When Your Donkeys Go Missing
Do you believe that God is still moving when things appear to go wrong?
David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
A few weeks ago, my father-in-law was telling me a story about my wife as a teenager.
He said one summer day, he had asked Lindsey to mow the lawn.
Like a typical teenager, she found other things to do J
Eventually, he was angry that she hadn’t mowed the lawn yet, so he went out to the garage, probably muttered under his breath about teenagers, and starting mowing the lawn himself
A number of minutes later, his riding lawn mower hit the playground they had in their backyard.
Unbeknownst to him, there was a large beehive in the playground…and the bees didn’t appreciate being jostled around.
The bees swarmed out, and it was the worst bee attack of his life.
He estimates that he was stung over 50 times.
And for a moment, you can imagine, he was even more furious about having to the mow the lawn that day.
But then it hit him…
Lindsey is seriously allergic to bees.
If she would have been mowing that day, and been stung 50 times, in all likelihood, she would have died.
It’s interesting how God can dramatically change our lives by the smallest of circumstances…or in this case, save our lives by the smallest of circumstances
As we continue in our Monarchy series this morning, you’re going to see a Biblical example of this.
We are in the middle of teaching through the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible.
A book that covers how the Israelites of the OT first got a King.
And for the first 4 or 5 weeks of this series, there wasn’t much talk of kingship.
Last week, if you were here (or listened online or through the app) the people finally demanded a king even though God was supposed to be their only king.
And now this week, the very first King of Israel is going to be discovered
Let’s get into our passage for this morning
As you’re looking up the passage….the chapter starts off by describing a man named Saul.
Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin (1 of the 12 tribes of Israel)
He’s described as a handsome young man, and it’s noted that he’s a head taller than everyone else.
(1 Samuel 9:3 – 20) – NIV
3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” 7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.) 10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was. 11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?” 12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.” 14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” 17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” 18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?” 19 “I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”
In the next few verses Samuel and Saul dine together, and Samuel eventually anoints Saul as the first King of Israel.
GOD WEAVES TOGETHER THE STORY
It’s a powerful story of God weaving together the tiniest details to serve his purposes.
Saul goes out looking for donkeys, but he finds a crown
God can do amazing things!
It’s not difficult for him to weave together stories of individuals.
Even many at once.
If you read the first few verses of chapter 10, which I encourage you to do this week, you’ll see that God gives Saul even more instructions through Samuel, such as:
On your way home, you’ll meet two men on your way
Then, at the great tree of Tabor, you’ll meet 3 more men, who will give you 3 young goats, 3 loaves of bread, and wine
Accept their gifts
After that, as you continue on, you’ll meet a procession of prophets
But it’s not crazy for God.
He is the great story weaver.
Nothing is too intricate or too difficult for him.
“I’m going to tell you a story you may not believe to be true.
But, I assure you, it’s not a chain letter story that people passed around on AOL back in the day.
It is indeed true.
It’s a story that was actually published in Reader’s Digest back in 1949.
I first read this story 6 or 7 years ago, and I love it
On January 10th, 1948, a little over 2 years after the end of WWII, Marcel Sternberger got on a train in the Brooklyn subway.
A train that he had never been on before.
He normally got on a different line, but changed his schedule in order to visit a sick friend that morning
The train was full, but just as he stepped in, one man mysteriously jumped up and ran off the train
Sternberger took his spot.
Next to him was a man reading a Hungarian newspaper.
Sternberger was born in Hungary, so he said to the man, in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper”
The man was surprised to be addressed in Hungarian, so they started talking and became acquainted.
The man with the newspaper went by the last name of Paskin, and he began to share his story with Sternberger.
Paskin had been a law student when the war started, but was put in a labor battalion and sent to Ukraine.
Later, he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead.
After the war, he WALKED hundreds of miles back to his home in Debrecen, Hungary, and discovered strangers living in the home where his parents and siblings used to live.
He ran to the apartment where he and his wife lived…hoping to see his wife that he hadn’t seen in 4 or 5 years…but his apartment was also occupied by strangers.
Eventually he found some old friends in town who had survived the war.
They sadly informed him that his family was dead.
The nazi’s had taken his family to Auschwitz where they were all presumed killed in the gas chambers
Stunned by the news, Paskin left Hungary and eventually emigrated to the United States.
He had now been in the U.S. for about 2 years.
