Perseverance

“Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer”
(Proverbs 30:25
).

Perseverance

 By Pat Knight

I was sitting on the lower step of the deck with my feet dangling, soaking up the spring sunshine, when I caught movement in my peripheral vision. It was only a black ant, but it claimed my rapt attention. Before long my eyes were intently following the industrious ant on its journey. The insect was carrying a disproportionately big load for such a tiny creature, quite possibly a morsel of food it was instinctively transporting to a large ant colony.

Obviously, in the caste system of ants, this member was classified as a worker. Its sole purpose in life was to labor to deliver food to the colony where various duties were delegated. The ant had a purpose and seemingly nothing would deter it. Up and over the pieces of dirt, branches, and grass it maneuvered. When it reached an impasse, the ant would retrace its steps until it discovered an alternative route. I watched it crawl the length of a blade of grass, only to reach a dead end (ants are not proficient at jumping). It then crawled back over the shaft of grass, persistent in locating another route, repeating the process several times until a clear path was found. All during its journey, the cargo remained tightly within the grasp of the ant’s pincers. I was amazed at the tenacity, persistence, and concentration exhibited by one of God’s smallest creatures. The ant also possessed the capacity to contort its body segments to avoid exposure to larger prey or to risk losing its cumbersome freight.

The little ant and its work ethic caused me to wonder how man would react to carrying a comparable weight. Humans are distinguished from the animal kingdom by their power of reasoning. How we approach a task often depends on our attitude. Details entangle us, which may cloud our vision or the outcome of the task. Alternatively, when we view a project worthy of our focus and energy, we push ahead, relying on God for help and strength. God wants us to depend on Him. Good attitudes combined with a vibrant faith in God result in accomplishments.  

At times we may assess our jobs as too demanding or difficult. Our normally ironclad will may crumble under adversity. In the face of hardship, discouragement erupts and we retreat. Our determination collapses. We ask ourselves, Why should I expend so much energy on an assignment no one notices? God, our resource of strength and encouragement, promises to provide energy for each task He regards significant.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). God allocates specific talents to each believer to enhance the body of Christ. Dysfunction and inefficiency would occur from too many people choosing their favorite roles. God knows the talents needed for the greatest functionality. With the gifts He apportions, He also provides the ability to achieve at our best. Aware that God supports us in all of our endeavors, we claim with the Apostle Paul, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

 When we mentally reclassify jobs as a calling from God, our work is dedicated to Him. Instead of seeking personal gratification, our efforts and the consequences are designated a gift from God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24b). By applying that mindset, even the most mundane task demands our best. Enthusiasm supplies added incentive.

In our workday, there are always challenges and obstacles to overcome. Like the ant who met dead ends on its journey, do we possess the flexibility to back up and try again? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). We need not feel repelled by strenuous work. It is good for the body and soul; an outlet for stress. When we tackle a worthy project, we may contribute to a larger goal affecting many people. Let us take another hint from the little insect: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25). Work hard to plan for future needs.

Ants live in a highly complex community of socialization where members perform a variety of instinctive, specialized duties. Each ant’s lifetime assignment keeps the insect colony operating smoothly. Though humans are blessed with multiple abilities and talents, we are admonished to “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

As incredible as it may seem, I followed the determined ant for an hour and a half that sunny afternoon. I observed it’s every advance and detour. Eventually, I had to walk from my position on the step to catch up to the ant’s sojourn; it traveled farther than my eyes could follow from one position. I am assuming the ant finally reached its destination, though I didn’t follow it that far. I had already learned the lessons God chose a humble ant to illustrate:

  • For utmost success, persevere with a positive attitude.
  • Nothing should interrupt our determination to get the job done.
  • Grumbling and complaining are futile and clash with God’s commands
  • Dividing a big job into smaller segments is less tiresome.

“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We are all God’s kingdom workers, spiritually united to live and work collaboratively and to grow together in maturity.

We learn from the work ethic of the ant. Perhaps one long journey was its only contribution to the colony during its short lifespan. If so, the ant’s single-minded tenacity was paramount. With our advanced, knowledgeable human minds, we learn the value of a superior work method from one of the tiniest of God’s creatures. There is no room for laziness and negative attitudes in God’s kingdom. He promises to supply the strength necessary to rejoice in His service.

“If anyone serves, he should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11). When Christians use the spiritual gifts God assigns, there exists tranquility when individuals cooperate with fellow believers for the benefit and harmony of the entire family of God.

