You can have a great start but a horrible finish or no finish at all. You can also have an awful start but a fantastic, noteworthy finish because you persevered, your goal was ever present in your mind, and you endured and persevered when others failed to do so.
It’s not that starts don’t matter; they do. You’d have a hard time finishing a race if you were pointing in the opposite direction at the starting line, but it’s in the finishing that you get the prize, the glory, the reward, and the accomplishment.
History is rife with people who started well and ended badly. It’s one of those things we don’t like to dwell on too much because it implies that we need to put in the time and make an effort to ensure that we are headed in the right direction and running in the selfsame race we signed up for, to begin with.
There are only three things you can control in a race. First is choosing to run the race. If you don’t want to run the race, that’s your decision, but don’t expect a participation trophy, never mind a prize. You didn’t participate, and God doesn’t hand out participation trophies anyway. Most people aren’t even considered an also-ran because they never ran, yet they have the temerity to complain that they’ve not been bequeathed the cattle on a thousand hills simply for being.
The second you control is the pace at which you will run. If you run, run to win, not to place. Give it all you’ve got and leave nothing in the tank, and that way, you’ll know that when the Master returns, he will have marked you as faithful and true. Third, whether you will give up when the going gets tough. That’s all you get to decide. That’s all you’re in control over.
What you don’t get to determine, what you can’t control, is the circuit itself. The race you have elected to participate in has a predetermined start and finish and the route you must take to be deemed as having finished it.
You can’t run around your block three times and tell everyone you finished the Boston Marathon. You actually have to go to Boston, sign up, get a number, stand in the cold one early morning with the rest of the participants, and begin your journey once you hear the pop of the starting pistol. That is the only way you can claim to have participated in the Boston Marathon.
By all accounts, Balaam showed up and started his race as he ought. Even Paul, the Apostle, refers to him as a prophet and says that he was sought after by kings of his time for his gifting, which tells us that he’d garnered a solid reputation for being credible.
It’s only in our day and age where self-titled prophets can miss it ten times out of ten and still have people banging down their doors requesting a word from the Lord about how they’re going to prosper and rule the nations. By any metric, the standard for what passed for a prophet back in the day was higher than in our present age.
A quick rule of thumb is that if someone you’ve just met introduces themselves as Prophet Bob and not simply Bob, they likely aren’t. The calling of a prophet is a burdensome one because the individual who is called in that capacity is usually tasked with telling people things they don’t want to hear day in and day out. Usually, when a man is chosen to deliver a message from God, the nation or individual he is giving the message to is a hair’s breadth away from judgment, and the warning they provide is stern and forthright. Although there are exceptions such as Nineveh, the words of warning God sends usually aren’t welcomed or acted upon, and the messenger is placed in the crosshairs of an angry, bitter, and rebellious people who are itching for a scapegoat and someone to pin the blame for their predicament on.
Numbers 22:7-9, “So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak. And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?”’
Balaam wasn’t pretending to be something he wasn’t. God interacted with him regularly enough, wherein Balaam wasn’t shocked or surprised when God spoke to him. It was not a new experience for him, and he’d heard the voice of the Lord on more than one occasion, given his demeanor upon hearing it.
On its face, the question asked of Balaam seems incongruous with an omniscient God, but it wasn’t that God didn’t know who the men with Balaam were; He wanted to see if Balaam would answer truthfully.
If you’ve got kids, you know. Half of the questions I ask my daughters on a given day I already know the answer to, but I ask them anyway because I want to see if they are being truthful and honest in their responses. Kids lie sometimes. I know it’s a shocker, but all kids lie, especially when it comes to how much candy they had while mom and dad weren’t looking. If you haven’t caught yours in a lie, it’s because you either didn’t ask the right question or didn’t already know the answer to the question you were asking.
God knew who the men were and what they wanted even before they began their journey. He knows the end from the beginning, and nothing is hidden from Him. Balaam should have known this already, but diviner’s fees don’t come around that often, and maybe he had some bills to pay.
Your integrity must withstand pressure; otherwise, it’s no integrity at all. While the sun shines and the roses bloom, everyone’s a warrior for Jesus. When you hear the clanging of shackles and the creak of prison doors, it’s another matter entirely. Fair-weather Christians, like fair-weather friends, are nowhere to be found when you really need them.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.