I hear from a lot of people expressing their frustration and discouragement, trying to figure out God's will for their life. We want to be amazing. We want to powerfully impact the world for the kingdom of God. And, there's bragging rights- we want that, too. If only God would see the potential we have, just waiting to be unleashed.
It's a problem.
Baalam was a rock star. He was legendary for being able to influence the future, either for the good or for the inevitable demise of who ever he saw fit. He was like the Oprah Winfrey of biblical history. He was a man of tremendous faith and worshiped the God of Israel (though he didn't necessarily know Him as such). It is possible that he had an experience with God not totally unlike Abraham's first encounter, not because of any profound sense of righteousness; but simply because he was willing to question the theological status quo, and would found himself unsatisfied with the religious answers. He decided to find God on his own... and found Him.
The relationship between Balaam and God was nothing like that of God and Abraham, though. In Numbers 22:8-9, we see a glimpse of this. Baalam goes to "inquire of the Lord" but he is answered by God. The "Lord" (Y-H-V-H) is an intimate title, always representing God's enduring grace and mercy. "God" (Elohim) is the generic representation of the all-powerful One. It's as though Baalam implies that he has a close relationship with his loving Daddy; but is getting responded to by the Ol' Man.
Baalam doesn't really seem that interested in God, anyway. He wants to look good in front of his fans. Even as he rejects their first petitions, he does so in a way that makes him look like he's the guy that is in the know (and hints that, maybe, if they bring a little more cash, it'll bear influence with the Man Upstairs).
That's all well and good. And it is easy to condemn Baalam, knowing the end of the story. But, the trip that Baalam takes may be a little more familiar than many of us are wanting to admit.
"I just don't know what God wants from me." That's a common complaint. It's as though there is no road in front of us at all, we're just wandering aimlessly in a field. That was the first circumstance we see in Baalam's rebellion. A lot of times, it isn't that we don't know what God wants for us. It's rather that we don't want to do what He is telling us to do today. Or, we're so busy looking for the glory that might be out there somewhere, that we completely lose sight of the road that (used to be) right in front of us. Remember, though, that the field is God's mercy- not His judgment. Judgment is what lay ahead in the wrong path.
"Life is just too painful." Sometimes, we find ourselves hurting for no reason at all (or so it seems). We're committed to a direction, fulfilling our dreams; but it's like beating our head against a wall. Baalam found himself in this predicament: committed to the direction he thought God had OK'd, but found himself in direct opposition. When we set our expectations on what we can get out of our ministry, if the end goal is our own gratification, we will find the way to be very painful.
"I'm just not getting anywhere." We usually measure success based upon our own perceived expectations, not on our confidence in God. We see others who appear to be successful (which is really easy to fake, by the way) and condemn ourselves and God for not measuring up. It's like our entire ministry finds itself just laying in the middle of the road.
It's not until we realize that ministry is about God and not about us that we will ever really overcome these obstacles of the journey. It took the donkey to convince Baalam that he was not going as the great prophet but as the servant of God. Oh, sure, there's a lot more to the story than that. But, this probably speaks more to struggling ministries than anything else. As soon as we realize that God is our gift to the world, instead of maybe thinking that we are the greatest gift to God, then, well... maybe we'll stop making such an ass of ourselves.