Many years ago I owned a 10.5 acre property on which I built a new home. I separated it into 3 portions in which I located the house itself with landscaping and swimming pool, an area with a dam, a chicken coop with chickens, ducks and geese, some Angora goats, a horse... and a donkey.
The third portion remained almost untouched native vegetation. My wife obtained the donkey when I was away on an assignment and my staff teased me about it, wondering why she bought a donkey when she already had one (me).
The horse and donkey did not like each other and I eventually passed them on to someone else.
That donkey was a cantankerous, stubborn dumb thing. When someone left the gate open into the house block, it came in! Talk about fun and games. We chased it, threatened it, laughed at it and did all kinds of things to coax it through the gate back to where it belonged. The thing walked and ran and he-hawed, ran alongside the fence to the wide open gate and stood there before turning around and doing it all again until finally, it flung its back legs out and calmly walked back to where it belonged.
I have heard that donkeys, asses and mules belong to the same family group. Apparently mules are as stubborn as...
I visited the Grand Canyon once and stood on the edge to peer down. At the Grand Canyon Village it was 10 miles across and more than a mile deep. You could take a mule train ride down to the canyon floor on a track I wouldn’t even walk on as it is so narrow. The tour guides tell riders not to try to “steer” the mules but to hang on as they are sure footed and know the route blindfolded. I don’t know about that, but there has to be a spiritual lesson of sorts to us about sitting down, shutting up, hanging on, trusting the tour guide and enjoying the ride.
I said all that to lead to something. Firstly, let us look at what happened when Jesus rode into Jerusalem:
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives.
In the wild west, people were hung for stealing someone’s horse (or donkey) and He told them to just walk up to the thing and grab it? Something was going on here. In my usual fashion, I ask questions and the obvious one is, “Who owned it?” You try taking an animal like that today and tell anyone who challenges you, “The Lord needs it” and see what happens.
That colt had never been ridden before! They placed coats and blankets on its back and He sat on it as they walked through that noisy mob of people and it didn’t buck and try to throw Him off.
What I want to say here is that when God sends us on an assignment, we should expect things to happen like that.
I’m not suggesting silliness and spooky “super-spiritual” behavior, but we serve the God of miracles, so why shouldn’t we expect them to happen? I for one am tired of the status quo and when occasion demands, expect to see God in action.
After all, we see Him in action in the entire bible.
Marjorie and I have proved this many times in our own lives. At times they are simple things, but it is often those small, everyday things that prove God is looking after us.
Have you tried to find place to park your car only to find every spot filled? You have probably driven around the block again to suddenly see another car leave and there’s your spot waiting for you! I’ve found that the things of God can be like that.
Sometimes we need to go around the block before our place is ready.
There are times in our lives when we see to be in a holding pattern.
I was flying in a small aircraft out of Vancouver International Airport in my friend’s airplane in the co-pilot’s seat several years ago. He requested a full instrument only approach for training purposes. After identifying the aircraft, the controller instructed him to turn in certain directions and fly at particular heights as he kept his eyes on the instruments. As we were nearing the airport, he told us to climb to a particular altitude and turn left in a holding pattern. We did as instructed, circled at that height and kept circling until the controller told us we had dropped too much in height and to correct which we did. We continued circling in that holding pattern until his welcome voice came in over the radio to give us new instructions. Sometimes Christians should follow Gods last instructions until He says something different. He guided us to the airport, granting permission to land. We were almost down when he suddenly came on the radio with a command, “Abort left; abort left; abort left” which meant that we immediately pulled up and turned left.
A few more instructions brought us back to the original point when we were finally permitted to land. My friend had requested a real-to-life training exercise...and we got it.
There can be times in our lives when we are on the right path, heading in the right direction, doing the right things and it seems that the Holy Spirit suddenly puts us in a holding pattern. It could be for our own good.
It could help us avoid a problem we need to avoid. It could be for someone else’s benefit. Another person might need to catch up, or someone else needs to “get out of the way” so we can do our job. That holding pattern we went into was to allow an international flight to go to the head of a queue to land because of a passenger situation on that plane. It was a blessing for me personally because I had a ringside view of everything, but it was a double blessing because I learned some very important spiritual lessons every one of us needs to learn.
What we think are problems, trials and tests or perhaps real obstacles are not always like that at all, but stepping stones to our ultimate destination. We could baulk at what we think is a detour not realizing that rather than taking us away from what God wants, it can be provision of an unexpected opportunity for something else. We can be as stubborn as a mule and miss out on the better things God has for us. God wants to guide us and lead us in the best paths. Psalm 32:8 says:
Notice that He wants to guide us along the best pathway for our lives. Hmmm. Look however at the following verses:
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
This reminds me of an old story about a man who owned a donkey and brought it to a trainer who immediately got a big piece of wood and hit it on the head. When the owner asked him why he did that, the trainer replied, “The first thing you have to do is to get its attention.” The moral of that story is.....
Please come with me now to other donkeys in the bible.
There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.
Saul was on an assignment. His father had sent him on a particular task and so he was not being stubborn or rebellious.
