“I’ve developed an affinity for walking lately. I will stroll along some trails for several miles listening to music and podcasts, talking to friends, or just looking around admiring creation. Once upon a time, I enjoyed running, but I have slowed down over the last 
couple years to a more 
leisurely pace. Now 
I just walk. “

Here in Cleveland, I tend to walk on a trail that cuts right through the center of the city; nevertheless, it is immersed in nature. I have seen birds, squirrels, turkeys, deer, and even some turtles on my walks on that trail. 

As I reflect on this, I am reminded of a story of a woman that would do the very same thing. Each evening after work, she would walk on a trail close to her home. There was a relatively busy road that ran parallel to the trail on one side and a swiftly flowing creek that ran along the other.  

As she would walk this trail, she would often come across turtles on the path. As she saw them, in an effort to keep them from wandering into traffic, she would help them along by tossing them over into the creek. She would then continue on her way. She saw these turtles every few days at first, but as time went by, it became every few weeks, and then eventually she quit seeing them all together.

After a couple of months had passed, she finally came across another turtle on the trail. So as she always did, she went over to toss it into the creek. This time, being that they were becoming so uncommon to see, she lingered a bit longer after tossing it in as she wished to admire the little animal and did not know when she would come across one again.

It was then in that horrifying moment that she realized—that was not a turtle she had just tossed into the creek. It was a small tortoise. And if you know anything about the difference between the two, well, a tortoise can’t swim. 

Before you get upset about the tortoises, let me disclose that this story is entirely fictitious. Nevertheless, I have seen this same scenario illustrated in my own life. There have been moments I thought I was being heroic. I thought I was doing the right thing, and I thought I was helping make things better. However, due to my limited understanding of a person or a situation, I was doing just the opposite. My own righteousness was like filthy rags, and I completely misunderstood and misidentified the needs of the ones I was trying to help.

Perhaps this is in part why we are given the proverbial wisdom to “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). As we engage and participate in this ministry of reconciliation, there are going to be people we encounter about whom we must not make assumptions or premature judgments. The first course of action must always be to inquire of the Lord.

In a recent Upper Room chapel service at the International Offices, Bishop Brian Sutton shared the importance of inquiring of the Lord. He recounted that, in many instances, King David was known for inquiring of the Lord when faced with a decision (i.e., 1 Samuel 23; 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19; 21:1). However, in one particular instance, it appears that David—as well-intentioned as he may have been—decided he would do something without consulting God. It was to honor God and celebrate their victory after all, so why would he need to inquire of him for this?

The story I am referencing is a familiar passage from 2 Samuel chapter 6. In this account, the Ark of the Covenant was set on a new cart led by oxen and paraded within a musical procession. This was a celebration after all! With the sons of Abinadab guiding the cart, they had set out to transport the Ark to the city of Jerusalem.

As they were traveling, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to keep the Ark from falling. At that point, he was struck down by the anger of the Lord, and he died. Why, though? The endeavor was destined to fail because it was built on disobedience and a lack of communication with God.

God’s commands regarding the Ark of the Covenant were recorded in Exodus 25:10–22. God ordered that the Ark should have two poles inserted into the rings of the Ark which should not be removed, and it was with those that the Ark should be transported. David and those who planned this parade made an assumption. They did what they thought would be worshipful, yet they failed to inquire of the Lord and recall what he had already commanded. If only we would inquire of the Lord, so many adverse consequences could be avoided. Our good, well-meaning intentions can still result in undesirable, devastating outcomes.

On a more practical note, this may mean that before you assume that the impoverished visitor at your church is looking for a handout, you should learn the details of their life and how you can minister to the heart of their issues rather than the superficial symptoms. It may mean that when a friend continues to send you messages incessantly throughout the day, they are not only looking for conversation but companionship to combat their loneliness. It may mean that hidden within the insults of the scoffer, there is a sense of curiosity and desperation to learn of the hope that is within you. What good does it do to bandage a wound without first cleaning it?

Before we go tossing turtles or moving Arks, let us first be intentional in hearing what the Lord says and educating ourselves on the details of the situations before us. Love before you cast judgment. Listen before you speak. Pray before you act. Inquire of the Lord.

Hunter Roberts

Hunter Roberts

Executive Assistant, Office of the Presiding Bishop

Hunter Roberts is a licensed minister in the Church of God of Prophecy and was raised in Mooreville, Mississippi. After completing his degrees in International Finance and Spanish at Mississippi State University in December 2021, he relocated to Cleveland, Tennessee to serve in the North America General Presbyter’s office. Following the 2022 International Assembly, Hunter transitioned into the role of executive assistant to Presiding Bishop Tim Coalter. In addition to serving in this capacity, he is also now pursuing a master’s degree in Church Ministries from Pentecostal Theological Seminary.

As published in the March 2023 issue of the White Wing Messenger.