Consider the Ant

Scripture: Proverbs 6:6-8
Date: 05/19/2007 
The Bible encourages us to consider ants and learn from them. Ants are diligent workers. They are very clean insects. They farm, they are very strong, and they are very cooperative. The church is made up of many different roles and all of us are necessary to function well, like an ant colony.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I want to welcome our visitors this morning. We’re very thankful that you have come to worship with us at Central Church whether you’re here visiting family or on a pilgrimage from some other country, we’re just delighted to see each of you here.

Earlier in this week, it’s typically my custom once a week I do the worship at Amazing Facts and it’s just supposed to be ten, fifteen minutes, a little devotional. In preparing for a brief worship I saw the scripture that we considered during our scripture reading this morning (Wasn’t that fun to see that dear little girl having to stand on a pedestal to open her Bible?) talking about ants from Proverbs. So I began this little worship at Amazing Facts and in preparing for that there was so much information there I was absolutely floored with the diversity of the ants and how complex they are and the very fact that they don’t have a leader. The more I thought about it and the more I studied I thought, “This is a whole sermon!” Well, you know I did a sermon once just on lions because they’re in the Bible, and I did a sermon on snakes. I don’t know how well that went over with the ladies. I did a sermon on bees, eagles, and I thought I’ve never done a sermon on ants. Now there may be some of you who are thinking right now, “Pastor Doug, I dressed up before I came this morning and this is a holy place. Do we really need to talk about bugs?” Well, the Bible does so you’ll have to take that up with the Lord. God has asked us at least two different places in the scripture to consider ants. So I took God at His word and I did a study on ants. I think it’s going to be very edifying this morning as we direct our attention to some very interesting creatures in our world that God tells us that we can learn something through so I’d like to invite you to “Consider the Ant” if you will, and there’s a lot we can learn.

Ants are amazing, absolutely amazing. For one thing just in the Amazon Jungle they figure that fifteen percent of the biomass of all living creatures are ants. In other words if you were to take all of the animals that live in the whole Amazon basin and weigh them, fifteen percent of the weight of all the animals there would just be ants. They’re all the way across the world from the tip of South America up to Alaska and just about everything in between. You can go to deserts, you can go to mountain tops, you can go to tundra, you will find ants. You find them in virtually every color. Ants come in green, red, brown, black, white, yellow, blue, purple, and pink (kind of like people.) Some colonies of ants, like one they have on the coast of Japan, is reported to have an incredible one hundred and eighty million queens and three hundred and six billion workers that are in forty-five interconnected nests. Just in doing a little more research this morning on ants they said they’ve now discovered networks of colonies that are many miles wide under some cities.

Some of you remember in Arizona a few years ago they developed this greenhouse. They called it Biosphere II. I used it a couple of times as amazing facts for one of our evangelistic meetings. Some millionaire donated this money to develop this biosphere and they filled it with all of these different parts of the world. They had one that was supposed to be like the rainforest and one section of this great big self-contained greenhouse was to be like a desert and one was supposed to be like a savannah and a forest and they put these eight “biospherians”, sort of like Noah’s ark, in here. They were supposed to live entirely on the environment for I think two years. Within a few months everything began to die. All of the vegetation, the fruits they were supposed to farm and just live off everything that was inside this self-contained unit. They bribed some of the observers on the outside to smuggle pizza inside. They all began to fight amongst themselves. The whole thing just was a total disaster. They all came out long before their first few months went by and they found out that the only thing that thrived in there were ants and cockroaches. Everything else died and someone has speculated that if the world was to ever end in some nuclear holocaust, ants would rule the world. Comforting thought. So, some advice, make friends now with the ants.

There’s a lot we can learn from them and I’ll share a little more trivia as we go on. For one thing I think everybody knows they’re very industrious. They work hard. They carry on very complex social organizations, building projects, communications. Now in most animals, when there’s groups of animals someone in the group is the leader. You’ve got a pack of dogs, you’ve got the alpha dog. You get a group of horses, a herd of stallions and you’ve got one that leads the herd. Even among cows they’ve got the matriarch. Among elephants they’ve got the leader. But ants accomplish so much and you say, “Well, don’t they have a queen?” Yeah, but she never gives any orders. She just lays eggs. There’s nobody, unlike some cartoons and things that have depicted like there’s captains and sergeants and all, no. They all seem to know what their job is. This has been one of the big conundrums for evolutionists. There is no logical way to explain how ants would ever evolve with every one of them needing the other, their very complex structure, it all had to happen at the same time because they all have different roles. Very industrious creatures. Matter of fact, another conundrum for the evolutionist is the fossils that they have found of ancient ants that date back to some of the very earliest dinosaurs that are supposed to be two hundred million years old are identical to ants today. They don’t know why haven’t they changed in all of that time? (Of course their dating method is all wrong.) Again our verse Proverbs chapter 6 verses 6 through 8.