We can also be sent on assignments and so are not doing our own thing as is often the case, but find that it just isn’t working! Whilst there can be reasons for this that I will not go onto, we always need to remember that If God assigns us a particular assignment and we faithfully discharge our duties and obligations properly, the outcome might not always depend on us! If it is not working according to our expectations remember what was said here:
Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord. You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed.
Saul had not failed at all He was doing precisely what his father had told him to do, but thought that his father could start worrying about him for being away so long. Little did either of them realize that this was God’s doing. He knew where those donkeys were.
Finally, they entered the region of Zuph, and Saul said to his servant, “Let’s go home. By now my father will be more worried about us than about the donkeys!” But the servant said, “I’ve just thought of something! There is a man of God who lives here in this town. He is held in high honor by all the people because everything he says comes true. Let’s go find him. Perhaps he can tell us which way to go.” 1 Samuel 9:5-6
When everything he tried had failed, the servant suddenly said something like, “Why don’t we ask God?” Why didn’t they ask Him first? How sad it is when people turn to God as a last resort. If you are in doubt—ask! You do not need a lightning bolt to fall out of the sky and hit you on the head, or for any guessing games. Ask for truth and understanding. Ask to be guided. Ask for scriptural “confirmation”. Don’t stick pins in the page and play guessing games however. Your spirit man and the Holy Spirit will talk to each other and you will “know that you know”, so do when He tells you, even if it does not make sense at the time. It will later! Some folk need to train themselves to listen properly of course, but we can all do that.
Worrying about what we can’t control (or what is not ours to control) can distract from what God has put right in front of us.
Saul was not in that town because of some missing donkeys—he was there by Divine appointment. God had already prearranged a meeting with him and Samuel:
It is easy at times to think we are going through difficult times—that we are not achieving anything or that God doesn’t even know we are in town or that our “lost donkeys” are the last straw. They might be “lost” as part of God’s answer.
When Saul knocked on the prophet’s door, Samuel was waiting for him—with the answer. When Samuel opened the door, Saul asked him where he could find the man of God and Samuel told him, “You’re looking at him”. A real man of God knows it and a real man of God can be known! Think about this for a moment. A real man of God does not have to brag and boast or try to prove it—he just is! Saul did not yet know what he looked like, but he knew the prophet’s reputation—and that is what matters.
Sometimes we can go through difficult times and feel like God doesn’t even know we are in town! We really should not complain about things that are happening because we do not like them—they might be far more necessary than you think.
This is one part of this story that illustrates that God can provide the things we really need and even little unexpected blessings ahead of time. He had reserved Saul’s portion ahead of time. Although God had prearranged everything, He did not immediately reveal it to Saul. Often times there is a progressive unfolding of His plan and purpose. We can receive a picture or an instruction from God to do a certain thing, or go to a certain place, but not get the overall or fuller picture. We may not get all the answers immediately and not take that first step, expecting to see more before we act. Prophets certainly saw things correctly, but may only have seen them in part. They could have seen only the tops of the mountaintops from their vantage points but not seen the valleys in between. What lay in those valley mists, hidden below the next hill could have spanned thousands of years. God however sees the total picture and can work on something that we are totally unaware of until He reveals it to us.
I can tell you one thing however and that whatever it is—it is good. Let’s see how it worked:
Just then Saul approached Samuel at the gateway and asked, “Can you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”
“I am the seer!” Samuel replied. “Go up to the place of worship ahead of me. We will eat there together, and in the morning I’ll tell you what you want to know and send you on your way. (note 1) And don’t worry about those donkeys that were lost three days ago, for they have been found. And I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes.”
Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”
Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and placed them at the head of the table, honoring them above the thirty special guests. Samuel then instructed the cook to bring Saul the finest cut of meat, the piece that had been set aside for the guest of honor. So the cook brought in the meat and placed it before Saul. “Go ahead and eat it,” Samuel said. “I was saving it for you even before I invited these others! ” (note 2) So Saul ate with Samuel that day.
When they came down from the place of worship and returned to town, Samuel took Saul up to the roof of the house and prepared a bed for him there. At daybreak the next morning, Samuel called to Saul, “Get up! It’s time you were on your way.” So Saul got ready, and he and Samuel left the house together. When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.” (note 3) 1 Samuel 9:18-27
My problem now is how to wind this thing up. Perhaps it is best to simply stop by saying that when things do not seem to be going well, when you are seeking answers, when you are doing all you know to do and it seems to be fruitless, God has it under control. He already has made provision for you. He has promotion lined up for you. Perhaps you have been chasing that ass without first asking God and He knows where your donkeys are. I sure hope you are not one of those donkeys...stubborn as a mule, so go to the source and do what Saul’s servant advised. Please note some of my highlighting in the text above.
Note 1: Worship came first. There was an appointed time for the revelation to come. When it was the right time, God revealed it and gave the answers that we often see
Note 2: God had revealed everything ahead of time to His prophet. He also provided what was needed and on this occasion, it was food.
Note 3: Often times God ministers “in private” to His servant and not to everyone else. Until we have the full picture it is best to remain silent
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