As Sternberger listened to the story, he thought it seemed somewhat familiar.
Suddenly, he remembered why.
He had just recently met a young woman at the home of friends who had also been from Debrecen, Hungary.
She had been taken to Auschwitz, but was then transferred to work in a German munitions factory.
All of her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers.
After she had been liberated by the Americans, she was brought to New York in the first boatload of Displaced Persons in 1946.
Sternberger had been so moved by her story that he had written down her address & phone number, hoping to invite her to meet his family and help her with her terrible loneliness and grief.
He thought it was impossible that there could be a connection, but as the subway train drove on, he said, “Hey, your first name isn’t Bela, is it?”
The man went pale and said, “Yes, how did you know that?’
He said, “And was your wife’s name Marya?”
Looking as though he might faint, Bela Paskin said, “Yes….Yes!”
Sternberger then said, “We need to get off at this next station. Now. I know you don’t know me, but trust me”
They got off the train, and he took Paskin to a nearby phone booth.
While Paskin stood there like a man in a trance, Sternberger dialed the number from his address book, and had the woman from the party on the line
He reminded her of their recent chance meeting, and then asked her what her address was when she had lived in Debrecen.
He then turned to Bela Paskin and said, “What was your address in Debrecen?”
After hearing his answer, he handed Bela the phone and said, “Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”
Paskin heard his wife’s voice (the wife that he thought was dead), and broke down uncontrollably.
Sternberger got him a taxi, and Bela Paskin and his wife were miraculously reunited.
It’s an amazing true story!
But it’s even more amazing when you think about all of things that God orchestrated to make it happen!
What if Sternberger’s friend would not have been sick?
What if Sternberger would have gotten on an earlier train?
What if that guy wouldn’t have mysteriously got out of his seat?
What if Bela wasn’t reading a Hungarian paper? Would they have even started talking?
What if? What if? What if?
See, miracles aren’t just God defying nature…He’s doing the miraculous with the intricate storylines of our lives.
How often do we say, “Wow! What are the chances of that? What a coincidence!”
But it’s not a coincidence.
It’s God doing “his thing”
I think there are more stories like this in our life than we think
Maybe it’s not as dramatic as the one I just told you, but I know you have stories like this.
You wouldn’t have even met your spouse unless ___ happened
You only got the job you have now because of a completely random conversation
And on and on…
These sorts of things happen to us, but you know what most of us do?
We forget about them.
We don’t write them down, we don’t take stock of them.
And God never gets the credit He really deserves for all of the WEAVING that He’s already done in our lives.
#1: TRUST THAT GOD HAS A PURPOSE IN ALL THINGS
But God is indeed the great Story Weaver.
That’s why the Bible has this true story in 1 Samuel chapter 9
And there are plenty more like it in Scripture as well (think Esther or Joseph for example)
Saul thinks that all he is doing is going out on a donkey chase…
But in reality, God made the donkeys go missing, so Saul would start a journey and meet Samuel
And at the same time, God has already contacted Samuel and told him Saul was coming.
I think there are two great principles we can draw from this story:
#1: We should trust that God has a purpose in ALL things
#2: We should be faithful in all things
Let me start by explaining the first principle: We should trust that God had a purpose in all things
Think about what’s happening to Saul from the very beginning.
His father’s donkeys are missing, and he (and his servant) are tasked with going to find them.
How do you find missing donkeys?!?
Which way do you even start looking?
North? South? East? West?
Think about all the things Saul could THINK and FEEL as this happens:
“This is a complete waste of my time”
“My dad is going to be disappointed in me.”
“God, why are you doing this to me?”
As they looked for 3 days, his range of emotions probably went anywhere from “sheer boredom” to “anger with God”
And yet……God was at work, wasn’t he?
You need to hear this, this morning, “God is moving when the donkeys go missing in your life”
God is moving.
God is moving in your life right now…no matter your circumstances.
Whether it’s success or failure…big or small…joy or anger.
God is moving.
God has you…at the job He wants you at for right now
He has you at your apartment…your townhouse…your house…all for a reason.
It might not be the end game for you, but I assure you, the fact that you are there right now at this very time in history…has a divine purpose.
