of least pain…rationalizing to ourselves with the siren phrase – “someday I will get to it”

Illustration: I saw a video describing the regrets of aging people in the last days of their life. The biggest regret was not taking the risk of the dreams they had in their hearts – for dreams to become reality, we have to turn them into goals and that often makes us feel overwhelmed.

But the lesson from the ant speaks to us if we are willing watch and observe…

Achieve your Goals by taking small Steps over Time

Ants show us that it is more important to judge your success not by the size of your goal but by the valuing little steps over time. You and I judge our success whether or not we are doing the small things. Wise people know that

  • 100 dollars isn’t a retirement savings, but it is a step
  • That one pound lost is the not the healthiest you, it is a step
  • One course is not the degree but it is a step
  • One conversation is not a friendship but it is a step
  • 15 minutes of cleaning is not a tidy home but it is a step
  • One verse memorized may not change your mind, but it is step
  • One act of forgiveness may not get rid of all relational pain but it is a step
  • One step of faith does not create a healthy spiritual life, but it is a step.  

It was Henry Ford said:

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  –

As we consider living out our faith in God – taking little steps over time is an essential idea for growth in the Christian life

It is tempting to want all the attributes, qualities and blessings of the Christian faith – all of it right now!

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23a)

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO MATURITY.  It takes years for us from children to adults and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. There was a time when the food industry only wanted to speed things up but the results were disastrous.  Now restaurants advertise “no hormone” meat.  Organic vegetables.  These markets continue to grow.  Countries have created legislation to curb the chemical shortcuts. If you want a quality product, it is going to take some time.  

This same idea is true for spiritual things. It takes time to develop Christian character.  It is not a big decision we make and voila — we have impeccable character.  Character is what we see in a person who, like an ant, has broken a large goal into many small actions of integrity over their lives.   

When the Old Testament Habakkuk became depressed because he didn’t think God was acting quickly enough, God had this to say:

This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” (Habakkuk 2:3, NLT) 

Eugene Peterson, in The Message, translates 2Cor 3:18 like this:

“Our lives gradually [become] brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him”
(2 Corinthians 3:18b MSG).

Little by little is God’s plan for growing us as his people. Is it impossible for the one who spoke into the void and created matter and life to speak into us and change us in an instant?  Of course not.  But this is God’s plan.  And if God’s plan for the most important project in the universe is gradual and over time – step by step — why would we think that the quick fix or the shortcut or the magic bullet solution would be the way to go in other areas of our lives?

Doesn’t it make sense that the pattern God has established for his goals in us would also be a good pattern for us reaching our goals?

Paul reminded the Philippians that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how the quality of our growth — that it is deeply established in us.  

My brother used to work in the lumber industry and he said that the US wants our Canadian lumber because the growing season slows every winter for us and so the wood is becomes stronger.  The rings in a Canadian tree which indicate the long winter sleep in the growth cycle creates stronger fibres.  Slower growth equals stronger product.  

Our struggle tends to be that we want it all right now

This attitude resides deep in our thinking in many areas of life. Jesus was offered a shortcut during his lifetime.  “Bow down and worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth” Satan said to him.  Don’t take the way of the cross, don’t suffer, don’t deal with rejection — this is the easy way” he was saying.  There is always a shortcut, a quick fix, an easier path — but it will never create solid, strong character for which Jesus can say “well done good and faithful servant.”  

But our desire to want it all and now causes us to think that not having it all, right now, is well, nothing.  All or nothing.  And many of us get stuck in “nothing” because there is not quick, easy path to “All”.  

Henry Cloud says the wise person does not think about whether or not they have reached the end goal, instead they think about faithfully doing the small actions today that lead to that end goal.  They believe in cause and effect to such an extent that they know that doing the small things each day make the end goal inevitable.  

This is what I mean when I say: Act like an ant.  The ant is not worried about the other ants.  The ant is not worried that their load is quite small compared to the overall task.  

