I have worked as a coach for decades, teaching and training athletes to overcome every obstacle that stood in the way of their peak performance. Preparing for obstacles that may stand in your path is a wise approach to training athletes; however, this is not always God’s approach to training us, and only supernatural wisdom makes us sensitive to this truth.
If you are a regular follower of Grace for the Race, you are probably familiar with Paul’s “thorn”—the trial or obstacle that he asked God three times to remove . . . but that God did not remove. The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (2 Corinthians 12:8). Today I’d like to share a less well-known story that also illustrates this truth, which is found in the book of Numbers. It is the remarkable tale of Balaam and his donkey.
The king of Moab sent messengers to summon the prophet Balaam to come and pronounce a curse on the Israelites, even offering Balaam a fee to do so. When Balaam inquired of the Lord, however, he was told not to go. Once again, the king sent more messengers, this time a larger, more prestigious group offering unlimited rewards, who summoned Balaam to come and curse Israel. This time the Lord told Balaam he could go with them, but under the strict condition of doing only what God instructed him. Evidently, Balaam had something else in mind!
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. (Numbers 22:21-23)
Three times Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road to stop them, and she refused to go forward. Three times Balaam beat the donkey, as he was completely unaware of the Lord’s angel blocking his path. It’s ironic that a donkey had eyes to see that which the eyes of a man, who claimed to be a prophet of God, were blind to!
Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. (Numbers 22:28-30)
Clearly, God knew Balaam’s heart, and He stopped Balaam’s progress before he could pronounce a curse on the Israelites and collect his rich fee.
Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.” Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” (Numbers 22:31-34)
By the end of the story, God caused Balaam to do exactly the opposite of what the king of Moab wanted him to do. Instead of cursing God’s people, Balaam pronounced a blessing upon them—three times! The prophetic curses were reserved for Moab and the surrounding nations.
There is much to be gleaned from this story, but what I want to emphasize here is this:
GOD HAS ORDAINED THAT SOME OBSTACLES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE OVERCOME!
There are many reasons why this is true. At times, we are heading in the wrong direction. At other times, we are heading in the right direction, but at the wrong time or with the wrong motives, as was the case with Balaam. Regardless of the reason for the obstacle that is not meant to be overcome, it is ultimately a clear indication of God’s divine protection in our lives. God’s plan for our lives is always exponentially better than our plan! Scripture assures us that “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Despite what we may think, every obstacle put in our path is not an indication that the devil is trying to disrupt our progress.
There are a few keys that will help us unlock the door leading to recognition of what obstacles are not to be overcome. First, we must bathe every situation in prayer. Second, we must marinate in the Word of God, which functions as a light to our path. Finally, we should seek godly counsel from many who just may be that “divine donkey” sent by the Lord to deliver us.
In looking back on my life, I can identify a number of obstacles that were not meant to be overcome; they were placed there because God was moving me in the direction He wanted me to go! God will not always give us what we want; but He will always give to us all that we need to do all He has called us to do.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!