Ants are not lazy. “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” You know what a sluggard is, that’s the old English word for someone who is sluggish and slow and lazy. “Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain,” Solomon observed that “overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” And we’ll talk about some of that in our study. They’re hard workers and they’re something we can learn from. Ants are not lazy. They work and they don’t let some others take up the slack while they drag their feet. They’re all going full-bore all the time when they’re working. Proverbs 13:4 “the soul of a” lazy man “desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” We should be diligent like ants and industrious in serving God as well as in our regular occupation.

Oh, by the way, they say that ants are probably the most intelligent of the insects. They actually have a brain. Many insects, they can’t find anything in them that even resembles a brain. Ants have this little organ that’s kind of mushroom shaped and when they began to examine it they said it has the same material from which human brains are made. Believe it or not, they do have an element of intelligence which is something to consider.

Something else about ants that I think we could learn from. In spite of the fact that you think they’re icky bugs they are actually very clean. Ants are some of the great cleaners of the world. Not only do they spend a lot of time grooming and cleaning each other to keep their bodies completely disinfected, but ants also… You can drop something on a trail… Pastor Mike reminded me when he was in Central America you’d see these trails running through the jungle. I actually put one up on the screen there that I found online. That’s not a path. You’ve got to go back to the other picture there, Sherle, the previous picture. You’ll see that path there? That’s not a human path. That is a path that’s made by either parasol, leafcutter, army ants or something. But they have some ants their whole job is just to keep the road clear. They’re road workers.

You go out and you drop a piece of debris in their path and sure enough they all get it and they throw it out of the path. Some of you have seen anthills and they’ve got their own little junkyard. After they get done having their little feast you’ll see all the little grasshopper wings and debris and stuff. They pile it neatly outside the den and they clean each other up. Matter of fact, ants are so clean, scientists are trying to learn what the chemical mechanism is, but ants actually spray a disinfectant on themselves and the food that they bring down in the den because if some disease… this might be why those ants thrived in that biosphere when everything else got sick and died. If ants get some bacteria and they bring it into the colony they know it will spread and kill everybody so they keep themselves clean to avoid being contagious. Ants to a great extent clean the world. You’d be surprised all around the world ants are cleaning. If you were to add up all of the people in the world, put them on a scale, then get all of the ants in the world, put them on a scale, the ants would weigh more than the people. You and I make a lot more mess than ants do. Ants are cleaning the world all of the time from debris. Christians can learn something from that. God has commanded us in His word that we should be clean. Isaiah 1:16-17 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good…” Like the ants we should spray ourselves with the antibiotic of Jesus’ blood and be clean. Amen?

Something else I thought was interesting as I began to study ants. They have interesting complementary, considerate relationships in God’s world in a number of ways. I’ll just tell you about a few of them right now. There are ants, for instance, when they live in the tree, they take care of the tree. They might live in an acacia tree and this is a picture where you can see a little ant hole in this acacia tree or this vine and they clean the tree, the tree provides food for them, they protect it from other bugs, but they will not bother the bees that come to the tree to pollinate the tree. They know what animals and caterpillars to keep away from eating it that will harm their home but they take care of it. There are ants that live in birds’ nests that will protect the birds and their chicks. They live in the nests, the ants inhabit it, matter of fact, sometimes the nest is the ant colony, and they have this symbiotic relationship. They’ll clean the birds. They’ll run all over the birds, but they won’t bite them. All through nature they’ve got a lot of these very interesting symbiotic relationships where they protect and they care for. In other words there’s a loyalty there that you can expect. Ants typically will not bite you. If you’re just standing somewhere and an ant walks along and he runs into your foot they won’t bite you. It’s when you get close to their house and you start creating problems for their environment that’s when they’re more of a threat.

Ants farm. The Bible Christians are told to farm too, aren’t we? It’s amazing. I mean, they really farm. There are some ants in Texas for instance that have fields that are one or two square yards around their nests. They collect rice from other places, the grain, they plant the rice, the keep the rice clear, they keep away the other bugs, they let it grow, they cut it down and they harvest it just like farmers. They put the seeds in the ground, they wait, they know when to put them in the ground, when to water, they know how to weed around it to keep everything out of the rice except the rice, and then they bring the grain back in and save it for the winter. By the way, we’ve been invited to farm. II Corinthians 9:6 Paul says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” You know Christians are compared to farmers. Jesus says the Bible is like gospel seed. We are to spread it, we’re to cultivate it, we’re to harvest it. One sows, one reaps. Our food, our bread of life is the word of God.

