God's Insect Institute

Bible Book: Proverbs  6 : 6-9
Subject: Discipleship; Christian Living; Work for Jesus; Time; Dedication
Introduction

Our "Year In The Bible" now brings us to the Book of Proverbs. Tonight we shall look at the Book of Proverbs in its entirety, but this morning we will focus on a single thought from Proverbs 6:6-9:

“6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?"

A few years ago we watched a brave young lady catapult herself into Olympic history. Her name was Kerri Strugg, who stood at the end of a runway ready to complete a vault for the American Olympic gymnastics team - but that was to be no ordinary vault. The American gymnastic team was posed to win their first ever gold medal in the team gymnastics. Kerri had already fallen in her first attempt at the vault and in the process had injured her left ankle. She yelled to her coach, “Do we need this next vault?” His answer was, “It looks like we do.” She replied, “I can do it. I can do it!”

Kerri started down the runway at full speed even though we had a very sore ankle, and she then propelled herself into the air doing gyrations that take a lifetime to learn. She came down with a thud, but she came down standing up in a near perfect landing. The crowd went wild, then they noticed that she was standing on one leg. She stood long enough to complete her necessary landing time and then fell to her knees in pain from the injury to her left ankle and foot. Tears streamed down her face from the pain as she was placed on a stretcher. The American team had won their first gold medal in team gymnastics.

How did Kerri find the courage to make that vault, even though she knew the likelihood of a painful landing and disabling injury? Courage, discipline and dedication that comes from years of practice and commitment is required to produce an action like that which she exhibited during the Olympics. I don’t know about you, but big tears filled my eyes as I watched Kerri being carried to the podium by her coach, placed alongside her team mates and then receiving her gold medal.

The Bible, on more than one occasion, uses the athletic metaphor to describe the determination, dedication, discipline and attitude necessary in the spiritual realm to be all that God means for you to be. We can all see that a strong, disciplined athlete is a good physical example of the strong discipline needed in one’s spiritual walk with God. But I want you to notice that God also used a tiny little creature to be an example of dedication and discipline. This Tiny Teacher is the lowly ant!

It is interesting that man, with all his intelligence and sophistication, is sent by the Lord to an Institute led by an Insect! Just who is it that needs this instruction? Those of us who lack discipline in our lives, especially our spiritual lives. The word “discipline” means to be discipled, trained, fully dedicated and able to do that which is required of us.

The ant is an insect that gathers food in the heat of summer in order to eat when there is no food to be found. The ant is used by God in our text as an example of discipline. The ants mentioned in our text today are Harvester Ants that live along the Mediterranean Sea in the land of Israel. These ants leave the nest and go out to gather grain. Once they have found grain, they remove the grain from the husk and then store it in their colonies. The Lord sends us to the Harvester Ant to learn how to live our lives, especially how we are to live for Him in this world. It is wonderful how God has chosen simple, earthly, natural, baser things to teach us as human beings higher, nobler, and more complex spiritual things.

So, let’s ask the ant to be our professor in spiritual matters today. Note first …

I. The Purpose We Can Ascribe To This Comparison

I want you to note with me four objectives in the comparison that God has given us in this passage, all of which the Lord supplies so that we can understand and grasp truth while advancing in responsibility toward Him and His kingdom.

A. Working Faithfully

First, we note that the ant is very faithful in his work. The ant is not idle, but is busy about what is important. Ants are consistently working during the times of harvest so that they have food when there is no harvest.

Granted, human beings are different social creatures than insects. We need recreation and rest or we will experience mental and emotional melt down. I am reminded of the story from the life of a preacher who was told by a member, “I tried reach you yesterday and you were nowhere to be found.” The preacher replied, “Yesterday was my day off.” The church member said, “Day off! The devil doesn’t take a day off!” The preacher replied, “No, and if I didn’t take a day off I would act just like the devil myself.” It is true that we need our resting time.

