Look at the ant

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

The Bible often asks us to look at the world around us and learn lessons from nature.

In the Old Testament much of the book of Proverbs consists of short, pithy statements of wisdom, but there are some longer passages also which direct us, among other things, to the world around us.

In Proverbs 6:6, for example, there is a lesson from one of God’s tiniest of creatures, the ant. We are told, ‘go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise’. Or perhaps as we might say, ‘look at the ant, you lazy person, and learn a wise lesson from it.’

Did you ever stop to look at ants for any length of time? If so, did you ever see a lazy ant - one doing nothing? In verse 8 of the same chapter the writer, Solomon, reminds us that ants wisely store up their food in summer or harvest time. In verses 9 and 10 we are told that the ‘sluggard’ (that lazy person to you and me) will sometimes sleep in, or fold their arms and rest – if they do ‘poverty will come upon [them] like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.’ We need to be wise.

In the farming community in Ireland we all know the unpredictability of our weather, and how important it is for farmers to be wise, taking the opportunity of every ‘window’ of good weather to gather in the crops, especially the grain harvest. And, if a farmer lies in, and folds his arms, and is careless, he may well miss his opportunity.

I think it was 1985 and the month of July hardly had one dry day, at least where I was living in County Down. But I remember a farmer getting hay baled in good condition. It had been lying for a few days and had been turned a couple of times, but rain had come and it had to be left a few days more. Then one morning there was yet more rain, but it stopped about midday. Once again, the farmer turned the hay two or three times during the remainder of that day.

It was still dry next morning, so he turned the hay a few more times and it was ready for baling that afternoon. Even 30 or more years on it remains vivid in my memory as I helped him stook the bales. It rained again that evening.

Without diligence, which is obviously an important commodity in agriculture, that hay may have been lost. But how much more important is it when we think of spiritual matters? The Old Testament prophet Isaiah tells us to ‘seek the Lord while He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6). You see, when our lives come to an end, nothing else matters than knowing Jesus as our Saviour.

It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, famous or unknown, or whether we have 50 acres or 500. All that matters is that we have truly trusted in Christ as our Saviour - so we should seek Him diligently now, while we still have the opportunity. Look at the diligence of the tiny ant and be wise!

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.