Some of you have heard of leafcutter ants. How many of you have heard of leafcutter ants? These are very interesting. If you’ve been down to Central or South America in the jungle have any of you seen them in the wild? It’s really interesting. They’re found in many parts of the world, mostly the tropical regions. These ants can be seen, they can totally strip a large tree of most of its leaves in one day. They cut them up. Their jaws, their mandibles are made like scissors that overlap. They’ve got a zinc coating so they don’t wear out. Their heads vibrate. They make this resonating, high-pitched sound with their heads so their heads are vibrating. Any of you remember those knives that you could turn on, the electric knife, for carving the turkey or whatever? It was actually serrated and vibrating and they found it cut much faster that way. So here their heads are vibrating while they’re cutting through these leaves with these mandibles that are sharp and serrated with zinc on them to keep them sharp. Just think it only took fifty million years for that to evolve that way.

An electric knife. So they’re constantly cutting these pieces of leaves but then they take the leaves after they cut them. They bring them down, they carry them, and it’s really something. Sometimes you’ll see them cut flowers and you’ll see a whole trail of moving petals. Sometimes they’re called parasol ants instead of leafcutter ants because they always carry them over their heads. There’s a couple reasons for that. One reason is, it’s probably easier. The other reason is, there are wasps that like to eat them and they try to use it to try to fan the wasps away if they come after them because they can’t protect themselves when they’ve got this piece of leaf or this rose petal in their mandibles and their mandibles are the only way they can use their pincer to protect themselves. Matter of fact, one group of leafcutter ants… (Can you tell I’m excited about this? I have enjoyed this study! It has increased my faith.) there’s one group they actually take a hitchhiker on the leaf with them, another ant that is there to ride shotgun and so every ant is not only carrying a leaf he’s carrying a buddy. Did I mention they can carry twenty times their own weight? Some ants more. They’re very strong. So they carry these leaves down into their den. They don’t eat the leaves. They put the leaves way down in the den.

They have another group of ants, much smaller, they chew them up into a very small pulp and then in one day. Oh, and they disinfect every leaf they bring down with this disinfectant they spray on them. And in one day those leaves that are chewed into a pulp begin to grow a fungus. You ever see mushrooms grow overnight? It’s just in one day. They eat the fungus. They make a bread out of it. They dry it, they store it, and then they eat that. Then they take out the debris after they’ve made their bread and they bring in new leaves and they’re constantly… they’ve got this factory down there where they are growing or farming this fungus. They call them fungus gardens that they have down there that they eat. There they are. Isn’t that appetizing? Potluck next week. You know it says in Proverbs, I told you there are a couple of scriptures that talk about ants. Proverbs 30:24-25 “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise…” and then one of which he mentions “the ants are a people not strong,” they’re just little; you can squash them with your finger, “yet they prepare their food in the summer…” They are a very amazing strong people. It’s interesting he calls them a people.

You know not only do they farm, they bake. Ants actually bake. There’s another group of ants, Mediterranean Ants, they will go out and they will gather grain. They plant the grain, catch this, this is really amazing. The grain sprouts. As soon as it sprouts they grab it. It’s because it softens the seed as soon as it breaks the sprout. They cut off the sprout. They bring it back down to their den. They’ve got these workers and their only job is they take their big mandibles, they mash this stuff up, and they make a dough out of it. Then another group of ants, they make it into cookies. They actually shape it into little bitty anty cookies. They then bring it back out of the den on a hot day. They set them out in the sun. They bake their cookies. Then once they’re dry they bring them back down again and they store them and they eat them through the winter. They eat cookies all winter long. Isn’t that amazing and they’re so different.

Not only that, there are some ants, they’re called honey pot ants. Have any of you ever heard of honey pot ants? Look at that. That is the ant’s abdomen. That almost looks edible. You’ve heard of people eating ants before. Any of you ever eat ants? Accidentally? My brother and I one day, I remember it. Tujunga, California, vividly still one of my earliest memories. Sitting out by grandma’s pool. Sometimes she’d give us ice cream on a hot day. We we’re sitting out there in the back yard and my brother told me, he says, “Dougie, you know there’s some people that eat chocolate covered ants in Paris.” He was older than me. He used to make fun of me. I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, put some in your ice cream.” I trusted my brother. I don’t remember any ill effects. I just felt sorry for them swimming around in the melting ice cream in my bowl, but I put a bunch of ants in there and I ate them. I mean, don’t feel sorry for them. What a way to go, drown in ice cream. That can’t be that bad. But these ants are really interesting. What they do, they’re not born like that obviously. None of us are born like that, but some of us get that way. What happens is, these ants, after they’re born, they are fed a lot of nectar by the other ants with the objective, and then they hang themselves from the ceilings.