When I worked with my uncle doing carpentry work we had goals each day which fed our weekly goals which fed the end goal of completing a house.  For my uncle Jim, as long as we were on top of things daily the weekly goals would be met and the monthly goals and timetable stayed on track.  Of course there were problems, there were times the daily goals did not get met, adjustments had to be made — sometimes we had to work longer or do smaller jobs while waiting for a subcontractor to finish their tasks – but we lost sight of our daily accomplishments.  From a hole in the ground, to footings, to basement, to joist and floors and walls and trusses and roofs and insulation, windows, doors, gyprock, trim and cabinets to a completed house.  Each steps leads to the next.  If you never pour your footings, there will not be a basement wall or a floor joist, walls roof, or cabinets.  Each piece feeds into the next.  

In our lives we spend a lot of time dreaming about the completed house when we should be asking ourselves how we are doing with footing.  We get discouraged we have no cabinets when we have not even built our foundation.  

Remember when you first learned to drive?  How you would need to focus on when to press on the brake and when turn on the blinker.  You would sit at a stop sign and recite the rules of right of way.  You would carefully steer the car and oversteer the car.  Your brain was almost exploding with activity because you had to think about everything.  10 years later, 20 years later.  You don’t think, I have to turn on my blinker now, or consciously think how hard I need to press on the brake pedal.  You probably do not even think after sitting down: “now I must put on my seatbelt”.  No, you sit down, hook yourself in, turn on your vehicle put it in gear and off you go.  You don’t think about it, you just do it.  But you can never get to the place where you just do something, where you just think a certain way, where you have a certain level of fitness, or know things in a field of study — it all starts by having to think about everything.  Having to methodically go through the steps.  You have to act like an ant.

Embrace the small,simple and good steps

My vision for the church is that we love as Jesus loves.  But that is an end goal.  We won’t get there by focusing on that.  That is our focal point off in the distance.  Our focus must be on the small things every day that we incorporate into our lives so that as we gather as a community of faith that is our pulse, that is our logic, that is our ultimate boundary statement.  

Are we there yet. I would say we are on our way but we have more to do.  We started serving meals at St. George’s so we could help care for people in our city.  Others have sacrificed hours of their time helping people with various needs.  Others have done work for reduced rates or free to help people in need.  All of these things are not the goal but they are steps that lead us to that goal.  Do we need fresh steps — yes, always.  What was right five years ago may not fit us now — we need to constantly be evaluating what will get us to the goal.  But our goal is fixed. Jesus did that for us when he told his disciples that the most important thing to accomplish in life was to love our neighbour as God loves them.  Our quest and our goal is to attain full maturity in love.  But that translates into daily, weekly, even monthly tasks that lead us to that goal.  Perhaps we will not reach it fully — but we can be better than where we are today — of this we can be sure.  Paul wrote the Galatians:

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NRSV)  

When you look up the Greek word used for ‘weary’ in the passage, you will read this:

to lose one’s motivation in continuing a desirable pattern of conduct or activity, lose enthusiasm, be discouraged (BAGD, s.v., ἐγκακέω / p. 272.)

Discouragement was a problem in churches in the 1st century as much as it is in our century.  Discouragement is a human problem.  Sometimes it comes from not having good mental connections between where we are and and where we want to be.  

The daily tasks of faithfulness are the ant’s load.  Sometimes they are heavy, sometimes they are light — but they are always just a piece of what our overall project is.  The small pieces turn into a masterful product over time.  Paul gave Timothy of list of things he needed to do and then said to him:

“Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15, NRSV)  

One verse later he gives Timothy his ultimate goal:

“…continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16, NRSV)  

His goal was to save himself and his hearers.  But a goal like that can quickly become devastating because how can you know if you accomplished it?  How do you know you arrived?  Paul says do the little things faithfully with consistency and you will move forward to your goal.  

What do you need to look at in your life.

  • What do we need to build into our marriages — those small consistent steps over time that lead to deeper love and communication.
  • What about our professional development?
  • What about education?
  • …Relationships
  • …Friendships
  • …Hobbies

The path to a life that is whole will include many parts but the most important will always be our relationship with God.  Like Paul and Timothy, we must have a goal of overwhelming greatness that is then broken down into small measurable actions that we incorporate into our daily lives — we must not grow discouraged by the overwhelming greatness of the ultimate goal.  Instead, we must find joy and contentment in faithfully engaging the small pieces over time.   This is how we flourish in our body and in our soul —  we act like an ant.

