Strength in numbers

Ant-architects

I hate ants. Seriously hate them. They’re disgusting creatures and I have to admit I wonder why in tarnation (I’m in Texas as I write this so I figured I’d use proper lingo) the Lord created them. I remember when I lived in Texas many years ago I encountered different types of ants than I’d seen before … fire ants. These critters are brutal and for tiny little things pack quite a stinging punch. I remember living in New York as a kid and going outside the city from time to time and they had these black ants that were HUGE. No matter the type, hate them.

But there’s something incredible about them. They are incredibly strong, and they exhibit something superbly important for us … strength in numbers. Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.” Ants do indeed work incredibly well in groups and accomplish a great deal because of their interdependence and reliance on one another. Each has a role, but they also support one another. Therein lies what moved me this week as I read through Psalms 148 – 150 and Proverbs 25 – 28. The application comes from Proverbs 27:9 – 12

Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away. Be wise, my child, and make my heart glad. Then I will be able to answer my critics. A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Now I’m not saying people are like ants (unless you’ve been to New York City recently, in which case that’s exactly how all those folks look to me, particularly when you look at them from high up in a building. But that’s not the point. As I read through the passage above, particularly in light of the stuff going on in our lives and the lives of our friends the past few weeks (see last week’s blog post), it struck me how critical it is that God created us to be community-based beings. Perhaps not exactly like ants, but similar in some ways.

We’re not meant to live in isolation. Especially when it comes to the Christian life. If we go to church without becoming part of and eventually being the church, we’re missing the point. As the passage from Proverbs 27 wisely instructs us, when the disasters of life happen (not “if” but “when”) we have others available to help. When my friend Kevin passed away a couple weeks ago, it was overwhelming to see how many people were in the ICU to pray, console and support Jen and her boys. So much so that the ICU staff had to scoot us away at one point.

Somewhat like ants, when we live in community with one another we can accomplish far more than we can individually and independently. As I’ve noticed over the years, there is always … ALWAYS … someone around that has skills and gifts that I don’t. When it comes to ministry, for instance, I’m a good “idea” guy. I love coming up with ideas for events, ways to minister, etc., but don’t expect me to execute or administer well. I’m not the most organized guy in the world. But when I partner up with Helen … who is masterful at administration and planning, man we are a potent team!

But it’s more than that. When we most exhibit strength in numbers is in the turmoil in life. Things go wrong. Bad stuff happens. It’s unavoidable. It’s in those moments when we see the benefit of others in our lives who walk the roads with us, particularly the bumpy ones.

I’ve heard … not that I’ve actually done this before, mind you … that if you light an ant hill on fire, all the ants come out to jump on it to smother it, often sacrificing their lives. I’m neither advocating lighting ant hills on fire (please do NOT try this at home) nor am I equating challenges in life to fire, but there’s a parallel, isn’t there? My friend who has been struggling with emotional and biochemical issues has literally been smothered in prayer and support as has his wife. I suspect they’d agree that it feels a little like a fire, and certainly quite as painful, and I also guess that they welcome the sense of smothering as folks sacrificially jump on the painful circumstance on their behalf.

One of the principal reasons to be part of a bible teaching church community is this support. Both having the support and most importantly, being this support. I know categorically that if (okay, when) things go awry in my life or in our family, we have literally dozens of folks that we won’t even have to ask for help … they’ll just be help. But they can rest assured that we will ask. There’s NOTHING wrong with asking for the help. In fact, the opposite is true. As the passage above points out, “The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Being a simpleton is the same as being foolish. So, it’s foolish to not seek help in navigating the tough times in life, to have help available and not seek or accept it.

It’s similarly unwise to not cultivate that type of help. If you’re not part of a church community … a bible teaching community … find one! (email me for suggestions if you need one regardless of where you are) God didn’t create us to live alone and He doesn’t expect us to live alone now. Let’s face it, when we see all the craziness in the world, is there any wonder why it is incredibly important that we all find strength in numbers?

Let’s pray this week for God to help us connect in a meaningful way with a community of bible believing folks. Let’s also go before Him to ask Him how you and I can better serve others as a community. Belonging and being are the critical elements to providing and receiving strength in numbers.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

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