Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning from the Little Things

(For those who have as yet not seen it, the new, and in my opinion improved Hand of Help website is up and running. We've added pictures of our benevolence work in Romania, and some new teaching videos as well. I would love some feedback, so if you have the time, please visit and let me know what you think. God bless.)

Proverbs 30:24-28, “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags; The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks; the spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in the king’s palaces.”

There are certain scripture passages in God’s holy word that we tend to overlook. We read about ants, and rock badges, and locusts, and spiders, and wonder to ourselves, what does this have to do with righteousness, what does this have to do with scriptural living? How can the life of an ant or a locust or a spider be applied to my circumstances, to my struggles, and to my trials?

I am one of those preachers that believes the entire Bible, from cover to cover, is divinely inspired by the omnipotent God we serve. If we are diligent in our study, if we read the word of God with the desire to understand His will, even what may seem as the most trivial of verses, will take on new meaning, a new life, and will teach us something relevant and necessary for our spiritual growth, and well being.

The first book I ever read was the Bible. After learning the alphabet, and how the letters came together to make words, any free time I had was dedicated to reading this wondrous and magnificent book. I would come home from school, sit on my bed, and just read the Bible for hours on end.

Something you might not know about me is that I grew up in a communist country where it was illegal to possess a Bible. My grandfather was a preacher, and a Bible smuggler, so there was always a Bible in the house, but even as a young child I was taught the importance of keeping this fact a secret from the teachers at school, as well as my fellow students.

As a child, reading the Word, I struggled with the questions of why God would have to use ravens to bring Elijah bread and meat in the morning and in the evening, why He couldn’t just make it appear before him, like the manna appeared on the ground for the people of Israel. When I got to the passage about Balaam and God using a donkey to rebuke him, I had a whole new set of questions, and when God used a rooster to humble Peter the questions just kept growing in number. Ever since, I’ve wondered why God uses the insignificant things to humble the hearts of men, why He uses things that we are often dismissive of to open our eyes to certain truths. Late into my teen years I came to the conclusion that God can use anything, even something as insignificant as an ant, or a locust as a teachable moment in order to open our eyes to the spiritual aspects of our existence.

So why are these four things which are little on the earth so important to God that He would include them in His word? What is their significance? Well, by these four things, we learn four principles for spiritual growth, progress and maturity.

The first little thing that is mentioned is the ant. And so, the question that begs to be asked is what if anything can we learn from the ant? As it turns out, we can learn allot from the ant. From the ant we learn the principle of spiritual provision. The ant is wise in that it has foresight, and so prepares its food in the summer. Absent spiritual provision, we cannot hope to grow and make progress spiritually.

It is said that in this world, only the strong survive. This is true in the animal world, as well as among mankind. The strong survive, yet there is an exception, and that exception is the ant. The ant is not strong, but it is exceedingly wise. The ant does not survive because of its strength, but because of its strategy. It knows it cannot defend itself, it knows it cannot wage a war, yet is wise in what it can do, and what it can do is prepare its food in the summer, make provision for itself.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.”

Yes, for everything there is a season, and there is also a season in which we ought to prepare. When I speak of preparation, I am referring to spiritual preparation, which is exceedingly more important than physical preparation. So many today squander the time they’ve been given, they squander the opportunity to prepare, to sanctify themselves, to store up spiritual wisdom, because in their minds there will always be a tomorrow. The only problem with this sort of mentality is that tomorrow might not be as hospitable as today, tomorrow you might not have the energy that you did today. Tomorrow is never a good answer for growing in God, tomorrow is never a good answer for learning the wisdom and the power of the Word, because tomorrow becomes today, and we put it off once again, living for tomorrow when we should be living for today.

Do not squander grace; do not squander the opportunity to know Jesus more fully, more deeply, more intimately. All of us have opportunities to prepare spiritually; all of us are given a season in which we can make spiritual provision, and as the wisdom of the ant dictates, we must endeavor to do what we can today, rather than tomorrow.

There is a parable that Jesus spoke while He walked the earth concerning ten virgins. He called five of them wise and five of them foolish. If we study the Word diligently we see that there was only one thing that set them apart, one thing that made all the difference, one thing that separated wisdom from folly. The only thing that separated the wise virgins from the foolish virgins was the fact that the wise virgins made provision. Just think about this for a second! All ten fell asleep, all ten slumbered as the bridegroom was delayed but five of them had made provision, the wise ones had taken oil in their vessels with their lamps. As the cry was heard, that the bridegroom was coming, and they were to go out and meet him, all ten arose and trimmed their lamps, but the five foolish virgins realized they had not made provision, they had no extra oil, and asked the wise ones to give them some of theirs. The answer of the wise virgins was stern and straightforward; “no, we will not give you any of our oil lest there should not be enough for us and for you.”

Whose fault was it that the foolish virgins had not made provision when they had the opportunity to do so? Whose fault was it that they squandered their time doing other things?

I realize personal accountability is frowned upon in our day and age, but there are certain choices we make for which we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Redeem the time that you have, make spiritual provision for the seasons of spiritual lack, and you will be exceedingly wise.

