Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:1-5
I really enjoy situations where everyday occurrences demonstrate spiritual truths. I had just such a thing happen to me recently. I stepped outside one early morning to let the dog out to do what dogs do. As I stood on my back stoop, I heard the unmistakable sound of a woodpecker in a tree. I looked up into the large maple tree behind my house in search of the bird. After a few seconds, I found him, perched on a high branch that extended horizontally, pecking away at the branch in search of an early morning meal. The cold damp wood provided a sound more that was more muffled than the usual noise woodpeckers will make. I found it appropriate that the bird was considerately keeping the noise down at such an early hour.
Moments later, the tranquility of the morning was disrupted by a second woodpecker who was less than pleased with the presence of the first bird and the work he was doing on the branch. This bird was certainly not your cartoon character, laughing, jovial type of bird, and he made this known through his screeching and repeated dive bomb attacks on the opportunistic intruder. This scene played on for a good sixty seconds, piquing my interest. As the smaller woodpecker flew at the head of the first bird, I was impressed by his reaction. The attack would come and he would deftly hop to his right, gripping the side of the branch. Once the bird flew past, he would simply hop back to his spot and resume his work. This process repeated itself seven or eight times with the same response and outcome each time. In fact, the first bird didn’t even seem bothered by the attack. Instead, he made it a part of the process of making his hole in the branch – peck, peck peck peck, hop hop, peck peck peck peck, hop hop, and so on…
As I watched this play out, I was impressed with the perseverance of both birds. The first bird had found what he was looking for, got to work and was determined to accomplish what he had set out to do. He faced challenges from the attacking bird, but never did he get distracted by them. He dealt with them in the way that made the most sense and created the least amount of delay in getting back to his ultimate goal. He didn’t get mad, fight back, run away, or give up his rightful place – all things he certainly could have done were he not as focused. This is precisely the determined approach that God desires us to have when we face challenges in our lives. We don’t know the reasons behind His plan or the timing or methods He plans to use – don’t need to because He’s got it. We know that distractions and attacks are going to come, so we prepare ourselves to deal with them by tapping into the strength of the Father who gives us patience, peace, and resolve. Yes, it took time and effort for the bird to get his meal, but he did get it as his perseverance paid off. We too learn that persevering in the promises of God will also pay off for us each and every time.
I also mentioned that I was impressed with the second bird’s perseverance, albeit for a far different reason. His example stands to remind us of how we sometimes latch onto a problem or a hurt and refuse to let it go. Clearly angry that the first bird has taken control of this one small branch of a thirty or forty foot tall tree, he set out to do all he could to gain back control of this little piece of wood. Yes he fought valiantly, but what I couldn’t understand was that here is this massive tree filled with tasty crawlies – FIND ANOTHER BRANCH! But in his mind, he had to have that one spot or nothing. His refusal to see the blessing that God had given him in the form of a huge tree and lots of bugs simply made him angry, hungry, and dissatisfied. Have I just described anyone you know? Have you ever found yourself in that position? I’ve been there and looking back upon those times I can honestly say that I thank God for leading me to a place where I seek to avoid that type of self-centered, short-sighted thinking.
God has promised me many things. On some things, he has been very specific and on some, rather vague. In either case, my expectation is strong and my confidence in Him to provide is high. It does not matter what the situation may look like today, what it looked like before, or has to happen to get to that place. Those are factors beyond my control and unworthy of my thoughts or energy. God promised, I believe Him, end of story.
Will God keep his promises to us in just such a manner? Next time I see that bird, I’ll ask him, “Would He, Woodpecker?” (Sorry about that)….