The problem with many Christians is that rest is the word that best describes most of their spiritual lives. When it comes to our service for God, we must never be guilty of idleness. Our prayer life, bible reading, personal witness, dedicated walk with God, faithfulness to God’s House, and stewardship of our possessions must never take a vacation. Like the ant, we must be every vigilant in our faithfulness to God.

B. Working Harmoniously

The ant works in harmony with other ants. Have you ever noticed how ants work in colonies? When you see one ant, just keep your eyes open and you will soon see many more. Why? They work in harmonious union with each other. Ants have a wonderful unity when it comes to getting the job done.

God would have us to each do our part in His work and to do it with love and unity. If you look closely at ants as they labor, you will notice that a heavy load may be shared by two or more ants. If a heavy object is dropped by one ant due to weariness, another will step in and pick it up. Experts tell us that the ant which takes over in such cases is not stealing the item but simply helping a weaker ant get the job done.

Too often Christians pull against each other rather than in union with each other. Only a harmonious group can accomplish a great task. The ants are not in competition with each other, nor are than concerned with who gets credit for a job well done. They have one thing in mind – complete the mission. In the Insect Institute, our Lord will have us learn this lesson well!

C. Working Wisely

Ants also work wisely, and you can see that by observing that they do their work in the summer in preparation for the coming winter. I will say more about this in a moment, but this reveals how wise they are. Look at Proverbs 30:25:

“The ants are a people not strong,

Yet they prepare their food in the summer.”

This passage, along with 6:6, speaks of the wisdom of the ant to prepare for what is coming. It is interesting that grasshoppers sing all summer but die in the winter. The ant lives through the winter because of the wise work he did in the summer in preparation for the winter!

D. Working Fearlessly

It has been noted that one shoe print can wipe out thousands of ants and destroy their home. Yet they do not stop their work for fear of those things they cannot understand or withstand. In fact, tear down their ant hill and they will seek to rebuild it where it was or move along to a better spot and built another. They are absolutely fearless in their pursuit of food for the ant community.

God has told us again and again to “fear not.” He calls on us to have courage in our convictions and to stand faithful in this sinful world. In the Insect Institute, we learn that great courage produces grand consequences.

Now those things we have learned already is like a seminary course in the Insect Institute, but we must also notice ...

II. The Points We Can Apply To This Comparison

I want to be more specific now about areas to which we can apply the comparison God has given us between the ant and the human family, especially the Christian family. There are four areas which are addressed in Proverbs more than once in this regard.

A. Discipline in Regard to Our Things

We are to work with discipline and dedication to act faithfully, wisely, harmoniously and fearlessly in the area of our personal, material possessions. Pepsi had a commercial venture in which you drink Pepsi and earn points to get material things. The ad states, “Drink Pepsi and Get Stuff.” Coca Cola had a similar promotion using the insides of the caps to offer users of their product “stuff”.

It is amazing how much time we humans spend merely accumulating stuff, which we then must clean up, clean out, and eventually get rid of! It is important when it comes to material possessions, including money, to keep God first!

Proverbs 11:24-28 states:

“24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more;

And there is one who withholds more than is right,

But it leads to poverty.

25 The generous soul will be made rich,

And he who waters will also be watered himself.

26 The people will curse him who withholds grain,

But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

27 He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,

But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.

28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,

But the righteous will flourish like foliage.”

There is nothing essentially wrong with having things or being financially successful. In fact, if it were not for some Christians who have been incredibly successful and generous, it is hard to see how some of the work done for the Lord might have been carried out. However, if all one is living for is money and things, it is a poor life indeed.

B. Discipline in Regard to Our Tongue

We read in Proverbs 17:27:

“He who has knowledge spares his words,

And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

Also, note in Proverbs 21:23:

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue

Keeps his soul from troubles.”

We note in these passages that wise is the believer who is careful in his use of the tongue. Indeed, one who keeps his tongue spares himself many troubles!