When we make spiritual provision, we have enough to give to others as well, as we journey down this road called life. If there is nothing in my heart concerning the truth of God’s Word, if there is no love for Jesus there, if I do not seek after the wisdom that only He can give, how can I be a faithful ambassador and share Jesus with others? Make provision, and in due season you will see the wisdom of it.

Hide the Word of God in your heart, meditate on it, and make spiritual provision, because you do not know what tomorrow brings. It could well be a time of spiritual lack. As mentioned, I was born in a nation where there was open persecution against Christians, and many of them were thrown in prison for years on end. I have talked to many of the brothers who spent years in prison, who did not have access to the Bible, who could not read the Scriptures, and when I would ask them how they got through, how they coped, they would simply smile and say, ‘I hid the Word of God in my heart, I would go back to that well of wisdom and encouragement, and recite the verses that I memorized while I still had my freedom.’

The Word kept them, the Word encouraged them, the Word strengthened them, and this was possible only because they had made spiritual provision before the season of persecution started. They were diligent in the things of God, and their diligence and preparation carried them through some very dark days.

So what can we learn from the rock badger? Well, from the rock badger we learn the principle of a durable foundation. Rock badgers are rare little animals that reside in parts of Southern Africa. They are curious little creatures that are primarily herbivores, or vegetarians, yet they make their home in crags and crevices of rocky outcrops and cliffs. Even though they have to venture out, far from their home to find food, since there isn’t much vegetation growing on rocks, they make their homes in the cliffs and crevices in order to ensure their safety. Every day the rock badger commutes in order to find food, yet the foundation of its habitation is so important that it intuitively makes the sacrifice.

So what is our foundation? What is that durable foundation that will ensure permanence; that will guarantee our shelter from the storms of this life? Our spiritual foundation must be none other than Jesus Christ. If our philosophy or our doctrine is built upon anything other than Jesus, it will surely crumble into nothingness.

1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

The Word of God is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. For if we hear and do His word, then we are as a wise man who built his home upon the rock. When Jesus is our spiritual foundation, and the Word of God our spiritual home, then we can rest assured in the knowledge that come what may we will always have a save harbor, a place of refuge, a place of healing, a place of joy, and a place of peace. He is the source of everything the heart yearns for, and by His word we obtain a multitude of grace and blessings.

When we have no spiritual foundation, we are easily swayed, easily beaten about by the storms of life. When our spiritual home is not firmly planted upon the rock that is Jesus, we readily succumb to sadness, hopelessness, and desperation, because the circumstances of this present life dictate our level of joy and peace.

In Jesus and by God’s Word we have victory over the enemy, and we overcome the trials and hardships that come upon us like the waves breaking upon the shore.

The durable foundation of God’s holy word also sanctifies us. We can show up to church every service, we can fast, we can adhere to ceremonies and traditions, but the only means by which we are sanctified that the Bible specifies, is by having the Word of God in us.

John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

These words were spoken by Jesus in the context of a prayer He prayed to the Father concerning His disciples, and those who would follow after Him. We are sanctified by the Word of God, because His word is truth. When we have the Word of God living in us, we have a sure and stable foundation, wherein we will not be deceived or led astray. We know the truth, the truth has made us free, and we praise God for it!

There are two equally dangerous extremes that have been sweeping the churches of today, because we did not heed the example of the rock badger, and did not build our home upon the rock of God’s word. The first extreme is the Word without the Holy Spirit, which only leads to the love of many growing cold, and the second extreme is the Holy Spirit without the Word, which leads to all forms of deception, manifestation and uncertainty concerning truth.

The Word of God in us, prohibits us from going to either extreme, and keeps us on the straight and narrow path of faith in Jesus.

Next we come to the locusts, which as the Word tells us have no king, yet they all advance in ranks. What could be relevant or important about this?

The principle we learn from the locust, is the principle of solidarity, or unity. No one is apprehensive concerning one locust. One locust is insignificant and easily dismissed, but a swarm of locusts is a reason for dread and fear. Locusts were the eighth plague that was released upon the land of Egypt during the time of Israel’s slavery, and as they fell upon the land they devoured everything in their path.

The locust’s destructive powers notwithstanding, the primary lesson that we must glean from them is their innate ability to be as one, to advance in ranks even though they have no leader.

We as children of God have a king, we have a leader, yet we have not learned from the locusts, so even with Jesus before us, the churches today are fractured and divided. There is strength in numbers, there is strength when the children of God get together and pray and seek the face of God.

In his letter of rebuke to the church of Corinth, Paul asks a question that should be posed in many churches and congregations today.

1 Corinthians 3:3, “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”

We see all the things that Paul mentions readily played out in many churches today. From envy because the church across the street somehow managed to erect a bigger building, to strife because we allow the opinions of men rather than the Word of God to guide our steps, to divisions because we just can’t agree on certain ideas and so must go start our own little clan, all these things are evident in the churches. As such, Paul would ask us today, if these things are among you, are you not carnal and behaving like men?