Called to Peace


We are now in week 3 of our dare2move series and this weekend we are looking at how we are are called to Peace. Often we preach on topics that are sensitive issues of life, managing money, sexual purity, healthy relationships and while the topic of ‘peace’ does not seem like one of those issues — after all who doesn’t like the idea of peace — yet it turns out it is a very difficult idea because despite our ideals, our words and even our good intentions, we are not very good at it and quite often are unwilling to submit ourselves to what peace requires.

The Hebrew concept of peace is not just the absence of conflict, it refers to completeness – a totality of well-being – toward God, toward each other, and toward creation. That’s a tall order. What is interesting is that shalom and being a person of shalom, a person of peace — is not first and foremost something that is done, it is an expression of something deeper at work in a person, just like violence though seen as actions — is actually just an eruption of what lies beneath.

There can be no doubt that Jesus calls us to be people of peace. We are to live as people of peace. Over and over again the Bible speaks to this but we tweak the texts and rationalize the results. It is our nature as fallen human beings. We have come to the place where we are enamoured by the …

The Wisdom of Violence

“Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”” (Genesis 4:23–24, NIV)

When Adam and Eve sinned, it took only a generation to go from disobedience to murder. Cain murders his brother and what is his greatest concern? That others will kill him. God marks him as a warning against others to not kill Cain (Gen 4:1-16). After Cain, we have a genealogy where Lamech rationalizes the murder of a young boy and says if Cain is avenged 7 times, he will be avenged 77 times. He sees God’s mercy to Cain as justification for his murder and the multiplication of violence continues and God’s evaluation is clear:

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” (Genesis 6:11–12, NIV)

The bible understands violence as an expression of corruption – an expression of the Fall. It is a corruption of creation. A corruption of what God intended for human beings. The problem is that violence makes sense to us at a very deep place. There is why cycles of violence continue for generations at an increasing intensity over time. Round and round it goes, you kill my brother, I will kill your family, to I will kill your extended family and on and on and on. The aggression continues, the hatred grows and the actual violence that we see is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is wrong. Deep within us, there is a place where violence makes sense.

Now, some people will say “I would never harm another person. I am against physical violence” and that’s good, congratulations. But shalom is more than the absence of violence — that’s why Jesus said that when we call someone an ‘idiot’, we identify ourselves as children of hell, not children of God’s kingdom (cf., Matt 5:21-26). This puts us in a tough spot, because it is so easy and natural to judge and be angry and become bitter. Peace, or ‘shalom’, is an expression of a life in tune with God and engaged in love. The wisdom of violence runs deep within the human heart and makes sense at a visceral level. And this is the challenge, but the way of the cross — the way of love as God defines it — does not really make sense.

The cross shows us …

The Foolishness of Love

As Paul wrote about God’s way…

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 25, NIV)

The Cross is the supreme expression of God’s love, it is an expression of both his strength and wisdom, yet Paul is correct it seems like weakness and foolishness unless it is viewed with the eyes of faith.

From a human perspective, nothing about the cross makes sense. Peter responded during the arrest of Jesus in the way many would respond. He grabbed a sword and began solving the problem in the most human way. . .violence. No matter how valiant or courageous we may think of Peter’s actions swinging his sword and aiming for the head, the ultimate judge is Jesus himself calls out to Peter — “no more of this”. You can hear the urgency in Jesus’ command. The disdain in the word ‘this’ is almost palpable. The reason for this is clear enough if we pay attention to what Jesus says about what love looks like in God’s kingdom. It is a love that forgives enemies. It is a love that prays for those who cause us harm.

When Paul writes the Ephesians, he call upon them to imitate God as dearly beloved children (Eph 5.1) and self-sacrificing love is the essence of what we are to imitate, Jesus gives us some sense of what that would look like:

““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48, NIV)

This kind of love of enemies finds its expression in shalom – peace. When we love others to the point where we will forgive, when love to the degree that we pray for those who do us harm — the result is a definitive lack of violence. Even one’s words, instead of being harsh and uncaring are marked by patience, kindness, goodness, & self-control.

