SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS (AND THE REST OF US) TO CONSIDER
¶ Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
It seems to me that when God wants something done, He calls a busy person to do it. There was a time, not that long ago, where most people were busy by default. All of their time and efforts from sun-up to sun-down were spent just trying to survive. But as our civilisation and its economy developed and we increasingly mechanised tasks done by people working manually. This advancement in an economy comes with many benefits. Rather than everyone simply trying to provide for the basics of life, they can now focus on those things that also advance and the well-being of a society. This includes education, the arts, leisure, health-care, and sport. It also allows for people to specialise and focus on, their trade, skill or profession so that they no longer have to grow their own crops or graze their own cattle for milk or meat. Theoretically, it therefore means that people have more time to do things other than work such as those just listed. Yet, rather than being less busy, many people are busier than ever and often these busier-than-ever people feel they are not necessarily getting much done. This general busy-ness has presented challenges for those of us who work in the not-for-profit volunteer sector who rely on the availability of volunteers to help run their organisations and think the Proverbial ant might have something for us to consider about this.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
TWO TYPES OF BUSY
I’m involved with a big project that involves leaders from other churches around our city. None of these people have time to spare and especially do not have time to waste. Each of them are busy people. They each bring a set of skills and a connection with a network of others that is enabling us to plan and manage one of the biggest city-wide Christian celebrations in the history of Launceston. In observing each of these leaders in this newly formed team, I notice that while they are each busy, and already involved in their own major projects, they are still able to manage to contribute their time into this joint effort. This has helped me to realise that there are two types of busy. We have already introduced the busy person who doesn’t seem to get much done, and now I have introduced a different type of busy person who does seem to be able to get done what needs to be done.
¶ Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
PRODUCTIVE AND BUSY
Busy-yet-productive people are like ants in many ways. They have learned how to use their time efficiently and effectively. Like ants, they have learned how to work independently and with others. Like ants, in doing this they seem to be lift objects above their own body weight, and when they work with other similarly busy-yet-productive people, they can do so in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics. Nearly all (if not actually all) of these busy-yet-productive people are people who have been stretched and along that journey have come to realise two important things about being busy-yet-productive:
Focus on the important rather than the urgent.
Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
Busy-frantic people get caught up in the urgent instead of focusing on the important. Busy-yet-productive people nearly always commence their weeks with a plan — they carry a diary which contains their weekly to do lists and they hold themselves accountable to it. They seem to make time for the important as a priority over the urgent. This is why #2 is actually a restating of #1 — they sabbath. They make the setting aside of time from their usual activity to sabbath. They recognise the importance of sabbathing and what it involves – worshiping God with God’s assembled people, prayerfully surrendering to God, allowing the preached Word to wash and renew their soul, and physically/mentally resting.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The Book of Proverbs warns against laziness and instructs readers to consider the ant (Prov. 6:6). In considering the ant we notice that they always live within a colony (a community). Within that colony they each have assigned roles (a purpose). Together they pool their efforts to achieve a common goal (a mission). They intuitively plan and prepare for the future so that they can leave a legacy. They go about their work methodically which seems to resemble good training (a work ethic). No wonder God tells us to consider the ant! Their example is a great benchmark for how a society, a community, and a church is to function. As we read through the New Testament instructions for Christian living we read some very “ant-like” directives for believers-
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
When we yield to Christ our desires and priorities are transformed. Just as the ant is created by God to “know” what they are to do, the believer finds himself or herself having their will shaped by God resulting in a desire to work for the benefit of others.
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
The ant-like nature of a Spirit-filled believer is most evident in two ways: their attitude and their supernatural strength to serve. Note these two aspects of a busy-yet-productive believer-
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
GOD ALWAYS STRENGTHENS THOSE HE STRETCHES
There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There is a difference between riding a rocking-horse and riding a horse! There are those who are busy yet are highly productive because they’ve learned to work like an ant which involves managing that their time is focused on (i) maintaining their important relationships, (ii) taking regular sabbaths, (iii) prioritising the important over the urgent, and (iv) cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had – that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it possible. If you want to stop being busy and become busy-yet-productive, then learn these lessons from the ant!
For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.