Wednesday, January 11, 2012

PART FOUR: DON'T ARGUE WITH THE DONKEY!

This is Part 4 in our discussion on Burnt Stones. In this and subsequent posts I plan to list Biblical principles that help us to come through the fire without becoming spiritually disabled, “burnt stones.” You must scroll down to read previous posts. -BL


ENGAGE THE LORD FIRST
We encounter various trials in our Christian walk. Some we can't explain and some are indicative of the “roaring lion” seeking to devour the righteous. But there are also times when adversities are the result of our own foolishness, disobedience, or sin, times when our adversaries are instruments of God designed to get our attention, teach a lesson, interrupt our wrong path, or to discipline us.

God raised up adversaries against Solomon because of his idolatry (1 Kings 11). Balaam’s donkey balked and fell underneath him because his way was contrary to God (Numbers 22: 21-34). Moses, on the other hand, was a faithful man troubled by a stubborn crowd of disobedient people who were ready to stone him.
Moses’ first response was to cry out to God (Numbers 14: 1-5; 16: 1-4). By contrast, both Solomon and Balaam did not seriously approach the Lord before dealing with their adversaries. Balaam’s first response was to become angry and argue with his donkey. Solomon sought to kill his adversary and fight his enemies. Both should have dealt with God first rather than allowing their initial actions to be focused on the people or things they wrongly perceived as the root cause of their difficulties.

In blaming the “donkey” and the adversaries we act as if we have been placed into their hands. God does not leave us to the whims of circumstance. He does not abandon us to the erratic and unpredictable whims of others or to the destructive efforts of deliberate adversaries. That’s why we wrestle with God before wrestling with the enemy. Whether innocent or at fault, we should cry out to the Lord before arguing with “the donkey.”

The Two Primary Characters on the Stage
The two primary characters on the stage of my life are God and me. All others are secondary, including the devil. Though Satan is shown as the villain in the first two chapters of the book of Job, he is not mentioned again in the remaining forty chapters. Job’s resolution did not come through wrestling the devil. Neither did it come when he argued with his friends. He found resolution during his intimate encounter with God in the final chapters of the book. It is interesting to note that God’s focus was to declare His own greatness and to correct and strengthen Job. He did not discuss Job's friends, except for the correction they received in the final chapter. He did not discuss spiritual warfare or how to deal with Satan (though these are necessary). He interacted with Job and let Job experience the intimacy of His presence and all the wondrous things that proceed from that glorious place. Job saw the Lord and he saw himself (Job 42: 5-6). These are the first steps to coming through the fire successfully.

Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord before facing a potential struggle with Esau (Genesis 32: 24-32). In that place of intercession he experienced a life-changing brokenness (humility and surrender) before God which led to his restoration with Esau. He came face to face with Him Whose name is Wonderful! He also came face to face with himself and experienced a name (character) change.

Fulfilling Our Own Obedience
The lesson is very clear. We meet with God before we deal with and react to others. We make sure our own accounts are clear before we busy ourselves correcting or accusing others. Even if we have been mistreated, there may still be a need, an error, or some disobedience in us that brought about the situation. I should fulfill my own obedience before I expect God to avenge the disobedience of others. I should do what God requires of me in the situation before I apply a high standard of right behavior to others who are troubling me (2 Corinthians 10: 6). If I am guilty, I repent and change. If I am innocent, I listen for what my Lord is requiring of me in the situation.

The Fire Tests the Righteous and the Wicked
Years ago there was a cartoon that revolved around conflict between a good guy named Dudley Do-right and an evil man named Snidely Whip-lash. Naturally each person in conflict thinks he is right and the other is wrong. This causes disobedience in both “Dudley” and “Snidely.” The one who is wrong fails to repent. The one who is right refuses to hear what God is saying to him in terms of lessons, attitude, and procedure. Because he is right, he thinks God is requiring nothing of him but to point out the other person’s error. When a person’s first response is to focus on the sins of others while "flattering himself" (Psalm 36:2), he will be busy in self-justification, self-defense, and self-righteousness. He will be unable to hear what God is saying to him.

The principle to keep in mind is that fire tests not only the wicked but also the righteous, and sometimes especially the righteous. Usually people tend to think that the fire is directed only toward the wicked or the person who is wrong. They fail to realize that God is often more interested in how the righteous will behave in the situation. Therefore, we mistakenly think that God is busy focusing on the other person’s sin and requiring him to change while we, being right and innocent, are free to misbehave. The fire, however, tests both "Dudley Do-right" and "Snidely Whip-lash," and God requires an obedient response from each.

It is possible to be right in position and wrong in disposition. A person who is right in his evaluation of a problem must also keep a right spirit and maintain godly conduct. The guilty who refuses to see himself and fails to break and repent will be burned by the fire. Moreover, the person who is "right" but whose heart is governed by carnality and who behaves in an ungodly manner will also be burned by the fire. In other words, "right" people who get in the flesh in their attitudes and behavior will fail the test before God. There are many people who were on the right side of an argument but ended up as “burnt stones” disillusioned and spiritually desolate because they did not please the Lord in how they conducted themselves.

In Conclusion
If your “donkey” is giving you trouble, don’t argue with it (it may actually be saving your life- Numbers 22: 33). Look for the angel of the Lord who may be standing by to correct you.  If you have been thrown into the furnace, reach out to “the Fourth Man” who is standing there to bring you out refined  and in possession of a great testimony. Wrestle with God before you wrestle with people. Let your first impulse be to seek the Lord and engage Him. It is in the Lord’s presence that we find grace and strength for life. It is there that we find wisdom, anointing, and direction for dealing with all the other secondary characters that we will inevitably face on the stage of our life.

“The king…asked, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire...? Look…I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ … Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. …these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.” Daniel 3: 22-28


“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter5: 10


“For you, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined….We went through fire and water, but You brought us out into a wealthy place.” Psalm 66: 8-12