Go to the next picture. Then they suspend themselves all winter long. When the other ants get hungry they come along and they just sort of tickle them with their antenna and they then excrete some of the honey that they’ve stored. So they’re feeding them, and they’re nursing them and they give it back. You know one of the things that excited me about ants, there’s a lot we can learn about ants, they don’t think about themselves. They are very selfless. It’s not about any one individual. It’s all about the whole colony. You know a church is something like that in that you and I are all just different parts of the body of Christ. I might be the pastor, but really I’m just doing my part I am called to do. I’m no more important than any other part of the body. We are all parts of the body and God has given us different gifts and the big thing is we are here to represent Christ in the world. Sometimes everybody is so interested in what is in the church for me, what can I get out of the church? What can they do for me? You’re not thinking like an ant. You didn’t know you were supposed to, but the Bible says we should consider it. They’re wise. It’s not all about one individual. Something else about ants I thought was interesting, oh, wait. Talk about the honey pot ants, how generous they are.

They store for others. Let me give you a few verses on that. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but the interests of others. Isn’t that the Christian spirit? It’s not just all about me, it’s about us. I’ll remind you in the Lord’s prayer, you don’t find the word I anywhere. It’s lead us, deliver us, give us, feed us… We should all be thinking more as a body. Amen? Ephesians 4:28 “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor,” for what purpose? “…working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give...” It’s not just about getting as Christians. We’re working so we can give to others. Matter of fact, Paul when addressing the wealthy in the church, he said, you should be “ready to give, willing to share…” It’s this idea about feeding others. We should all be honey pots, right? Be willing to store that we may give to others. By the way, that was I Timothy 6:18. I heard a story one time about a man who had a dream. He was taken and given a glimpse of heaven and hell. At first glimpse he saw that in heaven there was a banquet table spread with all of the most wonderful delicacies, and people sitting at the table. Then he was taken down and he saw in hell there was a banquet table spread with all of the very same delicacies. People were dressed the same, sitting at the same kind of table. He turned to his angel, he said, “I don’t understand. They’ve got the banquet and the feast in heaven, and they’ve got the banquet and the feast in hell.” The angel said, “Look closer.”

He looked closer and it didn’t look like the people in hell were very happy, but the people in heaven were very happy. He couldn’t understand and the angel said, “Look closer.” He looked closer and he could see that people all had these three foot chopsticks taped to their hands, and in hell they were all miserable sitting at the table and starving because they could not get the food to their mouths with these three foot chopsticks taped to their hands. In heaven everybody was happy because they were feeding each other. They’d take the food and they’d feed someone else and someone would feed them. This is kind of the way it should be for the Christian church. If we’re all preoccupied with bearing one another’s burdens… and by the way, ants are good burden bearers, aren’t they? Bearing one another’s burdens and making sure the others are fed and loving each other. I think before Jesus comes back the church is going to return to the place that’s described in Acts where it says “No man said that ought that he had was his own, but every man gave and sacrificed that others might be cared for.” That we’re all so preoccupied with outgiving each other that you wouldn’t have the selfishness and the squabbling that is so often seen today.

Something else about ants that I thought was fascinating. Christians should be good shepherds. Jesus talks about hiring shepherds that don’t really care about the sheep. Do you know ants are shepherds? Ants have domestic livestock. Yes, they do. Many different kinds of ants do this. One of the cases of this is a lot of the ants take care of aphids. How many of you have heard this before? They have little bitty aphids and they take the aphids and they put them on the tree or the plant that happens to be where their home is and they move them from place to place so these aphids can lock into the plant. They drink sap from the plant and then when the ant gets hungry it comes along and it sort of milks the aphid (except the aphid doesn’t have an udder. I won’t tell you how he gets the milk.) But he strokes them and the aphid gives him a little bit of nectar. So they take care of these aphids. They move them and when the plant starts drying out in a certain spot they pick them up, they carry them off to another plant and they do this again. They watch over them and they vigorously protect their little bugs that they take care of and the bugs like them evidently. There’s not been an interview yet, but eventually I’m sure someone will figure out a way. They carry them around, they protect them, and they feed them. Matter of fact, they’ll even make, show that next picture. I thought that was a beautiful photograph. See the little ant taking care of all its little bugs? They’ve got these other ants called herdsman ants.

When they drain the resources in this one location the herdsman ants will pick up their little baby bugs, they’ll take them to another tree, they’ll set them down. They even build barns for them to protect them. It’s just amazing. They are good shepherds. Here’s another one of all of the big ants taking care of their little domestic livestock. Those are called sheep bugs. No, I don’t know what they are, but just some little bugs that they take care of, they feed them, they guard them, they protect them, and they milk them every now and then. They don’t eat them. They protect them. The Bible says that we are to be shepherds and to be good shepherds. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” and He appoints us as other shepherds. What did Jesus say before He ascended to heaven to Peter? “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” Right? We should take care of them. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep, but a hireling is he who is not the shepherd, one who doesn’t own the sheep, he sees the wolf coming and he leaves the sheep and he flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.” The hireling flees because he’s a hireling. He doesn’t care about the sheep. We ought to be jealous for and care about each others welfare. We ought to protect one another. One of the great challenges when you have a larger church like this is to make sure that people don’t slip between the cracks, that folks are cared for. It’s so easy for people to miss a few weeks and then you forget about them and the wolves come in and get them. So what you need in a church is the pastors need under-shepherds who will also care about the sheep and who are watching out for each other and making sure that the sheep are prospering and that they’re being fed.

