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Try Not to Argue with the Donkey

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”  Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me!  If I had a sword in my hand I would kill you right now.” Numbers 22:28-29

It is one of the most humorous pictures in the Bible, and it plays itself out again and again in churches everywhere every week.  It is not the donkey speaking that makes me laugh…

…it is that Balaam argues with it.

What jumps off the page at me as I read this account is the fact that Balaam never catches himself conversing with a donkey!  Where is the shock and surprise, having just heard a donkey speak?!  Wouldn’t that be the natural reaction?  Rather than falling on his knees out of recognition of what only God could do, Balaam immediately engages in verbal combat.  With his donkey!

There are moments in the life of every church leader when something profound–something bothersome, uncomfortable, or even directly opposing us, but nonetheless profound–comes from a completely unexpected source.  There are those circumstances where we hear well-articulated opposition from a person through whom we have never heard any wisdom at all.  These are important moments in a leader’s ministry.  Be careful.  There are few things more humiliating than missing God’s word when it is staring you straight in the face.

I have often said that I would never want to serve with a pastor who will not hear God speak through his people.  That would be a bit like Thomas saying to the other disciples when they told him they had seen the resurrected Christ, “Thanks, brothers, for your testimony of what you saw and what you heard, but if God has anything to say to me, he won’t say it through you…he will say it to me directly.”  How embarrassing is that?  And tragic.  A pastor who sends that kind of message to the people he would lead, is done.  He may keep holding the office for a while, but his leadership is finished.

But this is not just a word for pastors.  It is a word for all of us who carry any leadership role in the church at all.  We simply must be willing to hear God’s voice through absolutely anyone; maybe especially through those with whom we disagree. That, I believe is a mark of Spirit-filled leadership.  We must learn to recognize our Shepherd’s voice, even through the distractions and clamor of people who have historically been a thorn in our sides.  After all, God can speak through anyone.

So, the next time God speaks to you through a donkey, take a step back .  Take a moment to consider what is happening.  And try not to argue with the donkey.  It looks ridiculous.

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