When You Can’t Find Your Donkey

By Tim Harlow

One day, Kish lost some donkeys, so he sent his son Saul out to find them. Saul looked for days but couldn’t find the donkeys anywhere, so he went to Samuel the prophet for advice. Little did Saul know God orchestrated the whole thing so that he and Samuel would meet, because God decided Saul would be the new king of Israel.

When Samuel told Saul about God’s vision of leadership, Saul was understandably reluctant. One minute he was out looking for some stubborn animals, and the next he was being told God had picked him for the No. 1 job in the land. But Samuel was a respected prophet, so Saul patiently submitted and accepted the anointing of Samuel, who told him the power of God would enable him to do some incredible ministry.

“The Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish?’” (1 Samuel 10:10, 11).

I’ll tell you what happened; he was chosen and anointed by God! Which makes what happened next very intriguing to anyone serving in ministry.

Samuel brought the people together to introduce them to their new leader, and he did it in dramatic fashion. After Samuel had the people gather as tribes and clans, the tribe of Benjamin—Saul’s tribe—was chosen by lot. Then he brought forward the tribe, clan by clan, and Saul’s clan was selected. Then Saul was announced as king. I think this was the early version of American Idol. Just imagine this big dramatic moment!

“And now, your new king of Israel . . . Saul Kishson.” [Crickets chirping]

There was just one problem—Saul was missing.

“When they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, ‘Has the man come here yet?’” (vv. 21, 22).

“The Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies’” (v. 22).


Ever Feel Like Hiding?

I’m assuming the readership for this column is mostly comprised of people who are ministers, leaders, elders, deacons, teachers . . . people who lead God’s flock. Many of you have actually been ordained by church leadership to the office you now hold. The rest of you have been ordained by God himself, who told us in 1 Peter 2:9 that we’re all in the “royal priesthood.”

If we’ve been ordained, we’ve been anointed. So why is it you’re connecting with King Saul so much right now? Let me ask it this way—are you having one of those days when you feel like hiding in the supplies?

Maybe, like Saul, you’ve actually experienced the anointed power of God in your life and you know it’s real. This “calling” is not in doubt; you just don’t feel like popping out of your hiding place today.

It may be one of those days when you just can’t find your own donkey (this works better in the King James translation), and you feel like hiding in the supplies.

It doesn’t matter if it’s burnout, anger, depression, or just fear—it happens to the best of us. And it can come out of nowhere. I’ve hidden in the supplies more than my fair share. The worst was a case of burnout that came from a time of highly fruitful ministry. Things weren’t bad, they were just busy—good busy. And one weekend I found myself hiding in the supplies. Those who know me well didn’t have to inquire of God, but they did have to pull me out.

I’ve written about the experience in this magazine before; thankfully I had some friends and counselors who surrounded me and pulled me out of the supplies and got me going again.


Ever Forget the Anointing?

As I look back on that experience, and the others like it, there is one common denominator that Saul and I shared. We forgot the anointing. If you know the sad story of Saul, it was a problem he really never overcame. Sometimes for Saul it manifested itself in fear, and other times it showed up as pride. It can go both ways.

It’s usually short-lived in my life, and less common the older I get, but my natural tendency is to forget the power source. Just like Saul, even though I’ve seen the amazing things God can do through me and in spite of me, I sometimes forget it is God who called me here. It’s the anointing. When people tell me good things God has done through me, I won’t get a big head if it’s about the anointing. When situations arise that are totally above my pay grade, I won’t fear because I have the anointing. When it’s one of those days people are expecting me to be their leader and I don’t want to because I can’t even find my own donkey—it’s the anointing.

Peter had some experience with this, maybe as much as any Bible writer. That’s why his words mean so much to me in my “supply hiding” moments.

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).

It’s always about the anointing.


Tim Harlow serves as senior pastor at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois. 

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  1. Thomas john
    January 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Amen to that!

  2. January 18, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Enjoyed the personal story… I think ALL of us had our “why me today’ days….. Thank the Lord for His power and strenght, it is always there; if we can only remember to plug into it daily.

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