Summary: Grace is not always easy or convenient
That’s a funny clip about the foolishness of or the delusion of each of us being in control of our lives and of the plans we’ve made for them. But the truth is, very few things in life go exactly as planned, and even when they do, the results are often not what we had hoped for. Let me ask you, are you financially, relationally, geographically, or spiritually where you planned to be at this point in your life? In other words, has life gone according to your plan?
I know that I never planned to marry someone from another country. I never planned to have five children or serve as a missionary. I never planned to live in North Carolina or co-own an Irish Pub. I never imagined I would retire from preaching one month and begin pastoring a non-denominational church a month or two later. My planned life has been beautifully riddled with interruptions. And I’m not alone.
Most of us have lived our lives with one interruption after another, all the time thinking how inconvenient and inconsiderate these interruptions are. And I don’t know about you, but my first reaction when my life is interrupted or my plan is knocked off track is irritation. I can really get annoyed at interruptions and I get stressed out when things don’t go according to plan. Lazarus’ sister Martha did too. And so did Balaam. And maybe you do too. After all, when we make a plan, we like to stick to it. In fact, we often feel that if everything is going according to our plan, then we consider that a sign of God’s favor and blessings and His grace will flow in that. But the truth is our very best plan is overrated if it doesn’t line up with God’s plan because our plans for our lives, however good they may be, are too small, too safe, too bland when compared with the plans God has for each one of us. And because of Hiss great love for us, God graciously interrupts our life plans when they lead us towards anything less than God’s BEST for us. God graciously interrupts our plans when they lead us away from Him.
Our Scriptures this morning are about interruptions and being inconvenienced. The account in Numbers is an unusual story about a man and a jackass who switch roles. You see, Balaam is a man who has all the potential to be a hero, but the hero of this story ends up being his donkey when the donkey saves her master’s life. And Balaam, well, he winds up being a jackass in the story. Balaam is a pretty good guy; a man of God who really wants to do the right thing. But as it turns out, he makes a plan and jumps the gun and runs ahead of God. Have you ever done that? Get so wrapped up in your own plans…become laser focused on your great plan, that you leave God out of the plan all together or end up running way ahead of the Lord? If so, my guess is that the results were probably as good for you as they were for Balaam.
Balaam gets up early in the morning, mounts his donkey and heads out to meet the King of Moab. We don’t know why Balaam is in such a hurry but I suspect he knew His plan was not compatible with God’s plan. We don’t know if he is trying to play both sides of the fence, that is, work for the Lord AND claim some money on the side, or if he’s just so focused on his own plan that he fails to check with the Lord about the details of his plan. Either way, it is a recipe for disaster. What happens next is both comedy and tragedy. On the way to meet the king of Moab, Balaam’s donkey runs off the road, she goes up against a rock wall and crushes Balaam’s foot and finally the donkey just lies down in the middle of the road! So Balaam beats the daylights out of her and the donkey speaks to complain about the ill treatment and Balaam carries on a conversation with his donkey trying to justify his actions! Balaam is so intent on carrying out his plan to go down the road toward Moab and keep his appointment with the king that it never occurs to him that something may be out of place. It never occurs to him that something supernatural is taking place or that God may be trying to say something. It never occurs to him that donkeys aren’t supposed to talk! Balaam is just too upset that his plan is interrupted and he has been inconvenienced that he almost completely misses the gift and the grace God is trying to give him. He doesn’t even realize that this divine interruption is saving his life!