I have a number of heroic figures in my life. One of them is my dad. I think there are a number of folks that would put him on their hero list, but the biggest reasons I do are ones that most of you would never know.
There was a man I knew to be a contradiction that my dad had the dubious honor to pastor. He claimed to have a ministry on the weekends at the fishing docks of a popular lake. He was almost never actually in church. He was a stubborn, difficult…
Well, he reminded me a lot of the story of Balaam (Numbers 22). He was a prophet that had been solicited by an enemy of God’s people for the purpose of cursing the people of Israel. He just couldn’t do it because God wouldn’t let him. But there was an interesting exchange when he was going along to attempt to help this enemy. Balaam’s donkey was spooked by the presence of an angel – which Balaam could not see. After a couple of serious beatings, the donkey spoke to Balaam.
What the donkey said is not particularly important. Balaam listened because she spoke truth. There is a powerful point to this simple but marvelous account: when God has something to say to us, any old… donkey will do.
This man that reminded me of Balaam’s story was a lot like that donkey. He confronted my dad about the horrible shortcomings of his ministry and proclaimed that he would never set foot in that church again as long as my dad was the pastor. He was right. He never set foot again. But he did roll in once.
When this man died, his wife couldn’t find him and we lived the closest and she came to our house to ask for help. My dad and I went and found him where he had fallen in his garden with a massive heart attack.
I don’t think I have ever known of anyone else in what will soon be 50 years of ministry to say that my dad didn’t work enough. I know of one snot-nosed little kid that once suggested he worked too much. But my dad didn’t do what we all so often do.
I have a tendency to question or discredit the source when I hear something I don’t like. Just like that crazy, crotchety old man who indicted my dad for too much other stuff and not enough ministry. He was, by popular opinion, a jerk and a windbag – a donkey of a man. But my dad weighed the substance of what the man said and heard God speak through it.
In doing so, he taught me so incredibly powerfully that God can and will speak to us through most anything and anyone and we have a responsibility to sift what we hear for truth instead of throwing it out because we don’t trust the source.
I think it’s important that we listen for the truth in what is said – no matter who says it. Because it’s a proven fact that, when God wants to speak to us…
Well… any old donkey will do.
Thanks, dad. This lesson you taught me is still teaching me. And it is making me a better pastor – and husband and dad and neighbor and friend.
I know. That’s what you’ve been praying for all these years.
NOTE: The ONLY person referenced in this post likened unto a donkey is long deceased. In other words, I’m not talking about you! This is about hearing what God might say to us no matter through whom or what He might say it.
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