Something else about ants that I thought was fascinating. Ants are good soldiers. You’ve all heard about army ants and the idea of army ants strikes terror into a lot of people, but you’ve got to respect them because they are very dependable soldiers. Not just the army ants, but in almost every ant colony they have some that are the soldiers that protect. Sometimes they will be four hundred times bigger than the other ants. For instance in a leaf cutter colony of ants they’ve got these soldier ants, the guard ants, and they’re hundreds of times bigger than the itty bitty ants that are on the inside that are mashing up the leaves. They’re there as guards to protect the trails and to protect the den and they’re very tenacious and they’ll lay down their lives to protect the other ants. Something else about army ants that I thought was interesting.

Army ants don’t really have a nest. They have what they call a bivouac. They don’t dig a hole in the ground, they don’t dig a hole in the tree. What they do is they are pilgrims. When they travel from place to place they carry their babies with them, they carry their queen with them and they’re pilgrims. They’re on a journey. They’ll bivouac somewhere for a few days and they’ll go on raids and they’ll clean up everything in the jungle that’s in the way and Pastor Mike was telling me in Central America if army ants came through your house you had to move out for a little while, but he said it was great. When you came back in there wasn’t a mosquito, there wasn’t a lizard, there wasn’t a cockroach. Everything was totally cleaned up. Then they go back to their bivouac, and when they move you could see army ants when they’re moving their bivouac they’ve got their queen and there’s about fifty of them carrying their queen and there she’s laying eggs along the way. They’re carrying their babies on the nests and they’re carrying all of their supplies. I don’t know what they have, pots and pans and things, but they live like pilgrims. The Bible tells us that we’re something like that. Hebrews 11:13 “These all died… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Like army ants we should be brave and we should also recognize that we’re just here for a little while. II Timothy 2:3-4 Paul says we’re soldiers. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that wars…” We’re involved in a war here in this world. “…entangles himself with the affairs of this life…” Army ants don’t put their roots down because they’re living at war. We don’t become entangled with this world. We are pilgrims. We’re on our way somewhere else. No good soldier “entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Army ants are also fearless. It would be good for us to live without fear. I thought this was a great picture. Here you’ve got one ant taking on a snake. If anybody threatens the colony, they’ll lay down their lives to defend it. They’re absolutely fearless and courageous. It reminds me of that passage in Deuteronomy 20:8 when the Israeli army was about to go into battle Moses had instructed the priests to gather the soldiers together, and one of the first things the priest was supposed to say, there’s only one time in the Bible it’s recorded they did this and that was during the time of Gideon. The priest was to say, “If there’s anyone among you soldiers who is fearful and fainthearted, go home because your fear will be contagious among the troops and you cannot be fainthearted when you’re charging into battle. You must have courage in your heart.” God’s people must be without fear. How many times did Jesus say don’t fear? The world is already afraid. We shouldn’t be afraid. People will be attracted to a place where we’ve got courage in our hearts. Joshua going into the Promised Land, over and over he said, “Be courageous, be courageous, be very courageous.” So we can learn something from ants. They’re not afraid.

They work together. They cooperate doing their different responsibilities. Romans 12:4-6, I thought that this was interesting. How many of you have seen a variety of different ways where ants have some big obstacle and they manage to move something no one of them could ever move. Have you ever heard the expression ants could eat an elephant one bite at a time? Have you heard that expression before? I mean, it’s amazing how much they do when they work together they can just move tremendous things. Ants by undermining something have moved giant boulders just by digging under them. Little by little, this whole boulder starts to roll, and it’s because ants are digging under it and undermining it. They accomplish great things by working together. We should be working together. I started reading this verse. Romans 12:4-6 “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…”

One of the things that impressed me as I was preparing and studying about ants, it’s almost like every ant in the colony with his little bitty brain is one cell in a big collective brain. It’s the closest thing you’ve ever seen to communicating psychically with others. Without speaking, it’s like bees when they find honey they’ll come back and they do this dance to show where the honey is. They figured out how these bees communicate location with the dance. Have you heard about that? They can’t figure out how the ants manage to communicate with each other, but somehow it’s almost like they’ve got telepathy where their brain cell is connected with the combined brain cells forming one brain of the colony and they all know what to do and their jobs to get the right… they know right where to put their pebble when they carry it. Wouldn’t it be nice if the church was like we were all collectively the brain of Jesus? we all had collectively the mind of Christ and we’re all doing our part, our role, in the body and showing the world what the body of Jesus is like. I Corinthians 12:4 do you know what your place is in the body of Christ? If you are a Christian, if you are in the church, you have a job. Maybe pastors are just longing for you and the elders to let them know that you want to help, you’ve got a spiritual gift waiting to be activated, and you’ve just been kind of coming saying, “Well, it’s nice to be saved and come to church and have a church and I grew up in this church,” but you’re not part of the body.

