Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: Responsibility, Opportunity, and Unity
Preacher: Dena King
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Proverbs 6:1-19 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6).
Talent is a gift that not very many people have. To be naturally good at something and not have to work hard to achieve an ability is rare.
If you are good looking, you were probably born that way. You can’t choose your height (excluding heels), you can’t choose the economic environment you were born into, you can’t choose the color of your skin or eyes. You can’t choose your parents. You have little control over the environment you are raised in.
There’s only one thing that you can control, and that’s your effort. You can choose how many hours you put into a project, you can choose how consistent you are in creating space for what you are trying to achieve. Whether you are talented or not, your effort is one thing you can control.
Larry Bird was not a naturally gifted athlete. He was gifted with height, but he couldn’t jump that high or run that fast. At least not as high or as fast as most NBA athletes. Larry knew this, but he also knew he wanted to play professional basketball and be good at it.
His rookie year, Larry started a workout routine to better himself that he continued until he retired from the NBA. He wasn’t in the greatest of shape, so every other day he’d go to a track and each trip would try and beat his personal best mile time. Just before he retired, he dragged his used-up body out onto the track with some of his new teammates. They were astounded that this NBA veteran ran a 5:30 mile.
Each game, home or away, Larry would be at the stadium two hours before he was required to show up, and he’d shoot over 300 practice shots. This was added to his daily sprints, sit-ups, and stretching exercises.
Larry Bird wasn’t one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA because God gifted him with natural ability. He was one of the greatest of all time because he took what God gave him and applied enough effort to maximize what he had been given.
Recalibrate: What is something that you are not naturally good at that you are good at because you put effort into being good at it?
Respond: Pray these words: “Lord, help me to know what parts of my life to put effort into so I can be better used by You.
Research: Read Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More by James Clear.
Remember: “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light and the corrections of disciplines are the way to life” (Proverbs 6:23, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.
What can the ants tell us? Go outside and see if you can find some ants working. Watch where they go. I love how they get busy doing what needs to be done no matter what is in their way. No obstacle seems too big for these little guys to get around or over. They are truly purpose-driven little insects. So much to learn here.
Have you ever watched ants run around on the sidewalk? If it’s not too cold, go outside to find some ants to watch. If it’s too cold and you can’t find them, watch a video of ants on YouTube. Proverbs tells us to watch the ants and be like them. After watching that video, how do you think we should be more like ants? Draw a picture of an ant and write down the good things ants do on another piece of paper. Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Go watch the ants, you lazy person. Watch what they do and be wise. Ants have no commander. They have no leader or ruler. But they store up food in the summer. They gather supplies at harvest.” Ants are anything but lazy! What are some things you can do with your free time today to help others?
Solomon opens Verse 12 by saying there is such a thing as a “worthless” person. When you first look at this section, it seems to point to the fact that worthless people will be destroyed by God and left broken “beyond healing” (Verse 15).
A closer look at the rest of the section shows that Solomon’s categorization for being considered worthless is based upon someone’s internal issues that become external strife. The worthless person tells lies and makes false accusations against other people because they have a heart that is constantly devising evil plans to cause other people to fight with one another. While I don’t disagree with the idea that this is definitely a description of someone I wouldn’t want to hang out with, to call them worthless seems extreme when you think about God wanting to dispose of that person because they are without worth.
But look at it from a different angle and ask the question, “What does a person like this value?” If the answer is “evil,” then what is evil truly worth? We know from earlier chapters of Proverbs that wisdom is worth more than gold and diamonds. But what about the opposite? Wisdom and evil can’t possibly be related because we know that wisdom comes from God. Therefore, evil must be worthless.
If we look at people as jars that can be filled up with different things, a jar full of diamonds is greatly valuable. A jar full of lies is without value. But the jar can be emptied in either case and refilled as desired. Meaning the lies can be removed and replaced with wisdom and love just as the jar of diamonds can be dumped out and replaced with wickedness.
What is your jar filled with? And how valuable do you think your jar is now?
We all know that one person who is good at everything. They don’t even have to practice that much! They just seem to have talent that exudes from every area of their life.
Don’t worry about being like that person. Consider the ant! The ant doesn’t necessarily have talent, but it get things done! Why? Because day after day they stay at it. They don’t leave their post when the going gets tough; they just keep fighting.
There will always be someone more talented than you. There will always be someone with better grades, a nicer car, more money, and a more important position. Don’t worry about that.
Do your best, and keep on keepin’ on! God calls us to be like the ant. He isn’t concerned with us becoming famous, or the best. He wants us to develop character. I have found that the person with the most talent isn’t always the person with the most contentment and satisfaction in life. There is something divinely sweet about working hard and enjoying your how far you have come.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.