Maybe you’re in your apartment building right now because God wants you to lead a neighbor to Christ
Maybe you’re at a job that you don’t like because God is going to TEACH you something (that’ll shape your character)…through that job you don’t like
Maybe that relationship fell apart, only so you could better recognize your future spouse when they come along
And here’s the problem, when you live your life always looking to what God’s going to do in the future, you’re going to miss Him working in the present.
You’ll forget that his great work in the future, is usually just a result of weaving together smaller stories of the past.
Some of which were even painful
Saul wasn’t enjoying life when he was looking for his donkeys.
But I bet he was eventually grateful that they went missing.
We are halfway decent at thanking God when things go well…but how good are you at thanking him when they don’t go well?
You pass the test! - You praise God for working out his plan in your life!
You get the job! - You praise God for working out his plan in your life!
But what if you lose your job?
Do you still praise God for working out his plan in your life?
Could it be possible that God is moving when the donkeys go missing in your life?
I’ve mentioned this to a few of you before.
One of the best things that ever happened in my life was not getting a library job I applied for after college
I know what you’re thinking, I would have been a great librarian.
I was really devastated when they turned me down.
How will I get a job?
I’m getting married. Starting graduate school. I need a job!
But because I didn’t get the job, I restarted my job search, and eventually took a job in ministry as the high school pastor at Constance Free Church
Which was an amazing experience for me
But I can’t say that I praised God when I didn’t get that first job though.
That’s just because I didn’t yet honestly believe that God IS working when the donkeys go missing.
But the donkey chase is an integral part of God’s story in your life.
It’s shaping you into who you need to be and leading you where you need to go.
By the way, that doesn’t mean that every bad thing in your life always leads to something greater.
Remember, this is ultimately HIS story, not yours.
But He IS always working.
When things go wrong, it’s not out of his control.
It’s all going to serve his purposes someday
I think back to my father-in-law getting stung by the bees.
If my wife mows the lawn instead, I never would have met her.
I maybe wouldn’t have then met Jesus
Maybe wouldn’t have started this church.
Sometimes the story is hard, but trust that God is working out His purposes.
God’s story and His purposes aren’t always going to be revealed to you in this lifetime
Often they are, but not always.
Some things won’t truly make any sense to you until we meet Him face to face.
But trust God’s purpose in all things. He is Good. He is Holy.
And therefore seek Him out in all things.
This is what Saul and his servant are doing.
Things are rough, they can’t find the donkeys, so they seek out God’s help, and end up finding much more.
#2: BE FAITHFUL IN ALL THINGS
Which leads us to the second principle from this passage:
Be faithful in all things
#1: Trust that God has a purpose in all things
#2: Be faithful in all things
This is just a proper outworking of the first principle
If God is indeed working even when it looks like your donkeys have run away, then we need to be faithful in trusting him…AND…serving him…even in the little things.
There are a few reasons why Saul ends up getting chosen as King.
But we can certainly say that ONE of those reasons is that he was faithful to his own earthly father, Kish, even in the little things
He obeyed his father to go out on “Mission Impossible” to find the donkeys…even though it was probably never going to amount to anything.
He was faithful in the little things…and it led to great to great things!
I talk with many young people…who want great things to happen in their life (at work, in their families…in leadership here at church)…but they’re not faithful in the little things
Listen, there is no shortcut to being a person of influence
(Luke 16:10) – NIV
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
So the question is: Will you be faithful to God, and the story he’s weaving in your life, even if you don’t like it right now?
Even if it’s boring right now?
Even if it’s really hard right now?
Or right now, isn’t where you really want to be…yet?
Remember: Through the donkey chase….God is shaping you into who you need to be and leading you where you need to go.
Don’t forget that that Saul was looking for DONKEYS when he became King.
He wasn’t just chilling at home with his feet up…nor was he in the temple completing some great spiritual fast.
He was just being faithful…in the little things…chasing around a bunch of missing donkeys.
Be faithful to God in the little things…trust Him in EVERYTHING….and trust that no matter where He leads…that his story HAS A PURPOSE and will eventually bring him glory
And may we be grateful to be a small part of that.
This morning, we are going to take communion together as well. Communion is always a great time for us to remember what our faith is all about.
And it’s time for us to remember that Jesus gave us the ultimate gift.
He died for us! In our place!
So that even when we’re chasing donkeys and life seems crazy…no matter where it leads…even if it’s really difficult…when this life is all over…we will spend it with Him…in heaven.
That’s why it’s important to remember his sacrifice like this.
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – NIV
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.