You’re not doing anything. You wouldn’t make a good ant. I don’t mean to insult you, but every ant is busy doing something for the colony. Every Christian ought to be using their gift in some capacity for the body. Some of you might be thinking, “Oh, Pastor Doug, I’m getting up there in years and I can’t do much physically. I can’t sew anymore.” Well, you be a prayer warrior. Can you think? I mean, everybody if you can pray you can be part of it. Everybody has a role that they can use in the body of Christ. It’s not good for your soul to be sitting on the sidelines. It’s a sign of health for you to be engaged using whatever gifts Jesus has given you. I Corinthians 12:4 “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…” God has given you some gift to be used in profiting the body of Christ. It’s like the parable of the ten talents. Jesus said that to each one of these servants he gave something according to their ability. God has given you gifts to be used in His service somehow.

Have you heard about weaver ants? Weaver ants. They’ve got these ants that live in Australia. We’ve got some friends from Australia here. Maybe they have weaver ants where they live. I don’t know, but these ants actually all work together. When they make their nest they grab on different parts of the leaf and little by little they start to pull it over. At first they can’t reach both ends of the leaves so they grab the legs of the other ant in front of them and they kind of make these human chains (except they’re not human; they’re ant chains), and they pull the leaf over and they all pull together in the same direction (which is really phenomenal). Then what they do is they take the larvae, the little baby, and just at the right moment these babies know, I don’t know whether the ant is pinching them to make them do it, but they start to squirt out a silk and they use this silk and they start to sew and weave back and forth on these leaves all night long and then it dries and it holds them together. They build these whole big nests by weaving these leaves together and sewing them together and they’re stitching it on the inside and they’re stitching it on the outside and when they’re done they’re extremely strong and the wind can blow at them. Matter of fact, here’s a picture of the ants weaving together. Oh, you already saw that one. Yeah, there they are all pulling and stitching together. Weaver ants. I thought that was amazing. A colony may have a hundred and fifty nests on twenty trees over a span of six hundred yards, and sometimes they use them to protect the trees. They’ll run off beetles and birds. Christians are supposed to be sewing a tapestry of love helping others find the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

Have you ever heard of trap jaw ants? Another ant called trap jaw. I know that looks pretty scary. Listen to this. Keep that picture on the screen for just a second. Trap jaw ants close their mandibles at a speed of a hundred and forty-five miles per hour. Researchers say, listen to this, it is the fastest self-powered predatory strike in the world. The average duration of the strike is a mere point one three milliseconds. That’s a millionth or a thousandth of a second. It’s the fastest snap of anything in the animal kingdom. Matter of fact I’ve heard that some doctors use some ant heads and their mandibles as stitches. Have you heard of that before? Yeah, that’s right. They’ll take the heads of these ants and there may be a human wound and you can pinch together with your fingers this cut, you take the ant, you press his head there, he will bite and pinch it together and then you twist it, it will break it off and he won’t let go. They leave them there until they basically dry and fall off naturally. You never need to remove them. I guess that they’re sterile as I said. So we’ll try this out after church if anyone wants to volunteer. I wasn’t sure exactly how to apply that about the trap jaw ants mouths closing so quickly but maybe there’s something we could learn about closing our mouths sooner than we normally do. I don’t know. I wanted you to know that amazing fact.

Ants protect their own. They’re very loyal to their colony. If some outside force, whether it’s another bug or animal or ant, comes to invade they will lay down their lives to protect their own. Matter of fact, all ants in a colony are brethren. Talk about incest. Every ant… technically they’re all sisters. Did you know that? The queen ant when they start a new colony there are a few male eggs that are laid and hatched and all their job is, is they mate with the queen and once that happens they die and they’re gone forever. Then every other egg she will lay, and she may lay a million eggs in her life and a queen could live fifteen to twenty years, one queen at minimum is five years. They spend all their time taking care of her so that she’ll keep producing eggs. One of their big missions is to take care of that queen because if the queen doesn’t make it, the colony is doomed. She’s sort of like evangelism for the church. I mean, if we’re constantly spreading the gospel it saves us, it saves others and that’s got to be our goal. Oh, back to the brethren.