Scrap Paper

I  have an update on Pat’s new book, which looks like it will be published this year in late summer or possibly in the fall. After much prayer, she has decided to name it “Feast of Joy.” I have already written an enthusiastic endorsement for the back cover and am really looking forward to reading this addition to her joyful series of books. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Scrap Paper

By Pat Knight

The paper is now yellow and tattered with only one sentence written repeatedly on both the front and back. It was more than fifty years ago when I wrote determinedly until there was no space left near the torn edges. Recently I have taken steps to preserve the relic by laminating it. Now the sentiment of my past remains safely tucked inside my Bible as a poignant reminder of the exceptional, unexpected methods God devises to draw me to His side.

I clearly recall the frustration I felt when I sat at my desk in my college dorm room staring at a monumental stack of books written in a new and unfamiliar language. I had managed to complete three weeks of the first semester. Now my assignments were piling up, and my only reaction was defeat. Many miles from home in an alien city, I was lonely. I had met many new friends, but unlike me, they all exuded confidence. Was there anyone experiencing the disarray of emotions I was feeling? I was overcome with a sense of helplessness that I feared would lead to certain failure.

With the last shred of emotional energy remaining that evening I grabbed my Bible and adroitly flipped to a favorite, reassuring verse. There was no need to find the passage; I had memorized it long ago. As I pondered the verse, I began scribbling on a random piece of paper. I prayed the words of the verse as I wrote, as if putting the promise in my own handwriting would transplant them in my mind this night. The apostle Paul admitted, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). I was scribbling feverishly and ultimately covered the half piece of paper, front and back, for a total of eighteen repetitions. Completely spent, I then plopped into bed. No homework was done that night. But, I had a new commitment. I would make it through college with Jesus at my side, empowering me each step of the way.

Though that experience occurred in my youth many decades ago, it left me with an impressionable lesson. Philippians 4:13 was my new goal. I have used it often and with conviction. God proved that He and I could accomplish anything together that conforms to His will.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he penned a letter to his fellow Christians in Philippi. If Paul grasped the reality of God’s promises from prison, surely I could acknowledge God’s interaction in my own life, to be and to do what He establishes as my goals every day. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Old Testament reveals that due to disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. As a result of their outcry, after four hundred years as slaves in a foreign country, God revealed His magnificent plan to free His people.

God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and land ownership in the Promised Land. But Moses was resistant and flatly refused the assignment. He told God he wasn’t eloquent of speech or believable and he argued at every reassurance God offered. Finally, God had witnessed enough rebellion and insisted that Moses accept the appointment.

There were many challenges ahead for Moses as he frequently dealt with a defiant nation of people who first agreed to God’s commands, but soon thereafter disobeyed them. On many occasions Moses wanted to quit, but God always provided the needs of both Moses and the people, often in miraculous ways.

Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian militia, and he delivered the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God’s hand. For forty years he led a large and stiff-necked people. In his lifetime Moses progressed from a skeptic to a believer who was totally reliant on his Lord. What an example Moses left for all of us!

Every day we face opportunities, responsibilities, and questions for which we do not know the answers. Assured God is always available to help and lead us, we are willing to obey what He asks of us. “‘Call to me and I will answer you, great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3). What an exciting Christian life is possible when we remain malleable and obedient for God to use for His purposes!

Whenever God sends us to witness and work for Him, He desires to accompany us. There is nothing to fear when God is near. Moses demonstrated God’s partnership in his life by developing into one of God’s most powerful and effective servants. He didn’t begin that way. When God presented His plan, Moses argued, asking God to send someone else. Have we unwittingly refused God’s plan for our lives? If we feel His leading and refuse to follow, we act as stubborn and as disobedient as Moses did. When God formulates a plan for our lives, He intends to make it a rich, growing experience, one with a secure future in which we work side-by-side with him. “‘So is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’” (Isaiah 55:11).

There is peace and joy serving God, with no limits to what you and God can accomplish together. If you harbor any doubts, then I suggest you grab scrap paper and start writing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Allow plenty of room on the paper—repetition reinforces ideas and you may want to save your work as a life-long reminder of God’s leadership!

Hopeless or #Hopeful?

HopeChestertonQuote--AMP

As long as matters are really hopeful,
hope is a mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless
that hope begins to be a strength.
Like all the Christian virtues,
it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.

–G. K. Chesterton

My Shelter

Ps73-SovereignLord-Pier--AMP

My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

Renewed #Strength

Is40-31-Eagle-SnowCoveredMts-40--AMP

Renewed Strength

By Patricia Knight

 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31)

Eagles are magnificent birds, flying at level speeds around thirty miles per hour. It is fascinating to observe the great birds soar without flapping their wings for long periods of time, gliding on thermal updrafts, disappearing above the clouds at altitudes of a mile or more.

