by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
One day, my wife, Charlotte, and I were in the kitchen. Charlotte was cutting up something at the counter. Meanwhile, our dog, Teri, a year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix, was sitting at our feet, patiently waiting for a handout, her cute little black and white face turned up expectantly toward us. Charlotte made the comment that a dog never gives up and always has hope; no matter how many times you tell a dog “No,” it still hopes for a treat. I thought of the familiar passage from 1Corinthians 13, and substituted the word “dog” for the word “love:”
“Dog is patient . . . Dog bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Canines 13:4a, 7).
Let’s look at some qualities of dogs and how they relate to our spiritual lives. First, dogs are patient. This is a tough one for me. I want what I want, and I want it now. I don’t like waiting. If it looks as if I might have to wait in traffic, I’d rather take the long way. But a dog will wait endlessly for food or water, the return of its owner, a little attention, etc. It will look at you with those big brown eyes until it melts your resistance. Paul urged the Colossians to continue “. . . growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, . . .” (Col. 1:10b-11 NIV).
Second, dogs have amazing endurance. No matter how you treat a dog, it will come back for more, over and over, on the chance that you will show it some small sign of love. A dog “believes” in its human companions, long after anyone else would simply give up in disgust. People are different. If you offend or hurt someone, the relationship may be damaged permanently. When the going gets tough, we disappear. If trials come, and we feel that God has “failed” us, we can be reluctant to have faith again. But God can help us build our “endurance” through prayer and Scripture. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4 NIV).
Third, as I said at the beginning, dogs are hopeful. Even if we don’t have time to pay attention to our dog, she still “hopes” things will change and she’ll get the attention she craves. She “hopes” someone will give her a treat, pet her, throw a ball for her, or simply pay attention to her. I sometimes pray something like “Well, Lord, if it’s not too much trouble, . . .” a prayer almost completely devoid of hope. But not our dog. If she could speak, she’d probably say something like “You’re going to do it, aren’t you? You’re going to play with me now, aren’t you?” Dogs not only want something, they fully expect to get it. James wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (Jas. 4:2b NIV). God wants to give us good things. Jesus said, “‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’” (Matt. 7:7-8 NIV).
Finally, dogs are joyful. They have no compunctions about showing love. If a dog loves you, it will run to you when you walk in the door, jump on you, lick your face and hands, climb on your lap, or sometimes simply take comfort in being near you. This is especially true of a fairly young, energetic dog like ours. When was the last time you couldn’t wait to come to church, or wanted the service to last for hours? If you’re like most of us, it’s been a long time. Usually, we can barely get up for church, and the service always seems to go on forever. I pray that we can find joy in worshiping God. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” (Psa. 122:1 NIV). I think God may have given us dogs as an example. As Jesus might have said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little dog will never enter it.” (see Luke 18:17). Or, to paraphrase Isaiah, “and a little dog will lead them.” (See Isa. 11:6b).
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Col. 1:10-12 NIV.)