WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TALKING DONKEY? YOU LISTEN. THERE ARE LONG-TERM HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF WALKING-WITH GOD. The truth is, God may have to place a few donkeys in your life for no other reason than your refusal to listen to, heed and walk with Him. Until we become intentional in our walks with God, the talking donkeys could keep showing up. How do I know this? Because I’ve had my share of talking donkeys, and I’ve learned that when one shows up, it’s a symptom of a deeper problem.
In the majority of cases, my failures could have been entirely avoided if I were simply humble. I don’t mind being honest about this. I would be willing to bet that this is true for you, too. I’m simply putting my neck out there and saying what any of us could say. It’s nothing profound. It’s simply true. Why be honest with you about this? Because my honesty may spare you pain.
I recently watched a Youtube interview of a well-known pastor who fell from grace in a big way and is now mustering a comeback. Why, if the issue is God’s glory, I don’t know. (You can probably find the interview by searching “devotional life and preaching” on Youtube). He planted and pastored a church that became huge but then collapsed because of his long-tenure of abusive conduct, misuse of language, alleged plagiarism and misuse of church funds and his refusal to listen to just about anyone but himself. Filmed a few years before his fall and the church’s dissolution, the Youtube interview is agonizingly painful to watch, just like the pastor’s ministry and dissolution of the church. He is asked to talk about his devotional life, and it becomes obvious that he didn’t have one. He talks about how he prepares his sermons and enjoys his family – but the striking thing is that he says nothing whatsoever to indicate that he enjoys God. In fact, he outright admits that he believes in “grace,” rather than a devotional life, as if spending private time with God were a sinful deed. He entirely misses the point that grace from God is not the same as devotion to God. The grace of God is God’s work, our devotion to Him is a labor of love, not an act of the sinful nature. In fact, our devotion to God could be described as our humility – or lack of humility – before Him. Remember: there are long-term consequences to walking with God. We must truly walk with God – not simply appear to be walking with Him.
WARNING AND ENCOURAGEMENT
If a pastor is not enjoying God personally – rather than the ministry (which is really an spiritual way to describe his “work” – every single Christian is called to ministry), it will only be a matter of time before he stumbles. If he is not willing to pay attention when he stumbles, he may very well, as in the interviewed pastor’s case, fall. Moreover, if a pastor is not in love with the Jesus He preaches, his people won’t be in love with Him, either. Jesus said “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40, ESV). If you are a pastor or Christian “leader” ask yourself this question: what is it, exactly, that I want people to do? What do I want people to become as a result of my life’s work and message? Don’t ever forget that a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Someday, those who follow you may grow up and be just like you. That’s supposed to be a good, God-honoring thing. Make choices, accordingly.
To not love God and not have a devotional life, where you read His word, pray and deliberately consecrate yourself in a purposeful way – and to then intentionally live the rest of the day as you interact with people, is to demonstrate a fundamental dependence upon self rather than God. There is a word for that: pride. Jesus was the most humble person who ever walked. Ours is a humble God. If we are not walking in humility, are we really following Him? I mean, really, what is one doing if one is not walking in humility while all along calling oneself a Christ “follower”?
Most of the lessons we learn in life came from not being humble. I have found that the lack of humility is exceptionally costly. You have too – and if you haven’t just yet, one day, you will. In every single instance where we see the “greats” in the Bible stumble or fall, it wasn’t the final, notorious act that did them in. That was simply a symptom of a deeper, unaddressed issue. The preceding pride is what set the stage for the straw that broke the camel’s back. Public failure often comes after years of secret ambivalence. We cannot be red-hot for God in public if we are luke-warm for Him in private.
WHICH DONKEY IS THE REAL ODDITY?
The lack of humility is the number one cause of problems in life. Think about it long and hard – and you too will agree. God was speaking through Balaam’s donkey, yet Balaam was so deluded by his own determination to do what he wanted, rather than what God wanted, that when the miracle of a talking animal should have mesmerized him, he instead added insult to injury and beat the miracle (Numbers 22).
God was so merciful to Balaam. He took the extra step of opening his eyes so he could see what he wouldn’t have needed to see – if only he had listened to his donkey. In the final analysis, the story of Balaam and his donkey is the story of two donkeys, not one.
GOD IS SO MERCIFUL TO US, TOO. We often strike the talking donkeys in our lives, failing to recognize that God is speaking to us through a variety of unlikely messengers. If we don’t heed the talking donkeys, we leave God no resort but to speak more overtly. This is where it can become very painful, very costly . .
God’s subtle voice should be enough – but we won’t hear it if we are not intentional in walking with Him. There are long-term consequences to walking with God – among them the growing ability to recognize His voice when He whispers, so that He need not shout to get our attention. Real humility is a key consequence of walking with God. It is to not merely hear what He says, but to listen, so that He need not send donkeys our way.
Most certainly, God has placed a donkey or two in your life. He may have placed one along your path right now. He will certainly do so in the future. Don’t strike the donkey, listen to it, because donkey’s don’t really talk, God does. If God sends a talking donkey your way, it may be that you desperately need it. It’s the talking donkeys in life that sometimes reveal the clear voice of God, who speaks to those humble enough to stop when they see what often is, naturally speaking, unwelcome, unexpected and sometimes, uncomfortable.