So every other egg she lays is a female and they’re all sisters. Well, every illustration could fall apart at some point, but you know what I liked is, have you been to churches before where everybody says “brother” this and “sister” that and it’s like they’re all family. I remember. It’s not so much anymore, but the little church I first got baptized into everybody talked to someone else. They said brother so-and-so and sister so-and-so and when our kids would talk to the others in the church we would say this is Aunt Linda, this is Uncle Joe. To this very day even some of our kids that are in their thirties they still call our friends back in Covelo aunt and uncle because they just have that family feel. Wouldn’t that be nice? Ants, they’re all sisters; they’re all brethren you might say. We should really look at each other as brothers and sisters. We’re a family, right? That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to fight so don’t get discouraged. Families fight so you can still fight, but you’re still family, right? You were starting to worry. All brethren and they protect each other. They bear one another’s burdens. Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” They’re community minded. That’s what I got out of this study that I thought was so helpful.

You know another part was encouraging to me is they care tenaciously for their young. Ants, when threatened, the first thing they will do is they will run to the nursery. If there’s a threat from flood, if there’s a threat from fire, if there’s some problem they have a mechanism that triggers and they run to their nursery, they begin to collect the eggs and you’ll see them begin to pour out of the nursery to protect the eggs. They’ve very tenderly carrying the eggs from the queen after they’re laid. They put them in the nursery. They roll them to make sure… They keep them the right temperature to make sure they’re going to grow, and when they get to the place where the little larvae are going to shed their shell they’re there to help them to unpack and to unfold and they care for them so tenderly. They know that if they don’t take care of the young the future of the colony is doomed. I was listening to the announcement that Alberta was sharing with her husband earlier about the school and caring for the young. If we don’t rightly train the young now in the church it’s just a slow death is all we’re going to see. I saw a church service, large church, on TV this morning. I won’t say where it was. Matter of fact, I don’t know where it was. While I was dressing I was watching the service somewhere and they took an audience shot and quite frankly it was just a lot of senior citizens. I thought, oops! If you don’t have some young families, if you don’t have some children that are getting involved and being kept active...

Do you know from the time an ant is born and it crawls out of its little shell it goes to work doing something. That’s why you saw today we’ve got little kids up here participating in the service, they’re helping with the music. You’ve got to get them involved in the work of Christ right from the beginning. I am not in favor, I think it’s okay sometimes for the youth and the kids to have a special service for them. It’s okay to have special things. It’s okay to have a women’s meeting and a men’s meeting and stuff. But if the women met separately every week, we’d have problems, wouldn’t we? If the teenagers and all the kids are relegated during the worship to some other part and they’re not part of the family you’ve got a problem there. I don’t think that’s healthy personally. I think that we all need to see ourselves as family, study together, worship together and develop these habits. When I saw that service today with all of those senior citizens sitting in the pews together and not a young face in their midst, I thought they came from the generation where coming to church was a commitment. You did it no matter what. They have that commitment. We need to raise up another generation that has that commitment and watch out for our young. Say amen. Watch out for the youth.

Ants are sacrificial, and by the way, this is my last point. Ants are sacrificial. What chance does an ant have? I got this one picture, I didn’t think it’d bother you too much to see an ant biting down on someone’s fingernail, but an ant will take on a giant if it means he needs to lay down his life to save the colony they do it. You’ve probably seen ants get into someplace where there’s some chasm that they can’t cross or some height that they can’t reach and they join all their bodies together and make a bridge. Some of them will basically donate themselves. They say I’ll just stay here and hang on as long as I can and you walk across me. They create a bridge, and all of the other ants pass over them. What’s really amazing is when you start seeing them develop a ladder like the picture on the right there and they go up and they lift each other up and everyone else climbs up on them. We want to do that, don’t we, friends? We want to offer ourselves as a bridge that others might cross. You know Jesus came to be a bridge between heaven and earth. The cross is the ladder between heaven and earth. Jesus said to Nathaniel, “Hereafter you will see angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.” Jesus provided that link between earth and heaven. We’ve been separated by our sin. Ants do that. They say, “I’ll be a bridge. Walk on me.” Wouldn’t it be nice if every Christian had that attitude? I’m going to be meek. I’m going to be spent by God. Use me, Lord, to help others find their way back to You. Sometimes if there’s a flood, especially this happens in the Amazon basin and the ants are at risk of drowning they’ll ball themselves together and here’s a raft of ants that you’ll see. They put all the babies on top.