A snail is a very interesting creature. Naturalists tell us that it has teeth on its tongue! A scientist examining one such organ under his microscope counted as many as 30,000 teeth on the tongue of a particular snail. The snail keeps its toothy little tool rolled up like a ribbon, until it is needed, and then it thrusts out this sharp appendage. Though the teeth on the tongue of a snail are very small, they saw through the toughest leaves and stems with ease. The man or woman who is too free with the tongue also can have teeth in the tongue, teeth which cut like a knife.

Posted in a physician's office was this wall motto:

“A wise old owl
Lived in an oak,
The more he saw
The less he spoke;
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Why can't we be like
That wise old bird?”
C. Discipline in Regard to Our Temper

Proverbs 29:11 reads:

“A fool vents all his feelings,

But a wise man holds them back.”

Since we are learning from the ant, the snail and the owl, let us learn as well from the rattlesnake. When a rattlesnake is cornered, it can become so frenzied that it will accidentally bite itself with its deadly fangs. In the same way, when a person harbors hatred and resentment toward another, he often hurts himself by the poison of his own anger. Such a man thinks he is He thinks he is wounding his enemies but in reality he is injuring himself!

Anger can also cause us to do and say things we may deeply regret. George W. Martin tells the following true story: "I remember a fellow who once wrote a nasty letter to his father. Since we worked in the same office, I advised him not to send it because it was written in a fit of temper. But he sealed it and asked me to put it in the mail. Instead, I simply slipped it into my pocket and kept it until the next day. The following morning he arrived at the office looking very worried. 'George,' he said, 'I wish I had never sent that note to my dad yesterday. It hurts me deeply, and I know it will break his heart when he reads it. I'd give fifty dollars to get it back!" Taking the envelope from my pocket, I handed it to him and told him what I had done. He was so overjoyed that he actually wanted to pay me the fifty dollars!"

It is interesting to note that the only time you see ants angry is when they are all being attacked. They simply do not attack each other. Christians must learn from the ant to be cooperative, loving, busy and non-competitive servants of God.

D. Discipline in Regard to Our Time

In our text today we read that an ant prepares in the summer for the coming winter. A wise person will prepare for eternity in the midst of time, for there is no other time to prepare. To delay is to be lost forever.

Also, we must apply our time wisely so as to do the most important things first. I was in the Army back in the 1960s and served a tour in Vietnam. I was the assistant to a First Sargent whose name was Herick. He was a wonderful man who taught me a lot of things, one of which was how to use time wisely. Also, he taught me to concentrate on what was most needed, no matter what else might be going on around me. In the midst of a war, activities taking place can range from the fascinating to the fearful. Herick said, “The work must be your focus. Nothing else matters.” It was a lesson I took with me when I was back in the United States and surrendered to God’s call to be a preacher of the gospel.

Let me tell you a story about a father who almost missed focusing on the most important task before him. He told the story like this:

"One year ago today I sat at my desk with a month's bills and overdue accounts before me when my bright-faced young boy rushed in and impetuously announced, 'Happy birthday, Dad! Mom says you're 55 today, so I'm gong to give you 55 kisses, one for each year.' He began to make good on his word, when I exclaimed, 'Oh, Andy, not now; I'm too busy!' His silence attracted my attention. Looking up, I saw his big blue eyes fill with tears. Apologetically I said, 'You can finish tomorrow.' He made no reply but was unable to conceal his disappointment as he quietly walked away. That same evening I said, 'Come and finish those kisses now, Andy.' Either he didn't hear me or he wasn't in the mood, for there was no response. Two months later, as a result of an accident, God took him home to Heaven. His body was laid to rest in a little grave near a place where he loved to play. The robin's note was never sweeter than my son's voice, and the turtledove that cooed to its nestlings was never so gentle as the little one who left unfinished his love-imposed task. If only I could tell him how much I regret those thoughtless words I spoke, and how my heart is aching now because of my unkind actions. Instead, I sit here thinking how I didn't return his love, but rather grieved his young heart that was so full of tenderness and affection."

Thomas Lister placed these words on nearly every grandfather clock he made:

"Lo! Here I stand by thee upright

To give thee warning day and night;

For every tick that I do give

Cuts short the time thou hast to live."