Of course, some will be quick to speak of when they believe violence is justified, but honestly as I look to the news feeds and read the headlines, it sounds a lot like a pastor preaching his or her heart out on the dangers of praying too much. Seriously. . .is that the problem that we might be praying too much? I honestly do not think so. Shalom is the end-goal of God’s plan for his creation and Jesus invites us to join him in the foolishness of love. A love that would go to cross to save an enemy — because that’s what each and every one of us is until that time we believe in Jesus Christ. Paul says:

“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” (Romans 5:10, NLT)

The brotherly-love, that followers of Jesus are to imitate – is an enemy forgiving, reconciling love – not the love Cain had for his brother Abel.

The bible says that we are to embrace a life of love and that we can measure all Christian virtues in our lives by the extent to which we are willing to submit our hearts to the rule of peace – the rule of Shalom.

All of this leads NT Scholar and Ethicist, Richard Hays to remark:

One reason that the world finds the New Testament’s message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. On the question of violence, the church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry. (By comparison, our problems with sexual sin are trivial.) (Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, p. 343.)

Church has often been concerned about worldliness — yet somehow the core teaching of Jesus on enemy-love and peace have escaped appropriate notice over history and even into the modern era.

The Rule of Peace

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14–15, NIV)

Paul first writes in Colossians 3 that followers of Jesus are to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are to bear with each other and forgive one another just as Christ forgave us. And that this point he moves into vv 14-15 that we are to put on love because it holds all the other virtues together — it becomes fuel for all those other things. And if the fuel for these virtues is love, the peace — shalom — measure of our love. Do our actions correspond with God’s peace? This is the constant question. Did my words express love or anger or bitterness — are they marked by the shalom of Christ?

As we read more and more in the NT about the Shalom of Christ – the peace of Christ, we understand better why some Christians have disavowed all violence against others. In fact, they have committed to suffering and dying rather than following in the violence around them. They are following the example of Jesus — who chose the cross rather than the path of retribution and violence. We learn from Matt 26:53 that Jesus could have called down 12 legions of angels to destroy his enemies and set him free. 12×6000 angels. A single angel went through Egypt in a night and killed all the firstborn children of the Egyptians. . . what would be left if 72000 angels came down to avenge the abuse of Jesus. Some will undoubtedly want to spiritualize everything and say Jesus was on a mission and the cross was his salvation plan — of course, of course, but it is also an example to us because Paul refers to the cross as self-sacrificing love that husbands are to have for their wives. Jesus himself said that followers were to pick their cross and following him. Imitate him. The love of Christ leaves no room for revenge. It leaves no room for sin. It is filled to the brim with shalom — the perfection of relationship by grace and power of God.

WE can never be these kinds of people on our own. We cannot love enemy on our own — perhaps if they cease and desist and ask for forgiveness, a person might find a place to have mercy — but when Jesus say love and pray for those who are actively doing harm. . . Jesus says “those who are persecuting you”. It is a present participle . . .it stands out referring to a present on-going action. I can’t love like that on my own. And neither can you. We all need to be saved precisely because the example of Jesus, the example he wants us to follow and imitate is a life-long project.

When Paul says take every thought captive to Christ, when he says “Let the peace of Christ rule your heart” it is a demand that both reveals how far we fall short but also marks a goal that we must be moving toward in our lives. It ultimately is an act of obedience and an act of submitting our will to the will of God. And nothing in this life, absolutely nothing, is more difficult than bring the wild beast that is our will under submission to Christ — but wrestle it we must or we are not truly engaging the upward call of Jesus Christ to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts. The Greek word there is very clear. . .it means ‘control’. The peace of Christ is to be the controlling factor in our hearts. Is peace central to the message of the NT — yes. It is central to salvation and God’s entire plan for his people. He is the reconciling God, he brings peace to those who are enemies. He brings love where there is hate. He brings forgiveness where there is bitterness. This is what Jesus–the “Prince of peace” brings into our lives.

And over all the virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. AMEN

You can watch a video of this message here: Called to Peace