Somewhere not far from you, in an undisclosed location (they like to keep it that way), a group of ants is planning for winter. Methodically, laboriously, they’re hauling whatever it is that ants eat into a safe place. Though I’m sure they’re tempted to nibble on the profits, they resist the temptation to consume today. Instinctively they know that they must work now for the time when either they can’t work, or there won’t be resources available.
In the Middle East there dwells a little furry critter – something like a cross between a chipmunk and a badger. (In other words, he sings like an angel, but he’s in a really bad mood!) Seriously, this little mammal is something like a Rocky Mountain version of a prairie dog. He has no natural defenses, yet easily protects himself from predators. His secret? He makes his home in the little crags between the rocks. There he remains safe while his enemies get a sore nose.
You’ve probably seen one of them before. Or maybe you’ve heard that repulsive-sounding throaty buzz as they fly nearby. Hopefully you didn’t step on him. By himself, a locust is nothing more than an irritation. But if you ever saw a swarm of them headed your way, my guess is, you wouldn’t be sticking around.
Somewhere in the East, in a king’s palace, lives the royal lizard. Amazingly, while he could easily be removed or even killed, the royals leave him alone. Is it because the king has a thing for lizards? No, it’s because the lizard has made himself useful in the royal service. He eats uninvited insects that may show up in the palace.
No, I haven’t been watching a Discovery Channel marathon or “Dora, the Explorer.” I was actually reading the Bible, where the book of Proverbs (30:24-28) uses the world of nature to illustrate how you and I can multiply our strength. If you’ve ever felt suddenly unemployed, or endangered, or isolated, or overwhelmed, you have discovered that there is something better than strength – it’s wisdom. You can be small, but smart.
Like the ant, plan ahead for the day you lack the energy or resources to provide for yourself. Sure, that includes saving for retirement. But it means more than that. It means preparing for unforseen emergencies. It means not consuming all your other resources (time, health, money, energy, relationships, etc.) on today’s wants.
Like the rock badger, have a source of security that is greater than you. You may think you’re faster than danger, stronger than temptation, tougher than trials. OK, Superman. But the devil has kryptonite. David had God, who led him to a “rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61).
Like the locust, learn the value of teamwork. Hey, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto! Yeah, yeah, I know… you can get more done, and get it done faster if you just do it yourself. Problem is, that’s a two-edged sword. You can also be defeated faster, fall to temptation faster, get discouraged faster, and burn out faster, too. In the long run (something we don’t have much appreciation for anymore), you will multiply your results when you multiply your support.
Like the lizard, make yourself necessary. Be the one who is willing to do what no one else is willing to do. Know why the king got rid of the court jester and kept the lizard? Because the jester was entertaining, but he wouldn’t eat flies! Find a need and fill it.
The common theme: limitations don’t have to be your life story (and you do have limitations). With wisdom, they can actually be gateways to greater opportunity, productivity, and blessing. But it does take wisdom.
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