When there is solidarity among believers, when we are united in purpose and vision, the enemy will always be defeated, and he will be forced to flee. When we are as one, the enemy cannot cause division, when we are as one, the enemy cannot sow discord, when we are as one, looking to the author and finisher of our faith, we are strong, and we overcome all the fiery arrows that the enemy might fling at us. No one tells the locusts they must advance in ranks, no one guides them toward this end, but they know instinctively that by themselves, as lone locusts they are powerless. It is in their solidarity and unity that they discover their strength.

The last principle for spiritual growth, the final lesson we learn comes from the spider, which skillfully grasps with its hands, and is in kings’ palaces. From the spider we learn an equally important lesson, as we have already learned from the other three things which are little on the earth.

From the spider we learn the principle of persevering in our testimony and our confession. If you’re like me, then you have a natural aversion to spiders. I do not like spiders! It doesn’t matter how well insulated your home, how many screens you have on the windows, how careful you are about not leaving the door open when you come home, it seems a spider always gets in somehow.

It is inconvenient and outright frustrating to come home, and unwind after a long day at work, and look up in a corner, and see a spider merrily spinning its web as though it has no care in the world. The spider it seems never gives up; if you manage to destroy one of its webs but it survives, it just proceeds to spin another web, undeterred by the fact that his labors have come to ruination.

Because it is so perseverant the spider even makes its way into kings’ palaces, where it goes about its business undeterred. Spiders don’t make noise, they don’t call attention to themselves, they have a job to do, and they do it consistently and faithfully.

We can learn allot from the way in which a spider goes about its existence, and we can apply some of these lessons to our daily lives as well. We know that our pursuit of Jesus and the wisdom that comes from the Word of God is a lifelong one. As the spider, we must be undeterred in our pursuit, continually and consistently seeking that face of God, continually and consistently living lives of prayer and supplication, continually and consistently reading the Word. Yes the enemy will come in and try to destroy that for which we labored, but our purpose must remain unchanged. We pursue Jesus at all cost, we love Jesus at all cost, and any stumbling blocks in our path only serve to embolden us to press on, ever toward the prize.

One is as likely to find a spider in the most rundown shack, as they are to find them in the most opulent of palaces. There is no place that the spider will not go; there is no residence that the spider will not enter. The spider is not impressed by opulence and he is not deterred by poverty.

Many of us look at our lives, our background, our education, and allow these things to deter us from persevering in our testimony and our confession of faith. We start thinking to ourselves that we are not intelligent enough, eloquent enough, or brave enough to talk to people about Jesus, to tell them of the love and grace that Jesus freely offers, and so consider certain people off limits, or unapproachable. Be like the spider, be unimpressed with opulence; be undeterred by poverty; because the rich and the poor alike need Jesus, and you might just be the vessel He uses to bring a soul into the Kingdom.

Jesus commanded us to go into the entire world, and make disciples of all men! He didn’t say to go to the middle class, He didn’t say to go to those who are in poverty, He didn’t specify that we were to preach only to the rich, but to all men everywhere. Just like the spider, we must be consistent in our sharing of Jesus, and if at first we don’t succeed, we try and try again. If the spider can’t get in through the window, he’ll try getting in through the door, if the door is not feasible, he will search until he finds a crack in the wall, and still, somehow, get in and begin doing what he does.

So many of us are deterred by rejection; we try telling one person about Jesus one time, and if they don’t receive it, well we just give up. There is too much at stake for us to just give up. For the sake of men’s eternal souls we must persevere in our testimony, we must continue to speak of Jesus, even at the risk of being rejected.

One thing we have to realize is that people are people. It doesn’t matter what level of fame they’ve achieved, it doesn’t matter what social status they’ve climbed to, in the end they have hurts, and disappointments, joy and sadness, times of hopelessness and desperation like everyone else. And like everyone else, they need Jesus. Knowing that we have the remedy for heartache, for sadness, for hopelessness, may we be like the spider and be tireless in offering this precious remedy of Jesus and the cross to all we come in contact with. Be fearless like the spider, and by your fearlessness and your willingness to be mocked and ridiculed, you might just save a life.

It’s easy to preach Jesus when we’re among other Christians, when we’re in church or in a fellowship of believers, but Jesus must also be preached to those who do not know Him, who do not as yet know the power of His grace and love.

And so, from the ant we learn to make spiritual provision. To gather the Word and the fellowship we have with the brethren in our hearts for the times of spiritual famine. From the rock badger, we learned to build our foundation on the rock, where our faith can never be shaken, where the storms of this life will not succeed in overcoming us. From the locusts we learned that we are small, but when we are united, and there is solidarity among us, we are strong indeed. And from the spider we learned that we must be everywhere. Whether our place of work, whether our school, or our home, we must be about our Father’s business, call people to enter into the love of God, and persevere in our testimony. Yes, the wise man can learn something from all of God’s creation, even those things which are little on the earth.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Went to the Hand of Help site Sunday and thought and I did a double check on the web address, thinking I'd gone to the wrong place. I love it!