What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 21-23
As I read about the encounter between Balak and Balaam today I couldn't help but chuckle and remember a conversation I had back in high school with a former classmate. I should probably begin by clarifying what story about Balak and Balaam I am referring to. I'm referring to the one where Balak got ticked off at Balaam because he asked Balaam to reveal the message God gave Balaam - and Balak didn't like the message God gave Balaam.
When I was in high school, I had a conversation with a Mormon friend one day about the differences between our faiths. I had been friends with Christopher for quite a while so the conversation was good natured for the most part. After listing some of the more superficial differences, Christopher finally got around to naming one of the more obvious differences. He said something like, "And another thing – you guys pay your preachers so that they'll say what you want them to. We don't pay our leaders so they speak the truth."
I remember being taken aback by Christopher's accusation. That's because I remembered lots of times when my pastor said things that I/we did not want to hear but needed to be said. Over the years, however, I've remembered that conversation many times. And I realize there CAN be a temptation for those of us who are in ministry to do what Christopher said – make our first priority pleasing the people who pay our salaries and not paying attention to God's leading.
"After all," some might cynically observe, "you get paid the same whether you take risks or play it safe. Why NOT play it safe?"
That's a question every spiritual leader must answer for him or herself. There certainly are many out there who would say, "Come to think of it, you're right. Why NOT play it safe?" I can't answer for everyone, but all I can say is this. There is no worse feeling in the world than knowing you've ignored the leading of the Spirit in order to settle for the path of least resistance. Nor is there, conversely, a better feeling in the world knowing that (in spite of the short-term trials one faces) that you are ushering in an area of spiritual health and vitality in the world. The only question is whether or not you'll find the patience, the strength and the courage to get from Point A (the status quo) to Point B (the future to which God is calling us).
Perhaps there is a situation in your life where you are struggling to know what to do: take the path of least resistance, or do the right thing. If that's the case, remember the example of Balaam and draw strength from it. Remember that you may not always be popular with everyone for doing the right thing, but you will have the joy of being in right relationship with the One who matters most.
Til next time …