Remember what I said about taking care of the young? They’ll all link themselves together, they say, the only way we’re getting through this storm is if we hook together. Some of them know they’re going to be at the bottom of the raft and yes, ants do drown because they breathe through their skin and they will die clinging together sacrificing themselves that those up on the top might live. They’re extremely sacrificial. You know I think you realize that’s a principle for Christians in the Bible. I remember the prayer of Moses when he said, when Israel got into trouble he said, “Lord, yet now if You’ll forgive their sin, but if not, I pray, bolt me out of Your book that You have written.” Paul said something similar in Romans where he said, “I am willing to perish that Israel, my people, might be saved.” That spirit of sacrifice. It’s not about what’s in it for me? It’s about God’s glory. What did Jesus say? “Greater love,” John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” You know sometimes in an army a general will order a group of reluctant soldiers to their death and they will march off in a suicide mission for the sake of others. Nobody tells an ant to go off on a suicide mission. They all do it on their own. It’s built in to every one of them to be willing to sacrifice their lives. I love this verse, Romans 5:6, Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And then Paul begins to muse in his heart and say, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” Even in this world occasionally people will lay down their lives to save a child or some other good person, but look at the amazing love of God. He’s inviting us, he says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,” enemies of God, Jesus died for us. He sacrificed His life for us even taking a risk that we wouldn’t accept it while we were enemies because He loved us that much.

Maybe you didn’t know we could learn so much from little bugs, but I think that even as you behold the things that God has made there are little stars, there’s illuminations, there’s little sparkling spots that reveal the character of God in the things that He’s made, yes, even ants. You can see the goodness of God. There’re some lessons for the church in cooperation, in love, in bearing one another’s burdens, in sacrifice. You know before I run out of time, I saw this study that I thought had some quick outline here. Look at some things that people do and then look at what ants do. Livestock farming, ants do that. They herd aphids, they milk them for nectar-like food. Cultivation, ants do that growing underground and above ground gardens for food. Childcare and nurseries, feeding and tending young, providing intensive care nurseries. Education, teaching younger ants the tricks of the trade. Climate control, maintaining the strict 77° F for developing ants. Career specialization, changing and learning new careers. They do. Sometimes they’ll train and they’ll change careers as they age. Armed forces, raising an army of specialized soldier ants for security. That’s another thing, security, warding off other ants, insects and mammals. Earth movers, moving at least as much soil as earthworms do.

Social planning, they maintain a ratio of workers, soldiers, and those who reproduce and clean and they just keep things balanced. Engineering, they can tunnel from two directions and meet exactly in the middle. They know how to build retaining walls. They know how to build flood control, and they don’t have but a brain bigger than a fraction of a grain of sand. Communications, complete tactile chemical communication system, and they seem to use telepathy. They still don’t know how they give information and they have a limited free-will. They have interrelationships that are more symbiotic than coercive. They’re not forced. They seem to choose to sacrifice themselves. They go out scouting on their own. They bring back the information. It’s amazing! Ants are amazing.

You know I’m inspired by ants. Maybe you think, Doug, you’re easy. I’m inspired by ants. I want to be a better servant. I’m inspired by their selflessness. Their attitude. I’m not teaching communism here. I’m teaching Christian body that we would have this spirit of it being about the body of Christ, about the church, and say, “Lord, how can You use me in Your cause? I want to serve You.” Is that your desire, friends? Am I the only one who found this was fascinating? If for no other reason I thought how could evolution be believed by anybody? There are over eight thousand different kinds of ants and I’ve only given you a fraction of the diversity and amazing things that they do. I see a picture of God in that. I see inspiration to be a better servant, to be a better part of God’s colony called the church. Do you share that desire? Would you like to say as we close, “Lord, that’s my plan.”

Our closing song is not going to be in your hymnal. It’ll be on the screen and I think it’s a familiar song. Oh, you’re kidding! I didn’t even practice. We didn’t have the music for this and so… alright. I didn’t know they were going to do this. Did you check to see if it was in tune? What key? Alright let’s stand together and sing this. It’s on the screen. It’s a simple Gaither chorus. We’ll do this a couple of times.

I will serve thee because I love Thee. You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me. You have given life to me.

Heartaches, broken pieces; Ruined lives are why You died on Calvary. Your touch was what I longed for. You have given life to me.

How many would like to say, Lord, by Your grace, I’d like to be a better part of Your body, bearing the burdens of others, be willing to be spent and spend myself for Christ. Is that your prayer? Let’s ask Him right now.

Father in heaven, we are so thankful for the things that we learn from taking Your word literally. You’ve asked us to consider the ant. Well, we’ve done that today, Lord, and it’s been inspiring as we contemplate the incredible, miraculous features that we see in this part of Your creation. We’re also inspired by the way they cooperate, the way that they sacrifice, the way that they give. Lord, I pray that we humans with brains that are infinitely greater can model those attributes of Jesus of love and sacrifice and work, industry, cleanliness, giving. I pray that You’ll bless each of us that we can be better parts of Your body and that You’ll give us that selfless, self-sacrificing spirit, the mind of Christ. Be with us, Lord, and I pray You’ll give us wisdom about how to apply these things in a practical way in our lives and in our church. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God bless you, friends. You may be seated, and I want to remind those who were baptized, if you could join the pastors at the door we want to welcome you into the church family. I think we’re also going to have Alberta there if you have some ideas about adopting a grandchild.

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