But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:27)
The bumble bee story has long been used in motivational training as a statement of man’s unlimited potential once we free ourselves from the restraints of inadequacy, doubt, and societal expectations and norms. The theory behind it is that the little fellow is not built to fly. His large, ungainly body and tiny wings are disproportionate and apparently break all rules of aerodynamics. While I don’t profess to know or understand all the reasoning behind it, there seems to be general consensus that he shouldn’t even get off the ground. The ‘crunch’ of the story is, of course, that no one told the bumble bee, so he flies happily because there’s nothing to stop him.
While there is some degree of truth and logic to the inference that we become what we believe, and the Bible itself does point this out in a number of different ways, our little bumble bee is an illustration of a far greater and deeper truth. God designed the little chap in every way opposite to what a flying creature should be. Right from the get go, God turned logic, reasoning, and conventional scientific wisdom on its head. Then, God did the unthinkable. He added tiny wings to the unflyable and had it fly. There’s no doubt that the impossible got our attention. The bumble bee will remembered forever as the one that broke the rules.
The ways of God are intended to challenge and confound because they always imply the impossible.
This complete reversal of conventionally accepted ‘rules’ is the very heart of today’s verse. God’s ways are not our ways. He overturns expectations, and little details like the bumble bee remind us so clearly that this is so. He deliberately works in ways that upend the wisdom of the world and transcend the limitations of the natural. If we’re looking for God to move in a situation, we’d best expect the unexpected. Everything He does is the antithesis of ‘what I would do’ for one simple reason. This is how He reveals His power, supernatural grace, and glory.
It’s also how he keeps man from destroying himself through arrogance. Think for a moment of the Tower of Babel. Mankind typically venerates agreement or unity. If seven people out of ten agree, it’s a majority and is then taken as agreement. This was the principle that drove them at Babel. They agreed to build the tower ‘whose top would be in the heavens.’ If you look into the architecture and its religious symbolism at the time, it’s very clear that the tower was the ultimate arrogance – man replacing God through something of his own making. But the ways of God will never allow the ways of man to prevail.
God’s response was immediate and characteristic. He didn’t bother upending the tower. He upended the unity. He upended the fundamental arrogance of the belief that they could do it without God, that they had the wisdom and knowledge and strength to achieve anything they wanted on their own. This, of course, is basically the same premise that drives our modern day interpretation of the bumble bee story – so long as we don’t read or believe the memo, and so long as we create our own rules and conventions, we can do and be anything. The ways of God use the same basic premise but with one fundamental reversal – we can do anything through Him. ‘Me’ is written out of the equation
Babel reveals that it’s an attitude of arrogance that prevailed in the world since the very beginning. New age, which is essentially the move towards the new world order, is the extreme manifestation of this in a world running out of time. It’s no surprise, really, that this should be the common focus among all other sects, religions, cults, and social programmes. It’s man rebuilding Babel in preparation for the the coming of the Antichrist. Sadly, man cannot seem to see past the truth that we’re actually building our own destruction. That’s the irony, of course. In ‘worshipping’ our own independence from God, we’re creating our own captivity and eternal damnation.
Against this background, it’s so much easier to understand the nature of today’s verse. God’s ways are, and always will be, the exact opposite of what the world demands and expects. He works in paradox – we must die to live, lay down our lives to gain them, love those who hate us, believe what we cannot see in order to see what we believe. I encourage you to meditate on this. Take time to consider the paradoxes that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ reveal, and every other one you can think of in both the Old and the New Testaments. It’s guaranteed to change our perspective.
In short, this is real relevance of the bumble bee. He’s you and me, and he’s every believer. We are, in effect, created to be and do what the world has decreed is impossible. We are created to break the rules of conventional wisdom and defy the rules of conventional strength. We are created to fly in defiance of every manmade restriction, limitation, and tradition. We are created to fly for one reason only: God said so. The bumble bee is essentially God reminding us that with Him, all things are possible.
We read today’s verse and quote it often, and it’s a great source of encouragement to remind ourselves that our weakness, our foolishness, and our inadequacies are the very things God desires in order to reveal His strength, His wisdom, and His omnipotence. It’s wonderful to remind ourselves that it has nothing to do with what and who we are, or even who and what we are not, and everything to do with the almighty God of the universe. All of this is relevant, all of this is real, all of this is revelatory.
But let’s not forget one bold truth – God intends that we fly. Our obedience to God is not a static, sedentary response of surrender. It’s an active obedience, like that of Isaiah – ”here am I Lord, send me.’ Surrender first, then obedient action. Remember that it is in flying that the bumble bee breaks the rules. While he remains on his legs, he’s simply another ungainly insect with tiny wings. It’s only when he spreads those wings and launches into the air that the rules are upended.
That is the real challenge of today’s verse – are we willing to fly, trusting that our obedience will be used by God to do whatever confounding He has in mind? It’s a real challenge because it hits our insecurities first. Consider this for a moment, using our bumble bee as a kind of yardstick. Perhaps my insecurity is speaking in public. Bumble bee logic suggests that this is exactly where I’m going to be challenged. If this represents what is ‘impossible’ for me, then my doing it is going to send the real message that it’s God doing it, not me. That doesn’t come across as strongly if I’m an experienced public speaker. The less there is of me, the more there is of the glory that is God’s alone.
The power of God at work in us is basically making something out of nothing. There’s no room for complacency and no space for self. While God will and does use the gifts, talents, knowledge, and experience that He has blessed us with, it will always be within the context of this verse. We can blithely mouth the old saying about rather being a fool for Christ than a wise man in the world, but have we really considered what it actually means? Anything God does will contain the element of the impossible.
It’s an age-old conflict between man’s complacency and arrogance and God’s sovereignty. The moment we start to feel confident in ourselves and what we can or cannot do, God will respond by confounding. He’ll respond by upending, turning inside-out, and reversing every single attitude, expectation, logic, reasoning, scientific process, or intellectual understanding.
In short, God will take the little bumble bee that is me or you, and will shove us lovingly off the edge. He’ll command us to fly in the face of the world and achieve what we and the world define as the impossible. We do it because He said so, and what He says will be. The bumble bee doesn’t use but, or why, or aerodynamically speaking. He simply flies in obedenience to the command within him. And the best part? In God, there is always that little bit extra – the bumble bee even gets to make a little bit of honey.
We worship You, Lord, awed by Your wisdom and grace. Thank You that You have provided us with living examples to reveal the depths and richness of Your Word. Help us to take up the challenge, to learn obedience without question, to surrender to Your sovereign power, and to reveal Your glory in everything we do in and through You.