A motorist was driving through a remote section of the country and after stopping in a small village for something to eat, he noticed that his wristwatch had stopped. As he paused on the porch of the small cafe, he turned to a native lounging nearby and said: "I wonder if you could tell me what time it is?"

"It's twelve o'clock," drawled the man.

"Only twelve o'clock?" questioned the traveler. "I thought it was much more than that."

"It's never more than that around this part of the country," replied the native.  "It goes up to twelve o'clock and then starts all over again."

One day time will not start over again. It will come to an end for each of us! We must apply the time God has given us to do His work. The ant is our teacher!

III. The Plea We Can Attach To This Comparison

God is pleading with us to learn this lesson before it is too late.

A. Consider

When tells us to “consider” something, it means for us to give some thought to it. We are to take time to grasp the meaning of the lesson. Actually, the Lord is telling us that if we think about the ant for a while, we will see our own shortcoming.

B. Confess

When we see that the tiny ant has shamed us, even as God has used him to do so, we must confess to God the truth in the matter. We are to admit where we have failed God in our discipline.

C. Commit

Commit to the Lord to be the best you can be. We must decide that we are not going to let the little ant, one of God’s simplest creatures put us to shame in doing what is right!

A. C. Dixon tells us that when the great artist Raphael died at the early age of 37, some of his friends and relatives carried his marvelous painting "The Transfiguration" in the funeral procession. It was only partially finished, and they felt that because of his youth and the limited time he was allotted to use his creative genius, it was a symbol of his unfulfilled earthly aspirations. But actually that half-completed picture has a deeper meaning - a message that should impress itself upon all of us: life's sojourn is fleeting and death sometimes terminates even our best efforts. Since we have no guarantee of tomorrow, we should treasure each hour as a jewel of great value and use it to the best advantage.

Conclusion

Norman Vincent Peale wrote: "One day, a great athlete, Charlie Paddock, came to a school to speak to the students. Charlie Paddock was once hailed by a sportswriter as `the fastest human being alive.' He stood up in front of those kids and said, `Listen! What do you want to be? You name it, and then believe that God will help you be it.' Well, a boy named Jesse said to himself, `I want to be what Mr. Paddock has been. I want to be the fastest human being on earth.'

"After the speech was over, young Jesse rushed to the platform and asked the coach if he might shake the hand of Charlie Paddock. When he did, it was as though an electric shock passed through him, and he ran back to the coach. `I've got a dream! I've got a dream!' he said.

"The coach, a discerning man, said, `What's on your mind, son?'

"’I want to follow Mr. Paddock as the fastest human being alive. That's my dream.'

"`It's great to have a dream, Jesse, but to attain your dream you must build a ladder to it. This is the ladder - the first rung is determination! And the second rung is dedication! The third rung is discipline! And the fourth rung is attitude!'

"The results of that talk were dramatic. Jesse Owens did indeed become the fastest man to ever run the 100-meter dash, and the fastest ever to run the 200-meter. His broad jump record lasted for 24 years. He won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympic Games. So build a ladder to your dreams!" [Plus Magazine, Nov 1995.  Pages 18-19.]

Serving God requires us to dream for more in our obedience, dedication and usefulness to the Lord. Go to the ant – learn! You better do today that which prepares you for tomorrow, for tomorrow it may and likely will be too late.

Someone here today is called to serve God as a vocation. You’ve been called to preach, to be a missionary or to serve Him in some way you may not yet discern. Come now! Obey Him now. Life is rushing by and you will miss your chance if you delay.

Someone here today is not a Christian. You want to be a Christian but you are fearful, or some other thing makes you wait. Come now. You may not have another chance to turn from your sin and trust the work that Christ did on the cross for you.

Yes, and there are many of us here who know the Lord but we also become lazy. We get in a rut and allow our familiarity of spiritual things to breed contempt. We don’t take seriously enough the work – the time – he has given to us.

So let us come to Him now. As we sing this invitation, you obey the Spirit of the Lord.