The eagle is opportunistic and fast. Spying rodents in a field or fish swimming beneath the water, the eagle can obtain diving speeds of one hundred miles per hour, splashing into the water to grasp a fish with its sharp, curved talons. Capable of lifting its prey while ascending at full speed, the eagle may slice the catch with its hooked, razor-sharp beak to eat in mid-air, or it may deliver the meal from miles away to feed eaglets in the nest.

God masterfully created the eagle with hollow bones for minimum weight and maximum flight aerodynamics. Each bird is covered with about seven thousand feathers, tapered for flight and downy for insulation. It has been estimated that, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane. Is it any wonder our Lord has selected the example of the eagle to promise the renewal of our own strength? 

Human weakness provides the ideal occasion for the display of divine power. The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly for God to remove his distracting physical problem, but the Master Physician replied that the better solution would be to convert Paul’s weakness to His sovereign strength. God’s answer prompted Paul to admit, “‘For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’”(2 Corinthians 12:10).  Paul  established his priorities and trust in the almighty source of all power, who promised to respond to believers with the gift of extraordinary strength. 

The classic example of power in weakness is the cross of Christ. “He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Imagine the tremendous divine force required to raise Jesus from the dead, the ascension power that restored the Son at the right hand of the Father in heaven. That same immense power is available to those who believe.

SpiritualEmpowermentPTZ--AMP

Though our Lord delights in enhancing our physical strength, He is far more interested in providing our strength of character by empowering us spiritually. “‘Let not wise man boast of wisdom or strong man boast of strength; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in this I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).  

The apostle Paul prayed to God, “‘that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you … may have power … to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God’” (Ephesians 3:16-19). How incredible that God desires to share His infinite love and strength with His finite children! His magnificent love measurements are beyond our calculations, unfathomable in human understanding. God desires to fill us up to the brim with the inexhaustible measure of His love.

Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would experience God’s “‘incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength’”(Ephesians 1:19). In Greek, the term for God’s greatness of power is “dunameos,” the  origin of our word dynamite. God’s power extended to us transcends the force produced from a blast of dynamite, the intense power of an atomic bomb, or the energy required to launch a rocket into space. God promises that His power will be available to us upon request, for the purpose of buttressing our stamina to serve Him. Spiritual dynamic power is ours to claim!

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your heart and strengthen you
in every good deed and word”(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

We were created in our heavenly Father’s image. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we assume His characteristics of purity and righteousness. God not only commands that we mirror His personality, but that our motives align with His. He provides the inner strength we need to maintain a sovereign replica.

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28). The grieving psalmist asks for God’s encouragement in order for him to endure emotionally. Strength is endowed for truth and obedience to prevail, providing a lesson to us about requesting our Lord’s intervention for our daily needs and emotional courage. Like the eagle who is uplifted in the thermal air currents, our spirit rises on the strength of God’s provisions. 

Extraordinary expressions are emitted from those of us who observe the graceful, powerful feats of an eagle soaring to the heights of the atmosphere. Do we exclaim in proportion to the Designer of such a magnificent bird, for His awesome gifts to us? As with humans, the eagles’ only strength comes exclusively from its Creator. Let us soar in God’s love and glide on the strength of His encouragement, as He lavishes us with gifts of love and power!

Lean on God for powerful #strength

No matter what is going on in your life:

  • if  you are alone and lonely
  • if you are in dire financial straits
  • if you are living with chronic pain
  • if you are in the midst of the worst valley of your life

leaning on and trusting God for strength and direction always produces a mighty faith, joy, and hope. And how can you not share all of that with those who need to hear it? 

NoStrengthGodPowerful-Collage-DLMoody-50--AMP

When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.
—D. L. Moody

As I’ve written about before, the short version of our church’s mission statement is “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19). To be able to do that effectively, we pray for each mission. We also pray over our bikes and riders, that God will use these to spread His Gospel message, for His glory.

Each year we also gather in several different places for the annual bike blessing. The photos in the collage above are from the bike blessing on March 15, 2015 at the Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson dealership in Mayer, Arizona. The prayer blessing was led by Pastors Joe and Tim of our Full Throttle Biker Church. I thought it particularly appropriate to make up a collage using photos from one of this year’s bike blessings to illustrate D. L. Moody’s wonderful quote.

Please visit Full Throttle Biker Church AZ and Celtic Cross M/M on Facebook to find out more about us. You do not have to be a biker to be a part of our church and ministry.

The Sovereign LORD my shelter

Ps73-SovereignLord-Pier--AMP

My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

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