The Word of God is full of references to beasts, sea creatures and birds. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 10:29-31, where Jesus teaching his disciples says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (NASB) The beautiful song, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” was penned as a result of this passage and the almost identical verses in Luke 12:6 & 7. God must have wanted us to know not only the importance of birds, but the much greater importance of humans, for the Word of God repeats Jesus’ sayings in two books!
In Job 35:11 (NASB) we read, “Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?” Could God use a bird to deliver a spiritual lesson to us? My husband, Russell Bafford, had a chance to experience this very thing and I invited him to share it with us today on my blog:
While walking along the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky one sunny morning I saw a bird standing still at the edge of the river. He had long, skinny legs and a long, narrow beak … probably a heron of some kind. He remained motionless for the longest time. I became mesmerized at the sight of him standing there, and focused on him wondering what was going to happen. Then, all of a sudden, bam! He poked his long beak down into the water just a few inches in front of his legs, and he came up with a small fish which he promptly swallowed. Shortly after that he flew off. After reflecting on what I had just seen, here are the nine things I learned from that episode.
1. This bird knew where to go to find what he needed. Not to a junkyard… not to a barnyard…not to a desert…not to a mountaintop … not to a mall parking lot … not to a football field … not to a rooftop … but rather to the river. Are you looking for a job in the wrong place? There aren’t many cowboy jobs in downtown New York. If you want to make surfboards, you better not look for a job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. If you are looking for a Christian companion, go to where those Christians hang out … probably not to the local taverns and bars. (He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Prov. 13:20)
2. He had to leave his resting place to find what he needed. This took some effort on his part. It would have been easier for him to stay in his bed, and hope the food would come to him. But even this bird, with his bird brain, knew better than that. He knew he had to go out and look for himself. Do you wish you had a job, but wish someone would come to your door to offer you one? Do you wish you had more friends, and wish they would come to your door offering to befriend you? Get a bird brain … go look for what you desire!
3. He didn’t know the exact location of where his food would appear, but he did know the general vicinity of where it was most likely to appear. Even though the river is about a mile wide, he only went to the river’s edge. A fish that was 20 feet beneath the surface wouldn’t do him much good; he had to have something just a few inches down. A 50 pound fish would be too much for him to handle, but a one ounce fish was just about the right size. Could you really handle a million dollars right now if it was dumped into your lap? Would a thousand dollars be easier for you to manage? Our Lord told us to pray for our DAILY bread … not a year’s supply! There must be a reason for that.
4. He looked for his needs using the physical characteristics, senses, skills, and attributes with which God had endowed him. Those skinny legs look an awful lot like another reed growing up out of the water’s edge. His eyes were several inches above the water giving him a pretty wide view of the water around him. Be real with yourself. God gave you much more than a bird’s brain! Make a serious assessment of your skills, talents, attributes, and interests keeping in mind they are a gift from God proportioned to you in just the right amount according to His divine will. Don’t be surprised if others don’t have the same exact mix of attributes … that’s because God made you unique!
5. He had patience… he stayed at it until his needs were met … he never gave up. This took time. He was willing to spend the time needed. How long are you willing to wait on an answer to prayer from the Lord? Look at some examples we have from scripture … when Moses went up Mount Sinai to seek the Lord, he was more than just a new believer. He was more than a neophyte in spiritual things. After leaving Egypt the first time, he spent 40 years biding his time in a foreign land most likely gaining some maturity in his spiritual life. Then God finally told him to go back to Egypt, and bring His people out. Moses saw and participated in some mind-boggling miracles brought about by God’s own hand. And now this giant of the faith was summoned by God himself to ascend Mount Sinai for further instructions. But once he was up there he waited … one hour … two hours … three hours … then one day … then two days … then three days … still no response from God … (How patient are you when you pray? If we were really spiritual, we would all get an immediate response from God, right?) … Moses waited another day … then another … then after seven days had past, God finally spoke to him. If this spiritual giant of the faith had to wait a full week before God answered him, how long should we be prepared to wait on our sovereign Lord?
6. He was focused on the task at hand … not distracted by other things going on around him. There was a lot of background noise around him. There was a lot of other activity by animals and people going on around him while he was trying to stay focused. These other distractions did not care about his needs; they were unconcerned about his goals and objectives. The distractive influences had their own agendas that were different from his. Do you start with good intentions only to take your eye off the ball when the first distraction comes along? Then, once distracted, do you go back to the task you started? Did you ever begin a discipline of regular prayer & devotion time only to be distracted? Did you go back to resume the practice? There is a reason they are called DISCIPLES … because it involves discipline. Let us learn from this bird and resolve to emulate his focus and his discipline.
7. He recognized what he needed when he saw it. He had a pretty good idea of what his goal looked like. Things that did not match his goal were ignored. It has been said, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.” People often struggle for years to get a goal established in their lives. Most Christians want to know what God’s will is for their lives. This is a good place to remember Romans 12:2 which says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV) Are you looking to the celebrities in America’s popular culture for advice and direction? Look somewhere else. The key to knowing God’s will is to renew our minds to think His thoughts, to look at things the way He sees them, to respond the way our Lord would respond, to embrace and exercise the same value system our Lord has demonstrated for us. This is not easy, but it is something to which each serious Christian should aspire.
8. He took what he needed when it got within his reach. Even if he spotted a perfect fish 10 feet away it wouldn’t do him much good because it was beyond his reach. It had to be within his reach. Is it a surprise to you when God provides that for which you have prayed? Should it be a surprise? It should be a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, but should it really be a surprise to us when God answers our prayers?
9. When his need was met, he went on to something else … as if he was confident God would meet that same need again on another day in a similar way. Remember how Jesus told us to pray “… give us this day our daily bread …”
I really learned a lot from that bird. How about you?