Sometimes things that appear at first to be great blessings can hurt us the most.

I remember watching a nature video decades ago of an African native catching a baboon. The man went to a termite mound, chiseled a small hole in the hardened outer shell, reached in and scooped out some dirt, put a tasty treat inside and then just walked away. A little while later a baboon came along, smelled the bait, reached inside and grabbed it.

Problem was, with his hand around the treat he couldn’t pull it back out of the hole. He struggled and strained but just couldn’t get it out. Primates are a lot like people, and this one didn’t want to let go of that free snack, so he just stayed there with his hand in the hole.

A while later the tribesman came back to collect his prize. The critter freaked out but still wouldn’t let go of the treat, so the tribesman was able to easily subdue him. That was the end of that ape.

For a long time I thought I really understood the main point here. We hold on to things and won’t let go. A smart baboon knows when to let go. Yadda yadda yadda.

But for people of faith there’s a much deeper lesson. The fact is, that ape couldn’t let go. It wasn’t in his nature. The same is true for us. Until we leave this world, there will be aspects of our lives where we are still controlled by our flesh, and we’ll hold on to things to our detriment, if God doesn’t intervene.

So think about this: What would it look like if you stumbled upon that poor, trapped baboon and wanted to save his life? Would you walk up and reason with him? “Mr. Monkey, please let go of that treat. I know you want it, but you see, there’s this bad man coming who wants to eat you…”

That’s crazy! The thing would freak out at you just like he did at the tribesman – scratching, clawing, kicking up dust. You couldn’t possibly get close enough to him to gently chip away the opening of the hole – he’d rip your head off. Instead, you’d probably have to go find a stick, walk up to the poor thing and konk him on the head. Then, you’d pry his hand off the bait, fill up the hole and drag him far away. Congratulations, you just saved his life.

Now let me ask you, what would the baboon think of the whole episode? Would he be thankful that his life was saved? Would he think he had a great day? Absolutely not! He’d be more like, “Man, what a jerk! I had this great piece of fruit, and it was all mine! And it was free! And then this mean dude came up and hit me on the head and stole it! Now I can’t find the magic hole, my head hurts … this sucks!”

Now step back for a moment and think of times you’ve lost “opportunities” that you really thought were great. Does that saved ape’s attitude sound familiar? It sure does to me. Looking back, I know some of the most painful experiences I’ve endured were in fact God lovingly and supernaturally intervening to save me from destruction.

The Bible says God prunes those He loves, like a gardener pruning a tree – cutting off branches so we can be more fruitful. But if you’re the tree, pruning is painful to endure.

We need to learn to accept – even welcome and appreciate – His pruning.

Yes, tenacity is a trait of highly successful people. They grab onto the right opportunities and hold on for dear life. But they’re also patient and discerning, understanding that not every opportunity – not every offer, lead, deal, sale, investor, etc. – is the right one.

Here’s the challenge. Without courageous tenacity, you’ll never get anywhere. But with undisciplined tenacity, you’ll end up like that poor baboon.

Today more than ever – in the world of “sales funnels” and “permission marketing” – the world is full of folks who dangle attractive “free” bait in front us. They study exactly what buttons to push to make us turn off our BS detectors and hold on to “opportunities” even when they’re not the right ones.

So what are we to do? How do we avoid monkey traps while maintaining our boldness? How do we learn to grab on to the right opportunities with all our strength, while dropping the wrong ones like a hot potato?

For one, pray continually. God promises to guide our steps when we stop leaning on our own understanding and acknowledge Him in all our ways.

Seek to function each day from a place of peace. There is no substitute for this. Fall into a sense of anxiety or desperation and it’s game over.

Remember that true, sustainable, meaningful success is built brick by brick, step by step. (If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they’re most likely setting a trap for you.) Play the long game. Don’t seek short-cuts or leap before you look. Scrutinize every opportunity, do your due diligence, and trust your gut.

Vision is vital. Know who you are, what value you add, and what it is you’re seeking to build. Own your vision and keep it focused. This way you’ll have an innate sense of what fits and what doesn’t. Don’t let your vision get watered down by “opportunities” that don’t fit just right.

Also, seek wise counsel and coaching. Stay connected to a Kingdom-minded peer group. This is necessary to filling our blind spots – everyone has them – and avoiding the traps that are all around us, every day.

Remember, not every opportunity is from God. Some of His greatest blessings appear at the time to be losses or closed doors. When you’re “pruned,” pick yourself up and move on.

Remain thankful, stay bold, and trust Him. He did not call you to fail.

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— You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friend!