The Honey Bee Principles

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

I was reading along, minding my own business, when I came across a simple idea that has now taken me in its grip. Taylor Field, in his book Upside Down Leadership, shares an observation by Edward Judson, son of the great missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson. In reflecting on his father’s work, Edward Judson noted how often ministry leaders end up accomplishing things they did not expect, things they don’t even know about or live to appreciate.

As an analogy Judson asks us to consider the honey bee. His goal is honey, but all the while, unbeknown to the bee, he is cross-fertilizing a large variety of plants. Judson then drives home the point about the bee: “The best work he is doing, he knows nothing about” (p.14).

The best work he is doing, he knows nothing about. As I began to consider this idea and its implications for ministry leaders, I will admit to being troubled at first. What about all my strategies? What about all my plans? Am I really so clueless about the long-term significance of my life’s work?

Happily, the answer is yes. The best work I am doing I likely know nothing about. Once I got over the shock, I felt a great relief. I also wondered why I had missed this until now. It isn’t a new idea. Proverbs 19:21 essentially say’s the same thing. Though I have all sorts of plans and goals and ambitions, it is the Lord’s intentions that will be ultimately accomplished, intentions that I may not even know about or live to see. To this truth I can only respond as

Paul does to the divine mystery – with awe and praise.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)

Okay, let’s try and digest this reality and its implications. We’ll call these the Honey Bee Principles for ministry leaders.

  1. It’s not all up to you. It’s not even remotely up to you. God is not dependent on your contribution for his plan to be accomplished. He does graciously invite you into his work. He will weave your life’s work into his tapestry, but his tapestry is not dependent on your thread. You can receive this as a blow to your ego or as a huge weight off your shoulders. I suggest the latter.

  2. Make your honey. Like the bee, make your honey as God gives you opportunity. Rejoice in the field of flowers where he has placed you and go about your work faithfully. Remember, though, to hold your plans loosely. There is always a lot more going on than what you k